Rich Vaughn Blog: Mom Sues Gay Pal Sperm Donor for Child Support

Mom Sues Gay Friend Who Donated Sperm for Child Support

In yet another example of the perils of too-casual sperm donor arrangements, a gay Canadian man who donated sperm to help a medical school friend conceive more than 16 years ago now is being sued for current and back child support.

The donor is being “punished for the fact that he’s a known donor,” his attorney, Shirley Levitan, told National Post.

According to the National Post report, the two met as medical students in 1991. Both graduated and became MDs. In 2000, the woman, Dr. Amie Cullimore, contacted her old friend, Dr. Michael Ranson, and asked him to make good on a promise made nearly a decade earlier, to donate his sperm so that she could become a mother. She subsequently had two children via in vitro fertilization, or IVF, using Ranson’s sperm. Ranson, who had no plans to become a father, agreed to stay in contact with the children, who are now teens. Following the birth of the second child in 2002, Cullimore and Ranson signed an agreement stating that she would have full custody of the children and would not seek financial support from Ranson. He remained in contact with the children, spent time with them as his extended family, paid for visits with his family and trips to Disneyland, and in 2011 provided $22,000 to Cullimore to help cover expenses and create a college fund for the kids. Now Cullimore is basing her suit, in part, on the fact that Ranson has acted as a father to the children.

In 2015 she sued Ranson for child support, saying she could no longer afford the $800 per month cost of child care. If she prevails Ranson will be on the hook for child care payments, retroactive  to 2012, as well as other expenses, including a portion of the children’s education costs. According to National Post, “Cullimore makes just under $250,000 a year as a gynecologist, obstetrician and university professor… while Ranson made just under CAD$280,000 in his most recent post with the World Bank in Europe.”

A couple of years ago we reported on the case of a Kansas sperm donor who was sued by the state for back child support after the lesbian couple who had a child using his sperm separated and the custodial parent filed for public assistance. In both the Canadian and Kansas sperm donor cases, the sperm was provided without using the services of a physician, and in both cases the parties signed agreements stating the sperm donor was not a parent and under no obligation to provide financial support. But Kansas law requires that intended parents and donors must use a licensed physician in order for the donor agreement to be valid. In January 2014, a Kansas trial court ruled that the sperm donor is the child’s legal father, despite the fact that neither he nor the lesbian moms intended for him to have parental rights or obligations. Attorneys for the donor appealed, and the matter is still pending

In Canada, Bill 28, the All Families Are Equal Act, which recently passed its third reading before the Ontario legislature, would go a long way toward clarifying the role of donors. Canadian laws governing parentage differ from province to province; in this case Ontario law probably would apply. The Ontario law determining the status and rights of sperm donors is weak; a sperm donor may or may not be deemed a parent, depending on the situation. Bill 28, if enacted, would definitively state, at the federal level, that a donor is not a parent. It remains to be seen whether the determination would be retroactive, protecting the donor’s status when a child has already been born. According to the National Post article, the bill is “flawed” but is expected to undergo amendments correcting the problems.

The Canadian case also points to the misperception of many intended parents that using a friend or family member to provide sperm lessens the need for a strong legal agreement. In fact, using friends or family as donors or surrogates increases the need for a strong agreement that clearly states the rights and responsibilities of all parties. A family member or acquaintance may have a different perception of his or her parental status than the intended parents, or future conflicts could arise that would make a mutual understanding meaningless. The best way to protect the parental rights of intended parents, the well-being of the child, and the intentions of the donor is to get it in writing—in the form of a properly executed legal agreement in compliance with the laws of the relevant jurisdiction.

Rich Vaughn
Richard Vaughn
rich@iflg.net

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
PEIYA WANG(王培娅)
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya received her bachelor’s degree from Beijing Technologies and Business University, where she majored in Marketing. She moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeast University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015 and received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa
LUIS SOSA
Paralegal

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes
TONI HUGES
Paralegal

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”

Miesha Cowart
MIESHA COWART
Financial Coordinator

Miesha Cowart joined IFLG as a financial specialist in 2014 following a successful career in development and business finance. Miesha previously worked for 10 years in the construction industry as a controller and for 13 years as Development Coordinator for the non-profit U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In her free time, Miesha works with “Next Generation” at her church. “They are my heartbeats!” she says of the youth in her community.

Kim
KIM DEVEREAUX
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Kim has over 25 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager of surrogacy and egg donation cases, and is also responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn
RICHARD B. VAUGHN
Founder

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo
ELIZABETH TAMAYO
Paralegal

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien
SUNNY CHIEN
Paralegal

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

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MOLLY O'BRIEN
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Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.