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January 24, 2014

A Child’s Rights Belong to the Child

In an interesting case originating in Kansas, a same-sex female couple privately sought the assistance of a male sperm donor to conceive a child (to be raised by the couple). The three parties signed a written contract that waived the man’s rights to any legal relationship with the child and also waived any legal responsibility for the child’s support and expenses. The parties did not use the services of a physician or clinic, contrary to a 1994 Kansas law.Things went as planned – there was a successful pregnancy, a birth, and the parties allegedly parted ways and lost contact. However, the female couple later sought state assistance on behalf of the child and, as occurs in Oregon and Washington, the state exercised its right to recover a contribution from either responsible parent. In this instance, the sperm donor and the biological mother were found to be liable for the child’s assistance payments as well as future child support.Even though the couple joined in the biological father’s defense, the judge rejected the private donor contract and its “waiver” of responsibilities. Noting that the right to financial support belongs to the child and not the parents, and that the state has the ultimate responsibility to protect a child if his or her parents fail to do so, the Court decided that the contract could not be enforced if it harmed the child’s or the state’s interests.

Most Oregon or Washington families (or those who wish to start a family) are not going to find themselves in a similar situation, but that does not mean the Kansas case should be ignored. The important thing to remember, in Kansas or any other state, is the concept that the child’s rights belong to the child and a judge will scrutinize any agreement between the parents that is not in the child’s best interests. This may apply to support issues, custody arrangements, and parenting plans.

It is always a good idea to check with an attorney to make sure that any agreements affecting your child are within the bounds of the law.

More information about the case can be found here.

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