Family Law Legal Topics

No Good Seed Goes Unpunished: Sperm Donor Ordered to Pay Child Support

183925792Many men who donate sperm have no intention of being a father to any potential child and particularly no intention to pay child support for that child. But intentions aren’t enough; compliance with the state’s parentage law is.

A recent case in Kansas highlights the problem: A man who provided sperm to a lesbian couple in response to a Craigslist ad, and is the father of a child born to one of the women, is court ordered to pay child support. The court held (.pdf) that, because the parties didn’t have a physician perform the artificial insemination procedure, the man’s written waiver of his parental rights that all parties agreed to doesn’t comply with the requirements of a Kansas Parentage Act.

This would likely be the same result in California. Under the Uniform Parentage Act (UPA) (Fam C §§7600–7730), a sperm donor whose semen is provided to a licensed physician and surgeon for use “in assisted reproduction of a woman other than the donor’s spouse is treated in law as if he were not the natural parent of a child thereby conceived, unless otherwise agreed to in a writing signed by the donor and the woman prior to the conception of the child.” Fam C §7613(b). This rule applies even if the donor may have dated the mother and assumed a quasi-parental role in the child’s life. See Steven S. v Deborah D. (2005) 127 CA4th 319, 326 (decided before current amendments to Fam C §7613).

Most sperm donors rely on this provision to protect them from any parenting obligations, including child support. But their release from these obligations (as well as their inability to potentially acquire parental rights) only applies if they use a licensed physician and surgeon (and there is no written agreement otherwise between the donor and the woman involved before the child’s conception).

Lesson learned from this case: Perform all statutory requirements or risk 18 years of support payments.

For more on what constitutes a parent-child relationship, check out CEB’s California Child Custody Litigation and Practice, chapter 2. Also check out CEB’s Practice Under the California Family Code: Dissolution, Legal Separation, Nullity, chap 8A for a discussion of voluntary declarations of paternity, including grounds for the invalidity of those declarations.

Related CEB blog posts:

© The Regents of the University of California, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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