In late 2016, the Shawnee County District court in Kansas issued a significant ruling in November 2016 concerning sperm donors’ responsibility for child support. William Marotta of Topeka, Kansas answered an ad on Craigslist to donate sperm to a same-sex couple, who used the sperm to have a child. The couple later separated and then reached out to the state Department for Children and Families for help when one of the mothers lost her job. The department then filed a suit claiming that Marotta wasn’t paying child support and sought to hold him liable for $6,100 in child support expenses since the child’s birth in December 2009.
Shawnee County District Judge Mary Mattivi ruled that Marotta does not have to provide child support. The department argued that Marotta needed to pay the child support because the two women did not use a physician and Kansas law states that one must be inseminated by a doctor. Marotta’s attorneys, Tim Schlesinger and Charles Baylor, further argued that the laws are antiquated and have not been updated. Baylor contended, “If the presumptive parent, in this case the non-biological mother, had been a man, they never would have gone after the sperm donor.” Marotta’s attorneys countered that he never had the intentions of being the child’s father nor has he tried to make contact with the couple. The state Department for Children and Families is thinking of appealing the court’s decision.
A key element of Mattivi’s holding is the reasoning that the woman who didn’t give birth to the child is considered the child’s second parent, and the sperm donor is therefore not financially responsible. This ruling is especially meaningful for married same-sex couples, as courts continue to follow the growing trend of extending legal parentage to the non-biological parent. This case also provides guidance on issues surrounding sperm and egg donation, as laws in this area are often lacking or have not yet caught up with the rapid growth of reproductive technology. Stay tuned to the blog for updates on this decision as well as other similar decisions, as the position that non-biological parents in married same-sex couples are considered the child’s legal parents gains traction in courts throughout the United States.