A same-sex couple who became fathers to twin boys after using a surrogate, have revealed their dramatic struggle to get legal rights to their children.
Stay at home father, Tyler Fontes, 34, and resident physician Andy Fontes, 35, met in 2006, before tying the knot in June 2013.
In 2015 they decided to start a family, and happily accepted when Andy’s cousin offered to be a surrogate for them.
Tyler and Andy chose to use two embryos using sperm from both of them, and were ecstatic when both embryos took.
On June 16, 2017, their surrogate gave birth to twin boys, Caellum and Emmerich, now two, who are biologically half-brothers with the same egg donor – with one boy to each father.
But despite being overjoyed at their new additions, they faced a huge legal hurdle in order to allow both of them to be named as legal parents.
The children had to be born in New Mexico in order for both of the mens’ to be named on their birth certificates – as if they were born in Arizona, one father would have had to legal adopt the other child.
Tyler Fontes, 34 (left) and Andy Fontes (right), 35, from Phoenix, Arizona, had to jump several legal hoops in order to get the legals rights to their sons, which were carried by a surrogate mother
Tyler and Andy at the hospital following the birth of their twins. The couple married in 2013 and decided to expand their family soon after
Recalling their romance, Tyler said: ‘Me and Andy first met back in 2006. It was through a mutual friend of ours and we became close friends really quickly. We started dating about four months later.
‘Our relationship built very quickly. After dating for only four months, Andy received a job offer in Carlsbad, California after graduating from Arizona State University and so we both decided to move there together.
‘Having happily been together for six years we decided to get married in 2013 on the beach in Carlsbad before returning home to Phoenix, Arizona a week later.
Caellum (left) and Emmerich (right) are now two year old. They were born from two different embryos that were fertilised with one of their father’s sperm
The adventure begins: Andy’s cousin volunteered to be the couple’s surrogate and they used donor eggs in order to try for pregnancy
‘At the time gay marriage wasn’t legal in California, but it didn’t stop us from uniting our love and becoming forever husbands. That law changed later in the year and we legally got married.
‘Having been together for eight years, and married for two years, we decided we wanted to start a family together. We started looking at adoption and surrogacy options.
‘When our family and friends found out about it, Andy’s cousin offered to be a surrogate for us. This was a tremendous cost saving for us and it allowed us the opportunity to financially move forward to grow our family.
Tyler and Andy (pictured on their wedding day) got married in June 2013 and have been together for eight years
The twins soon after their birth. Because of their unusual situation, the twins are actually half brothers
‘We actually decided to implant two embryos to give us a higher success pregnancy on our first try. Each embryo was made of each of us and donor eggs.
‘Both ended up taking and so we now have twin boys that are biologically half-brothers with the same egg donor, but one boy from each of us.’
Becoming same sex parents didn’t come without its difficulties though. During and after the pregnancy it was difficult getting rights to both fathers and getting their names on the children’s birth certificates.
The twins’ 20 week scan. Tyler and Andy had to hire a family lawyer in order to get all the paperwork that would allow them to both have legal rights to their children
The twins soon after their birth in 2017. The couple had to fill a surrogacy contract in order to be the legal guardians of both children
‘A major hurdle was getting both of us the legal rights over both children during pregnancy and post birth, including getting both our names on their birth certificates,’ said Tyler.
‘In a heterosexual relationship the mother has all the legal rights of the unborn child during the pregnancy process and at birth. In order for us as two dads to both have legal rights over the children during pregnancy and at birth, we needed to hire a family lawyer who provided us with two very important documents.
‘The first document was a surrogacy contract that in a court of law allowed both of us to be the primary legal guardians of both children. Once we got this, we just had to show staff at the hospital so they understood the situation.
Andy (left) and Tyler (right) during their surrogate’s pregnancy. They had to request a birth order so that their names could both be on the birth certificate for the twins
Tyler with some of the couple’s relatives and the twins. The couple said their friends and family had been very supportive of their decision to get a surrogate
‘The second contract was the birth order contract which allowed both our names to be printed on each child’s birth certificate.
‘The children were actually born in New Mexico so both our names could go on their birth certificates. If they were born in Arizona, then one father would have had to do a legal adoption of the other child.
‘Fatherhood is truly a magical feeling and we love these two boys more than anything in the world. One of the best things for me is being able to financially allow myself to be a stay at home dad to raise our two boys.’
The family of four are very active and love to go out on adventures. They have been to the North Rim, Zion National Park and around many mountains in Phoenix, Arizona where they’ve enjoyed time together camping, fishing and hiking.
Caellum (left)and Emmerich (right) have been on many hikes with their fathers, who love the outdoors
The twins soon after their birth. The birth took place in New Mexico so that both of the fathers names could be on the birth certificate
‘Since they came home, we have taken them out on lots of adventures.. We are very active and love the outdoors. We have taken them on road trips, camping, fishing, and hiking.
‘Some of our favourite hikes with the boys include parts of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, The Narrows at Zion National Park, and around the mountain ranges of Phoenix, Arizona,’ Tyler said.
The family have gained so much support from their family, friends, neighbours, co-workers and community. They feel they have been assimilated into their community as a family like any other.
Lovely family: Tyler and Andy sad they felt very supported and felt like any other family (pictured on Father’s Day)
Caellum and Emmerich feeding some chickens in an urban farm in Pheonix. The couple said they were teaching their twins the importance of compassion
Andy with one of the twins following the birth. Bring children into their family was not a walk in the park for Andy and his partner Tyler
The couple recommend others who want to start their own family to find out as much as they can from others, but to use their own intuition with the information they have.
‘Our boys are very much loved by all our family and friends and we have gained so much support from them and neighbours and co-workers. The community has accepted us like any other and we feel very welcome which is fantastic,’ Tyler said.
‘The only issue we have had is with a few very anti LGBTQ+ family individuals who have commented on posts on social media. A few were along the lines of saying ‘gays shouldn’t be allowed to have children’. They are swiftly deleted and blocked.
‘Being a two-dad family raising kids does not make us any less of a family. We love our kids very much and we both truly love being dads. There isn’t a thing we wouldn’t do for them.
‘To other LGBTQ+ couples or singles, if you want a family of your own it is possible. Gather as much advice as you can from family and friends but use what works best for you. Yes, the journey might be long and sometimes stressful but it’s so worth it in the end.’