A South African court has refused a sperm donor visitation rights over the five-year-old child he helped to conceive.
The unnamed man had initially agreed that he would not have contact with the infant, who was born to a female same-sex couple. However, he and his mother argued they had built an increasingly close relationship with the family since the birth, including living as neighbours for a period before the legal parents severed ties in 2020.
Pretorian High Court Judge Jody Kollapen accepted that the donor and his mother may love the child, ultimately held that the priority was 'to respect and protect the intention and choice of the respondents in constituting their family.'
The parties originally met through social media, when the man responded to the couple's request for a sperm donor. Following the birth, however, he told the court 'I realised that I was not psychologically prepared for the impact of his birth on me and I was naive to think I can simply make an altruistic donation and not have the need to be in the child's life.'
The man claimed that he had been actively involved in the child's upbringing, but the parents denied this.
South African law is clear that gamete donors do not have any legal rights or responsibilities in relation to children born from their donation. The man's lawyer instead argued that because a bond had already been formed, allowing visitation was in the child's best interests according to s23 of the Children Act. Though this can form the grounds for a claim regardless of biological connection, the judge refused to weaken the legal certainty that 'sustain[s] the artificial reproductive system in South Africa' by protecting recipients of gamete donations against such claims.
The case was the first of its kind to be heard by a South African court.