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Sperm donor for separated couple ordered to pay child support

Family diversity has expanded rapidly across Texas over the past several years. While the most common family structure may still be a mother, father and children, these days families may include a single parent, two same-sex parents or children who were conceived though nontraditional methods, including use of a sperm donor or surrogate mother. Lawmakers and courts across the country have attempted to keep pace with these changes by establishing laws and procedures for child custody, child support and other family law matters, but unique situations may require a fresh approach.

Case in point is the story of two lesbian parents who conceived a child through a sperm donor more than three years ago. The couple made private arrangements with the man and the parties signed a contract that released him of any parental rights or responsibilities. The artificial insemination was successful; one of the women gave birth to a daughter who is now 3 years old. Because their state doesn't recognize same-sex marriage, the mother's partner legally adopted the child.

Unfortunately, the partnership didn't last and the couple, who have a total of eight children together, separated. But when the mother of the 3-year-old filed for state assistance after she became too ill to work, the state of Kansas went after the sperm donor for child support. The former couple never asked for the man's support and in most cases, sperm donors aren't required to provide it. But because the insemination wasn't handled by a doctor, that legal standard doesn't apply to this case. Despite the contract that the man and former couple signed, the state sees him as the legal father and has required him to pay the $6,000 the mother has received in assistance to help care for her daughter.

Using doctors or other medical professionals to carry out an artificial insemination is strongly recommended for this reason. Because the procedure can cost thousands of dollars, many couples resort to much cheaper methods; home insemination kits are available online for about $30. But along with that cost savings comes a risk of a predicament like this one.

While the attorneys for the donor and the child's mother say Kansas lags behind other states when it comes to laws for alternative family planning, it's important for prospective donors and parents everywhere to examine their state's laws to ensure they don't wind up in an untenable legal situation.

Source: KIII TV, "Kan. case highlights legal issues for sperm donors," Heather Hollingsworth and John Hanna, Jan. 3, 2013

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