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Craigslist sperm donor shouldn't have to pay child support
January 4, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
Just when should a sperm donor be required to pay child support?
The state of Kansas is requiring a man who donated sperm to a lesbian couple to pay child support, even though he signed a contract giving up his parental rights. The contract also said he would have no financial responsibility for the child.
According to a story in The Daily Mail, Angela Bauer and Jennifer Schreiner placed this ad on Craigslist: "We are foster and adoptive parents and now we desire to share a pregnancy and birth together." William Marotta, who is married and works as a mechanic, answered the ad and donated his sperm, after the three had signed the contract. Schreiner was inseminated and gave birth to a girl.
Since Kansas doesn't recognize same sex marriage, Schreiner was the only parent listed on the little girl's birth certificate. Last year, Bauer became ill and was no longer able to support the family and Schreiner applied for welfare benefits for her children. At that point the state of Kansas demanded the identity of the sperm donor as a condition for the child receiving welfare benefits. In October, the Department of Children and Families obtained a ruling that Marotta is the child's father and is responsible for paying child support. The agreement signed by Marotta, Bauer and Schreiner is considered invalid because they didn't use a doctor to do the insemination. If the women had used a doctor and a sperm bank, the sperm donor would not be responsible for child support. The lesbian couple say that Marotta should not be held responsible for child support, as does Marotta.
It's obvious to me that family law badly needs to be updated in all 50 states to prevent this situation from happening again. There are thousands of children in the United States who have been conceived with the aid of donated sperm. Many of them are so-called "turkey baster" babies, like this little girl, conceived through artificial insemination at home instead of in clinics. In this particular case the child has one legal parent, because Kansas doesn't recognize same sex marriage, but in actuality she has two parents raising her.
Not all of these cases involve lesbian couples, either. Sperm donors are used by heterosexual couples as well in cases where the husband is infertile. In a case like that, the state would likely recognize the father as the man who was married to her mother at the time she was born. Other cases involve children born to single mothers by choice, who intend to raise the child alone. In most of these cases contracts have been signed that protect the rights of both sperm donor not to pay child support and the rights of the parent or parents who will actually raise the child not to have to give visitation or decision making power to the sperm donor.
Bauer and Schreiner likely used a donor they knew because they wanted the child to have information about who she looks like, her family medical history and the opportunity to know her biological father when she is older. The three were on amicable terms and Marotta gets updates about how the little girl is doing. The ruling by the Kansas court is likely to have a chilling effect on arrangements like this one.
Given the state of the economy, some of those families may find that they need to apply for welfare benefits and sperm donors shouldn't be held financially responsible for the child. It shouldn't make any difference whether the child was conceived through artificial insemination in a doctor's office or at home with sperm from a donor found on Craigslist.
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