Donating Sperm? You Might Want to Think Again
For many years, sperm banks have been a good option for single women, lesbian couples, and couples facing fertility issues to pursue their hopes of having a child. You would think it would be a win-win situation for all parties involved; the couple gets the child they’ve always wanted, and the man donating the sperm gets compensation.
However, donating sperm is a serious decision. If you do not sign the correct release forms or work out a legal agreement, you may be dragged into an unexpected legal battle, and perhaps end up with more responsibility than you bargained for.
Sperm Donor Rights
Not too long ago, there was a gray area when it came to same-sex marriages and the legal rights those marriages carried. Laws varied state to state and sometimes case by case. Now that some couples who married during the time when same-sex marriage wasn’t fully legal are getting divorced, issues are starting to arise.
For example, a lesbian couple in Massachusetts filed for divorce and each asked for custody of their son. Their son was conceived by artificial insemination by an anonymous sperm donor. The sperm donor’s records were sealed and neither the couple nor the child have a way of reaching out to him. However, since only the birth mother’s name was on the child’s birth certificate, the other mother had no legal rights to file for custody. Surprisingly, the court argued that the sperm donor still had full parental rights to the child and would have to relinquish his rights in order for his mother to claim parental rights. The courts stated that the woman was simply acting in loco parentis (which means you raise the child as your own, but you have no legal rights to the child) and now that the couple is getting divorced, it is solely up to the birth mother to facilitate custody if she chooses to do so.
This decision left a lot of people outraged. How can a person who is a complete stranger have rights to a child? The sperm donor is being treated as an “absentee father” and not a donor. If the donor chooses to, he could enter the child’s life and assume a parental role. Although the donor can break his anonymity, the mother cannot seek child support from him. Donors are protected from child support suits, although this too has been contested in a Kansas court in the last few years.
After a lengthy trial, a higher court in Mississippi finally decided that it did not make sense to put the life of a child in the hands of a person who meant to be anonymous. It also pointed out that sperm donors do not have parental rights when dealing with heterosexual couples, so it should apply across the board for same-sex couples, as well.
Donating Sperm to a Close Friend
On the other side of the spectrum, there are people who want to help out a close friend who is going through fertility issues by donating sperm. You may think of it as a good deed, and that you’ll be able to watch the child grow and be in his or her life as a close relative. You may even end up assuming the role of a father.
If you donate, it is important that you have in writing what all parties involved have agreed your relationship with the child will be. Often times, parents change their minds and do not want the donor in the child’s life anymore. When you agree to be a donor, you are automatically giving up your rights. You have to be prepared if you go this route. It may feel impersonal to have a lawyer draw up an agreement for you, but it will save you a lot of emotional damage in the long run.
A Montgomery County Lawyer Who Can Help
Throughout the years, more and more states are cleaning up their same-sex child custody and divorce laws, trying to close loopholes like this. Donating sperm is not a decision you should take lightly. Laws change quickly, and you need to be up to date on the current rulings.
We strongly recommend you speak with a Pennsylvania custody lawyer and review your paperwork to ensure you are covered before you make your donation. If you are not looking to be an anonymous donor, a lawyer can help you and the prospective parents come to a compromise on how often you will see the child. Please keep in mind that informally donating your sperm will not protect:
- You from a paternity suit.
- You from paying child support.
The Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C., has over 20 years of family law and divorce experience. We always work diligently to create the best possible outcome for our clients and we will strive to do the same for you. Call (866) 290-9292 for a free initial consultation about your unique situation.