Do-It-Yourself Artificial Insemination & Custody

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Assisted Reproductive Technology on Wednesday, April 29, 2015.

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) usually involves combining eggs with sperm, and returning them to a woman’s body in a licensed lab. But in a pinch, will a turkey baster in your kitchen do the trick?

Joyce Bruce wanted to conceive a child, without the involvement of a father. She mistakenly thought that if she became pregnant without having sex, the biological father, Robert Boardwine, would not have custody rights.

She approached her longtime friend, Boardwine, and asked him to be a sperm donor. He agreed, but they never signed a written contract regarding any resulting pregnancy.

To become pregnant, he would stop by her house and would give her a plastic container containing his sperm. She would then use a turkey baster to inseminate herself. They did not go to a doctor’s office or to a medical facility.

On July 7, 2010, she discovered that she was pregnant. They never had sex, never lived together, and they do not intend to live together.

Their relationship deteriorated when she would not agree to his suggested name for the child. She did not inform him of the birth and did not list him on the birth certificate.

The Father filed a suit to establish his rights with the child, since he was the biological father. She argued that since she used “noncoital reproductive technology” to get pregnant, he was only a sperm donor without rights.

The trial court found that when he provided his sperm, the parties intended for him to be a legal father, and awarded joint legal and physical custody as well as visitation.

The Virginia appeals court held that “medical technology” in the Children of Assisted Conception Act, does not mean a turkey baster. So ART law does not apply.

As funny a situation is it sounds, it is a serious problem. Florida is very advanced in this area of law, and is one of the few states that permits intended parents to establish the parental status to a child born through ART without a paternity/adoption process.

As I’ve written before, ART statutes make detailed provisions that must be followed for a contract for it to be enforceable. If you’re looking at your kitchen implements as a form of do-it-yourself home pregnancy device, think about the legal risks.

The opinion is here.