Court Rules Kansas Sperm Donor is Father

The Kansas sperm donor who was sued for child support by the state Department for Children and Families (DCF) has had his day in court. Shawnee County District Court Judge Mary Mattivi ruled on Jan. 22 that William Marotta of Topeka is the legal father of the child resulting from his donation of sperm and thus liable for financial support of the child, despite the fact that he and the child’s biological mother and her partner entered into a sperm donor agreement waiving his parental rights and responsibilities.

We wrote about this case a little over a year ago:

In 2009 Mr. Marotta responded to a Craig’s List ad soliciting a sperm donor to enable a lesbian couple, Angela Bauer and Jennifer Schreiner, to have a child together. All three parties signed a sperm donor agreement stating that Marotta would have no parental rights or responsibilities for the child. Marotta delivered sperm to the couple’s home, and the two women performed the insemination themselves. Schreiner became pregnant and gave birth to a daughter. Marotta says he was not paid for his donation.

In 2010, after eight years together, Bauer and Schreiner split up but continued to co-parent their eight children, including the daughter created using Marotta’s sperm. Schreiner subsequently contracted an illness that prevented her from working, so she enrolled her daughter to receive health insurance under the state’s Medicaid program….

 In order for the now 3-year-old child to qualify for benefits, the Kansas Department for Children and Families required that Schreiner disclose the name of the child’s biological father, the sperm donor. Under Kansas law, had the artificial insemination been performed by a licensed physician, the sperm donor would have been absolved of all parental responsibility.

According to the court ruling, in her initial applications for benefits Schreiner initially identified her daughter’s father as an “anonymous sperm donor” and did not comply with the state’s request that she provide a copy of the donor agreement. Only after the state halted benefits due to her failure to comply did Schreiner produce the contract, which bore Marotta’s name and signature as the sperm donor.

Because Bauer and Schreiner performed the insemination in the privacy of their own home, with no doctor involved, the position of the state of Kansas is that the sperm donor contract is not valid. In fact, the judge ruled that because the couple and donor did not comply with the Kansas Parentage Act, implemented in 1994, Marotta does not qualify as a sperm donor, according to The Topeka Capital Journal. From the ruling:

This court finds that, because the parties did not provide the donor sperm to a licensed physician, the statutory basis for preclusion of paternity does not apply, and the donor therefore can be determined to be the father of the child.

Marotta’s attorney, Benoit Swinnen, cited several court rulings supporting Marotta’s status as a legal sperm donor rather than a parent to the child. Marotta said he has not had a parental relationship with the child and has had no relationship with Bauer and Schreiner before or after the sperm donation. According to the court ruling, Marotta delivered his sperm to the women’s home in a specimen cup on three consecutive nights; the women performed the inseminations themselves in their home.

In its suit, the state DCF argued that the sperm donor contract executed by the Marotta and the two women ignores “well-established law in this state that a person cannot contract away his or her obligations to support their child,” Fox News reports.

The right for support belongs to the child, not the parents, the filing says.

Judge Mattivi’s ruling supports the DCF claim:

A parent may not terminate parental rights by contract, however, even when the parties have consented…. It is well established under Kansas law that a child is entitled to support from his parents, and that obligation may not be abandoned.

Interestingly, the Kansas decision cites a ruling in a case based on a California statute, similar to the Kansas law, that stipulates that the donated sperm must be provided to a licensed physician—except that in the California case it was the sperm donor who sued to be granted parental rights.

Jhordan C. v. Mark K., 179 Cal.App.3d 386 (1986), was a paternity action concerning a child conceived by artificial insemination with semen donated personally to the mother by plaintiff donor. Jhordan C. provided his semen to Mary K., without physician involvement, and Mary K. conceived using that semen. Jhordan C. then sought to be involved in the upbringing of the child, over the objection of Mary K. and Victoria T., who were raising the child together. The relevant California statute, adopted from the UPA [Uniform Parentage Act], was very similar to K.S.A. 23-2208(f) [the Kansas Parentage Act]: “The donor of semen provided to a licensed physician for use in artificial insemination 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.”… The trial court found Jhordan C. to be the father of the child, and specifically to not qualify as a sperm donor, because the parties did not involve a licensed physician in the AI process and had therefore failed to follow the statute. The California Court of Appeals affirmed.

In the California case cited above, the court ruled that the sperm donor did not meet the definition of a sperm donor because he failed to comply with the requirement that his sperm be provided to a license physician but was instead the child’s father.

