Sperm Donor Parental Rights and Obligations
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Does a Known Sperm Donor Have Any Parental Rights or Obligations?
A sperm donor generally does not have parental rights, but there are some important exceptions. In most states a “true” sperm donor automatically gives up his rights as any sort of parent. Most state laws that offer this protection are clear that if the donor of semen used is not the mother’s husband, then:
- The donor has no rights, obligations or interest with the child born as a result of the artificial insemination; and
- The child born as a result of the artificial insemination has no right, obligation or interest with the donor.
For the first part of the rule to apply, the donor must NOT be the mother's husband. If you ARE the husband, a court may automatically rule that you are the father, even if:
- The insemination happened after your divorce
- You have a contract relinquishing your rights
Although this is the general rule about non-husband sperm donors, there are exceptions. Many states changed their laws about sperm donors, and some states offer no protection at all. For example, Pennsylvania recently ruled that a sperm donor had to pay child support for the child he created. The court ruled against him even though:
- The mother of the child was married at the time of insemination
- The sperm donor had a contract that relieved his child support obligations
"True sperm donors" are individuals that have the insemination process done through a licensed doctor. Informally donating your sperm to a woman or couple will not protect:
If you wish to donate sperm and want no child obligations, then you should always involve a licensed doctor.
But I Have a Clearly Written Contract That Relinquishes All of My Rights!
Don't be so sure! Many states treat contracts that relinquish parental rights as "against public policy." These kinds of contracts may be unenforceable. Even if you have a well-written contract, the courts may still throw it out and force full parental obligations on you.
It is still a good idea to have a written contract because the court may use the contract to determine the parties' intentions. This is why it is important to use a doctor AND consult a lawyer familiar with the laws of your state, before going ahead with sperm donation.
State Laws Concerning a Known Sperm Donor’s Rights
Laws concerning sperm donor rights vary from state to sate. For example:
- California: If you use a licensed medical professional, then the sperm donor automatically loses all claims to the child. Also, if the mother is married, then the husband automatically becomes the legal father.
- Oregon: The statute is like California's.
- Florida: If state law rules you are a "donor," then all your rights/obligations to the child are relinquished. This is the case, even if the insemination is NOT done through a licensed medical professional. The courts will also look to any written contracts in determining the parties' intent on the role of the donor.
- Pennsylvania: "Artificial insemination" must be performed at a licensed insemination facility. Donors will be considered the father of a child if insemination happened outside of a licensed facility.
- New York: Generally, contracts about sperm donation between a couple and a donor are unenforceable. The court will only look at the best interests of the child in determining the rights and duties of the donor.
What If I Go Through a Sperm Bank? (Anonymous Donation)
Anonymous sperm donation is done through a sperm bank. Almost every state allows this practice because the contract is between you and the sperm bank. Since the contract is not with the mother, your anonymity and waiver of rights/obligations can be upheld.
Some states do, however, have laws that allow children of anonymous sperm donors to learn the identity of their genetic father when they turn 21. Again, it is important that you contact a lawyer and talk to the bank about your rights before committing to a decision.
Do I Need to Consult a Lawyer About Sperm Donation?
The decision to help another couple create life is a noble one. Decisions about your sperm donation may seem minor at the time, but can greatly affect the rest of your life, and the life of the child. In a field of law as volatile as this one, it is wise to contact a family law lawyer specializing in these sorts of arrangements.
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Last Modified: 02-25-2015 02:59 PM PST
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