Law School Case Brief
Steven S. v. Deborah D. - 127 Cal. App. 4th 319, 25 Cal. Rptr. 3d 482 (2005)
The words of Cal. Fam. Code § 7613(b) are clear. There can be no paternity claim from a sperm donor who is not married to the woman who becomes pregnant with the donated semen, so long as it was provided to a licensed physician. The statute does not make an exception for known sperm donors, who will be denied a paternity claim so long as the semen was provided to a licensed physician for insemination of an unmarried woman. A woman who wishes to choose her donor can still obtain statutory protection from a donor's paternity claim through the relatively simple expedient of obtaining the semen from a chosen donor through a licensed physician.
Two individuals, Deborah and Steven, who were not and are not married to each other, agreed that Steven would provide semen to a physician to artificially inseminate Deborah. Deborah became pregnant from the artificial insemination but the pregnancy did not last full term. Steven and Deborah then had sexual intercourse over a period of months which did not result in a pregnancy. Shortly after terminating the sexual relationship, Deborah again sought to conceive through artificial insemination utilizing sperm that Steven had originally provided for that purpose. Deborah again became pregnant, resulting in the birth of Trevor. Steven filed a verified petition to establish a parental relationship with Trevor when the child was approximately three years old. Deborah contested the petition, arguing that Trevor was conceived by artificial insemination within the terms of section 7613, subdivision (b) of the Family Code. Therefore, Steven was not entitled to any rights as a natural father. Steven argued that Trevor was conceived during the time the parties had sexual intercourse. The trial court found that the child had been conceived through artificial insemination but concluded that public policy required that the trial court not apply § 7613, subd. (b).
Is a sperm donor entitled to any rights as a natural father?
The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment and remanded with directions to enter judgment in favor of the mother. The Court held that the words of the statute were clear, and the statute did not make an exception for known sperm donors. There was nothing in the statute that precluded its application despite the facts of the case, which included the facts that: the mother knew the male individual was the donor; after the initial impregnation failed, the parties engaged in sexual intercourse in an attempt to impregnate the mother; the mother acknowledged the male individual as the father of the child; and the mother allowed the male individual to celebrate in the joy of the child's birth.
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