Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gay semen donor obtains parentage order ... then tries to get out of paying child support

It's a common story. Lesbian couple asks gay friend to be a semen donor. They agree he will not be a parent, won't have his name on the birth certificate, but will be in the child's life -- somewhat.

In Curtis v. Prince, a case decided by an Ohio appeals court last week, this scenario went bad...twice. Laura Prince, her partner Vicki Griffin, and their friend, Robert Curtis, signed an agreement to such an effect (although there was no agreement in the record...). But within months of the child's July 2002 birth, Curtis sought and obtained a parentage order. We're not told in this opinion how or why this happened. Curtis was also ordered to pay child support, but he appealed that part of the order succesfully. (No indication whether Prince sought the support or whether the child support agency sought the order; no indication for that matter whether Prince was on public assistance, in which case the child support agency would go after a paternity order on its own to recoup support. And no mention of Prince's partner, Griffin.)

Then Curtis moves to Florida and has nothing to do with the child, and then in 2008, the child support agency "on behalf of Prince" again goes after Curtis for support. (I put "on behalf of Prince" in quotes because that's how it's put in the opinion and I cannot tell whether Prince asked the agency to get child support for her or whether Prince was on public assistance and so she was required to cooperate in getting support but the state is going to keep the money.) Anyway, now Curtis wants to use Ohio's donor insemination statute to say he's not a father because the child was conceived through donor insemination! The trial court bought it, but in this ruling the appeals court said the 2002 parentage order was final and Curtis couldn't get out of it now.

The appeals court seems a tad sympathetic to the trial court's attempt to keep Curtis from paying support. It says, "In light of the personal relationships in place at the time of the child’s conception, the trial court’s attempt to create an equitable result is understandable." Trouble is, I can't figure out what's equitable here. I would oppose Prince and the state going after Curtis based on his biological connection to the child. A semen donor should not be considered a parent absent a written agreement saying he is, and it looks like the contrary agreement existed in this case. But it looks like Curtis broke the agreement by seeking a parentage order, then tried to get out of child support but started to ask for visitation and then changed his mind and moved away. There is no mention of whether he then had anything to do with the child for six years, until the recent child support action.

Questions. What were the facts when Curtis filed for parentage? Prince didn't appeal the parentage order, but maybe she couldn't afford to (later on it's clear she had no lawyer); or was there some other reason? What happened to Griffin? Did Prince expect her to be around to help raise the child and did she split leaving Prince with financial responsiblity she could not bear alone? Did Prince seek support from the only plausible source of money? Did she feel justified because Curtis had broken the agreement first? Had Curtis played any role in the child's life all these years?

I don't know the answers, but I do know this. Legal parentage has consequences. I can't imagine how Curtis got out of the support order the first time around. The opnion says the trial judge in 2003 ruled that Prince had waived her right to support. But it makes no sense that her side of the agreement was upheld but not his. This is one strange case.


Laura Prince said...

It would be nice if he really did have to pay but summit county courts still have not order a reinstatement.

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