In an earlier post, we discussed some of the issues that may arise when a sperm donor seeks to establish the parental rights of a child. One of those issues arises when a sperm donor seeks to establish parental rights. This is complicated by the fact that New York does not generally enforce contracts between sperm donors and the couples using the donor’s sperm on the basis that such contracts are against public policy.
This post follows up on that topic with a discussion of a recent case issued by a New York court, which acts as the most recent example of how courts treat the parental rights of sperm donors versus the woman (or family) who gives birth to the child.
The Facts of the Case
A same-sex lesbian couple arranged to have an acquaintance provide them with a sperm sample so that the couple could have a baby. Since the agreement did not go through a sperm bank or a licensed medical professional, the couple drew up their own contract without the assistance of legal advice. The contract waived the donor’s parental rights, as well as any rights to visitation. The contract also waived the couple’s right to seek child support from the donor.
The couple got pregnant and had a baby girl. However, once the baby was born, troubles arose when the donor was denied access to the child by the couple. It was around this time that the partner of the donor destroyed the contract between the donor and the couple. The donor filed a paternity action in New York court. The trial court held a hearing and ordered a paternity test. The couple appealed that decision.
The couple argued that the donor’s case should be dismissed on two grounds. First, since the couple’s marriage should be deemed “legitimate,” the parental rights would belong to the couple because she was a “product of the marriage.” Second, the couple argued that the donor should be “equitably estopped” from making a paternity claim after promising he would not do so.
The court found in favor of the couple on both grounds. Regarding the first issue, the court held that the couple’s marriage was legitimate and that the baby was a product of their marriage. As a result, there was a presumption that the couple had parental rights. Moving on, the court held that the donor “acquiesced” to the previous agreement by not being involved in the child’s early life. The court was seemingly swayed by the fact that the donor was not involved in the child’s prenatal care, did not know the girl’s birthday, and did not even meet the baby until it was a month or two old.
The court mentioned that the validity of the contract was not at issue in the case. However, the court did note that the contract was relevant to show the parties’ intention at the time when the agreement was made.
Do You Need a New York Family Law Attorney?
If you are currently in a New York child custody dispute, you should immediately reach out to Attorney Darren M. Shapiro. At the Law and Mediation Office of Darren M. Shapiro, we represent clients in all types of New York child custody issues, including paternity disputes as well as cases involving cutting-edge legal issues. To learn more, call 516-333-6555 to schedule a free consultation with Attorney Shapiro today.
More Blog Posts:
Equitable Distribution in New York Divorce Cases, Long Island Family Law and Mediation Blog, March 7, 2018
Addressing Client Rights and Responsibilities in Family Law Cases, Long Island Family Law and Mediation Blog, February 3, 2018