National bodybuilding champion, Ronnie Coleman, was sued for child support by the mother of his children, Jo D. Jo D. requested that Coleman pay support in the amount of $4,000 per month for the care of their triplets. This is a typical scenario in San Diego family law cases because parents are often sued for past due child support. However, Coleman had a winning argument against payment because he was merely a sperm donor. A California appellate court determined that a sperm donor does not have to pay child support as long as he is not married to the recipient mother.
The relationship between Coleman and Jo D. blurred the lines between natural father and sperm donor. The two had a sexual relationship while they both lived in Texas as neighbors. Later, Jo D. moved to California and Coleman provided his sperm at California Cryobank, Inc. so that she could be artificially inseminated. Shortly after the birth of triplets resulting from the artificial insemination, Coleman married another woman. At birth, Jo D. listed Coleman on the triplets’ birth certificate as their father. One year later, she brought a lawsuit to collect child support against Coleman.
Under the California Family Code section 7613(b), “the donor of semen provided to a licensed physician and surgeon or to a licensed sperm bank 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.” This presumption is not absolute and can be overcome in various ways by the father such as: marrying the mother, publically declaring parentage of the child in a manner specified by statute, receiving the child into his home or opening holding the child out to be his natural child.
Here, although Coleman and Jo D. agreed to this sperm donation arrangement, Coleman has since acted inconsistent with any indication that he intended to be a natural father to the children and involved in their lives. Since the birth of the children, Coleman did not marry or attempt to marry Jo D. In fact, he married another woman just months after the birth of the triplets in 2007. Further, Coleman did not open his home to the children nor did he hold them out to be his natural children. Therefore, as the appellate court correctly held, Coleman is not responsible to financially support the children despite his sperm contribution.
Typically, all orders made in family law cases concerning children are based on the best interest of the child. Although it is likely in the triplets’ best interest for Coleman to pay support, the interest of sperm donors to be free from the financial obligation of their contribution overrides the application of the best interest standard.
Please contact us if you have questions regarding child custody and visitation or child support. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.