Family law is complex. There are many statutes that govern aspects of divorce, adoption, paternity, and thousands of cases interpreting those statutes. And while new questions arise every day on issues of child custody, support and other family law issues, at least the broad outlines of how things are done is understood. For same-sex couples, the world of family law is often a journey without maps.
A recent case from Florida illustrates this point. A lesbian couple wanted a child. They tried a few fertility clinics, but were unsuccessful in conceiving a child. A male friend, their hairdresser was approached and asked if he would donate sperm. He agreed in a verbal agreement. Nothing was written and it appears they did not consult a family law attorney.
The pregnancy went well, but as the birth approached, the man asked if he could be more involved with the child once she (it was a girl) was born. The women said no. Because they only had a verbal agreement, decided on months earlier, the situation was ripe for misunderstanding and disagreement.
He hired an attorney and sued to obtain access to the child. As we commented earlier when we were discussing the Kansas case involving a sperm donor for a lesbian couple there, in Florida, sperm donors do not receive parental rights.
Fortunately, all of the parties were able to work out an agreement that allows the man to be listed on the birth certificate and to have some rights to visit the child and be involved in her life. The judge did not order that he have any responsibility for child support.
Source: Reuters, “Florida judge approves birth certificate listing three parents,” Kevin Gray, Feb. 7, 2013