Hopeful parents struggling to conceive and many same-sex couples resort to sperm donation to start their families. Typically, a sperm donor relinquishes all parental rights for any child born using his genetic material at the time of donation. In some cases, a same-sex couple or woman struggling to conceive may ask a close friend to provide a sperm donation, and he would waive his parental rights in a similar fashion. However, it’s important for sperm donors to know their rights and obligations as well as the correct way to go about donating sperm.
You Cannot Waive Parental Rights via Contract
A judge in Topeka, Kansas recently ruled that a sperm donor owed thousands of dollars in back child support for a child four years after the child’s conception. The donor thought he had surrendered all parental rights through the contract he signed with the child’s mother, but the Kansas court ruled that a parent cannot waive parental rights and escape parental obligations through a contract. There are only three ways a parent can waive his or her parental rights:
- A judge determines the parent is unfit based on objective evidence, such as a history of drug abuse or domestic violence.
- Relinquishment of parental rights and adoption. If a parent relinquishes his or her parental rights voluntarily so another person may legally adopt the child, the parent is no longer obligated to provide child support.
- Adjudication for a child in need of care. This would apply to a custody case in which one parent does not receive any custodial rights over the children involved and the custodial parent does not argue for child support.
Any of these scenarios would end with a “Termination of Parental Rights,” effectively releasing the parent from any obligation to pay child support. In the case of sperm donors, it’s essential for men to only donate sperm at licensed facilities that employ certified physicians. Donating at a licensed facility is the best way to ensure you can complete your donation without having to worry about future child support obligations.
Most facilities guarantee anonymity, so the donor will not know when or if his donation is used, and the mother receiving the donation will not have any way to contact the donor. Some facilities will provide special provisions, such as if a donor is willing to have contact with a donation recipient or have any type of involvement in the child’s life.
The only time a sperm donor would have any type of legal right to a child conceived through his donation would be through a private contract, in which case the father could sue for visitation and custodial rights and the mother could sue for child support. This type of situation generally only occurs between parties who know each other and agree to a donation on personal terms.
Most states use genetics to determine legal parentage. If no one assumes the role of the child’s father after a sperm donation, the state would consider the child’s genetic father as having parental rights. If the child’s mother is married, the court would likely allow the mother’s partner to assume parental rights as long as doing so would be in the child’s best interests.
Know Your Rights
If you plan to donate sperm, or already have and are concerned about your parental rights and obligations, a family law attorney can be a fantastic resource. An attorney can advise you as to the best way to donate sperm without being accountable for child support or other parental obligations or help you build a case if you believe you have parental rights to a child conceived using your donated sperm.