Do Sperm Donors Have Parental Rights in New Jersey?
As biological technology evolves and cultural norms shift toward the acceptance of more types of familial arrangements such as same-sex marriages, the use of sperm donors, in-vitro fertilization (IVF), gestational carriers (aka surrogate mothers) and other fertility alternatives are becoming more and more commonplace. Have the laws on the books caught up with the shift in technology and culture? If a couple, for example, has a child via a sperm donor, is there any risk that the sperm donor will be able to claim some parental rights? Read on to learn about how New Jersey family laws apply to sperm donors, and contact an experienced New Jersey custody and child support attorney for help with a New Jersey family law matter.
New Jersey’s Parentage Act and artificial insemination law
New Jersey’s Parentage Act governs who is a “parent” for purposes of parental rights and obligations such as custody, child support, and visitation. A familial relationship can be established by “genetic contribution,” “gestational primacy” (i.e., giving birth), or adoption. Additionally, there is a rebuttable presumption that the spouse of a woman giving birth is the other parent. This presumption can be rebutted by an interested party (the mother, the spouse, or someone claiming to be the father, for example).
New Jersey law provides specific procedures for sperm donors to relinquish their parental rights in favor of an individual or couple having a child. The process involves collecting the sperm from the donor and artificially inseminating the putative mother, under the care of a physician, as well as executing certain legal documents that absolve the donor of any rights or duties stemming from the conception of the child. All parties (donor, mother, second parent) must agree in writing to the arrangement. In doing so, the sperm donor is giving up any future claim to parental rights such as visitation, and the other parents have no legal recourse against the donor for child support or other responsibilities.
Medically unsupervised donor insemination
It is vital to note that New Jersey’s law allowing sperm donors to relinquish their rights applies only to sperm donation done under the supervision of a physician. A well-crafted agreement giving up parental rights that has been vetted by a lawyer is undoubtedly necessary to ensure that a biological father cannot claim rights in the future, but it is not enough. Prospective parents who want to ensure that a sperm donor has no parental rights must go to a clinic and go through the appropriate medical processes as dictated by New Jersey law.
Some couples shy away from the clinical approach because it is more expensive than simply accepting a donation from a friend, but those couples may find themselves in a situation down the line where the sperm donor sues for visitation or custody. A lesbian couple found themselves in this very situation; they conceived a child via a sperm donor who even agreed in writing to give up his parental rights, but they did not inseminate using a doctor. In 2015, a New Jersey court ruled that the sperm donor did indeed have visitation rights over the child conceived using his sperm because the applicable New Jersey law required the use of a physician.
Contact a New Jersey Family Law Attorney
If you need of compassionate, experienced, and talented legal help with child custody, divorce, or other family law matters in New Jersey, contact the Union offices of family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro at 908-964-0102.