Craigslist Sperm Donor Owes Child Support

Sperm donor William Marotta

William Marotta

The state of Kansas is demanding child support from a man who donated his sperm to a lesbian couple who posted an ad on Craigslist in 2009. The couple later broke up and one of the women applied to the state for aid.

Kansas now says William Marotta owes child support to the mother of his three-year-old daughter, even though he says he never agreed to do anything except provide the sperm, for free.


Worthless Contract?

Marotta signed a contract with the couple, Angela Bauer and Jennifer Schreiner, waiving all his parental rights, according to a local news report.

But according to CNN, the Kansas Department for Children and Families says that under state law, because a doctor didn’t perform the artificial insemination, there’s no proof Marotta only intended to be a donor.

That means he could be the mother’s lover – which would make him officially the father and therefore responsible for suppor, under the law. The state agency reportedly sued Marotta in October for over $6,000 – the amount of aid the state had given Schreiner.

It does seem odd that the lesbian couple to which Marotta donated his sperm are not the ones demanding money from him. “Angie and Jennifer are not pursuing this,” Marotta told an interviewer. “This is being pursued by the State of Kansas.”


Kansas Takes a Stand

Attorney Ben Swinnen headshot

Ben Swinnen

Marotta’s lawyer, Ben Swinnen of Swinnen and Associates LLC in Topeka, Kan., in an interview with WIBW in Topeka, said the case is the first of its kind. He even predicted it would go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, no matter who wins at trial.

Alternative family structures are more common now than when Kansas passed the law at issue in 1994, Swinnen said in the interview. “I believe strongly that it’s a conversation we should have,” he said, adding that this type of case will surely come up again.

Kansas has become more conservative, and the state does not recognize same-sex marriage – facts that have led to speculation that there may be a political motive behind the state’s demand. Is Kansas trying to send a message that it is not friendly to non-traditional domestic arrangements?

Swinnen has said that nine states have laws saying a sperm or egg donor is not the parent of a child conceived through artificial reproduction, and that Kansas is lagging behind a trend of greater recognition for alternative family structures.


Works Both Ways

Other lawyers say the case is not that strange – states force women to reveal the names of their children’s fathers all the time in exchange for giving the children free health care, according to Robert Franklin, a lawyer who writes for Fathers & Families, a non-profit organization.

“However the courts decide his case, a couple of things need to be made clear,” Franklin warns. “First, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Men, never ever believe that you can sign an agreement relieving yourself of child support obligations. You can’t.”

No matter how official the contract you sign may seem, Franklin says the mother can renege anytime and demand support. “That’s because those agreements are considered to be void as against public policy,” he says. “If you want a child, understand that, in all likelihood, you’ll end up supporting it.”  

“Second, men should be aware that what works against them can also work for them,” Franklin adds. “So, if William Marotta had decided that, contrary to his intention when he signed the agreement, he wanted a relationship with his daughter, Bauer and Schreiner could no more have used their agreement to prevent it than he can now use it to avoid repaying the state.”

“The agreement is as void for them as it is for him,” he says.

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