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Updated: November 13, 2023 Focus on Law

Parent-to-be launches ‘family formation’ practice at Bernstein Shur

Provided Photo / Bernstein Shur Eviana Englert is a shareholder at law firm Bernstein Shur.

Bernstein Shur shareholder Eviana Englert, pregnant for the first time through a sperm donation and in vitro fertilization, aims to carve out a niche leading the firm’s new family formation practice.

The goal: To help individuals and couples navigate the legal process of starting a family, whether through egg or sperm donation, surrogacy or adoption.

“It has been an amazing journey forming this new practice,” the 36-year-old says in an interview at the downtown Portland headquarters of Maine’s largest law firm.

“My interest in this area of law really sparked from my personal experience forming my family,” Englert explains. “As a queer person, knowing that I wanted to be a parent since I was a tiny child, it didn’t always feel like a possibility for me. And then becoming and adult and realizing, ‘Oh, I can get married, I can have children, and I can fulfill this dream.’”

Maine’s progressive statutes make that possible, including a law, LD 1539, set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2024, that requires private insurers in Maine to provide coverage for fertility care.

“This is a huge step for Maine, in terms of being able to provide coverage for Maine citizens and not force people to leave the state to build their families,” says Englert.

Insurance coverage should ease the financial burden on parents, who face an average cost in the United States of $25,000 for an IVF, around $15,000 for egg freezing, and between $100,000 and $150,000 to have a child through surrogacy and a gestational carrier, according to Englert.

The new law “opens up a whole new world of possibility for people that didn’t think any of that was available to them, just because of the financial burden."

In Maine since 2018, Englert clerked at the Maine Supreme Judicial Court before joining Bernstein Shur as a litigation associate in 2019. A shareholder since January 2023, Englert is now the firm’s first family formation lawyer in the burgeoning legal specialty.

‘Critical time to expand access’

With the new practice, the attorney aims to support the increasing need for legal services among clients taking advantage of new statutory protection.

“Every person deserves the opportunity to create a family and become a parent,” says Joan Fortin, Bernstein Shur’s CEO. “For some people, family-building is extraordinarily difficult — physically, emotionally and financially. Evi has the passion to lead this new practice born of their own personal experience combined with the legal skills and acumen to successfully navigate the legal processes needed to literally help bring their clients’ dreams to life.”

Englert’s new practice will encompass educating clients about their reproductive rights and responsibilities, including the preparation of contracts and other legal documents; advising lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) clients on paths to parenthood; and representing intended parents and gamete donors in the areas of egg donation, co-parent adoption and parentage proceedings.

Englert, licensed in Maine and New York, aims to eventually expand the practice across the Northeast.

“Communities that have historically faced legal, financial and other discriminatory barriers to fulfilling their dreams of parenthood, including LGBTQ+ people and those struggling with fertility, now have new and developing opportunities to grow their families,” Englert says.

“That means it’s a a critical time to continue to expand access to these types of support, to raise awareness of the care and protections available, and to advise all individuals on the various pathways to parenthood.”

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