It’s tragic when a man does his best for his child and winds up suffering because of it. Robert Masson is experiencing the pain first-hand. After being an involved father for 11 years, Australia’s Family Court ruled him ineligible for parenting rights based on donor laws passed in the ‘80s.
Laws Written to Limit Liability Restrict Rights When Donors Get Involved
While sperm donors are often thought of as anonymous young men using donation centers to pay spare bills, in reality many donor situations arise between friends. They’re less formal and might give the men involved a false sense of security. In Masson’s case, his friend requested he help her conceive. He was listed on the birth certificate and paid child support. He had an active hand in raising his biological daughter and her little sister, conceived through anonymous donation.
For all intents and purposes, Masson was Daddy.
Then the girls’ mothers decided to move to New Zealand. When Masson protested, he discovered the fight was going to be more difficult than anticipated. The laws on the books stated a man wouldn’t receive parenting rights if he wasn’t married to or otherwise in a relationship with the mother at the time of artificial insemination. While the laws were written to protect sperm bank donors, they’ve left those like Masson – and their children – out in the cold.
He challenged the findings last month and hopes to change the law, as well as gain legal access to his daughter again. It adds to the uncertainty Australian donors are now facing.
Donors Lose Their Anonymity and Some Fear What’s Next
Sperm donorship became more popular in the ‘80s as single women became more confident in their choices to raise a child without the help of a male partner. The law sided with women’s rights, but now courts are focused on their children’s rights. In a landmark decision, the Australian courts found progeny have a right to know their parentage, stripping sperm donors of their anonymity without warning or permission.
Some are worried things won’t end there. Here in the U.S., a Kansas court attempted to put a child support order in place for a sperm donor in 2014 but the decision was ultimately overturned. Will Australian courts decide men are responsible for supporting their biological offspring regardless of earlier agreements they had with the women who carried them, while at the same time not providing those fathers with parenting privileges? Time will tell.
For now, it’s clear men need to be more careful when donating sperm, whether through official channels or in a private arrangement with friends.