The Controversial Kansas Sperm Donor Case

The media is abuzz with news that a man is being pursued for child support by the state of Kansas for a child resulting from his semen delivery to a lesbian couple's porch in response to an advertisement. The parties had signed an agreement that he would not to be held financially responsible for the child. Once the lesbian couple separated, the child's mother applied for state benefits.

What exactly is going on here, you might ask?

Usually, it is the private parties suing each other for child support or child custody. For example, one biological parent may have a change of heart regarding a child custody agreement or a change of mind regarding a child support agreement, thereby bringing a case in court against the other biological parent.

In this case, however, the state is a party because the child's mother sought state benefits. Once taxpayers begin supporting a child through state benefits, the state will seek reimbursement from the child's father, which is pretty standard across the states.

In fact, states have become aggressive in enforcing child support payments, even suspending debtors' professional, driving, and recreational licenses. Nonetheless, the 2009 U.S. Census Bureau has showed that custodial parents (i.e., the parent with whom the child lives) due child support payments receiving any payments decreased from 76.3 percent in 2007 to 70.8 percent in 2009. Of the $35.1 billion in child support due in 2009, only 61 percent was reported as received, averaging $3,630 per custodial parent due support. These numbers are especially alarming in light of the showings in the census that over 28.3 percent of all custodial parents had incomes below poverty, and child support payments were 62.6 percent of the average income for custodial parents below poverty who received full support.

Oh, and by the way, the cost of raising a child until the age of eighteen is estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Not to mention that costs at private universities run about $60,000.

Given the expense of stepping into the shoes of a non-supporting parent, it makes sense for the state to seek reimbursement from the absent parent. In the Kansas case, however, there has been uproar against the state's actions because of the man's agreement with the couple to be only a sperm donor, not a father.

On the state's side of the argument is the Kansas Parentage Act of 1994, which states, "The donor of semen provided to a licensed physician for use in artificial insemination of a woman other than the donor's wife is treated in law as if he were not the birth father of a child thereby conceived, unless agreed to in writing by the donor and the woman."

In other words, to avoid being considered a father, a Kansas sperm donor should donate through a doctor. This is to achieve clean-cut, black-and-white cases of sperm donation, thereby reducing instances of fraud against the state that can occur when a father simply claims to be a sperm donor to avoid financial responsibility.

However, this case is an example of the perpetual problem of most people's unawareness of the law until it becomes an issue, and now it has become an issue on the national stage. And, the question to be resolved is whether in these factual circumstances, a sperm donor is just a sperm donor, or something more.