what do I need to know before I donate sperm?
January 17, 2010 1:35 PM   Subscribe

A female friend recently asked if I'd be willing to be a sperm donor. We've agreed to discuss the possibility in a series of conversations over the next few months. What questions should I ask her? What factors do I need to take into consideration?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (27 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Depending on where you live (and assuming you don't want to participate in raising the child), I'd certainly ensure that the legal responsibilities are clearly documented and notarized.

Actually, I think discussing this with a lawyer prior to any agreement is in your best option regardless of whether you want to participate in the upbringing.

The mother-to-be may want a medical history so you might want to work on that beforehand (any history of cancer, heart disease etc.).
posted by purephase at 1:43 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would ask "Will it be done through a licensed fertility clinic".

The obvious questions to ask yourself are: Given that there's no anonymity, will a teenager turn up on your doorstep in 16 years time, and how will you feel about that? And are you happy with the idea of having children at all, even if you won't be obligated to care for them?
posted by Mike1024 at 1:44 PM on January 17, 2010




Most resources are focused on what legal protections the receiver of your sperm should consider but it's a good start at least.

At the least, you'll want to meet with lawyer with a background in these issues to make sure your basis are covered.

Good luck!
posted by dchrssyr at 1:48 PM on January 17, 2010

Sperm donors have been sued for child support. I think you need an attorney and a contract.
posted by IndigoRain at 1:48 PM on January 17, 2010 [4 favorites]

I would make sure your clear on who is doing the insemination.
posted by travis08 at 1:49 PM on January 17, 2010

I believe (depending on where you live perhaps) there is a chance you will be liable for child support. The mother cannot waive the child's right to support.

Here are a couple of data points:

straightdope : can a sperm donor be forced to pay child support

Sperm donor liable for child support, judge rules
posted by Long Way To Go at 1:54 PM on January 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Yes, if you could get the mods to put in your location, this would help with the answers -- in Ontario for example, I am fairly sure sperm donors are not even able to contract out of the obligation for child support.
posted by modernnomad at 2:00 PM on January 17, 2010

Here's a different previous askme on this topic. And here's how I answered that one.

As far as questions to ask yourself as you make this decision, I'd suggest you consider your feelings and impressions (good and bad) about other donors and families who used donors, what fatherhood means to you and whether you want to be one some day, what kind of role you want in this child's life - separate from whatever role the mom would want you to play, how you'd imagine reacting if something happened to the mom (and ask her what plans she has in place in case that happens), how your friends and family would react to the news that you donated sperm - and how you'd imagine responding to them if they have negative reactions, and finally how you feel about this woman on an intuitive level: is she a trustworthy person (because that goes a lot farther than a legal contract - which of course you should also have).

I applaud you for considering this: if you decide not to do it, it's still probably a worthwhile process to consider it and will no doubt help you to think about your life and future in new ways. If you do decide to donate, you'll be giving one of the greatest gifts imaginable.
posted by serazin at 2:01 PM on January 17, 2010

Not only have sperm donors been sued for child support, but friend-rather-than-anonymous-donors have been found obligated to pay it, even though the parties' intention was that they wouldn't be. Notarization is a red herring. Contracts must be drawn up by separate lawyers, but the contracts might be found meaningless when it comes to paternity/child support depending on your state.

I am considering having a child through a surrogate mother in the near future. Women who carry children for other families (who sometimes are an egg donor, i.e. the genetic mother as well, and sometimes not) have a series of different questions they want to know about the family who will raise the child. Samples of those questions can be found online (google "intended parents questionnaire"). They might be a good starting point. It can be important to go through these questions, so that there are no surprises later that make you regret the decision, or that make you want to sue for custody of the child because you feel the child is being raised dangerously/inappropriately/etc. Typically in surrogacy (but perhaps not in sperm donation), both parties have a psychological evaluation to help each have insight on the other party's feelings, strengths, weaknesses about the situation.

You want to think long and hard about anonymity; what if this child grows up and wants to know who his or her genetic father is? What if the female friend dies, and "your" child ends up being raised by someone who is a stranger to you? What if that stranger holds lifestyle beliefs that you find deeply offensive? What if during the pregnancy it is found that the child has genetic defects - and the pregnant woman/intended parent wants to terminate but you don't? What if she doesn't, and you do?

