TOPEKA, Kan. – A Topeka man who answered a Craigslist ad to donate sperm so two women could have a baby together is not legally the child's father and isn't required to provide financial support, a Kansas judge has ruled.
The state Department for Children and Families had not decided as of Tuesday whether it would appeal last week's ruling by Shawnee County District Judge Mary Mattivi. The department sought to force William Marotta to pay child support for the girl born in December 2009.
Mattivi last year required Marotta to submit a DNA sample to confirm that he was the girl's biological father and declared he was not "a mere donor of sperm." But the judge's Nov. 22 ruling concluded that birth mother's former partner should be considered the child's second parent rather than Marotta, in part because he has had minimal contact with the girl.
The department filed a petition in 2012 to have Marotta declared the child's legal father and require him to pay child support after the women, birth mother Jennifer Schreiner and Angela Bauer, separated and Schreiner received assistance from the state. The department initially sought to reclaim about almost $6,100 in expenses associated with the child's birth.
The case illustrated how older laws on assisted reproduction in Kansas and others have not been updated. Charles Baylor, Marotta's attorney, said the Kansas agency's position 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," Baylor said.
The agency argued that Marotta was legally on the hook for child support — even though he never intended to act as the child's father — because the two women did not use a physician. In her ruling, Mattivi said Bauer is unable to work and is receiving Social Security disability benefits.
A 1994 Kansas law says a man who provides donated sperm to a doctor for an insemination is not the child's parent, absent a written agreement saying otherwise.
Marotta and the two women signed a contract in which they agreed to pay him $50 for every semen donation. Legal documents say Schreiner was impregnated with a syringe in early 2009.
Secretary Phyllis Gilmore said the department is disappointed with Mattivi's ruling, adding in a statement that "the law pertaining to sperm donors is clear and was ignored in this ruling."
Courtney Joslin, a University of California, Davis law professor, said a commission on uniform state laws recommended in 2000 and 2002 that states eliminate a requirement that physicians be involved in assisted reproduction to protect sperm donors. Eleven states adopted its recommendations, and California independently repealed the requirement as of this year, she said.
Nine states and the District of Columbia have laws that treat an unmarried partner as a legal parent when there is assisted reproduction, Joslin said.
Mattivi's latest ruling noted that Schreiner and Bauer are parenting the girl together and that Kansas courts have long held that the child's best interest is the key issue. The judge said Bauer's presumption of parenthood is "superior" to Marotta's.
A friend of Marotta's started a GoFundMe page to raise money for his legal expenses. As of Tuesday, the effort had raised about $2,300.