By Kevin Murphy
KANSAS CITY, Kansas (Reuters) - A Kansas man who donated sperm to a lesbian couple so they could have a child and now faces a petition for child support, will resist the demand in court next week, one of his lawyers said on Wednesday.
William Marotta, 46, donated sperm to Jennifer Schreiner and Angela Bauer under a written agreement that he would not be considered the father of the child nor liable for child support. A daughter, now 3, was born to Schreiner.
But in October, the state of Kansas filed a petition in county court seeking to have Marotta declared the father of the child and financially responsible for her.
The case has repercussions for other sperm donation cases, lawyers for Marotta said. Sperm banks routinely provide sperm to people who want to conceive a child on the understanding that the donors are not responsible for the children.
Kansas is seeking monthly child support of $189 from Marotta, which is the amount the state provided the couple last summer. The state also wants $5,885 in medical expenses related to the child's birth, according to its petition. A hearing is planned January 8 on a motion by Marotta to dismiss the case.
State officials are required under the law to determine the father of a child when someone seeks state benefits, said Angela de Rocha, spokeswoman for the Department for Children and Families. The couple was compelled to provide that information, which led to investigation of the sperm donation.
Marotta should be declared the father and subject to financial claims because he donated the sperm directly to the women and not through a physician, as required by Kansas law, the state's petition states.
But lawyers for Marotta argue that he had no parental rights to begin with because of his agreement with the couple and cannot be held financially responsible. They cite a 2007 case in which the Kansas Supreme Court ruled against a sperm donor seeking parental rights because he did not have any such agreement with the mother, lawyers for Marotta said.
"So now, we are flipping the argument around," Marotta attorney Ben Swinnen said Wednesday.
If the father had no legal parental rights in the 2007, Marotta should be declared to have no parental obligations in the current case, he said.
Marotta's lawyers also discount the argument that sperm must be donated through a licensed physician in order for the father to be free of any later financial obligations. Their petition said Marotta gave a container of semen to the couple and does not know if they took it to a physician.
The case has repercussions for other sperm donation cases, lawyers for Marotta said. Sperm banks, for example, routinely provide sperm to people who want to conceive a child, they said.
Marotta responded to an ad on Craigslist from someone offering to pay $50 for sperm donations, but he made the donation for free, according to court documents.
"He has no desire to be involved in rearing the child and has had no contact with her," Swinnen said.
Swinnen said his law firm, Swinnen & Associates, is representing Marotta at a reduced rate because of his limited finances. They are also raising money for his legal defense on the law firm's website.
"This is taxing him beyond his means," Swinnen said.
(Editing by Greg McCune and Steve Orlofsky)