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Craigslist sperm donor is legal father, US court rules

27 January 2014
Appeared in BioNews 739

A Kansas court has ruled that a man who donated sperm to a lesbian couple in response to a Craigslist advertisement is the legal father of the resulting child. The decision means the man can be required to pay child support.

In March 2009 William Marotta responded to an advertisement placed by Jennifer Schreiner and Angela Bauer seeking a sperm donor. He donated his sperm to the couple who then performed the artificial insemination procedure at home. In December 2009 Schreiner gave birth to a girl.

The couple subsequently separated, and due to changes in personal circumstances, sought assistance from the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) for child support payments. In October 2012 the DCF filed a claim seeking to declare William Marotta as the legal father of the child, stating that he was liable to the DCF for the $6,000 it had already provided to the couple, as well as for future child support.

Marotta contended, however, that he signed a contract waiving all parental rights and responsibilities, and that he has had no contact or relationship with either the couple or the child. His argument against the DCF was supported by the couple.

The case turned on the validity of the contract between Marotta and the couple, which attempts to absolve Marotta of legal parenthood and designate him as a sperm donor – a role which has no legal parenting rights or responsibilities attached. However, the Kansas Parentage Act 1994 states that in order to be designated sperm donor, a licensed physician must be involved in the artificial insemination process. In this case, as the insemination was done at home, there was no physician involved.

The DCF argued that it was a 'well-established law in this state that a person cannot contract away his or her obligations to support their child'. Furthermore, it explained that the right for support is asserted by the child, rather than the parents. The status of the contract is further complicated by the fact that DCF claims to have been given different versions of the document.

On 22 January 2014, Judge Mary Mattivi of the Shawnee County District Court ruled that Marotta is the presumptive father of the child. In her judgment she wrote: 'In this case, quite simply, the parties failed to perform to statutory requirement of the Kansas Parentage Act in not enlisting a licensed physician at some point in the artificial insemination process, and the parties' self-designation of [Marotta] as a sperm donor is insufficient to relieve [Marotta] of parental right and responsibilities to the child'.

Marotta is planning to appeal the decision. His lawyer, Benoit Swinnen, has stated that 'we stand by that contract', and contests the interpretation of the Act accepted by the District Court. Swinnen has also spoken out accusing the state of bringing the action against his client based on political motivations, stemming from the fact that same-sex marriage is not legally recognised in Kansas.

2 December 2016 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
A US judge has ruled that a man who donated sperm to a same-sex couple, after responding to an online advertisement, is not the child's legal father and will not be liable for child support...
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11 May 2015 - by Dr Reuven Brandt 
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10 November 2014 - by Jenny Sharpe 
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13 January 2014 - by Ari Haque 
A couple who used artificial insemination services at a Utah fertility clinic have found out that their daughter, Ashley, is in fact the genetic daughter of a former clinic worker...
24 June 2013 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
An Australian man has been granted shared parental responsibility by a federal judge over a child born through IVF using sperm he had donated to his former partner....
7 January 2013 - by Rosie Beauchamp 
A sperm donor in Kansas, USA, has been ordered to pay $6,000 in child support to a lesbian couple who he helped conceive a child with...
24 September 2012 - by Tom Barrow 
The High Court has awarded a lesbian couple sole custody rights for a child conceived using donor sperm and a surrogate's egg after a three-year battle over parenthood...
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