Over the past several years the composition of Texas families has been changing, in part due to new options for couples who seek to have children in unconventional ways. We're hearing more about same-sex couples who elect to have children with the help of a sperm donor, an option that heterosexual couples have also been making use of with increasing regularity.
Although the use of sperm donors and surrogates is becoming more common, family law courts' treatment of the family structures they create is anything but. States' laws vary wildly when it comes to determining the rights and financial responsibilities of surrogates and sperm donors, as well as the couples who choose them to help start their families. Sometimes it doesn't become clear what's in store until the family runs into a problem.
In Kansas, for example, a sperm donor who helped a lesbian couple have children three years ago is now being told by the state that he must pay child support. The demand came after the women ended their relationship and filed a request for state assistance. One of the women had been supporting the family but says a serious illness now prevents her from working. When they filed for assistance from the state, officials requested the name of the sperm donor, who is not listed on their daughter's birth certificate. The women were resistant, but were told that their daughter would be refused health care coverage unless they complied. Soon after, the man was ordered to pay child support.
The couple and the sperm donor had signed a contract before the donation, stating that he wouldn't be paid and relinquished all parental rights. It also said he was under no obligation to pay child support under any circumstances. But the state ruled the contract null and void because the insemination wasn't done by a licensed physician.
Similar problems have cropped up in other states. In Texas, a man who donated sperm to a woman with whom he'd once had a relationship was also told to pay child support, and he did until the court finally overturned the original ruling. Court decisions may depend on whether same-sex marriage is recognized in the state, or whether the biological parent has a relationship with the child. Until states' laws become more consistent, situations like these may warrant the help of a family law attorney familiar with these issues.
Source: NBC News, "Kansas demands that sperm donor pay child support," Dec. 30, 2012
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