10 December 2007
ByAppeared in BioNews 437
A UK man has launched an unprecedented legal challenge to not be recognised as the legal parent of two children conceived through the use of his sperm in a DIY artificial insemination procedure, performed by his friend and her girlfriend. Andy Bathie hopes to avoid paying the £450 per month that the Child Support Agency (CSA) claims he owes as the children's' legal father. Sharon and Terri Arnold, who were civil partners but are now separated, have a four-year-old daughter and two-year-old son with a severe digestive system disability. Both were conceived through the use of Bathie's donated sperm.
Legally, if Bathie had donated his sperm through a licensed fertility clinic, rather than for a DIY at-home procedure, he would not be recognised as the legal father of any child born as a result of his donation. Despite his name's omission from their birth certificates, the CSA explains that as their biological father, his only option to avoid legal fatherhood at this stage is if the children are legally adopted. The revised Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill currently being considered by the House of Lords, reforms the position in law to provide equal parenting rights to same-sex couples who enter a civil partnership so that they would be recognised as the legal parents of children conceived through sperm donation whether at a licensed clinic or not. However, this legal change comes too late for Bathie.
The couple and Bathie initially agreed that Bathie would not have any parental responsibility or involvement in the resulting child's life except perhaps as 'Uncle Andy'. However, mother Terri Arnold says that Bathie changed his mind and voluntarily assumed the role of father for two years after the birth of the daughter, requesting he be known to her as 'Daddy' following her christening at five months old. He financially contributed, had regular contact with the daughter and had her stay one weekend a month. After two years, he donated sperm again and the parties expressly agreed that there would be equal responsibility. He requested to be at the birth of the boy and took paternity leave to look after the daughter when the son was born.
Due to the frequent hospitalisation for the baby's disability, Ms Arnold could not return to work. She claims the CSA required she provide the father's details or her income support would be decreased so much she could not support the family. Shortly after the son's birth, Bathie ended his parental involvement. 'You can't play at being dad for two years and then just leave', Ms Arnold said.
Bathie, a fireman who has recently married, says that the financial burden of the thousands he owes in child support prevents him from having a family of his own. He claims he does not harbour 'ill-will' but does not understand why he should 'have to pay for another couple's children'. 'These women wanted to be parents...[with] all the responsibilities...I would never have agreed to this unless they had been living as a committed family', he said.