Reuters reports that the State of Kansas has filed a petition to declare a sperm donor the legal father of his genetic child in an attempt to make him pay child support.
The donor, William Marotta, met privately with a lesbian couple seeking to have a child, rather than arranging the donation through a licensed physician as required by Kansas law. The couple found Marotta on Craigslist and presumably arranged the donation privately to avoid unnecessary expenses. The couple sought to receive state benefits for the child’s medical care, prompting a mandatory identification of the child’s genetic parents – namely Marotta.
Marotta’s response to the state’s petition centers around a contract signed by the parties, absolving him of legal parental status and any future financial obligations arising as a result of the sperm donation. Marotta’s lawyers cite a 2007 Kansas Supreme Court case in which a sperm donor was denied parental rights. In that case, the parties had no formal agreement stating whether the donor maintained legal parent status or any potential obligations.
In essence, Marotta claims that the state should not be permitted to assign parental rights in the present case, where hard financial times have left the couple unable to fully provide for the child’s medical expenses, unless the state is willing to grant parental rights to all sperm donors who seek them out.
The case has drawn national attention due to its bearing on parental rights both of sperm and egg donors, as well as those of same-sex and infertile couples who hope to conceive a child. An unfavorable ruling for Marotta would set a precedent which could be harmful to anyone seeking to conceive by artificial insemination.
In Arizona, A.R.S. § 25-501 provides that a child born as a result of artificial insemination is entitled to support from the child’s mother and the mother’s spouse, but only if the spouse is also the child’s biological father or signed a written agreement to take responsibility for the child before or after the insemination occurred.
It is unclear whether the state could seek support from a sperm donor in the same way as Kansas, although several Arizona Supreme Court decisions declare a universal duty owed by parents to support their biological or adopted children. With many leading fertility specialists practicing in Phoenix, Chandler, Scottsdale, and around the state, a case like the one in Kansas may be inevitable as more individuals turn to artificial insemination as a means to have a child.
In any surrogacy situation, sperm or egg donation, adoption, or custody matter, it is important to speak to an attorney and to lay the necessary legal groundwork in advance of taking any action. Smart legal advocacy and planning are critical, especially when the impact involves children.