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Should a sperm donor owe child support? One court says no

An unusual child support case that may grab the interest of Massachusetts readers has attracted widespread attention. The child support matter concerns the responsibilities that a sperm donor may or may not have in relation to the children who are produced using his sperm. The case arose after a man was sued for child support by the woman who used his sperm for in-vitro fertilization.

The two, though, were not strangers. They were in a relationship that began in 1991 but ended by 2001 when the woman moved to a separate state. Nonetheless, a number of years later, she wanted to have a child, and she asked the man to donate his sperm. He willingly did so, but with the stated condition that he did not want to be a father.

In June of 2007, the woman gave birth to triplets. Tragically, one of the triplets died in March 2008. That year, the woman also filed the child support lawsuit against her sperm donor. She introduced documents that the man had signed that showed him agreeing that he was the father rather than just a sperm donor. He argued, though, that he did not understand what he signed, and that he merely thought the documents were in regards to him verifying that he was indeed the donor.

Lower courts in California sided with the woman, ruling that he owed her child support. However, an appeals court threw out these decisions recently and ruled that under a California paternity statute, the man was merely the sperm donor — not the father. The statute in question prevents men from asserting parental rights when sperm they donated to a medical facility results in a child. Nevertheless, the law in this area appears to remain unsettled, and Massachusetts residents who are sperm donors or have taken advantage of in-vitro fertilization may wish to keep abreast of the latest developments.

Source: The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “Texas sperm donor doesn’t owe child support, appeals court rules,” Elizabeth Campbell, April 10, 2012

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