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Support/Custody in context of sperm donor

Posted by attorney April Townsend

In Ferguson v. McKiernan, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court set the guidelines for the treatment of support and custody in the case of a child brought about through reproductive technology. In Ferguson, the mother sought child support payments from the sperm donor. The sperm donor argued he was not obligated to pay child support or fulfill any other parental duties due to his status as a sperm donor as well as their oral agreement that he would have no custody rights and she would have no entitlement to support.

The Supreme Court held for the sperm donor in ruling that where sperm is provided in a clinical setting for the purpose of assisting in reproduction, the sperm donor has no right to custody/visitation and the parent has no right to seek child support or any other financial obligation. The ruling is limited to situations where the sperm is transferred in a clinical setting. Cases involving sexual intercourse will not be treated similarly even if there is an agreement. As the trial court held in Ferguson, child support is a right of the child and typically agreements relinquishing those rights will be found invalid as a violation of public policy. Further, equitable estoppel may still operate to enforce a support obligation on a sperm donor if the donor gets involved in the child's life and has been acting as a parent to the child.

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