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Woman Sues Sperm Donor (and Friend) for Child Support

Man holding sterile sample Container bottle for medical analysis.

Woman Sues Sperm Donor (and Friend) for Child Support

Decades ago in 1991, two friends and medical school classmates had made each other a promise: the man, who was gay, promised to donate his sperm to the woman so that she could eventually undergo in vitro fertilization to become a mother.

Even though they went their separate ways after medical school, this is precisely what happened more than 15 years ago, when the woman called upon the man to provide a sperm donation which she used to conceive two children. In 2002, they both signed an agreement giving the mother full custody, as well as decision-making rights over the children’s education and health care. They also agreed that the man would stay in touch and remain somewhat involved in the children’s lives – effectively as a “spuncle,” which is the slang term used in fertility law circles to denote such sperm donor arrangements.

In turn, the mother agreed that she would not look to the man for “any financial support”.

But since making that agreement the mother, now a medical doctor, apparently changed her mind: she is now suing the man for child support, relying on Ontario legislation that currently allows known sperm donors (and egg donors, for that matter) to be held liable in the right cases.

Under that law, any interested person can apply to a court for a declaration that a male person is legally recognized as the father of a child; once made, such order is recognized “for all purposes”, including potential imposition of child support obligations.

However, the issue under contention was whether the man’s role should include a financial support obligation for the two children, not based merely on his biological connection but also on his lifelong involvement in the now-teenaged children’s lives.

For example, over the years he had e-mailed them, introduced them to his extended family, and paid for their trips to Europe and Disneyland. His own parents treated them like their grandchildren. Moreover, the man gave the mother $22,000 to help with costs, with part of that money going into Registered Education Savings Plans for each child. The mother claimed this was all evidence of his intent to treat the children as his own.

Incidentally, the mother currently earned almost $250,000 as a gynecologist, obstetrician and university professor; the man earned just under $280,000 in Europe working for the World Bank. If the woman’s pending is successful in her child support claim, the man would be liable for four years of retroactive child support for both children, plus some of the cost of their post-secondary education and other costs.

This is an unusual case in which a known sperm donor has been sued for child support. The case has yet to be heard in the Ontario Courts.

What are your views on this situation? Should the mother succeed in her child support claim?

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit us at RussellAlexander.com