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Tilting the Scales Business Issues with a Legal Slant

Who’s Your Daddy? Child Support Liability for Sperm Donation

Posted in Family Issues, Legal Risk Management

Kevin Seaman, a sophomore at the University of Texas, is looking to make a little money to buy his special gal a present for Valentine’s Day.  Shunning work at the Gap and afraid to be a guinea pig for experimental drug clinical tests, Seaman seeks more romantic fund raising.  Late night searching on Craigslist surfaced a lesbian couple looking for a sperm donor and promised compensation ten times more than the local sperm bank.  Seaman contacts the couple who, after a lengthy meeting, decides Seaman is the man for the job.  Not using a doctor, sperm bank or clinic, Seaman drops off a container with his sperm at the couple’s home and signs a release of all parental rights. The couple successfully handles the do-it-yourself artificial insemination, and from the “procedure” a baby girl is born.  A year later, the couple breaks up, falls upon hard times and files for public assistance from the state.  Not long after that, the State of Texas serves Seaman with child support papers.  Is Seaman liable for child support?

Probably.  Had he carefully followed the provisions of the Texas Uniform Parentage Act, as a “donor” Seaman would not be considered the parent and would not be liable for child support.  Not using a licensed physician could prove problematic for Seaman.  The statute defines a donor as an individual who provides eggs or sperm to a licensed physician for assisted reproduction.  Assisted reproduction is also a defined term meaning causing pregnancy not by sexual intercourse and including: (1) intrauterine insemination; (2) donation of eggs; (3) donation of embryos; (4) in vitro fertilization and (5) introcytoplasmic sperm injection.  Besides not using a licensed physician, the couple did not get pregnant using any of these methods. Accordingly, Seaman risks a court declaring that he is not protected by the statute and that he is responsible for child support.

Tilting the Scales in Your Favor

To avoid future child support liability (among other liabilities), sperm donations in Texas should be made through a doctor, sperm bank or clinic. This is to achieve clear-cut, black-and-white cases of sperm donation and, thus, determination of paternity, thereby reducing misunderstandings about child support obligations, parental rights and fraud against the state.

NOTE: Texas was the first state to enact the Uniform Parentage Act which can be found in the Texas Family Code. Other states may not have addressed the legal issues presented by modern medical technology. Under other states’ laws, like Kansas, the attorneys’ general office may have broader latitude to claim child support liability.