Rich-Vaughn-Blog-Kansas-High-Court

Kansas High Court Puts Child’s Best Interests Ahead of State in Sperm Donor Parentage Case

New developments in the case of the Kansas sperm donor who, despite the fact he had no relationship or contact with the child conceived as a result of his genetic contribution, was ruled by a Kansas court to be the child’s father.

As we wrote several months ago, William Marotta of Topeka responded to a Craig’s List ad placed by a lesbian couple, Angela Bauer and Jennifer Schreiner, soliciting a sperm donor. The parties entered into a written agreement that defined Marotta’s role as sperm donor with no parental responsibility to the child. Marotta says he did not receive payment for his donated sperm.

Schreiner conceived and gave birth to a daughter. In 2010, after 10 years together, Bauer and Schreiner separated. When Schreiner became ill and unable to work, she attempted to obtain health insurance for her daughter through the state’s Medicaid system

But the Kansas Parentage Act requires that sperm donation and artificial insemination must be made under the care of a licensed physician; because Marotta delivered the sperm to the couple, who performed the insemination themselves, the state of Kansas does not consider the donor agreement to be legally binding. When Schreiner applied for benefits for her daughter, the Kansas Department for Children and Families insisted that she provide the name of the child’s biological father. Ultimately, Shawnee County District Court Judge Mary Mattivi ruled that Marotta is the legal father of Bauer’s and Schreiner’s daughter and financially liable for her support. The court ordered Marotta to submit to genetic testing to establish his genetic relationship to the child; the non-genetic mother, Bauer, who has continued to co-parent the child with Schreiner, was denied legal standing to be a party in the case. Keep in mind that “dad” Marotta has had no contact with the child.

Fortunately for all involved, the Kansas Supreme Court recently came down on the child’s side. Attorneys for Marotta and the two moms filed for a “writ of mandamus,” asking the Court to stay the court order for genetic testing. Citing an earlier case, In re Marriage of Ross, Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton R. Nuss writes:

“Prior to ordering a blood test to determine whether the presumed parent is the biological parent, the district court must consider the best interest of the child, including physical, mental and emotional needs.”… Read in gender-neutral language, the Ross court held that the shifting of parental roles from a presumed parent to a biological parent could be detrimental to the emotional and physical well-being of any child….

And reading Ross in gender-neutral terms, we find that when genetic testing has the potential to disrupt the core family by possibly displacing a presumptive parent, a Ross hearing must be held… Once testing is complete, there is no remedy on appeal that can unring that bell….

The ruling ends with an order for Judge Mattivi to conduct a hearing to determine whether genetic testing is in the best interests of Bauer’s and Schreiner’s child.

Of course, we have no way of knowing which way that best interest hearing will go. But in the interim, Kansas’s high court has said that the best interests of the child should be the primary consideration—and that is a very promising ruling.

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
Paralegal

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.