In one of the more interesting recent cases involving same-sex parents, a Pennsylvania appellate court ruled that a lesbian couple’s known sperm donor must pay child support to the bio mom. The man was active in the couple’s life, and the two children he helped conceive called him “Papa,” according to an article in the Associated Press. He “spent thousands of dollars on the children,” even before the ruling. When the two mothers split, a court ordered the non-bio mom to pay support. She in turn sought to make the donor pay support as well.
A legal expert quoted in the article believes this could be the first time in the U.S. when a court has held three people responsible for child support and entitled to visitation. At the beginning of the year, a Canadian court named three people—a lesbian couple and the biological father—parents of the same child. The situation was different, however, in that all three were seeking to be legal parents while the moms were still together.
The U.S. case gets more complicated because the man has just died, and it is unclear what impact this will have. Still, the ruling seems a small step towards recognizing that some of us choose to have a known donor in our children’s lives, and to ensure that with that involvement comes responsibility. As long as it doesn’t take away from the rights of either mom, it seems like a good thing.
Additional clarification: There is definitely a danger here that courts might award donors (known or unknown) rights that the two moms do not want them to have. That’s not good. For families who want to bring a third parent into the mix, however, it looks like some courts are willing to envision that. But we have to be very careful where the limits are, so custody decisions are based on the initial agreements of the people involved. If the two moms and known donor don’t want the donor to be involved later, then I don’t think he should have any financial or custodial responsibility.
A fuzzy and still-evolving area of law, to be sure.
(Thanks to PageOneQ for the tip.)