A New York man who said he donated sperm to a female co-worker as a friendly gesture and sent presents and cards to the child over the years...
MELVILLE, N.Y. — A New York man who said he donated sperm to a female co-worker as a friendly gesture and sent presents and cards to the child over the years likely will owe child support for the college-bound teenager, according to a judge’s ruling.
“What’s the saying? No good deed goes unpunished,” said Deborah Kelly, a Garden City lawyer for the man, who like all the involved parties remains anonymous because of privacy concerns.
Family Court Judge Ellen Greenberg ruled Nov. 16 that despite the mother’s willingness to have the child’s DNA tested, the man could not seek a paternity test to determine if he is the biological father because the results could have a “traumatic effect” upon the child, who is now 18 and lives in Oregon with the mother.
The next step is a meeting with a support magistrate to determine the amount of child-support payments — if any — the man would have to pay until the child turns 21, Kelly said.
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Even without genetic evidence, the man’s interactions with the child over the years had a patriarchal nature, said Jeffrey Herbst, a county attorney who represents the mother in the lawsuit through a federal agreement called the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act.
“It’s still a parental relationship,” Herbst said.
According to the man’s testimony, in the late 1980s he was a physician at the same Nassau County hospital where the child’s mother was a resident. After learning the woman and her female partner wanted to have a baby, the man donated his sperm and the woman gave birth July 26, 1989. The man, married at the time, agreed he would not have any rights or benefits in rearing the child, but the oral agreement never was put in writing, according to court documents.
But he took the unusual step of allowing his name to appear on the child’s birth certificate because he thought it was in the child’s “best interests that he would have an identity when he grew older,” he said in court documents.
Before the mother, her partner and the child moved to Oregon in 1993, the man had contact with the child, he said. He also sent the child money, gifts and cards and letters signed “Dad” or “Daddy,” and spoke to him by phone about seven times in the past 15 years.
That correspondence, coupled with an affidavit from the child stating that he “has never known anyone other than [the man] to be his father,” is enough for a parental relationship, according to Herbst.
“The fact of the matter is that he held himself out as the child’s father for 18 years until he asked for DNA testing,” Herbst said.
When it comes to artificial insemination by a known donor, the best protections are to have everything in writing and “do your homework,” said reproductive lawyer Melissa Brisman of Park Ridge, N.J.
“You can’t be half a father, and half a not, under the law,” she said.
But the man’s trust was abused, his lawyer said.
“The doctor was told this is how it’s going to be,” Kelly said. “And 18 years later, you end up dealing with something that you didn’t know you were going to deal with. Sometimes people aren’t really thinking about the legal ramifications.”