“Doctor sues gay friend for child support, 16 years after he first donated sperm to her”

This eye-catching headline appeared recently in a national newspaper.  The article, written by Ashley Csanady, explores the unique facts of this case, and questions whether Bill 28, the All Families are Equal Act, might help protect sperm donors, such as the person featured in this story, in the future.

The Story of the Doctor and the Supportive, Involved Donor

In 2000, a man who didn’t intend to have children of his own, donated sperm to his friend, a medical student, who eventually conceived two children.  When he agreed to be a “spuncle” (this is fertility slang for known sperm donors who stay involved in their children’s lives), he was happy to help his friend and remain in contact with the kids as a member of their extended family.

Sixteen years later, the mother is suing the donor for child support on the basis that known sperm and egg donors can be held liable for child support based on biology alone.  The mother claims that the donor acted as a father-figure to the children their whole lives, and that the donor’s parents and extended family were also involved with the children.

After the second child was born in 2002, the mother and donor signed an agreement which gave the mother full custody, and stated that she would not look to the donor for financial support.

Why the change of heart?  The mother claims that the donor acted as a father all along and that she can no longer afford to pay for all the children’s activities, including child-care costs as she works 24-hour shifts as a medical doctor.  (Both the mother and the donor make approximately $250,000/year).

What are the Potential Costs to the Donor?

If the mother is successful in her case, she may receive four years of retroactive child support, along with other expenses such as post-secondary education.  The donor feels like he is being punished for being involved in the children’s lives.  He neither intended to nor agreed to contribute financially to the support of these children.

This is a thorny issue in the family law arena in Ontario.  More and more children are being born through reproductive technologies, often to same sex couples.  When donations are obtained anonymously from sperm banks, parenthood is generally uncontested.  But where couples or single people make arrangements with people they know to be sperm donors, the rights and obligations of the parties can be confusing and lead to litigation as we see in the story above.

Potential Impact of Bill 28, the All Families Are Equal Act

As it is currently written, the bill could give protection to a man who donates sperm outside of a clinic if he signs an agreement beforehand with the woman accepting his donation.  Critics of the current wording of the bill worry that it would extend stronger protection to sperm donors when children are conceived outside of a clinic, rather than offer equal protection to all donors, regardless of the location in which conception occurs.

If you have questions about child support or any other family law matter, contact  Gelman & Associates at (416) 736-0200 or 1-844-742-0200 or contact us online for a confidential initial consultation.