IFLG - New York Child-Parent Security Act Sets Rules to Protect Parental Rights, Sperm Donors - Rich Vaughn

New York Child-Parent Security Act Protects Parental Rights in Sperm Donor Shortage

COVID-19 lockdowns and infection fears have led to drastic shortages at many U.S. sperm banks, sending many lesbians and single women to online forums in a search for sperm donors.

But even as New York’s Child-Parent Security Act, effective February 15, 2021, will make it easier to establish parentage of children conceived with donor sperm, intended parents still must take care to meet all the law’s requirements—even if they cut out the sperm bank “middleman” and deal directly with the donor. Skipping steps in the process could put full legal recognition of intended parents’ parental rights at risk or create child support liability for the sperm donor… or even allow a sperm donor to assert parental rights.

COVID-19 Hits Already Shrinking Sperm Donor Pool

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a “perfect storm” of circumstances—enforced isolation, the slower pace of work-from-home lifestyles, business closures and fear of infection—that both sparked the desires of many to start families and cut off the already dwindling supply of donor sperm.

As we reported recently, the proliferation of ancestry DNA testing websites and donor sibling registries as well as a growing movement for donor transparency had already made recruitment of sperm donors more difficult. In the early “Wild West” days of the sperm bank industry, a single donor might sire dozens, or even hundreds, of offspring, all unknown to one another.

Even today, there is no U.S. law limiting the number of pregnancies from a single donor. As sperm donation and IVF became more prevalent, established sperm banks and professional organizations such as the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) developed best practices to “avoid an increased risk of inadvertent consanguineous conception.” Today, commercial sperm banks adhere to ASRM guidelines recommending no more than 25 live births from a single donor per 850,000 population, although a determined donor could evade the limit by going to multiple sperm banks.

Researchers estimate 30,000 to 60,000 babies are born via sperm donation in the United States each year—although no one knows for sure, because there is no mandated reporting. With the tighter limits, the number of sperm donors needed to meet steadily growing market demand—approximately 20 percent driven by heterosexual couples, 60 percent by lesbians and 20 percent by single women, according to a New York Times report—kept growing as well.

Then COVID-19 hit. As The New York Times reported:

“To meet this demand, men provided sperm at a steady rate for years, some banks said. But the coronavirus changed things. Existing donors were scared to go in. New donor sign-ups stopped for months during lockdown and never really bounced back at some banks. Several banks said that they had a lot of old frozen sperm in storage, but that it could last only so long.”

Sperm Bank Shortages Send Women to Online Donor Networks

Sperm banks were hit with severe shortages just as the new stay-at-home pandemic lifestyle convinced many would-be mothers the time to start a family had come.

Frustrated with the scant selection of available donors in sperm bank catalogs, women turned to social media, the New York Times reports, where networks such as the “11,000-member private Facebook group, Sperm Donation USA, which helps women connect with a roster of hundreds of approved donors,” sprang up.

In many ways, the sperm banks are at a competitive disadvantage with the direct-to-donor model. Although there are few laws governing U.S. sperm banks, they are subject to Food and Drug Administration regulations governing biological tissue, which require sperm to be quarantined for six months and donor blood testing. The banks typically track donors by number anonymously and adhere to ASRM guidelines for limiting the number of pregnancies per donor and obtaining a donor’s informed consent. Cost can be as high as $1,100 per vial, guaranteed to contain 10 million to 15 million motile sperm, the Times reports.

Turning to online solutions for donor sperm is a trade-off. The freewheeling online marketplace for sperm comes with none of the safeguards provided by commercial sperm banks—and usually a fraction of the cost. Almost all the donors offer their sperm for free. Most—but not all—state that they will donate only via assisted insemination; many use commercial services to genetically test, store and ship the sperm to recipients. Others arrange in-person meet-ups to hand off the donation.

Informal Sperm Donor Arrangements Risk Parental Rights

Health and safety considerations aside, intended parents and sperm donors alike should be aware of the legal perils of participating in informal sperm donor arrangements, particularly in regard to parental rights and child support obligations.

In New York, the Child-Parent Security Act (CSPA) provides a process allowing qualified intended parents to establish legal parentage of babies born through assisted reproduction from the moment of birth, even if they are not genetically related, and establishes that the sperm donor has no parental rights. But in order to take advantage of this increased protection for families created through assisted reproductive technology, or avoid potential future challenge to parental rights, intended parents and donors must follow the requirements of the law:

  • Pre-birth order: Under the new law, intended parents of a child conceived using assisted reproduction may petition for a judgment of parentage during pregnancy and prior to birth, to take effect upon the birth of the child. The petition must be verified.
  • Residency: The intended parents must petition in the New York county where they live or where the baby was born, or, if the parent and baby do not live in New York state, they may petition up to 90 days after birth in the county where the baby was born.
  • New York born: The petition for judgment of parentage must include a statement that the intended parent has been a resident of New York state for at least 90 days; or if not a resident, that the child was born in New York state.
  • Confirmation of donor conception: The petition must contain a statement from the gestating parent or surrogate that she became pregnant as the result of sperm donation (or egg or embryo donation).
  • Non-gestating parent statement: The petition must contain a statement that the non-gestating parent consented to assisted reproduction, or to conception via sperm donation.
  • Proof of sperm donor intent: In the case of an anonymous donor or a donation obtained from a sperm bank or storage facility, proof of donative intent can a statement from the facility that the donor does not retain any parental or proprietary interest in the donated sperm. In the case of a known donor, proof can be a statement from the donor acknowledging the donation and confirming that the donor has no parental or proprietary interest. This statement must be signed by the donor and either notarized, witnessed by two people who are not the intended parents, or witnessed by the health care professional who supervised the donation. In the event the donor cannot be reached, the law includes strict criteria for attempting donor notification.

With the above criteria met, the court will grant a judgment of parentage, declaring that “upon the birth of the child, the intended parent is the only legal parent of the child.” Upon birth, a copy of the judgment of parentage is presented either to the health department or to the hospital registrar of births, which reports the parentage of the child to the appropriate department of health, which issues the birth certificate. In the event a birth certificate has already been issued, the court will direct the health department to amend the birth certificate and seal the record of the original one.

In times of crisis, it’s normal for Americans to seek non-traditional and innovative solutions for surmounting obstacles and carrying on with life. Social media and the internet have provided vast new opportunities and resources that would have been inaccessible just a couple of decades ago.

The Child-Parent Security Act is a long-awaited reform package that will remove obstacles to surrogacy, protect the rights of intended parents to create families via assisted reproduction and help reduce the stigma and insecurity faced by non-traditional families. But in order to fully benefit from these broad new reforms, intended parents must follow the rules enacted in the law, put into place to both foster reproductive rights and to protect all parties against potential harm.

For more questions about sperm donation or about compliance with the requirements of the New York Child-Parent Security Act, contact IFLG’s experienced team of assisted reproductive technology attorneys and paralegals.

 

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 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.

Katie Deaquino
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”.

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 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.

Alexander Espinoza
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.

Toni Hughes
TONI BOONE
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 DEVEREAUX
Paralegal

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
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
MOLLY O'BRIEN
Partner

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
PHOEBE S. SADLER
Associate

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 ASLANYAN
Paralegal

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.

Cara Stecker
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 KIMBLE
Paralegal

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
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.

Elsa Jimenez
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.