In a recent and interesting case, a Kansas man, William Marotta, was ordered by the state to pay child support for a child he fathered through artificial insemination in spite of a written agreement that he would have neither parental rights nor financial obligations to the child. Even more surprising, it is the state of Kansas, not the child’s mothers, that is seeking the child support.
Marotta, who initially arranged to provide his genetic material to a lesbian couple in 2009 in response to a Craigslist ad, executed a contract and provided the sperm directly to the couple who performed the insemination without the help of a physician. The mothers split-up several years later, and one of them later applied for public assistance for the child. It is at this point that the state of Kansas pursued, as states routinely do, a child support action against the biological father in an attempt to recoup its costs in support of the child.
Hastily or inartfully executed artificial insemination and surrogacy arrangements have created unusual legal precedents over the years, and this case has led many to wonder if such an outcome could happen not just in Kansas, but in their state as well. Each state has slightly different laws that govern areas of surrogacy and artificial insemination. If those statutes are not followed when executing an artificial insemination or surrogacy contract, or while performing the procedures, one or both parties may find themselves in the awkward situation of letting a court determine whether biology alone should dictate the course of their parental and financial obligations.
As for the Kansas case, the parties did not follow the applicable Kansas statute which provides that a sperm donor will not be considered the father when a donor provides sperm to a licensed physician. The statute not only creates an incentive for donors and prospective mothers to work with a doctor, but it also eliminates the question of whether the child is the product of an intimate relationship, after which the parties decide to part ways. Because Marotta dealt directly with the child’s recipient mother, the law did not treat them as if they had an artificial insemination. Accordingly, when one of the mother’s sought public assistance for the child, the state pursued who it felt should be equally responsible for the child’s welfare – and that just happened to be Marotta.
Kansas is similar to Ohio in several regards. Both states can (and do) bring child support actions against estranged biological parents when a child is receiving public assistance. Ohio artificial insemination law also provides that when a woman is artificially inseminated by a man other than her husband, that the donor will not be treated as the natural father. This eliminates both the donor’s parental rights and financial obligations for the child.1 However, later sub-sections of the same Ohio statute also require the involvement of a physician and that protocols be followed to keep the donor’s identity anonymous.2
Given the similarity between Ohio and Kansas law, it is entirely possible that parties who fail to follow the statute governing artificial insemination and who act according to their own personal agreements could find themselves in the same boat as Marotta.
1 Ohio Revised Code Section 3111.95(B).
2 Ohio Revised Code Sections 3111.88-3111.97.