California Court Holds Sperm Donor Father Not Required to Pay Child Support

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A California Appellate Court held that acclaimed bodybuilder Ronnie Coleman is not required to pay child support for the twins he fathered through artificial insemination. A 2008 court order had directed him to pay child support in the amount of $4,000 per month. The case illustrates the gray area that still exists in much of California paternity law, and why an attorney is so important if you find yourself embroiled in a San Diego paternity action.

Coleman had been in a relationship with Jo D. while the two were neighbors in Texas more than 20 years ago. In 2006 the woman was living in California, and Coleman donated sperm for her in vitro fertilization. In 2007, she gave birth to triplets, one of whom died the next year. The birth certificate listed Coleman as the father, and he signed a declaration of paternity, which established legal, but not biological, fatherhood.

In December 2007 Coleman married another woman, and in April 2008 Jo D. sued him for child support. The court ordered him to pay child support while the suit was pending. Coleman argued he was not the “natural father” and asked that his declaration of paternity be set aside. He filed an appeal after a state court made the child support order final in October 2010.

California Family Code section 7613(b) reads: “the donor of semen . . . for use in artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization of a woman, other than the donor’s wife, is treated in law as if he were not the natural father of a child thereby conceived.” A court may determine that the sperm donor is the biological father, however, if he marries or attempts to marry the mother, receives the child into his home, and holds the child out as his biological child. California Family Code section 7611(d).

Here, Coleman’s actions were wholly inconsistent with the statutory criteria in that he did not at any time raise the children in his home, and, rather than marrying the in vitro mother, he married another woman in 2007, shortly after the donation procedure.

The court also made its determination based on a previous California case, Steven S. v. Deborah D., in which a man was attempting to establish paternity for a child he had fathered through artificial insemination with a woman he was intimately involved with but to whom he was not married. The woman argued against paternity, and the court agreed, stating that the clear language of 7613(b) guarantees the right of women to bear children without fear of paternity claims, as well as the right of men to donate sperm without fear of liability for child support. The court found here that because Coleman and Jo D. had conceived through artificial insemination, any agreements between them as to parenthood were void, since the facts of their case fell squarely within the parameters of 7613(b).

Whether you are attempting to establish paternity or arguing against it, a qualified San Diego divorce lawyer can help you obtain a resolution in a timely manner. For a free confidential consultation about paternity issues in the context of in vitro fertilization, or other family law issues, call our office at 858-312-8500 or contact us online.