There are a million questions, and please don't take my response to suggest it's a bad idea. As a future intended parent by surrogacy, I'm a supporter/applauder of various assisted/third party reproduction techniques and sperm/egg donation. But it is very, very important to do it right.
posted by bunnycup at 2:06 PM on January 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

(To clarify, when I said "Contracts must be drawn up by separate lawyers" I simply meant that in my opinion, it is foolish beyond the bounds of logic and normalcy to go forward without separate lawyers negotiating contracts for each side. It is possible, but not at all advisable.)
posted by bunnycup at 2:08 PM on January 17, 2010

Personally I'd also ask about her family medical history too. This will be your child, at least on some level, and it's going to have her DNA as well as yours. Are you happy with the combination? This probably is fairly personal though, probably depends on how much involvement you want with the child, depends on how you feel about your friend (possibly she's a good enough friend that that's all you need to know on that front), also I'm female and a biologist so my perspective may be totally off anyway.
posted by shelleycat at 2:09 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Reading some of the answers here, I urge you to not get too alarmed based on these legal anacdotes. I am not one of those metafilterains who says that non-lawyerss should never give law-related advice, but my understanding (based on research I did 8 years ago when I was trying to get pregnant) is that this is an emerging area of law and there aren't clear answers on what can and can't be done in terms of suing for child support etc. I'd suggest you focus any legal research on the precedent and laws in your local jurisdictions, and also check out the National Center for Lesbian Rights and NOLO Press' Legal Guide for Lesbian and Gay Couples for more info. (I know your friend may not be gay, but these resources would still be helpful.)
posted by serazin at 2:10 PM on January 17, 2010

Sorry this is all over the place, but I'll give one more data point which is that I did not have a lawyer and neither did my donor. I made a contract based on a Nolo Press template, used a medical intermediary to comply with California law and didn't worry too much beyond that. As I mentioned in the other thread, (and as other people have suggested here), family court can override whatever contract people make, but in the vast majority of donor situations both sides stick with the agreements they made initially. What was most important to me was a gut feeling that it could work with the donor I chose. So my advice is, yes get whatever legal support will help you feel comfortable, but more importantly, only go into this if you trust this person.
posted by serazin at 2:19 PM on January 17, 2010

WRT serazins' comments, I want to chime in and say I agree - the legal area is hazy but that does not mean it's a "no go" situation. It means it is a "be educated and tread carefully" situation, and you seem to be doing that first part. I want to emphasize that I am not giving legal advice but as personal anecdote, I am a lawyer and the child of a family lawyer, and we are pursuing surrogacy which is equally-or-more plagued by uncertainty. As someone on the receiving end of ART/3PR as intended parents, I think those who are on the giving/carrying/helping/compassionate end are truly truly awesome. Please don't take my comments, in particular, to be discouraging.
posted by bunnycup at 2:25 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Regarding the specifics of child support, I had a friend who did not seek child support, but did get need based state assistance. The state expected child support payments from the father to cover the cost of that assistance, despite her lack of interest in having the father involved in any way (this is in Washington state).

I don't know if there is any way either party could sign away a state's ability to go after a biological parent for compensation.
posted by idiopath at 2:58 PM on January 17, 2010

Don't do it. You never know when the law might change and force you be divulged as the donor or pay child support in spite of any contractual intentions otherwise. It's not worth the risk to you.
posted by Dasein at 3:21 PM on January 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

(I have received state aid since having a baby by donor insemination and the state has never tried to pursue the donor for money - I'm in California)
posted by serazin at 3:34 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

In this litigious society these days I would not do it. You may regret it in more ways than you can even imagine.
posted by JayRwv at 5:25 PM on January 17, 2010

I am an egg donor and delighted with my ongoing relationship with my biological descendants. However, it is a legal quagmire in the US, and I have done a lot of document-signing and am, in theory, still a responsible party should they ever need financial support.

However, these kids' parents are close friends and I would be like a godmother to their kids even if they weren't genetically related to me. It's a big decision, and you need to approach it with the legal respect and preparation it deserves, but I think it's one of the best things I ever did.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:20 PM on January 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Because of the huge discrepancy between legal codes in various places, there are no rules of thumb for legal status of a donor. Obviously, you need to make sure you know what your legal rights and responsibilities are, but, even if you are BFFs with the couple and all goes swimingly well forever, you should also check what the legal rights of the child are, as they will most likely trump any and all prior arrangements.

This has been said implicitly earlier, but I felt it worthwhile to point attention to it.
posted by Sparx at 7:54 PM on January 17, 2010

I also applaud you for considering this, and it's really kind of an honor for her to have asked you. (I say that having watched someone try to figure out whom in her life to make the same the request to.)

