December 3, 2007

"$perm wail by donor."

Jokey NY Post headline for a case that poses a serious question: Is this the punishment of a good deed or the proper respect for the child?
A sperm donor who sent gifts signed "Dad" to his biological son has been slapped with a child-support order, 18 years after helping his friend get pregnant.

The Nassau County man donated his sperm to a work colleague, and included his name on the child's birth certificate, saying it would give the boy an identity, courts documents revealed.

He then blurred the lines between donor and full-time father by sending money, presents and cards signed "Dad" and "Daddy," and having phone chats with the now college-bound teen.

But the man's goodwill backfired: A court ruling says he is now liable for financial support of the 18-year-old, who lives with his mother in Oregon.
It seems that you can be either a sperm donor or a father, but if you go into the gray zone between the two, the child gets a father.
"He was assured that he would have no responsibility on his part and of course 18 years has elapsed where there hasn't been responsibility," [the man's lawyer] said.
Assured? By whom? Surely not by the baby — unborn or born — and not by the little boy who was led to think he had a daddy.
"He did not anticipate this would happen now, when the child is almost an adult, that the mother would come forward for child support."
Did not anticipate that an 18-year-old would perceive a strong need for money and remember that there was a man — a doctor — who called himself Daddy? Just outright forgot about the whole notion of college? Never contemplated the prospect that the boy would develop a mind of his own and be capable of analyzing his own needs and interests?

ADDED: Meanwhile, in the UK:
[Andy] Bathie, a fireman from Enfield, north London, said ... "These women wanted to be parents and take on all the responsibilities that brings. I would never have agreed to this unless they had been living as a committed family. And now I can't afford to have children with my own wife - it's crippling me financially"....

"We would warn men providing genetic material that the only time they are not the father is when they donate through a licensed fertility clinic. This does not apply to unlicensed websites or home insemination."


Paddy O. said...

Isn't an 18 year old an adult in this country?

Commit a crime over 18 and you go to adult prison.

Live with your mother at 18 and you can receive child support?

Pogo said...

The donor was a married doctor at a Nassau County hospital when he donated his sperm to a hospital resident and her female partner in the late 1980s.

If payments were to go ahead, the child support would be determined based on the mother's earning capacity; the reported income of her partner, who is also a doctor; and the father's income.

1. The woman is a doctor, and her lesbian partner is also a doctor. And they need more money?

2. The mother lacks integrity. She is an opportunist and has committed a reprehensible act here.

3. The son is also an opportunist. No surprise.

4. I thought lesbian couples were married just like man and wife couples? Except, it appears, when they don't want to be.

5. I thought women needed men like fish needed bicycles.

6. Well, women still don't need men at all, just their sperm. And their cash.

7. Men, be careful where you put that thing.

8. Men, don't expect to begat and not be got.

Ann Althouse said...

Paddy: I think those are retrospective payments.

Joan said...

I'm with Paddy on this one -- I was under the impression that child support payments cease once the child hits 18 years old.

While I think Ann's questions are pertinent, reading the entire article you see that the man's contacts with his son have been very limited since 1993 -- seven phone calls, one 3-hour meeting. The child's mother is in a stable lesbian relationship, and both she and her partner are employed. I don't see how they have a leg to stand on in this case, but apparently some judge in PA awarded child support in a similar case where a sperm donor made generous gifts to his offspring. I just wonder how old the child was, in that case. This case is just a more egregious case of money-grubbing than we usually see, as if the moms heard about the PA case and saw an opportunity to milk the child's well-off father, even though they promised not to do so. The donor was an idiot not to get that promise in writing.

Zeb Quinn said...

It always comes down to money.

Trooper York said...

Sadie: Where do babies come from?
Debbie: Where do you think they come from?
Sadie: Well. I think a stork, he umm, he drops it down and then, and then, a hole goes in your body and there's blood everywhere, coming out of your head and then you push your belly button and then your butt falls off and then you hold your butt and you have to dig and you find the little baby.
Debbie: That's exactly right.
(Knocked Up, 2007)

jawats said...

I wonder if New York has a law that says that if one signs one's name to a birth certificate, then one is the father, regardless of attempts to deny. If that is the case, then he signed his own legal responsibility for the child to that certificate.

It also sounds like he was trying to have it both ways - feel like he had a son with only supporting the son and being "fatherly" when he felt like it.

I have little pity for him.

Trooper York said...

Alison Scott: I'm pregnant.
Ben Stone: Fuck off!
Alison Scott: What?
Ben Stone: What?
Alison Scott: I'm pregnant.
Ben Stone: Pregnant... with emotion?
Alison Scott: Pregnant with a baby.
(Knocked Up 2007)

Zeb Quinn said...