In the Kansas case, Judge Mattivi came to the same conclusion, that, because the parties “failed to conform to the statutory requirements of the Kansas Parentage Act in not enlisting a licensed physician… the parties’ self-designation of [Marotta] as a sperm donor is insufficient to relieve [Marotta] of his parental rights and responsibilities….”

In addition to reminding all of us how very complicated life can become, and how situations and relationships can change over time, the Kansas case reinforces how important it is that all parties to a sperm donor arrangement or other assisted reproduction procedure have a clear understanding of the applicable state laws and the advice of experienced legal counsel familiar with those laws. As the Kansas case and others demonstrate, all parties are at risk unless statutory requirements are met, be it the intended parents who want to ensure their rights to raise their child as they wish, the donor who may or may not desire a parental relationship with the child, and, last but not least, the child.

Richard Vaughn

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
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 moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeastern 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, received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension, and obtained her second Master of Science degree in Legal Studies from Loyola Law School. Peiya relocated back to her hometown, Beijing, China in 2019 and works from IFLG’s Beijing office. 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 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 which he received in 2013, 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. Luis has worked for IFLG in both Los Angeles as well as San Francisco, and is currently based in Dallas, Texas. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes

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.”


Kim has over 30 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 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

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 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 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

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.

Phoebe Sadler

Fertility law attorney Phoebe Sadler has a background in family law and has been practicing exclusively in the area of assisted reproduction technology (ART) law since 2018.

Rubina Aslanyan

Rubina has an extensive background in the legal field as a paralegal in Family Law and has worked in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 2012. Her area of focus is in managing and assisting clients with surrogacy, egg donation, and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s domestic and international clients. During her spare time, Rubina enjoys spending time with her family and dog Bella, traveling and cooking.

Alexander Espinoza
Legal Assistant

Alexander joined IFLG as a legal assistant in 2019, where he manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases. Alex is bilingual in English and Spanish and has been in the legal field for 23 years. Alex is excited to join the IFLG team and pursuing his will to help others in the reproductive law process. In his spare time he loves spending time with his family and friends, being outdoors, road trips, loves music and dancing.

Cara Stecker
Senior Paralegal

After receiving her paralegal certificate in 2005, Cara began working in assisted reproductive law. During the fifteen years Cara has worked in this field, she has gained a wide range of experience and knowledge that she uses to help better assist clients and those involved in the assisted reproductive journey. Cara’s primary roles involve managing parental establishment matters and coordination with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorney network, drafting contracts and parental establishment court documents and providing support to other team members. Cara finds great joy in being a small part of a team of caring people who help others achieve their dream of having a family. In her spare time, Cara enjoys spending time with her husband and three children, watching her children play the sports they love, and she enjoys, running, cycling and exploring the outdoors in the sun.

Stephanie Kimble

Stephanie received her BS in History and Political Thought from Concordia University Irvine in 2015 and her Paralegal Certificate from University of San Diego later that same year. She has been working as a Paralegal since 2016 in Family and Reproductive Law. She is excited to be part of International Fertility Law Group working on managing Surrogacy, Egg donation and Parental Establishment Cases.

Trish Pittman
Assistant Financial Coordinator

With more than 20 years of experience in the field of accounting, Trish joined the IFLG team in 2019 as Assistant Financial Coordinator. Her client-facing focus at IFLG is to assist with all client trust accounting. Trish is the mother of two daughters and enjoys spending time teaching and learning new things from them. In her free time, she loves long walks in the park and reading suspense and mystery novels.

Katie Deaquino
Senior Paralegal

Katie is a Senior Paralegal with IFLG and has dedicated over sixteen years to the areas of surrogacy and reproductive law. She received her Paralegal Certificate from Coastline Community College and has worked with some of the top law firms in the assisted reproduction community. Katie is also a commissioned Notary Public. With IFLG, Katie manages Surrogacy, Egg Donation, and Parental Establishment cases and provides support to other IFLG team members. Katie truly enjoys helping others build their families through assisted reproduction and is thankful she has had the rewarding experience of assisting IFLG clients. Katie often spends her free time with her Husband, four young children and her bulldog “Bella”.

Elsa Jimenez
Legal Assistant

Elsa joined IFLG as a Legal Assistant in 2019, bringing more than 35 years of experience working in the legal profession (concentrating in tort and litigation matters). At IFLG she assists surrogates with their surrogacy and parental matters. The oldest of five siblings, born and raised in East Los Angeles to Mexican immigrant parents, Elsa loves “seeing the beauty of families forming” through assisted reproductive technology. She and her husband Carlos have four children and one grandson. Elsa enjoys jazz and ’80s music, being outdoors in nature, collecting teacups and tea pots, and spending time with her close-knit family.