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Thursday, January 03, 2013

State of Kansas Seeks Child Support from Sperm Donor

Several years ago, William Marotta donated sperm to a lesbian couple trying to have a child. At the time, he entered into a written agreement with the couple that he would not be considered the father of the child nor would he be required to pay child support. Now, the state of Kansas is trying to tell him that his agreement is no longer enforceable.

The couple recently separated, causing the birth mother to face financial hardships and apply for welfare. As a result, the state of Kansas filed a petition last October seeking to have Marotta declared the 3-year-old child’s father and make him financially responsible for her. The state of Kansas is looking to recover $6,000 in medical expenses associated with the child’s birth as well as ongoing child support, in spite of the fact that he has not been a part of her life since she was born, as was dictated by his agreement with the couple.

Marotta has a court hearing January 8th where he will petition to have the claim dismissed. Unfortunately, state law is not on his side. According to Kansas law, the sperm must be donated through a licensed doctor in order for the biological father to be relieved of future financial obligations. In this particular case, Marotta did not donate through a clinic or a doctor; he found the couple on Craigslist.

Normally, the contract between the sperm donor and the couple would be binding, and he would not be liable to pay child support, nor would he be granted any parental rights. But the mother applied to the state for welfare assistance to support the child and before any state will pay out support from public tax money, they will seek to find support from a private party. In this case, it is the sperm donor. The law says the contract will be upheld until the state is asked to come in and pay. At that point, the contract is no longer honored.

While it is uncertain how the court will rule on this matter, it is clear that this case will have a serious impact that goes well beyond this particular couple and sperm donor. It will serve to set a public policy precedent that will most likely impact all future sperm donors who may want to choose to help a couple (or single individual) who wants to have a child but cannot.

If the state wants to protect and encourage sperm donations in the future, it will do the right thing and honor the contract between Marotta and this couple and protect him from future child support obligations. However, just because a decision is good public policy and the ethical choice does not necessarily mean it will be the ultimate outcome.


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