When should the biological father be held financially accountable for a child born from his sperm?
A recent Kansas case demonstrates the collision of the imposition of a medical standard on a decidedly non-medical act.
A number of issues arise in reproduction — individual rights to control their own bodies and reproduce as they see fit, society’s right to ensure financial accountability for children when the custodial parent can’t or won’t provide adequately, the child’s right to adequate care, and the mother’s right to seek child support from the “father” of her child.
There is nothing high tech about sperm donation, but we do face many complex scenarios in cases of assisted reproduction via In Vitro Fertilization using donor eggs and other variations on the old fashioned way of getting pregnant.
Sometimes the situation flows from a simple belief on the part of man and woman who procreate with no intention of having an ongoing relationship who make a verbal agreement that the father will not be responsible for the resulting child, believing the agreement will hold.
I am not aware of a situation where the mother gives up the child to the father with a similar understanding of lack of subsequent responsibility, but could see it happening. People can and do change their minds, especially when the economic burden of raising a child is no longer an abstraction.
Legal adoption appears to be the only situation where one can reasonably and consistently assume that one’s responsibility as father or mother for their child given up, is safe, across all jurisdictions.
In other situations, as the case above, it appears to be “donor beware.” Mothers and the state routinely may seek child support from a father regardless of any prior understanding and, apparently, even with a written contract.
To the degree that the interests of the child, who is not a party to such contracts, bear weight, this may be understandable, if not wise.
Any man asked to help a woman get pregnant who does not want to be psychologically or economically responsible for his offspring would do well to either say no, or seek legal advice in his state.
The father in this case may pay dearly for his ignorance, despite his good intentions.