Thursday, July 23, 2009

Why we have to be careful about known donor arrangements

submitted by my favorite legal counsel about known donor negotations, Ami Jaeger, of BioLaw in New Mexico:

Florida – Two Gay Couples Fight over Custody of Child

“Two dads face off against two moms. It’s perhaps the most unique custody battle in recent Florida history and maybe the most radical verdict. Katherine and her eight-year partner, Ana Sobrino, decided to have a baby about a half-decade ago. Again and again, they tried using sperm from anonymous donors. But Katherine ­ a driven real estate agent then in her late 30s ­ couldn’t get pregnant.

Enter their close friend, Ray, a handsome, gay Air Force veteran.

After some casual negotiation, he donated and Katherine conceived. In August 2006, a sweet and burbling baby whom we’ll call Austin was born. Katherine put Ray’s name on the birth certificate because she wanted the child to know his dad’s identity – That turns out to be a big mistake.

The baby was raised mostly by Katherine and Ana at their NE 24th Street home, but Ray and his partner Craig also spent time with the boy. “[Ray] made it clear he wanted to be involved in the child’s life,” a counselor later wrote. He took Austin to baby music lessons. Sometimes the child would sleep over at his “da-da’s” apartment overlooking a canal. Then, last fall, the mothers decided to move to California, and things got ugly.

Ray sued Katherine in November 2008. The case tells the story of two sets of gay parents ­ all of them loving and active in the child’s life ­ vying for custody. “Responsibility for the child should be awarded to the mother and father equally,” Ray demanded in the suit. “[I am] the natural father.”

After considering arguments from both sides, Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Leon Firtel on June 3 found Ray was nothing more than a sperm donor. Because there was no contract before birth, he had “no rights.” Says Ray’s attorney, ”[The ruling] is the most tragic of my career, and I will not rest until Ray is reunited with his son.”

Opposing council responds that Ray surrendered his role when he let the mothers become primary caregivers: “Ray has changed his mind about his parental role… Katherine and Ana feel like their family unit is being attacked.” A motion for reconsideration is scheduled in circuit court this week.