I was under the impression that child support payments cease once the child hits 18 years old

Support for a child attending school. Usually up to a certain age, like 23. This is the law at least in the 2 states where I practice. This is that odd area of the law where a judge is empowered to order a noncustodial parent --almost always the father-- to support an adult child while the child goes to college, something all other parents in the known universe are free to do or not do at their own whim.

PatCA said...

Well, I was going to make a pity comment, but Pogo has said all that need be said!

SteveR said...

If he never intended to support the child, he certainly did not protect himself (no pun intended). At this point I think its too late but plantiffs never pick me.

dbp said...

Further proof, as if any were needed, that no good deed goes unpunished.

vnjagvet said...

Sounds like work for a good public interest appellate lawyer with an interest in paternal rights.

I am sincerely interested in the musings of DTL and Titus about this.

ricpic said...

If he had gotten the assurance of "no responsibility" in writing would that give him a legally plausable defense against this claim for child support?

Joan thinks it would. I don't know. Thoughts?

Joan said...

Ricpic, I'm not so sure it would provide a bulletproof defense, but at least it would be something concrete, rather than all parties' vague recollections of promises made orally 19 years ago.

I don't see how this works at all, honestly. If the man had not donated the sperm, the mothers would have no child. The moms have supported the child without assistance from the donor for the child's entire 18-year existence. The donor had what can accurately be described as minimal contact -- the child knows he exists, but not much more than that, over the past 15 years. So, what changed to make these lesbian moms decide to haul the donor into court, now? Did the kid get into an Ivy school and not qualify for any financial aid? Why is that suddenly the donor's responsibility?

This is a great example of unintended consequences. Who could've imagined such lawsuits when sperm banks made it possible for women to have babies without any relationship with the "father"? Sheesh.

Henry said...

This all comes down to who they cast as the dad. The dad as played by Spencer Tracy will take the kid fishing and teach him to be a real man. The dad as played by Kevin Costner will take the kid on a crime spree.

Pogo said...

The cumulative message over time to men is a deletirious one: Men are unnecessary for anything but sperm and income.

Increasingly, men have fewer and fewer reasons to participate in making a family. While the costs of childcare are increasingly being socialized, sperm so far hasn't been.

For the ultimate in a men-as-intermittent-companions-only society, see Sweden, where half of all children are born outside of marriage, and the most common living arrangement is "alone". Utopia? Dystopia?
That's subjective. Impermanent, however, it will dobtlessly be.

Varia said...

That's funny, a friend of mine with a 71-year-old exwife and three children in their 30s has been sued for back child support in a state he hasn't lived in for like 30 years. He had a written agreement with his ex, too, about money, but she's still sticking it to him. Harrassment and terrorism by people who see the financial abyss ahead. Git it while you can, from whomever you can, however you can.

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

Mayabe I'm not reading this right, but does it say the mother was sueing?

My recollection of family law is that the child can sue for support once they are an adult.

The article mentions an affidavit by the son; possibly he is filing the support case on his own?

Also, my limited recollection is that he can collect up to the full 18 years, but Oregon law my differ.

Also, the "child" is an adult; how will a paternity test 'traumatize' him? What kind of idiot is this judge?

Ann Althouse said...

What so many of you seem to be missing is that the child is a person. How is it that this is so hard to see when it's so easy for you to see when you are anti-abortion? It makes your anti-abortion position — if you're one of the people here siding with the man and are also anti-abortion — look more like a men's rights position. It is the child that is owed support, not the mother.

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

Ann; are you saying that one parent couldn't wave support from the other?

What if this is a case filed by the child, and the mother had signed a non support agreement?

I agree that a father (or other non-custodial parent absolutely needs to support their children, and and completely against abortion.

And yet I believe this poor guy is getting hosed.

Revenant said...

What so many of you seem to be missing is that the child is a person. How is it that this is so hard to see when it's so easy for you to see when you are anti-abortion?

Ann, the child had two parents. They were both women, that's all. The guy helped a lesbian couple conceive.

Now as I see it you have two choices here:

(1): Say that lesbian couples are inferior parents to the traditional man-woman setup, or

(2): Concede that the biological father didn't deprive his biological son of anything. The kids was raised in a (presumably) loving family.

All the guy did was stay in touch. Why on Earth should he owe ANY money?

jeff said...

"It is the child that is owed support, not the mother."

It's the child that the judge says is owed support. There is a difference. And isn't it the case in pretty much every case, the support goes to the custodial parent to help with the expense of child raising? Food, roof, heat etc? So now this "child" is owed 18 years of back support? If this was a 6 year old kid living in poverty, I would still be against the ruling, but I could understand it a bit better.

