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California case highlights parental responsibility, child support

Parents in Tustin who have divorced will generally be familiar with California's laws regarding the financial support obligations of parents towards their children. Even unmarried parents can be required to make child support payments. A recent court ruling in an unusual situation highlights just how seriously California family law takes this issue.

The situation involved a man and a woman who were in a relationship and decided they wanted to raise a child. The man had previously undergone a vasectomy, but was able to have sperm extracted and a child was conceived through in vitro fertilization. Although the man worked as a pilot and was only with the mother and child for a few nights each week, he told friends that he was the father. He provided financial support and the little boy knew him as "daddy."

Eventually, however, the man abandoned the mother and child, shocking them with the revelation that he had another marriage and family elsewhere at the same time. When several years passed and the county sued him for child support, he responded by claiming that he was only a sperm donor and under California law he had no financial obligation for the child.

While it's true that California law does state that an anonymous sperm donor is not considered to be a natural parent of a child that he helps to conceive, that's not the end of the story. The law also provides that a parent who "openly holds out the child as his or her natural child" and lives with the child in the same home can be considered that child's natural parent. A court did find that the fact of the man's relationship with the child overruled the sperm donor law, and he was ordered to begin paying child support.

Certainly, this is a situation in which few are likely to ever find themselves. But the important fact underscored here is the issue of a child's presumed natural parent and how that may come under scrutiny for different reasons. Many will find it helpful to consult with a legal professional in the event of such a dispute, particularly when child support payments are on the line.

Source: Sierra Sun, "Law Review: Sperm donor liable for child support as father?," Jim Porter, Nov. 18, 2017

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