From surrogacy and adoption to sperm and egg donation, fertility treatments can create questions of parentage. Lawyers often get involved in these processes to help ensure the legal answers to these questions are clear. For example, in a surrogacy arrangement, the intended parents become the legal parents even though the gestational parent carried and gave birth to the baby. Sometimes, the intended parents share genetic material with their babies; other times they do not.
When parentage is established, so are parental rights and responsibilities. Family law courts will determine who gets to spend time with and make decisions for the child and who is responsible for supporting that child and meeting their needs. In court, parentage is much more than DNA tests, genetic material, and biology
Once parents gain legal status, their parental rights and responsibilities cannot be terminated without a good reason and extensive litigation – even if they are not biological parents. Only in cases of abuse, neglect, or lack of fitness do courts terminate parental rights.
Still, many children grow up and discover their legal fathers are not their biological fathers, which can create tension and trouble in even the most stable families. Worse, some male fertility doctors have intentionally manipulated their position to secretly father hundreds of children.
Doctor Donor Fertility Fraud
In one case covered by The Verge, for instance, a woman signed up for a clinical trial that would test her DNA and uncovered the story of her conception. When her parents struggled to conceive, they chose artificial insemination with donor sperm.
Instead of using a medical intern’s sperm as agreed, however, the doctor inseminated the woman’s mother with his own sperm. Years later, the daughter uncovered the secret and questioned her bond (or lack thereof) with her own father.
Now, the mother is considering filing a lawsuit against the doctor because she was inseminated with genetic material without her consent. Some refer to her situation as “medical rape,” but donor sperm and artificial insemination create a legal grey area, especially in the era of AncestryDNA and 23andMe.
When Fertility Treatments Go Wrong
Legal and moral grey areas arise in practically every form of fertility treatment. A surrogate mother who is biologically related to the child may change her mind at the last minute, intended parents might leave behind a child with disabilities, adoptions can fall through, in vitro fertilization (IVF) may fail, and privacy is no longer guaranteed for sperm and egg donors.
No matter how you conceive your child, establishing parentage as soon as possible is of the utmost importance. This is the only way to protect your parental rights, particularly if your child is not biologically related to you.
If you are considering fertility treatment, make sure you have a medical team you trust and a legal team to represent your rights and best interests.
In surrogacy, a lawyer can help you establish legal parentage long before the child is born, and an attorney can always help you adopt a child you are not related to.
Establishing parentage is extra important for LGBTQ couples, who may be unable to conceive without fertility treatment. If one parent carries a child with donor sperm, for example, the second parent will need to adopt the child to gain parental rights and responsibilities.
Otherwise, the sperm donor may have more of a claim to the child than their parent, legally speaking.
If you are ever in a situation where you need to protect yourself in fertility treatments or establish legal parentage, Cecil Cianci Law, PC can help. We pride ourselves on helping people just like you through many stages of life, and we bring more than 6 decades of combined experience to the table.
If you need help with your parentage case, please do not hesitate to call us at (916) 675-3866 or contact us online today – DNA doesn’t matter nearly as much as taking swift action to protect your parental rights and responsibilities.