"He did not anticipate this would happen now, when the child is almost an adult, that the mother would come forward for child support."
This is probably why people are blaming the mother.

"Nassau County Family Court judge Ellen Greenberg ruled Nov. 16 against a paternity test, saying it would have a traumatic effect on the child."

Good thing the "child" didn't hold up a liquor store. The "child" probably wouldn't have his feelings taken into consideration to this extent.

What is the law if a woman gives up a child for adoption, but the new parents allow her into the child's life? She has access to the kid and sends presents and cards etc. Can they come back 18 years later and sue her for child support, or is that covered in the adoption papers?

Brian O'Connell said...

Ann, under that rationale, what's to stop any adult who was conceived via anonymous sperm donation from suing for support from the father? If the adult child has an independent right to support, subpoenaing the fertility clinic for the daddy info would be an obvious right too. After all, the child never agreed to any contract with them either.

The fact that the father in this case had some minimal contact with the child seems not relevant at all.

chuckR said...

Whats the effect on a pre-nup agreement? Any children born during a marriage with one in place had no say in the pre-existing financial agreements. From my lack of knowledge, I'd guess that adequate provision for any kids born during the marriage would be required for a good pre-nup. But can the kids determine a couple decades later that its not adequate = not enough money? After all, the celeb gossip pages lead us to believe that some kids can't be supported on less than ten$ of thousand$ each month.

As for the morality/ethics of this mess, what Pogo said. In spades.

Meade said...

The school of hard knock ups.

Maybe this will lead to a law requiring sperm donors to simultaneously donate to a general college tuition trust - call it Social Sexual Security - for the 1 million (growing by 30,000/year) children who reach the age of majority without the support of the male who contributed half of their DNA.

jawats said...

These are the issues which would need to be balanced, it seems to me:

1) Donor's legitimate expectation (contractually or otherwise) that he would never be asked to support the child.
2) Donor's actions which seem contrary to how a person with the above legitimate expectation would behave (sending gifts signed as "Dad", signing the birth certificate, and so on).
3) Any legal contract saying that he would not have to provide support.
4) Any legal doctrines / statutes stating that signing a birth certificate gives one legal responsibility regardless of other claims / documents.
5) Possible fraudulent behavior by the parent(s) and child.
6) Laches (Not used much - thrown out with the rest of equity.)
7) Statute of Limitations (though I seriously doubt it.)

Pre-nups MAY have some influence on child support decisions, but in most jurisdictions, the court is free to disregard the pre-nup in favor of the "best interest of the child" (legal catchphrase there).

jawats said...

Also - add to that:

8) Potential physical reliance of the child upon the donor's gifts.
9) Potential emotional reliance upon the existence of such a father figure and damage if denied access.


Randy (Internet Ronin) said...

This child was not raised in desititution, Ann. As you know, the claim is for years before now. This is about greed. I cannot believe that you agree that this child is owed any money at all. If he wins, it is but a short step to the idea all sperm donors, anonymous or not, are liable for child support for any child created from their donation. They are that someone's biological father, after all, and, according to you, the child has a right to make such a demand no matter what the parents work out. Come to think of it, it could render any divorce agreements irrelevant, as any child come came back and claim years later that whatever the parents agreed to when they got divorced he or she didn't agree to and he or she wants his or her piece of the pie for themselves.

Ann Althouse said...

Fathers owe child support in proportion to their income, not relative to the mother's income, I believe, from what I've seen. (I'm not speaking as a family law expert.)

Meade said...

Social Semen Security

chuckR said...

If the geneticists are to be believed, there are more anonymous sperm donors than you (mothers excepted) know about. What is diplomatically referred to as 'non-paternity' or extrapair paternity occurs about 4% of the time (average of wide-ranging estimates). Don't like Pops or his lack of a support level you expect? Why, just research what Mom was up to nine months before you born. Find a likely (likely well-to-do) candidate and there's probably a tame idiot judge somewheres who'll order up a paternity test. Good for a blackmail settlement if nothing else. God, I hope thats not true.

jawats said...

To a certain extent, child support and its amount is dependent on the state. In Indiana, where I practice, child support is based (mostly) upon the income of both parents. That takes the modern family into account (where a mother with primary custody could earn much more than the father) and avoids inequities. Consider the case of the noncustodial parent earning $25,000 and the custodial $200,000, and the noncustodial parent having to thereby pay equal child support - that would be unjust.

Sigivald said...

