Can Kansas make a sperm donor cough up child support?

There’s a rather strange case brewing out in Kansas right now involving a man being sued by the state for child support. That, in and of itself, is sadly not all that unusual in modern society, but this one has a twist. The guy was a sperm donor. But that’s not the only twist in an increasingly complicated tale.

If you’re planning to donate sperm in Kansas, you may want to do it through a doctor.

That’s one message from the case of William Marotta of Topeka. In 2009, he noticed a Craig’s List advertisement from a lesbian couple, also in Topeka, seeking donated sperm.

“Intrigued” by the ad, he agreed to donate and says he delivered three cupfuls of his sperm — gratis — to the women, one of whom gave birth to a daughter.

So first… ewww. Thanks, CNN, but that might fall into the “Too Much Information” category. But getting beyond that, the tale goes somewhat off the rails. As part of the, er… arrangement… Mr. Marotta and both of the lesbian parents sign an agreement where he gives up any custodial rights to the future child and is absolved of responsibility. He departs the scene and the couple proceed to conceive.

The lesbian couple breaks up after having the baby and the mother finds herself in dire financial straights. She applies for public assistance and receives payments. Then, as part of the state’s usual routine, they attempt to track down the father – not the mother’s “ex” because gay marriage is constitutionally banned in Kansas – and nail him for $6,000 to cover the assistance she received and demands he start making child support payments.

My first reaction here was that the guy was totally being screwed over by the system. Editorials were posted saying that the laws in Kansas were out of date and needed to be changed. But the longer I thought about it and considered the side of the story being put forward by the state, the less sure I became of my initial reaction.

First, both the lesbian couple and Mr. Marotta messed up quite a bit from a legal perspective. The agreement they signed was totally private and never involved a court or a lawyer. The artificial insemination was done at home with no doctor ever being involved. Yes, I understand that the process is extremely expensive in a doctor’s office and lawyers aren’t cheap, but there was no paper trail to document their agreement. Under Kansas law, if the women had used a doctor who noted that it was a donor situation, Marotta would have been off the hook. And it seems to me – as a layman – that if they had at least gone to court to get some sort of formal donor agreement documented before the fact, he would stand a better chance in court today. As things stand, it looks as if he will lose.

But even more to the point, perhaps the current state of the law serves as a barrier against abuse. If this type of arrangement was allowed to stand, could any guy who got a woman pregnant later show up claiming to be a “donor” in a he said, she said situation? Or what if Marotta was the father, but had threatened the mother with harm if she contradicted his story to the police? (Mind you, I’m not saying that’s the case here at all, but in some other set of circumstances, you could see some real jerk doing that.) It just seems to open the door to all manner of abuse.

In the end, this is a very sad situation for Mr. Marotta, but if he and the lesbian couple had done the proper leg work to check into the applicable laws and get everything documented properly, he wouldn’t have this problem. I’m no longer sure that all of the outrage over this story is justified.

David Strom 7:01 PM on September 24, 2022