Using a sperm donor to conceive a child isn’t as cut-and-dried, legally, as people like to think it is. This is especially true here in Pennsylvania, where genetics plays a huge role in how the law approaches paternity issues. Thus, in some cases sperm donors can sue for parental rights.
Failing to protect yourself can cause great future turmoil for you, the child, and for any non-genetic co-parents, whether a traditional husband or same-sex parent who will be raising the baby with you
Here are the steps you should be taking to minimize the chances the sperm donor will ever become an issue.
Make Sure You Sign a Sperm Donor Contract
Pennsylvania courts do enforce sperm donor contracts. These agreements are vital if you’re using a “known” sperm donor.
Knowing the identity of the donor creates all kinds of pitfalls for you, the donor, and the child alike. Often, donors change their mind about wanting to be involved in the child’s life. They can start taking steps that look a lot like co-parenting to courts. Later, they could make a claim for parenting time or custody. A contract is your best defense should this problem rear its head.
Have a Non-Genetic Co-Parent Adopt the Child
Adoption is the process allowing a non-genetic parent to assume the parental rights. Marriage does not automatically make the spouse the legal parent of a non-genetic child in Pennsylvania, even though DNA is not the sole determinant of paternity in Pennsylvania. The best way to protect your rights is to use a formal, separate adoption process.
This process is called second-parent adoption. An adoption decree serves as “irrefutable and undeniable proof of parentage,” ensuring the donor remains a legal non-issue later on. This is especially vital if you are part of a same-sex couple. If the marriage breaks down later the courts may not recognize the second spouse’s parental rights.
Consider Using a Sperm Bank
Using a sperm bank prevents many of these complications. While technology may be unveiling the identities of “anonymous” donors, using a sperm bank as an intermediary continues to provide a sort of legal shield. The man who donated the sperm would have signed agreements with the sperm bank which would prevent him from seeking custody or even visitation later.
There is also far fewer gray areas involved when using a sperm bank. Women who choose family members and friends to donate sperm do so because they have an emotional attachment to these individuals.
Under these circumstances, the chances the biological father will become involved in the child’s life in some form or fashion is reasonably high. Seemingly harmless interactions could later serve as evidence of his parental relationship with that child in the event of a dispute, especially if you haven’t taken any of the other steps outlined above.
Consult a Qualified Family Law Attorney
Technology and changing family structures continue to make the practice of building and raising families more challenging than ever. Choosing a non-traditional method of child bearing means opening up new, complex legal doors.
Make sure you have a good family law attorney on your side from day one. From drafting the agreements to helping with second-parent adoptions to outlining next steps, the family lawyers at Sadek & Cooper are ready to help you move forward in a way that protects you and your child.