Find the right lawyer now

Sperm Donor Parental Rights and Obligations

Find a Local Family Lawyer near You

Does a Known Sperm Donor Have Any Parental Rights or Obligations?

In most states a “true” sperm donor automatically gives up his rights as any sort of parent. "True sperm donors" are individuals that have the insemination process done through a licensed doctor. Most state laws that offer this protection are clear that if the sperm donor 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.

Informally donating your sperm to a woman or couple will not protect:

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

If you wish to donate sperm and want no child obligations, then you should always involve a licensed doctor.

Are There Any 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

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.

What If I Want to Be a Father?

In some situations, a sperm donor might want to be a father to the child he helped conceived. Laws differ from state to state, but parentage of non-married persons can be established by:

  • Being named on the child’s birth certificate as a parent.
  • Donor acts as a parent to the child and the donor presents himself as the father to the child.
  • Written agreement between the mother and donor that the donor is to be a parent.

Although written contracts cannot relinquish rights, many states allow written agreements to establish parental rights.

State Laws Concerning a Known Sperm Donor’s Rights

Laws concerning sperm donor rights vary from state to state. 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 and It's an 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 person 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.

Photo of page author Jason Cheung

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 03-04-2018 10:02 PM PST

Law Library Disclaimer
  • No fee to present your case
  • Choose from lawyers in your area
  • A 100% confidential service
What is LegalMatch?

We've helped more than 4 million clients find the right lawyer – for free. Present your case online in minutes. LegalMatch matches you to pre-screened lawyers in your city or county based on the specifics of your case. Within 24 hours experienced local lawyers review it and evaluate if you have a solid case. If so, attorneys respond with an offer to represent you that includes a full attorney profile with details on their fee structure, background, and ratings by other LegalMatch users so you can decide if they're the right lawyer for you.