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Sperm Donors, Artificial Insemination, and Paternity in Texas

father and childIn re Interest of PS is a Texas case that illustrates the importance of consulting an experienced family law lawyer in connection with any plans for artificial insemination. An appellate court reviewed whether a father qualified as a donor under Texas Family Code section 160.102(6). The case arose out of a friendship between the father and mother, who’d lived together but hadn’t had sex. The mother was a lesbian and wanted to have a child. She asked the father to provide sperm. The father also wanted children but didn’t think he was going to get married and thus agreed. The mother gave him sterile syringes and cups, and he gave her his sperm. The mother artificially inseminated herself and got pregnant.

The father went to the mother’s doctor appointments and a sonogram appointment and even came to the birth. He signed an acknowledgement of paternity as well as the birth certificate. The daughter received his last name. The father saw his daughter up to seven times during her first two months but then lost contact with the mother, who married someone. He came by to visit, but nobody answered the door.

A month after the daughter was born, the mother rescinded the paternity acknowledgement and asked the father to relinquish his parental rights through a form. The father asked for the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) help in getting official acknowledgement as the child’s father. The OAG filed a petition to establish their relationship, which the mother and her spouse opposed.

There was no written contract to memorialize the parents’ agreement about the artificial insemination. According to the father, there was an agreement that he’d be involved with his daughter. According to the mother, the father was simply a sperm donor. The mother’s spouse requested that the court find the father was only a sperm donor so that she could adopt the daughter.

The trial court determined that the father was the biological father of the daughter and appointed both parents as joint managing conservators. They also ordered the father to pay child support and created a schedule for possession and access. The mother appealed.

The mother argued that Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 160.702 states that a “donor” isn’t a parent of a child conceived through assisted reproduction, and therefore the father couldn’t be a “parent.” The appellate court explained that under section 160.102(6), a donor is someone who gives sperm to a licensed doctor to be used for assisted reproduction. In this case, the father hadn’t given his sperm to a licensed doctor. Therefore, he wasn’t a donor, and the law didn’t prohibit him from being named as the daughter’s parent.

The mother also argued that there had been an error at the end of her answer and that her own spouse’s decision to intervene had confused the parties and affected the trial court’s decision. The appellate court interpreted this as an ineffective assistance of counsel claim and explained that this doctrine doesn’t apply to civil cases. The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s order establishing the father’s paternity.

If you are dealing with issues related to parental rights or paternity, contact the Texas attorneys at the McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200.

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