In a recent Kansas court case, a sperm donor was ordered to pay child support to a woman who bore a child using artificial insemination. Though he signed documents waiving his parental rights, the state of Kansas found his arguments invalid. The case has set off a firestorm of opinion and publicity.
Kansas Court Orders Sperm Donor to Pay Child Support
In March 2009, William Marotta saw an ad on Craigslist seeking a sperm donor for a lesbian couple. Marotta and the couple did the artificial insemination at home because it would be cheaper than seeing a licensed physician. He signed documents waiving his parental rights and financial responsibility for the child, donated his sperm and went home. In December 2009, one of the women gave birth to a girl.1
Marotta thought that was it. However, the couple separated and one of the women stopped working due to illness. She applied to the state for help. That’s when the state of Kansas contacted Marotta for child support. He argued that he was not financially responsible for the now 4-year-old child and he said the documents he signed proved it.
However, the Kansas Department of Children and Families argued the documents were invalid because the artificial insemination was not performed by a licensed physician. The state argued that if the parties used a licensed physician, it would be documented that Marotta was strictly the sperm donor and not the lover of the girl’s mother. Without this type of documentation, the state could assume Marotta and the girl’s mother were in a relationship. Marotta was not aware of this statute.
Marotta and his attorney allege the state of Kansas is motivated by politics, as same-sex marriage is illegal in Kansas. They argue the state is using a narrow law stating artificial insemination must be made by a licensed physician to make a broad family court ruling.
Thus far, Marotta has spent $4,000 fighting the court and the child support he must pay now totals over $10,000. Marotta plans to appeal the decision to the Kansas Supreme Court.
What Could Have Been Done Differently?
Marotta should have hired an experienced family law attorney so he would better understand his parental rights. He could have been alerted to Kansas’ artificial insemination by licensed physician law. If the couple wanted to move ahead with the artificial insemination in spite of the law, Marotta’s attorney could have warned him of the repercussions he is now facing.
California Sperm Donor Laws
Sperm donor laws vary by state. In the state of California, artificial insemination must be supervised by a licensed physician and all medical records must be kept confidential by the medical facility performing the procedure.
In California, one parent will be required to pay child support if the couple is not married. However, sperm donors are not legally considered parents and do not have to pay child support.
There has not been a sperm donor case with the same circumstances of William Marotta in the state of California. Whether the California court system would have interpreted its statutes and Marotta’s evidence the same way as the state of Kansas remains to be seen.
What Do You Think?
Which side are you on? Do you think Marotta’s documents are enough to prove his case? Is it fair that he has to pay child support? Should Kansas’ artificial insemination statute apply to this family law case? Should state legislatures overhaul its child support and sperm donor laws to address cases like this?
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