Since the child in question has had two "parents"* all his life, how is said child owed support by the father, who (by all accounts) impregnated one of the two "parents" specifically because they could not do so themselves, and the two women had the specific intent of being the "parents" of said child?

I don't think a early-life presents, then a few phone calls and one three hour visit qualify as something that makes him as much of a parent as the two people who've raised the child for 18 years, especially given that they deliberately wanted him top be their inseminator, rather than a father.

This reeks of injustice and grasping; since the kid has two parents already, I see no reason why an inseminator who also sent a few cards should be required to pay an income-proportional third of support for the child (now grown).

jen said...

Fathers owe child support in proportion to their income, not relative to the mother's income, I believe, from what I've seen. (I'm not speaking as a family law expert.)
This could be out of date (it was 10 years ago) but here in Ohio, they add the income of the two parents (M$ + D$ = T$) then use a chart to look up how much a "normal" family of mom, dad, and x children would spend per child if the family earned T$. They then amount the "normal" family would spend per child, and pro-rate it based on the incomes. So if dad earns $100,000/year and mom earns $50,000/year, then it's expected that dad's child support is 2/3 of the entire child support. Then the noncustodial parent pays their share to the custodial parent . . . .

Apparently, where that breaks down is when either mom or dad has kids from multiple partners, so you've got a custodial mom with 2 kids, and 1 dad earns far more than the other . . . .

In *this* case, I can't help wondering whether mom lives in a state where the partner could be held responsible for child support, had they separated before the child turned 18. In that case, would both the donor and the partner owe child support? Would either get a credit for the fact that there are 3 supporting parents?

Jeff with one 'f' said...

Let's hope the kid (and his attorney!) doesn't read ALthouse, or he'll think he's entitled to have his "daddy" buy him a house to live in while he attends college!

SGT Ted said...

He can join the military for his college bennies, or ask his parents, just like the rest of us who's families remained intact.

Oh wait, his family IS intact. Jimmy has two mommies. Is that suddenly an inferior family? NOW it takes a man to make the family complete? Or just his cash?

What is it, feminists? Is it now "hurray for me and my partner, but fuck all you men, you can still pay up?" What's it going to take for women like those two to take complete responsibility for their choices? Whats it going to take for the feminists to denounce this unfair crap?

I mean, really, the donor dude didn't even get laid.

If it's junior filing; God, what a greedy little shit. He just wants to pick the sperm donors pocket, using the power of the State to do it.

He is 18. He needs to grow the hell up. And these alleged adult parents need to start acting like they are adults and take responsibility for their choice to exclude men from their home lives.

michael farris said...

Is child support from a non-custodial parent generally continued if the custodial parent remarries?

jawats said...


Yes, it is, though spousal maintenance (usually a much lower amount) is usually discontinued at that point. I am not sure of the status of the income of the new spouse, and whether that is factored in for child support purposes (I doubt that it is).

Zeb Quinn said...

I haven't handled one of these cases in awhile, but I did a few of them back in the late 80s through the mid-nineties. What I remember about it is that this is not calculated like normal child support is calculated. The individual judge has wide discretion as to how much and whether at all. When it comes to child attending school support, as opposed to the usual child support and the guidelines upon which it is based, the custodial parent's income (usually the mother) doesn't matter too much or factor into it much, if at all. What matters is the noncustodial parent's (father) income and ability to pay and the needs of the child, i.e., school and living expenses. The child can also request that this support be sent directly to him and not to the custodial parent.

Some judges order it to be paid without a second thought. Others don't. I know of one judge who never orders it because he doesn't believe in it.

brylun said...

It is the child that is owed support, not the mother.

This may be true as a matter of legal principle, but I have never ever heard of child support being paid to a child - it is always due and owing to the custodial parent who is free to spend it on whatever she chooses including on herself.

brylun said...

The clear lesson is don't ever donate sperm. If you do a judge can always order child support "in the best interests of the child."

reader_iam said...

Did not anticipate that an 18-year-old would perceive a strong need for money and remember that there was a man — a doctor — who called himself Daddy? Just outright forgot about the whole notion of college? Never contemplated the prospect that the boy would develop a mind of his own and be capable of analyzing his own needs and interests

You could--pretty much--ask the same questions of the boy's parents, the couple who decided they wanted to bring a child into their family, the ones who arranged for him and raised him, his two moms. And should. Or would we not like those answers?

I think the kid's beef may really be with his mother(s). Or are we not supposed to go there?

P. Rich said...

Lesbian/feminist greed, taking advantage of feminist-inspired laws. And yes, this absolutely applies to the "boy" who has 18 years of lesbian/feminist programming occupying his tiny little mind.