Here are a few things I'd think through:
- do you want the kid to know that you're their father?
- do you want contact with the kid? do you want to be like "uncle joe" or "joe your biological dad" and/or see the kid once a month, or six months, or just on holidays or something?
- if you do want to see them, what happens if the kid's mom wants to move, or you do?
- do you want to be present for the birth?
- do you want any role in raising the child? is there anything about their upbringing that you'd feel strongly about? opportunities that you want them to have? things you don't want them to have to deal with?
- what would you do if a 15-year-old kid showed up on your doorstep declaring he wanted to live with you?
- what if the mom dies, do you want the kid to live with someone she designates or with you?
- how does your current partner feel about the idea? how would your future partners feel about this? if you have kids that you raise, will you want all the kids to know that they're half-siblings? if not, how will you deal with it if they find out anyway?
- would you consider donating again if the same woman wants a second child and would like them to be related?

As others have said, there are model agreements online. I'd look at a few, since they try to outline issues like this.
posted by salvia at 8:10 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

follow-up from the OP
Thanks for your comments so far. The fact that sperm donors can be held liable for child support by the state is news to me (but not a deal breaker). To clear up a few other points: the state in question is California, and I wouldn't be anonymous – the plan is that I would be a part of the child's life, although not a primary caregiver.

What other discussions do potential parents have?

I know our mutual medical histories are important. (The mother-to-be is 40.) Also, she'd raise the child in a different faith than the one I grew up in. (I'm okay with that.)

Are there other big questions I should be considering?
posted by jessamyn at 8:17 PM on January 17, 2010

I should have said above: feel free to mefi mail me!
posted by serazin at 9:17 PM on January 17, 2010

Please don't be like this guy.
posted by Neiltupper at 9:19 PM on January 17, 2010

One other consideration: a friend of mine married a woman because she said she was pregnant with his child. She gave birth in California. Friend discovered child wasn't his, and the lady and child moved to another state. The state soon came after him to pay for the state aid of "his" child. There are a lot of legal issues, some you can't expect ahead of time. I bet California would hold up the child's rights ahead of your own.

Are you willing to child-proof your home?
Do you have a partner? What do they think?
Are you out dating? Are you willing to take the time to explain that no, you aren't abondoning the mother? That you don't love the mother?
Are you going to tell friends? Family? Are you willing to explain it over and over to them? Will your parents want to meet the mother? Do they get to call themselves grandparents? Do you want them to be a part of the child's life? Does the mother?
If you don't tell anyone, what if you have to cover and take care of the child for a week. Do you have people that can help you? Have you changed a diaper?
Do you have any other children?
It sounds like you might go to the hospital. While you'd be the dad, are you going to be a part of the birthing process? Hold the mother's hand? Have the nurses assume you are a normal couple? Some may treat you that way, anyway.
When you hold your child for the first time, will you be able to give him or her back? Will you be able to give your child back again and again? Thing is, you think you know the answer to that question, and you may be right. But it is when you were wrong that these arrangements go bad.
Will the mother have support besides you during pregnancy? Beyond?
Will you meet her family? What do they think?

I am glad you are talking about it over several months. It gives you time to work out both parties' exppectations. I would encourage you to think very seriously about how much do you trust this woman. Not only do you trust her not to screw you over financially, but would you trust her with your child?
posted by Monday at 12:23 AM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

the state in question is California, and I wouldn't be anonymous – the plan is that I would be a part of the child's life, although not a primary caregiver.

Be careful. Be really, really careful. Those links further upthread, where they're talking about donors being financially responsible, are sometimes a little breathless, but the coverage I've read has indicated that courts are ruling based on the role the donor plays in the child's life. Essentially, if you're the biological father, and you elect to play a vaguely-parental role in the kid's life, you can be found liable for child support.

I guess my point here is, you need to talk to a lawyer before you even give this plan the faintest hint of consideration, and you should be really, really certain that you have an ironclad contract before you agree to anything. You could be on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars over two decades if this goes pear-shaped, and you should not be trusting in the Google-fu of J. Random Internet to tell you if you're legally protected.
posted by Mayor West at 5:27 AM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm a little late here, but I think I've got another perspective, based on the idea of you being part of the child's life:

Do you know your friend's family, and do you want to be involved with them the rest of your life? Bringing a child into the world does this. Your friend is a wonderful person, but does she have nutty parents that you are going to have to interact with frequently?
posted by Knowyournuts at 4:17 PM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

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