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‘Sperm donor’ can seek parental rights

A mother whose child was fathered by her live-in boyfriend through assisted conception cannot prevent the father from asking a court to recognize his parental rights, the Virginia Court of Appeals ruled today in Breit v. Mason.

Under the Virginia statutory scheme that governs parentage through sperm or egg donation, a donor is not the parent of a child conceived through assisted conception unless the donor is the husband of the gestational mother. By statute, a donor has no parental rights or duties for any child conceived through assisted conception.

Shortly after the child’s birth, the mother and father signed a sworn acknowledgement of paternity naming the mother’s boyfriend as the biological and legal father of the child. One year later, the mother terminated all contact between the father and child. The father went to court.

The trial court rejected the father’s petition to determine parentage, but the Court of Appeals, in a unanimous panel opinion written by Chief Judge Walter S. Felton Jr., reversed the decision for the mother.

Felton said the panel did not read Virginia Code §§ 20-156 to -165, “which are primarily concerned with ensuring that infertile married couples will not be threatened by parentage claims from anonymous sperm and egg donors,” to mandate that a chosen, unmarried sperm donor, known by the unmarried gestational mother and intended by her to be the father, may never be legally recognized as the parent, simply because he was not married to the mother at the time the child was conceived by voluntary assisted conception.”
By Deborah Elkins

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