Althouse seems to be equating "father" with "sperm donor". That notion is antiquated, and I doubt any lesbian couple would agree - unless (as in this case) there were some immediate personal advantage in doing so. And spare the "It's about the children." argument. If that were the case, said argument should have been made years ago.

I'm guessing some filing deadline or limiting event looms. Or maybe it's as simple as, "We'll keep the child to ourselves until he's grown, then we'll go for the money." Ugh.

Blake said...

Didn't I just read a story about a child's non-father paying support to the child's genetic father while the child was in the custody of said genetic father? (A court had designated the non-father as the, uh, "sucker", and the fact that the kid actually ended up with his real father had no bearing on it.)

The motivating culprit being some federal funds which the state collects by going after deadbeat dads, even if they're neither?

Does this ring a bell with anyone?

Well, that's the nice thing about social experiments: We can always count on the government to fix things up if they go bad.

Revenant said...

The lesson of this story seems obvious -- don't ever donate sperm, period. The small rewards aren't worth the huge risks.

Pogo said...

"Meanwhile, in the UK:
She urged would-be parents and donors to ensure they have an agreement in place so all parties are aware of their rights and responsibilities.

Sharon and Terri Arnold could not be contacted for comment."

And this is what happens when marriage and family disintegrate, when kids become commodities, when relationships are mere contracts with no responsibility to either city or nation, but only to themselves.

Robert said...

What so many of you seem to be missing is that the child is a person.

What you seem to be missing is that there is no child in this case.

Trooper York said...

Ben Stone: Steely Dan can gargle my balls.
(Knocked Up 2007)

michael farris said...

I was briefly contemplating the idea that this was a roundabout way of addressing same-sex marriage (if we could marry we couldn't pull crap like this) but that was shot down.

My official position (barring shocking new details):

If the mother is instigating this:
She's a user and a rotten human being.

If the child is instigating this:
The parent's (which doesn't include the sperm donor who wasn't a parent in any realistic sense of the word) did a piss poor job of raising the greedy little fucker and need to read him the riot act and distance themselves from this obvious shakedown.

michael farris said...

"Did not anticipate that an 18-year-old would perceive a strong need for money and remember that there was a man — a doctor — who called himself Daddy?"

Again, barring Austenesque shocking revelations, if the kid is too stupid to realize the difference between a real and courtesy title then no amount of "higher education" will do him any good.

If he does realize the distinction then that does him and his parents (not including the hapless sperm donor) no credit at all. And all stand as thoroughly crappy people who I wouldn't cross the street to piss on if they were on fire.

Trooper York said...

Jay: I'm going to be there to rear your child.
Jason: You hear that, Ben? Don't let him near the kid, he wants to rear your child!
(Knocked Up, 2007)

rcocean said...

Evelyn Mulwray: She's my father.
[Gittes slaps Evelyn]
Jake Gittes: I said I want the truth!
Evelyn Mulwray: She's my mother...
Evelyn Mulwray: She's my father...
Evelyn Mulwray: My father, my mother.
[More slaps]
Jake Gittes: I said I want the truth!
Evelyn Mulwray: She's my mother AND my father!

reader_iam said...

I wonder if the parents considered the donor as a third parent when they moved clear across the country. I wonder if the third parent considered himself that when he didn't contest that, or at least file for set visitation. (I wonder what the parents would have thought had he done either of those things.) I wonder if the offspring expressed upset at the time about the move, specifically with regard to separation from the bio-dad. I wonder how the parents handled that.

Did the boy express feelings of abandonment? And how did the parents respond and react to that?

And did all the the full-blown adults involved think about any of this stuff, in any meaningful way that affected actual behavior that, in the long run, has apparently turned out to matter a great deal?

Geoff Matthews said...

A few observations:

1) If the 'father' is required to make 18 years of payments for the child, expect that these private arrangements for insemination to dry up. Women looking for motherhood sans a man will only have one option (the sperm bank), and if the donors via this method are retroactively put on the hook, they go out of business. (In this sense, this is like environmentalists. Once you have your kid/house in the woods, you don't care if other people can get their's)

2) On a lighter note, "home insemination" sounds like a technical term for getting it on. I don't care how hot they were, 450 pounds a month (oh, the puns) for 18 years is too much for an MFF threesome.

Harkonnendog said...

This is the father's own fault. Anybody should understand that sending a child gifts signed daddy would open them up to monetary liability.

What kind of a world would this be if people weren't punished for considering the long term potential legal consequences of each and every action they take?

How the fuck would lawyers make a living?

jawats said...

We would not be able to - good that someone understands our situation.