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Sperm donation case highlights limits of paternity law

We have written before about how the law and our lives aren't always in sync. This is perhaps most clearly in evidence in cases related to a child's parentage. The law in many states, including Arkansas, makes certain assumptions about who a child's father is when determining important things such as child support and child custody.

The problem with these assumptions is that they often don't account for unique realities in a given case. Sometimes fathers' rights might have to be fought for. On other occasions, a man presumed to be a father under the law might need to challenge obligations the state seeks to impose on him. To be confident in one's representation, a skilled attorney should be enlisted.

A case out of Kansas reflects again how social mores can outpace the law. In some ways, it represents something of a perfect legal storm. It involves a same-sex couple and a sperm donor brought together through the internet.

According to media reports, the female couple advertised on Craigslist for a donor and a girl was born in 2009. Subsequently, the women separated and in 2012, the state went to court to have the supplier of the sperm declared the father. It wanted to recover more than $6,000 in government assistance that had been paid for the child's delivery.

The state's argument was that the man's sperm had been donated and used without a doctor's supervision. Under a 1994 law, such deals leave the donor exposed to possible paternity claims unless there's a written agreement to the contrary. It's not clear that such an agreement was in place in this instance.

The outcome appears somewhat unique. On one hand, the circumstances led the judge to rule the man was not "a mere donor of sperm." On the other, the judge noted that the separated women are directly parenting the child and that the man is not liable for support. The overriding factor for the judge was what she considers to be the best interests of the child.

The state says it might appeal the decision.

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