The Pennsylvania Supreme court recently decided that under certain circumstances a sperm donor who is known to the mother may not have to provided child support for the child(ren) conceived through artificial insemination.

Although the facts of the case are fairly unique, the holding by the Court was written after looking at the increasingly-common area of assisted conception and the absence of PA laws on the topic.

In the Ferguson v. McKiernan case, sperm donor and mother had a past romantic relationship. However, mother promised sperm donor that he would never be responsible for any children if he donated his sperm through a fertility clinic. For 5 years mother kept this promise, but then sued him for child support for the twins born from this arrangement.

During the 5 years, father moved, married and had his own family. By agreement, his genetic link to the children was not revealed. Indeed , the Court found that Mother acted in numerous ways that were fraudulent, including, but not limited to, putting her estranged husband’s name on the birth certificate, telling the fertility doctor she was married, bringing along another man as her “husband” to circumvent the doctor’s refusal to implant single women, and misrepresenting her ability to conceive to the sperm donor.

The court looked at the spectrum of cases regarding child support obligations where the parties are not married. On one side, they affirmed that children born from a sexual relationship are always entitled to child support, and neither parent can give up the child’s right before or after birth. On the other side, anonymous sperm donors are absolved of child support obligations, because to do otherwise would mean that such arrangements would not occur. Here, the court found that the agreement between mother and sperm donor was enforceable because:

  1. the existence of the agreement was what allowed the conception to occur; and
  2. Mother’s fraudulent conduct, inconsistent testimony, and deliberate falsehoods were enough to show that sperm donor would not have donated his sperm without the agreement.

For practitioners or unmarried people contemplating assisted conception, it is important to have the circumstances of the arrangement carefully reviewed and to have an agreement in place which reflects the parties’ wishes before conception occurs.