Swimming Against the Tide

On behalf of The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C. posted in Child Support on Wednesday, January 30, 2013

We can place this current legal controversy under the category of “no good deed goes unpunished.”

In Kansas, a lesbian couple, lacking the resources to go to a sperm bank and undergo artificial insemination under the supervision of a physician, decided to place an ad on Craigslist for a sperm donor. A man responded and agreed; rather than utilize a lawyer, they drew up their own agreement that provided the man relinquished any parental rights. The agreement never declared the donor was not the natural father of the child, and that oversight proved to be a ticking time bomb.

Fast forward several years – the couple have their child through a do-it-yourself insemination kit and subsequently breakup, leaving the natural mother with no means of financial support and forcing her to file for state assistance. Kansas has a statute that allows it to seek reimbursement for financial assistance from the biological father through an administrative support action, and so they went after the sperm donor for child support.

As that legal battle continues in Kansas, you may wonder – could this happen in Missouri? Unfortunately, yes.

Like most states, Missouri long ago adopted the Uniform Parentage Act to handle issues of paternity. Section 210.826 allows the Division of Child Support Enforcement to bring an action against a person believed to be the natural father of a child receiving state aid. Section 210.824 provides a limited exception in cases of artificial insemination: “The donor of semen provided to a licensed physician for use in artificial insemination of a married woman other than the donor’s wife is treated in law as if he were not the natural father of a child thereby conceived.” As you can see, those without means to secure a fertility bank and fertility specialist – and a lawyer – can easily find themselves in a predicament. For no apparently good reason, the statute only excuses donors that go through a licensed physician. And our Kansas trio did not defuse the ticking time bomb in their homemade legal agreement by stating the donor was not the natural father. So, if this played out in Missouri, the sperm donor would be looking at quite a legal fight.

Interestingly, the actual Uniform Parentage Act has an entire section in it on insemination, and one section specifically states: “a donor is not a parent of a child conceived through assisted reproduction.” Had Missouri enacted this provision (admittedly not a part of the Uniform Act at the time Missouri first adopted it as law), sperm donors would be spared this not-as-uncommon-as-you-think situation.

Hopefully, Missouri will bring its law forward to account for both the changes in technology and the reality that not all assisted reproduction takes place under the watchful eye of a licensed physician. Until that point, men in such a situation would have recourse, but it would involve constitutional challenges to our existing Uniform Parentage Act and child support enforcement system.

The moral of the story? Never respond to a Craigslist personal ad? Perhaps. Consult an experienced attorney before agreeing to be a sperm donor outside of a sperm bank? Definitely.

Should you find yourself in a similar situation, or need assistance with a paternity matter, contact the Marks Law Firm, LLC. We can help.