This question should have an easy answer, but families and family law are changing in today's world, and things are sometimes not as clear as they ought to be. Virtually all aspects of family law are determined by state law, and the laws differ widely on some things, especially those that are controversial.
As society changes, new questions come before our family courts and state legislatures. When state law isn't clear, courts look to analogous cases decided in the past for precedent. If there is no clear precedent in their own cases, courts turn to other states' cases for guidance and a sense of any building public consensus on the question.
That's why family law attorneys pay attention to rulings from other states' courts, and why we're discussing a recent case in Kansas that has been making national news.
Three years ago, a man says, he did a good deed by answering a Craigslist post asking for a sperm donor for a lesbian couple. He accepted no compensation, and the three signed an agreement relieving him of any parental rights or responsibilities. Nevertheless, the State of Kansas is now suing him for $6,000 in past child support and attempting to hold him accountable for future child support.
The trouble is this: the couple went outside the state's legal process for getting pregnant through artificial insemination. Kansas law requires a doctor or clinic to handle artificial insemination, and the process begins with the doctor or clinician signing a document stating that those seeking artificial insemination are fit to raise a child. The lesbian couple's doctor would not do that, so they decided to handle the insemination privately.
After the child, a girl, was born, unfortunately, the couple split up. Even more unfortunate, one of the parents became ill and was unable to work. The girl's biological mother, unable to handle the expenses of raising the child alone, sought health benefits from the state.
On her application for benefits, she initially listed her ex as the other parent, but the state wouldn't recognize her to process the application, so the mother was forced to reveal the name of the sperm donor. The Kansas Department of Children and Families then brought a child support case against the man.
DCF's position is that, since the lesbian couple went outside the system, the contract they signed with the donor is invalid.
According to reports, the married sperm donor has already spent 10 percent of his annual income defending himself, and a legal defense fund has been set up through his lawyer.
What do you think? If the state sets up a system that essentially prevents same-sex couples from legally having children through artificial insemination, should they have the right to go outside that system? Is having a child a fundamental right? Does any government have the right to prevent "undesirables" from having children? Even if it does, should a sperm donor be held accountable for his participation by requiring him to pay child support? Should he have parental rights?
Learn more by visiting our website's page on paternity and child support.
- Forbes, "Why This Sperm Donor Is Being Ordered To Pay Child Support," LearnVest, Contributor Jan. 9, 2012
- The Topeka Capital-Journal, "Sperm donor hearings are postponed to April, June," Steve Fry, Jan. 3, 2013