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Ruling affects same-sex couples and sperm donation

For many in Maryland, the path to parenthood is long and winding, and may deviate from what is considered to be the American "norm." Same-sex couples are often among those who seek to expand their families through non-traditional means, as the biological requirements of creating new life lead to a need to seek an alternate path to parenthood. For many, egg or sperm donation, or even both combined with the services of a surrogate, are the best means of reaching the goal of becoming parents.

While these practices are not new, one recent court decision may cast a new light on the legal intricacies of the decision to use the genetic material of another party to create one's child. The case centers on a man who agreed to serve as a sperm donor to a lesbian couple. All went well, and a child was born. However, the family experienced a period of financial hardship, and accepted state assistance of nearly $6,000.

The family's state of residence requires that both parents be identified, so that support can be collected from both parents before the state is asked to step in. In this case, when the biological "father" was identified, the state took legal action to have him named as the child's legal father, even though neither he nor the child's biological mother every intended for him to take on that role. The court found that because the parties did not hire a physician to complete the artificial insemination, the man could not be considered a donor under state law. As a result, he will now be held responsible for payment of the state benefits granted to the family, as well as future child support obligations.

This case serves as a sobering reminder of the every-changing legal stance that states across the nation take toward alternative paths toward parenthood. Becoming a sperm or egg donor is an amazing gift, and a choice that can mean everything to the family ready to welcome a new child. However, it is imperative that same-sex couples who choose this path ensure that they do so in full compliance with state law, in Maryland or elsewhere.

Source: Time, U.S. Sperm Donor To Pay Child Support, David Stout, Jan. 23, 2014

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