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Legal Agreement

Legal considerations when using a known sperm donor

For single women, lesbian couples, and heterosexual couples with severe male factor infertility, the use of donor sperm can be a great option to build their families. When important issues such as disclosure to the child and others are handled well, the research suggests children conceived through the use of this and other third party collaborative options, are as happy and well adjusted as those children who are conceived by couples using their own eggs and sperm. In the majority of cases, an anonymous sperm donor is selected through a sperm bank. Anonymous donors may agree to have their identity released to the child in the future, but typically, the donor has no contact with the recipients or their offspring – and no legal rights or obligations in the future.

However, in other cases, sperm is donated by someone known to the individual or couple – for example, a trusted acquaintance, friend, or family member. Known donations are more complex socially – in terms of whether the donor’s identity will be disclosed to the child and others, and what role, if any, the donor will have in the child’s life. They are also more complex legally – in terms of the donor’s subsequent rights and responsibilities to any offspring created through his donation. All too frequently informal arrangements are made regarding these issues – with both the donor and recipient(s) “trusting” that these informal arrangements will be honoured in the future. However, a lack of legal documentation outlining the roles and expectations following the birth of a child conceived using donor sperm can create many difficulties, for all parties involved.

A recent Canadian case highlights the importance of legally documenting clear roles and expectations following sperm donation. After agreeing to donate his sperm to a lesbian woman, an Ontario man contested their initial arrangement after the birth of the child, and filed a law suit against the lesbian woman and her partner – claiming parental rights and requesting shared custody of the child. In the end, a Justice at the Ontario Superior Court formally declared the lesbian couple as the child’s legal parents and restricted the donor from having legal paternal entitlement, or access to the child. In another recent case in the United States, a known sperm donor was later forced by the government to pay child support, when the lesbian couple to whom he donated his sperm, fell upon hard financial times and were forced to go on welfare.

If you are considering using sperm from a known donor to create your family, it is very important to consult a lawyer well in advance. You should come to a legal agreement on such important issues as the donor’s future role, access, and responsibilities to the child or children produce through his donation. It is also important to familiarize yourself with the laws in your province or state, and country, regarding these collaborative reproduction arrangements.

Read more about this issue here:

Paternity case settled out of court leaving sperm donor laws far from clear [National Post]

Read more about sperm donation here.

Read more about issues to consider when creating a family using donor sperm here and here.

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