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Sperm Donor Agreements: Why You Need One Even When Using a Known Donor

Modern medicine has made it possible for more and more people to have children, and alternative reproductive technology (ART) plays some part in 1% of all live births. It should be no surprise, then, that the use of sperm donors is on the rise.

People often think of sperm banks when finding a sperm donor, but an intended parent or parents may also choose to use a known, or private, sperm donor. Known donors can be anyone, but most often they are friends or relatives willing to donate sperm to enable the intended parent(s) to have a child. For example, a close friend may donate sperm to a lesbian couple looking to conceive or a male relative may donate sperm to an infertile male relative so the intended father is genetically related to the child. When using a private sperm donor, a Sperm Donor Agreement is essential.

A Sperm Donor Agreement is a contract between the sperm donor and the intended parent(s) when a sperm bank is not used as an intermediary. The purpose of a Sperm Donor Agreement is, most often, to clearly identify that, although the sperm donor is the biological father, he is not the child’s legal parent and he intends to sever all rights and responsibilities of parenthood including visitation, access, decision-making and child support.

In the excitement of planning parenthood, intended parents may not discuss in detail their expectations about the donor’s role. But it is vitally important to clearly define who has legal responsibilities for any child born using a sperm donor. Furthermore, certain states require sperm donation to take place in certain ways in order to avoid any legal ties between the donor and the child. For example, the District of Columbia requires that private sperm donations take place in a medical office – an at-home donation may have the unintended consequence of the donor being deemed the legal father! Crafting a comprehensive Sperm Donor Agreement with the help of an experienced family law attorney will help clarify everyone’s expectations and protect everyone’s rights.

When drafting a Sperm Donor Agreement for a private sperm donor, be sure to carefully consider the following issues:

  • Do both sides agree that the sperm donor will never have financial responsibility for the child?
  • Do both sides agree that the sperm donor will relinquish all legal parenting rights? What about in the unlikely event of the legal parents’ deaths?
  • Will the donor have a relationship with the child? 
  • Will the child be told about his or her relationship to the donor?
  • Will all parties meet with a licensed therapist before proceeding with the donation?
  • What sort of medical testing will the donor undergo?
  • Can the donation be used in the future if the intended parent(s) want more children?

In addition to protecting your legal rights, Sperm Donor Agreements ensure that all the parties are on the same page about key issues such as confidentiality, visitation and contact, financial responsibilities for the child, when and how samples will be provided, and who retains control of the donated material.

Laws governing familial relationships, especially where artificial donor insemination or other forms of ART are involved, vary greatly from state to state. Consulting with an experienced family law attorney and entering into a comprehensive written agreement will enhance your ability to protect your rights and ensure that your expectations are met.