Parenting

Judge: Craigslist Sperm Donor to Lesbian Couple Doesn't Owe Child Support

A Kansas judge has ruled that a man who donated sperm via Craigslist does not have to pay child support for his biological daughter, despite the state’s attempt to force him to make those payments.

In 2009, William Marotta answered a Craigslist ad to donate sperm in exchange for $50. Little did he know that the state of Kansas would ask him to pay for the daughter his sperm conceived, even though he had little to no contact with her and a specific agreement in writing waiving his parental rights.

Marotta donated sperm to a lesbian couple, Angela Bauer and Jennifer Schreiner, so they could raise a child together. The couple reportedly split up in 2010, and Schreiner, the birth mother, went on government assistance. The Kansas Department for Children and Families tried to fund this assistance by taking it from Marotta.

Marotta’s attorney, Charles Baylor, argued that this order was “radical” and discriminated against same-sex couples. “If the presumptive parent, in this case the non-biological mother, had been a man, they never would have gone after the sperm donor,” he said.

In a GoFundMe appeal to support Marotta, Julie Avard declared that “Kansas is trampling on the rights of Childless couples!” She explained that “Will Marotta is being sued for child support because he donated sperm to a childless couple.”

While the case does involve these complicated issues, it appears mostly to be about money. The Department for Children and Families filed a petition in 2012 to have Marotta declared the child’s legal father and require him to pay child support — almost $6,100 in expenses associated with the child’s birth.

In her ruling for Marotta last Thursday, Shawnee County District Judge Mary Mattivi said the mother’s ex-partner, Angela Bauer, is unable to work and is receiving Social Security disability benefits. It seems likely the agency merely went after Marotta because he is the only one involved not on government support.

Last year, the judge required Marotta to submit a DNA sample to confirm that he was the girl’s biological father and not “a mere donor of sperm.” This month, however, the judge ruled that the mother’s former partner should be considered the girl’s second parent rather than Marotta, who has had minimal contact with the girl.

Next Page: Why the state of Kansas thought it could demand money from Marotta in the first place.

The agency was only able to demand this because the artificial insemination took place at home, without a doctor present. Home insemination is illegal in Kansas. Since the two women didn’t use a physician to perform the artificial insemination, the state can prosecute the sperm donor for child support.

On the other hand, a 1994 law said a man who provides sperm to a doctor for insemination is not the child’s parent, unless there is a written agreement saying otherwise. In this case, Marotta says he consented to a written agreement signing away any parental rights long before the girl was born in December 2009.

While he responded to the Craigslist ad offering $50, Marotta said he did not receive any payment. When the agency asked him for money, he responded, “Wow, no good deed goes unpunished.” Bauer said she would be “forever grateful” to Marotta.

The agency did not say whether it would appeal the ruling that Marotta did not have to pay child support. Secretary Phyllis Gilmore said the department was disappointed with the ruling, declaring that “the law pertaining to sperm donors is clear and was ignored in this ruling.”

Nevertheless, while the issues are complicated, the financial incentive is clear. It seems unlikely that the state government aimed to oppose gay adoption or the “rights of childless couples,” and much more plausible that child support is expensive and the department wanted someone else to thwart the bill. Judge Mattavi clearly and definitively said no.

Check out a hilarious related Legally Blonde clip about artificial insemination on the next page.