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When should sperm donors be liable for child support?

For purposes of family law, a parent is generally a person who holds themselves out to be a parent by treating a child as their own and providing financial and emotional support, even if they are not biologically related. But in a case that has made headlines in Massachusetts and all across the country, a the State of Kansas has stated that a sperm donor may be compelled to pay child support under certain conditions, even if he has no parental ties to a child other than a biological relationship.

The story began over eight years ago when an unmarried same-sex couple decided they wanted to have a child. They looked into artificial insemination at a sperm bank; however, the women's doctor apparently would not give consent for them to receive the necessary treatments. Instead, they posted an ad seeking a sperm donor on Craigslist.

The couple found a man who was willing to donate his sperm for no compensation, and who also agreed to sign a contract stating he had no legal rights or responsibilities to any child conceived with his sperm. The women had a baby girl in 2009. Then in 2010, the couple agreed to split up after a nine-year relationship.

The former partner of the woman who gave birth to the child continued to provide for the financial needs for their daughter, until she became ill and was no longer able to work. Consequently, the biological mother of the child applied for public assistance with the State of Kansas. Kansas agreed to help, but only if the mother revealed the name of the biological father.

When she did, the state declared the sperm donor was obligated to pay child support as a noncustodial parent. Kansas stated the contract the parties had signed was null because the women had not gone through a sperm bank and because an individual cannot sign away their responsibilities as a parent.

As of now, it is unclear how influential this case will be when it comes to child support guidelines in other states, including Massachusetts. Meanwhile, the safest bet when it comes to conceiving a child through artificial insemination is to go through a sperm bank.

Source: Star Tribune, "Should sperm donor pay child support? Kansas thinks so." William Saletan, Jan. 8, 2013

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