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While you should always do your due diligence when considering donating, most donation centers should have paperwork in place to protect donors from liability 

Actually, It Does Depend 

Anytime there’s a discussion relating to something legal, the answer is always, “it depends on the situation.” There are some cases in which a “donor” could conceivably have some rights and financial obligation to the child/children they’ve fathered or mothered. However, these cases are very much the exception to the rule. When it comes to having a right to see the child, contact the child, or have any sort of relationship with the child, donors usually do not have such rights. The same is true regarding legal custody—which generally includes the right to decide on what religion the child will follow, medical decisions, and academic decisions. So donors typically don’t have the right to have a relationship with their biological children, nor make decisions about the child’s life in any capacity. Doners also aren’t typically under any financial obligation to the child, meaning that they don’t have to pay child support or help financially support the child. 

How Was the Child Conceived? 

Usually, when a person thinks of a “donor” they’re thinking of an anonymous person whose sperm cells or egg cells are used to help infertile couples or same-sex couples conceive, using formal procedures such as IUI, IVF, or some other procedures. Donors who formally donate their eggs or sperm to a clinic generally do not have any rights to the child, nor can they be ordered to pay child support. (This is because they have legal documentation which each party signs, donor and recipient, defining the relationship and providing for the appropriate waivers.) If the child is conceived outside of a formal medical setting, using a person who agreed to act as a donor, the biological parents will still be legally responsible for the child. For example, you cannot just get someone pregnant (or get pregnant) and then declare that the other biological parent is solely responsible for the child because you were just a donor according to some verbal agreement you had with the other biological parent. 

What Is the Donor’s Relationship to the Child? 

Even if you were a legitimate donor and your donation was used in a formal fertility treatment, you could still be on the hook for child-support if you end up having a close relationship with the child. For example, if you agree to be a donor for a family friend, and then you stay in close contact with the child, you could potentially have rights and obligations to the child. Again, though technically possible, this is not normal, considering most couples do choose an anonymous donor. Also, fertility treatments are usually done for couples (as opposed to single parents) who cannot have a child. Meaning, in the eyes of the law, the child already has two parents. However, if the child legally only has one parent (since the other biological parent was a donor), a court could potentially give the donor parent custody and order child support (or vice versa), assuming the donor was very involved in the child’s life. As previously mentioned, this is very uncommon. Outside of very unusual circumstances, it is unlikely that a donor would be sued for child support or have rights to their biological children. 

Is It Anonymous? 

In some cases, it’s certainly supposed to be. However, with genetic genealogy, finding people has never been easier—especially when you’ve got the DNA of someone they’re related to. So, even if a person decides to remain anonymous, the children they father or mother may still eventually find out who they are. If you are a parent, and you chose a donor who decided to be anonymous, you may not legally be able to contact the donor, even if you find out who they are on your own. Many clinics require their patients to agree not to contact donors who have chosen to remain anonymous. In some cases, the donors themselves may not be able to legally reach out to their biological children. 

What About This Weird Thing I Saw Online? 

You may have seen viral videos online of men claiming to have to pay child support for children they’ve fathered via donation. These videos are highly unlikely to contain accurate information. In most cases, donation centers take measures to protect their clients and donors from legal liability. As long as you’re going through reputable services, the clinics should already have the legal protections in place. However, if you’re considering donating eggs or sperm, and you have concerns about legal ramifications, you may need to speak with an attorney in your area regarding your concerns to ensure you get the most accurate information. 


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