The face of the American family is changing. Many families are being started and grown through adoption, surrogacy or using a sperm donor. Regardless of a biological connection, two people still consider themselves parents and work to build a family. Under these arrangements, biological parents are typically absolved of any financial responsibility to the children because they aren't legally -- or practically -- considered parents.
However, a recent family law case is creating a stir across the country. A man, who acted as a sperm donor and waived all of his parental rights with a contract, is now being held liable for child support payments by the state of Kansas.
Two women, who were in a committed relationship, sought a sperm donor in order to start a family together. They eventually found a private donor, signed a contract and successfully had a child. At a certain point, the two women broke up and the child's biological mother retained custody. However, she needed to seek public assistance to make ends meet.
Eventually, the Kansas Department for Children and Families filed a suit against the donor to recoup the cost of the public assistance the woman received and require the man to provide child support payments. The legal claim was filed under a state law that requires in-vitro fertilization to be conducted by a licensed doctor, which wasn’t done in this case. As such, the state contended that the donor had a parental responsibility to the child.
In response to the legal claim, a number of observers have noted that the state's laws are outdated and don't reflect the current nature of families. A number of other states have adopted parentage laws, which can help sort out child support issues if they arise. Additionally, some believe the two women and donor were being targeted because this case involves same-sex parents. Like Alabama, Kansas has a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage.
This case serves as a reminder of how complex family law can be. As such, before starting a family through "non-traditional" means, it may be important to speak with a family law attorney in order to avoid serious legal issues. Taking precautions in this regard could save time and stress down the road.
Source: ABC News, "Kansas Sperm Donor Ordered to Pay Child Support," Susan Donaldson James, Jan. 24, 2014