The Kansas Department of Children and Families
by Nick Mattos, PQ monthly
The Kansas Department of Children and Familiesis trying to force a man who donated sperm to a lesbian couple three years ago to start paying child support.
USA Today explains:
William Marotta, a 46-year-old Topeka resident, answered an online ad in 2009 from a local couple, Angela Bauer and Jennifer Schreiner [pictured above], who said they were seeking a sperm donor. After exchanging emails and meeting, the three signed an agreement relieving Marotta of any financial or paternal responsibility.
But instead of working with a doctor, Marotta agreed to drop off a container with his sperm at the couple’s home and the women successfully handled the artificial insemination themselves. Schreiner become pregnant with a girl.
Gossip on This discusses what happened next:
The couple [Bauer and Schreiner] split in December 2010, but continue to co-parent their eight children, who range in age from 3 months to 25 years.
Bauer was diagnosed this past March with what she only would describe as “a significant illness” that prevents her from working. Schreiner then went to the state to obtain health insurance for their daughter. The [Kansas Department of Children and Families] demanded Schreiner provide the sperm donor’s name, claiming if she didn’t it would deny any health benefits because she was withholding information.
Businessweek details how and why things got weird:
Department spokeswoman Angela de Rocha said Wednesday that when a single mother seeks benefits for a child, the department routinely tries to determine the child’s paternity and require the father to make support payments to lessen the potential cost to taxpayers… Under Kansas law, a doctor’s involvement shields a man from being held responsible for a child conceived through artificial insemination. At least 10 other states have similar laws, including California, Illinois and Missouri, according to the Kansas Department for Children and Families.
William Marotta and the couple he helped have a daughter didn’t go through a doctor, so the department is asking a state court to hold him responsible for about $6,000 that the child’s biological mother received through public assistance — as well as future child support.
The department also asked the court to appoint an attorney to represent the now 3-year-old girl, independently of her mother.
As for the next steps, The Associated Press explains what may happen in court, and gives some advice for other queer couples who may be looking to expand their families or help other families expand without risk of future liability:
In October, the department filed a court petition against Marotta, asking that he be required to reimburse the state for the benefits and make future child support payments. Marotta is asking that the case be dismissed, arguing that he’s not legally the child’s father, only a sperm donor. A hearing is set for Tuesday…
Linda Elrod, a law professor and director of Washburn University’s Children and Family Law program, said the law seems clear: Sperm donors who don’t want to be held liable for child support need to work with a doctor.
“Other than that, the general rule is strict liability for sperm,” said Elrod.
What do you think, readers? If Marotta, Bauer, Schreiner were aware of the laws regarding insemination and broke them anyway, should Marotta be liable for child support? Could this set a negative precedent for other queer insemination cases elsewhere in the nation? Tell us your thoughts on this complex case in the comments!