State court weighs heavy sperm-donor paternity issue

Last week, we discussed an important issue that family law courts are now dealing with in Illinois and the rest of the country. As in vitro fertilization and other advanced fertility options have become available, they have created a whole new realm for child custody issues.

As we discussed, the California legislature is currently considering a bill that would afford greater custody rights to the biological fathers of babies conceived through in vitro fertilization. California is just the first state to address the issue and many others will surely follow in coming years.

Another issue that has arisen as a result of advanced fertility options is whether sperm donors can or should be held financially responsible for the children they help create.

The issue is currently being considered by a Kansas family law court, but it is an issue that could come up in any state.

Essentially, the case involves a man who donated sperm to a lesbian couple who used it to conceive a baby girl. The man signed papers waiving his parental rights and responsibilities to the child. However, the arrangements and artificial insemination were made outside of state law.

In Kansas, the law requires a licensed physician to perform artificial insemination in cases involving sperm donors, which the parties did not follow. Therefore, when the lesbian couple broke up and the woman who retained custody of the child applied for government assistance, the state went after the sperm donor for child support.

The state is arguing that if the court sides with the sperm donor, it will create a “culture of chaos” with regard to paternity cases because children are often conceived without intention. The state is arguing that whether the sperm donor intended to father the child or not, he clearly intended to bring a child into the world by his actions.

The sperm donor maintains that he should not be held as the father of the child because doing so would mean that virtually any sperm donor could be held to the same. He also cites the 2002 Uniform Parentage Act, which has been adopted by nearly all 50 states, stating that there is a strong presumption of non-paternity for sperm donors.

As you can see, this is a complex case involving a very sensitive issue. No doubt, it will likely take years for courts and legislatures to weigh all of the important factors involved.

Source: cjonline.com, “State: Wrong interpretation in sperm donor case would create ‘culture of chaos’,” Tim Hrenchir, Aug. 23, 2013

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