Do Sperm Donors Have Paternity Rights?

Sep 23, 2021 Family Law

With the advent of marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples, sperm donations have become increasingly common. Advances in medical science have also prompted many women to consider having children on their own with the help of a sperm donor. However, legal questions do arise when a man offers his sperm to someone else – does a man who donates his sperm to fertilize an egg have rights as a father of that child? Is the mother automatically granted sole custody of the child? What about if there is a sperm donor and a surrogate involved, who is then giving the baby to a gay couple? How do we work out who is entitled to parental rights?

This is one of the most complex issues that an Irvine paternity lawyer might face, and the answer will depend entirely on the type of relationship the sperm donor has with the child.

Sperm Donors, Doctors, and Your Rights

In California, most women who use a sperm donor will do so under the supervision of a doctor. In those cases, the sperm donor will often sign a document that waives their right to claim paternity later on. The California Family Code also enshrines a sperm donor’s inability to claim paternity over the child, when a doctor was essentially a “middle man” between the man’s sperm and the woman’s egg. In fact, under California law, a man would be completely barred from seeking parental rights if a doctor assisted with the sperm collection and egg fertilization process.

It’s less clear, however, what can happen when a doctor is not involved in the collection of sperm and subsequent insemination. For example, if a woman were to privately collect sperm from a man and inseminate the sperm herself, the donor may later be held responsible for the child. In other words, a sperm donor could claim paternity if the artificial insemination process was done at home; and a woman could similarly claim that a sperm donor owes child support payments. 

Recently, California was also considering revising their paternity law to allow room for a sperm donor to seek paternity of a child when they have a close relationship with that child. Critics of this proposed legislation say that it’s dangerous and wouldn’t give custodial parents much peace of mind; if a sperm donor can claim a child at any point in the process, then they would constantly be worried that the child they are raising would have to be shared with someone they didn’t necessarily account for when they decided to become parents. 

Contact an Irvine Paternity Lawyer to Learn More

The decision to have a child is not one made lightly, and there are many factors involved for the sperm donor and mother alike. If you know that you want to move forward with artificial semination, you should consider which documents are necessary to protect your parental rights. An Irvine paternity lawyer at our firm can help you iron out the details – contact our office today.