Through modern reproductive technology, a woman can carry a baby for nine months, but not be the child’s mother. Similarly, a man can provide the genetic material to create a child with no intention of becoming a father. However, while science has dramatically changed how people become parents, laws regarding parental rights have failed to keep up with these advances.
In Kansas, a sperm donor is being asked to pay child support, even though he signed an agreement disclaiming any financial responsibility for the child. William Marotta provided sperm to a lesbian couple seeking to have a child, and the insemination procedure was performed without using a medical facility. Given the high costs of artificial insemination, these private agreements are increasingly common.
However, the state of Kansas does not consider him a donor, but a father. The state only only recognizes agreements between sperm donors and parents when a medical professional performs the procedure. As a result, Marotta is now involved in a complicated case that has received national attention.
In another high profile assisted reproduction case, a Florida judge recently approved a birth certificate listing three people. They include a married lesbian couple and the gay man that donated sperm.
The non-traditional birth certificate was part of a settlement between the parties. The biological father and the couple had an oral agreement under which he was to provide his sperm for artificial insemination. However, after the child was born, he sought a larger role in the child’s life. Although Florida law traditionally does not award custody rights to sperm donors, the child’s mothers will have sole custody, and the sperm donor will have visitation, under the terms of the settlement.
These cases reveal a complex area of law that must continue to evolve to keep pace reproductive science as well as social trends. Many states, including Kansas, based their initial laws on the Uniform Parentage Act, which was first adopted in 1973. Although the model law was updated in 1994, only nine states have implemented the changes, which include removing the doctor involvement requirement for a sperm donor seeking to disclaim parental responsibility. As a result, courts must use old laws to determine the parental rights to children born using new technology.