Parental Alienation: Parental Rights After Sperm Donation

In recent months, attention been increasingly focused on the dangers involved in parental rights after sperm donation.   As sperm donation cases become more prevalent, the outdated rules and guidelines of the states become more apparent, and issues arise for everyone involved.

 

Actor Jason Patric is one major spokesperson for the potential challenges associated with sperm donation.  He’s attempting to regain access to the son conceived after donating his sperm.  In Mr. Patric’s situation, he agreed to provide sperm to an ex so she could have a child.  Through a surrogate, a child was conceived. 

 

At some point, Patric and the ex reconciled, and Patric took on an active role in the child’s upbringing.  Unfortunately, the relationship didn’t last, and Mr. Patrick lost his custody rights, after which a torrid legal and public relations battle ensued.

 

There are two main situations when sperm donor rights come into question.  The first is when there is no formal agreement concerning the rights the donor will have to the child.  The second arises when there is an agreement, but one of the parties changes his or her mind.

These types of cases aren’t limited to celebrities; a court ordered a Kansas man to pay child support to a lesbian couple to whom he had provided sperm after meeting them on Craigslist.  In that case, he’d even signed away his parental rights to the child.

 

In Arizona, there is one main law regarding artificial insemination.  A.R.S. 25-501(B) provides:

 

“A child who is born as the result of artificial insemination is entitled to support from the mother as prescribed by this section and the mother’s spouse if the spouse either is the biological father of the child or agreed in writing to the insemination before or after the insemination occurred.”

 

The language of the statute leaves room for interpretation. First, the statute initially uses the term “spouse,” instead of father.  This could mean that both the sperm donor and the spouse could be sought for child support.  Second, it leaves a question as to whether a spouse father who was neither the biological father nor agreed to the insemination (but raised the child for years) could avoid paying child support.

 

While some have sought sperm donation agreements to try and alleviate the lack of clarity in sperm donation cases,  Arizona finds these sorts of agreements to be against public policy.  In other words, while the parties may agree to a sperm donation, the court will not enforce the portion of the agreement where the man discharges his rights to the child.

 

In sperm donation cases, it is important to consider the impact on the children.  In Mr. Patric’s situation, he had a relationship with the child. Not everyone who is a sperm donor has that chance, but once you do, taking an involved parental figure away is damaging to the child.

 

An emerging trend is for courts to consider the relationship the sperm donor father had with the child.  If the donor engaged in the role of a father, then courts would give more weight to a claim involving parenting time or child support.

 

If you’re considering artificial insemination, there are several things you should consider before entering into any “agreement.”

 

1. Is there a chance that the other party may not agree to your proposed agreement or change their mind?

 

2. Has the other party been fully informed of their rights and possible responsibilities?

 

3. Maybe meeting your sperm donor on Craigslist isn’t the best idea.

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