Academic journal article The University of Memphis Law Review

You Are Not the Father! - Parental Liabilities and Rights of Sperm Donors in Tennessee

Academic journal article The University of Memphis Law Review

You Are Not the Father! - Parental Liabilities and Rights of Sperm Donors in Tennessee

Article excerpt

I. Introduction

The purpose of the Uniform Parentage Act ("UPA") is to provide equal rights between the parent and child, regardless of the marital status of the parents.1 The UPA's goal is to rid the United States of old common law values, which required legitimacy of a child before any parental rights or obligations attached.2 Section two of the 1973 version of the UPA provided that "[t]he parent and child relationship extends equally to every child and every parent, regardless of the marital status of the parent."3 Though the UPA provided a platform for parentage in instances in which two unmarried adults could establish paternity, its provisions were not flexible enough to address the looming technological advancements in child conception. Because of the UPA's initial failure to address impending technological advancements, amendments to the UPA in support of unconventional methods of conception were inevitable; these UPA amendments address technological advancements in reproduction and the legal ramifications of sperm donors. 4

Tennessee's current parentage statute regarding paternity fails to address the obligations and rights of a sperm donor when he donates sperm to an unwed mother without anonymity.5 Tennessee's failure to address obligations and rights of non-anonymous sperm donors exposes the people and the state to litigation in which no statutory provision is available to reference and there is only a minute amount of precedent for guidance.6 There are 30,000-60,000 children in the United States conceived every year using assisted reproductive technology ("ART").7 As ART becomes more prevalent, the Tennessee legislature must enact a statute that clearly outlines the rights and obligations of sperm donors when they donate sperm non-anonymously8 to unwed women. Otherwise, Tennessee's only solution is for courts to address this issue on a case-bycase basis.9

Consider Jane, a 37- year-old single woman who wants to be pregnant. Though Jane would prefer to be married before having children, she does not see marriage in her near future. Thus, Jane uses a sperm donor to get pregnant. Rather than going to a clinic and obtaining sperm from a bank of anonymous donors, Jane decides to ask her good friend, John, to donate his sperm,10 as John's genes and medical history are excellent. John agrees to provide the sperm pursuant to a contract in which he agrees to waive all rights and be released from all obligations to the child or to Jane. Jane also signs the agreement. The child is conceived in an ART facility without sexual contact between Jane and John.11 The procedure is successful, and Jane's dream of being a mother is now a reality. She raises the child alone for five years and decides that she wants to enroll the child in private school. A private school education is prohibitively expensive and Jane cannot do it alone. Jane has yet to find a suitable husband, so she contacts John for financial assistance. John is unable to deliver, resulting in Jane filing an action demanding child support from John.12 Because Tennessee does not allow parents to waive their child support obligations,13 should John be obligated to support the child after he contractually donated his sperm to Jane? Under Tennessee's current statutory scheme, the answer to this question is unknown.14

This Note will propose that Tennessee's legislature enact a statute outlining the paternal rights and obligations of sperm donors in Tennessee, specifically with respect to non-anonymous donors and their child support obligations.15 Additionally, this Note investigates the UPA's and other state law approaches to paternal liability and rights of sperm donors, including the value of enacting a statutory scheme addressing such issues. Further, this Note will rework Tennessee's statutory scheme to include protection to non-anonymous sperm donors who donate their sperm in ART facilities to unwed women. This Note will encourage Tennessee to protect nonanonymous donors when they have relinquished all obligations and liabilities, such as child support, via a contractual agreement in an ART facility. …

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