Kansas trying to make sperm donor pay child support

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man who donated

sperm to a lesbian couple after answering an online ad is fighting the

state's

efforts to suddenly force him to pay child support for the now

3-year-old girl, arguing that he and the women signed an agreement

waiving all of his parental rights.

The case hinges on the fact that no doctors were used for the artificial insemination. The state argues that because William

Marotta didn't work through a clinic or doctor, as required by state law, he can be held responsible for about $6,000 that

the child's biological mother received through public assistance — as well as future child support.

Angela de Rocha, spokeswoman for the Kansas

Department for Children and Families, said that when a single mother

seeks benefits

for a child, it's routine for the department to try to determine

the child's paternity and require the father to make support

payments to lessen the potential cost to taxpayers.

Marotta, a 46-year-old Topeka resident,

answered an online ad in 2009 from a local couple, Angela Bauer and

Jennifer Schreiner,

who said they were seeking a sperm donor. After exchanging emails

and meeting, the three signed an agreement relieving Marotta

of any financial or paternal responsibility.

But instead of working with a doctor, Marotta agreed to drop off a container with his sperm at the couple's home and the women

successfully handled the artificial insemination themselves. Schreiner become pregnant with a girl.

Late last year, after she and Bauer broke up, Schreiner received public assistance from the state to help care for the girl.

The Kansas Department for Children and

Families filed a court petition against Marotta in October, asking that

he be required

to reimburse the state for the benefits and make future child

support payments. Marotta is asking that the case be dismissed,

arguing that he's not legally the child's father, only a sperm

donor.

A hearing is set for Tuesday.

Marotta told The Topeka-Capital Journal that he is "a little scared about where this is going to go, primarily for financial

reasons."

His attorney didn't immediately return a

phone message Wednesday from The Associated Press, and there was no

listing for his

home phone number in Topeka. Listings for Schreiner and Bauer were

either incorrect or out of service, and Schreiner did not

respond to a message sent by Facebook.

Court records show that Marotta, Schreiner and Bauer signed an agreement in March 2009, with the women agreeing to "hold him

harmless" financially. The agreement also said the child's birth certificate would not list a father.

But the state contends the agreement isn't valid because a doctor wasn't involved.

Under a 1994 Kansas law, a sperm donor isn't

considered the father only when a donor provides sperm to a licensed

physician

for artificial insemination of a woman who isn't the donor's wife.

The result is an incentive for donors and prospective mothers

to work with a doctor, de Rocha said.

"I believe that is the intent of the law, so that we don't end up with these ambiguous situations," she told The Associated

Press.

Also, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled in October 2007 that a sperm donor who works through a licensed physician can't legally

be considered a child's father — and doesn't have the right to visit the child or have a role in its upbringing — absent a

formal, written agreement. But the case involved a sperm donor who was seeking access to a child but had only an informal,

unwritten agreement with the child's mother.

Linda Elrod, a law professor and director of Washburn University's Children and Family Law program, said the law seems clear:

Sperm donors who don't want to be held liable for child support need to work with a doctor.

"Other than that, the general rule is strict liability for sperm," said Elrod, who filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the

Supreme Court case.