The State of Kansas Seeking Child Support from Sperm Donor

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Sperm donor on the hook for child support

In a twist on father’s rights and child custody, a Kansas man, William Marotta, has found himself fighting to be absolved of his legal status as a parent. Marotta isn’t a father trying to skip out on responsibility. Marotta was a sperm donor for a lesbian couple.

More than 3 years after making his donation, the state of Kansas now wants him to pay ongoing child support and be held responsible for $6,000 dollars in public assistance that the biological mother received.

Marotta’s path to becoming a sperm donor began by answering a 2009 Craigslist ad posted by a couple wanting a child. The couple, Angela Bauer and Jennifer Schreiner, exchanged emails, met with Marotta and decided that he would be the donor.  Bauer, Schreiner, and Marotta signed an agreement that intended to sever Marotta’s paternal responsibilities. The agreement was that no father would be listed on the child’s birth certificate, and Marotta would have no financial obligation to the child.

With the contract signed, Marotta delivered the sperm directly to Schreiner and Bauer—the couple performed the insemination without the help of a clinic or physician.

Unfortunately, this DIY insemination did not follow Kansas artificial insemination protocol; it has left Marotta liable for the child resulting from his donation.  Kansas law requires artificial insemination to be done under the supervision of a state licensed physician or clinic.

When Bauer and Schreiner broke up several years later, Schreiner receive public assistance to care for the child.  In a routine effort to relieve the potential cost to taxpayers, the state of Kansas has turned to Marotta to pay support.

In a story about Marotta’s case, The Washington Post quoted Kansas Department for Children and Families spokeswoman, Angela de Rocha, saying,

“Under a 1994 Kansas law, a sperm donor isn’t considered the father only when a donor provides sperm to a licensed physician for artificial insemination of a woman who isn’t the donor’s wife. The result is an incentive for donors and prospective mothers to work with a doctor.”

The states position on paternal responsibility and sperm liability was cemented by a 2007 Kansas Supreme Court ruling. The Kansas Supreme Court established that sperm donors working with a licensed physician cannot be considered a child’s legal father and have no right to visitation, care, or any role in the child’s upbringing. The only exception is if a legally binding written agreement is in place. The 2007 ruling was in response to a case involving a sperm donor seeking contact based on an informal and unwritten agreement with the child’s mother.

However, this case presents a distinctive challenge for the courts and for sperm donors. Kansas’ stance of strict liability for sperm might create some unique circumstances for child custody and artificial insemination. We will certainly be keeping an eye on this case as the outcome could herald changes for  men’s rights.

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