Sperm Donor Owes Child Support

When he answered the couple’s ad seeking a sperm donor on Craigslist, he saw it as a great opportunity to help them realize their dream of parenthood. It was an emotional investment in two strangers’ lives. What he never counted on, however, was the financial cost that would surface later. The man, it seems, will now have to pay child support.

In 2009, William Marotta, a Topeka, Kansas man answered the ad from the women, who sought a donor and planned to engage in a do-it-yourself insemination. Now, the state of Kansas has sued Marotta to hold him financially responsible because, one, the couple did not involve a doctor in the procedure, and two, they split up. One of the women filed for public assistance, putting Marotta in his predicament. A court hearing on the matter is scheduled for April.

Kansas law states that a sperm donor is not the father of a child if a doctor handles the artificial insemination, but the falls short of specifically addressing the donor’s rights and obligations when no doctor was involved.

Marotta answered the Craigslist ad for a sperm donation for Angela Bauer and her then-partner, Jennifer Schreiner, and the three signed an agreement that they believed severed Marotta’s parental rights. Schreiner successfully became pregnant.

But because they didn’t go through a doctor, the state of Kansas argues, Marotta is indeed the legal father and should be responsible to pay about $6,000 in public assistance Schreiner received to help care for the child. The state also wants him to pay child support, though neither woman is asking for money.

“I don’t fault the state for this,” said Corey Whelan, who runs workshops for lesbian couples interested in having children through the New York-based American Fertility Association, told the Associated Press. “I don’t think this is a homophobic issue. I think this is a financially driven issue,” she said.

Whelan said her group has a long-standing practice of advising single women who want a child to work with doctors and attorneys. She said avoiding professionals is “a buyer-beware proposition.”

But for many couples – traditional and same sex as well – money can be a factor. Artificial insemination generally isn’t covered by health insurance and usually costs between $2,000 and $3,000, Steve Snyder, a Minnesota-based attorney and chairman of the American Bar Association’s group on assisted reproduction technology, told the Huffington Post. 

“It is happening a lot,” Snyder said. “Go on amazon.com, [find a] home insemination kit [for] $29.95. A lot of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) couples use them. I have a lot of cases involving those types of kits or people who intend to use them.”

That sets up a tricky legal situation, said Dr. Ajay Nangia, the former ethics chairman of the American Society of Andrology, a national medical group for male reproductive health. He is also an associate professor of urology at the University of Kansas Hospital.

“The problem is the guy exposed himself to a situation that made him potentially liable because he had no legal protection,” Nangia told the Topeka Capital Journal.

Ben Swinnen, one of Marotta’s attorneys, said his 46-year-old client cannot be declared the father of the now 3-year-old child because of the written agreement with the two women. Nine states have laws saying a sperm or egg donor is not the parent of a child conceived through artificial reproduction.

“The state of Kansas is lagging behind in following the trend,” he said. “It is a freeze, in my opinion, on artificial insemination and alternative family settings.”