Johnson v. Calvert

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Johnson v. Calvert
Court Supreme Court of California
Citation 5 Cal. 4th 84
19 Cal. Rptr. 2d 494
851 P.2d 776 (1993)
Date decided 1993


The plaintiffs, Mark and Crispina Calvert, wanted a baby, but were unable to have children of their own. The defendant, Anna, was a friend of the plaintiff, and decided to carry the baby made by in vitro fertilization for the plaintiff as a surrogate mother. The Calverts were to pay Anna 10,000 for her troubles during the pregnancy, as well as take out a life insurance policy on her, but made her promise to relinquish her parental rights upon the birth of the child. Their relationship went awry after Anna found that the Calverts had not done all in their power to obtain the required insurance policy, and the Calverts found that Anna had had previous stillbirths and miscarriages.

Procedural History

The trial court ruled that Mark and Crispina were the child’s genetic, biological, and natural parents, and that Anna had no parental rights.


  1. Whether the biological parents or the parent who carries the child has full parental rights.
  2. Whether one can contract away parental rights.

Holding/Decision: Judgment affirmed.


  1. Here, the Calverts had full parental rights, because they were the ones who intended to bring about the birth of the child and intended to raise as their own at the time of contract formation.
  2. Depends on state law, but in California, it is certainly possible to contract away parental rights.


The court should consider the best interests of the child, not the intent of the parties involved. This decision treats children like property.