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Court denies sperm donors have child support or custody rights

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2015 granting marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples did not automatically solve every family law matter. One Supreme Court in another state recently affirmed the parental rights of same-sex couples much as California did in 2005. This case addressed whether an anonymous sperm donor has any rights or obligations to offspring, including child support or custody.

The decision by this state's highest court settled the question of whether a same-sex spouse could be granted parental rights to a child that was conceived and born during a marriage. The couple is this case wed before same-sex marriage was legally recognized by their home state. They divorced after the 2015 marriage equality decision; therefore, the question of their marriage's validity was not a consideration. Though the marriage was dissolved, the former spouse was seeking valid parental rights.  

The judges on this Mississippi Supreme Court determined that the lower courts erred in ruling that the sperm donor's parental rights needed to be terminated before the former spouse could petition for her parental rights. They stated that anonymous sperm donors do not have any parental rights or obligations to children conceived through their donations. The panel clarified its decision by concluding that donors have no intentions of becoming legally recognized parents; they also affirmed that, short of a court order, children will not have knowledge of their biological father. 

California settled this issue in 2005 by way of three separate cases that determined that same-sex parents were to be granted the same rights and obligations as heterosexual couples, including providing child support and having the right to seek custody. There are a handful of states that have made similar determinations. Giving sperm donors parental rights could lead to children technically having three parents and could also lead to a drop in sperm donations. California parents who are struggling to resolve their own support or custody disputes may enlist the assistance of an experienced attorney. 

Source: thinkprogress.org, "Mississippi court overturns decision recognizing sperm donor in lesbian child-custody case", Zack Ford, April 6, 2018

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