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11

Cases Reinforces the Clarity of California’s Surrogacy and Alternative Parenting Laws

For anyone exploring alternative parenting options, the recent case of Kansas resident William Marotta has given reason for pause. Intended parents, prospective surrogates, and potential egg or sperm donors should all take stock of what has developed, and use it as a lesson to be learned from.

After seeing a Craigslist posting, William Marotta, 46, graciously donated sperm to Jennifer Schreiner and Angele Bauer free of charge in 2009. His heart was certainly in the right place: Marotta refused the ad’s $50 financial offer, motivated instead purely by his desire to help the hopeful lesbian couple become parents.

The group kept things mostly unofficial. There was a simple written agreement that Marotta would not be named the legal father of the child, nor would he be responsible for paying child support. Instead of using a clinic or doctor, Marotta simply gave the couple a container of semen.

Now, the Kansas Department for Children and Families is seeking to have Marotta declared the 3-year-old child’s father and be held financially responsible for child support. The state agency argues that the written agreement between the two parties is invalid, and cites a state law that sperm donation must be facilitated by a licensed physician or clinic in order for the father to be officially protected from potential financial obligations.

The case highlights the dangers of whimsically pursuing alternative parenting methods. There’s far too much at stake in alternative parenting, and the laws and regulations are far too complex, for intended parents, donors, surrogates, or anyone else to carry out assisted reproductive medical techniques without a properly structured legal agreement and well executed process.

When applying its lessons specifically to surrogacy, the case also underscores California’s standing as a safe haven compared to the largely unclear and unpredictable legal environments governing surrogacy in the U.S. With the recent implementation of a new surrogacy bill at the beginning of January 2013, the state has codified general best practices to regulate the legal agreement and relationship between intended parents and surrogates. As such, California has effectively eliminated the possibility of a case like Marotta’s developing in surrogacy arrangements that are conducted in-state.

More fundamentally, the case brings to light a basic premise we should all abide by: if a couple is to pursue alternative parenting options, they should do so responsibly and deliberately, or else not at all. The most significant beneficiary of such an ethos, of course, is the new child created through assisted reproductive technology.