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Court rules on artificial insemination issues

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A divided Indiana Court of Appeals found that a man who donated sperm can be found to be the father of only one of the two children conceived by artificial insemination.

Mother J.F. and her friend, W.M., entered into a contract in which W.M. would donate his sperm to her to so that she could conceive a child. J.F. was in a long-term same-sex relationship at the time she conceived two children through insemination with sperm from W.M. There was only a contract drawn up when the first-born child, M.F., was conceived. The donor agreement said the father would not be responsible for the child in any way and would have no legal rights to the child.

The mother and her partner broke up when the children were older and mother sought financial assistance. This led to the prosecutor’s office in Fayette County filing a petition to establish paternity on the mother’s behalf. Mother claimed the contract was invalid and ran afoul of public policy.

The trial judge denied the petition to establish the paternity of the children on contract grounds.

In Paternity of M.F., et al.; J.F. v. W.M., No. 21A04-1002-JP-84, Judges Ezra Friedlander and Michael Barnes affirmed that decision in regards to the older child. There is very little caselaw addressing this issue, and they relied on Jhordan v. Mary K., 224 Cal. Rptr. 530 (Cal. Ct. App. 1986), which the Indiana Supreme Court cited in Straub v. B.M.T. by Todd, 645 N.E.2d 597 (Ind. 1994). One key issue upholding a contract between two parties is the involvement of a licensed physician in some way in the insemination. If the child is conceived through intercourse, but there is an agreement between the parties, the contract wouldn’t stand.

In the instant case, the manner in which M.F. was conceived is debated by the parties. The majority determined that the burden to prove the eldest child was conceived by artificial insemination is on the mother based on contract law. Since the judges couldn’t find any indication of the manner in which the mother was inseminated regarding the first pregnancy, she failed to prove that insemination happened in such a way to render the donor agreement unenforceable.

Judge Terry Crone dissented on this issue, arguing that the father must bear the burden as the one trying to avoid his support obligation. He also agreed with the majority that those specific circumstances in which assisted conception contracts might be enforceable must be extremely limited “in order to avoid creating a slippery slope whereby parents could evade their support obligations simply by signing an informal agreement hastily scribbled on a sheet of paper.”

The majority believed their ruling would prevent the possibility of spur-of-the moment, informal contracts absolving a father of any responsibility. First, a physician must be involved in the process of artificial insemination, and the agreement must show the parties’ careful consideration of the implications of such an agreement, wrote Judge Friedlander. The majority declined, however, to define the minimum requirements an agreement must have or endorse a particular contract.

The Court of Appeals judges all agreed that the trial court erred in denying the petition to establish paternity regarding the younger child. They found the contract drawn up before M.F. was born didn’t include C.F. The agreement was mostly specific to M.F., but did make two ambiguous references to “any child.” The judges agreed this language can’t be construed to include future children. They remanded with instructions to grant the mother’s petition to establish paternity with respect to C.F.

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  • Pre-conceived notions
    Law, Medicine & Bio-ethics strike AGAIN !!
  • Saw this coming...
    As a lawyer, I saw this coming years ago. Moral of the story: If you don't want to support a child, don't have one!

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  1. "So we broke with England for the right to "off" our preborn progeny at will, and allow the processing plant doing the dirty deeds (dirt cheap) to profit on the marketing of those "products of conception." I was completely maleducated on our nation's founding, it would seem. (But I know the ACLU is hard at work to remedy that, too.)" Well, you know, we're just following in the footsteps of our founders who raped women, raped slaves, raped children, maimed immigrants, sold children, stole property, broke promises, broke apart families, killed natives... You know, good God fearing down home Christian folk! :/

  2. Who gives a rats behind about all the fluffy ranking nonsense. What students having to pay off debt need to know is that all schools aren't created equal and students from many schools don't have a snowball's chance of getting a decent paying job straight out of law school. Their lowly ranked lawschool won't tell them that though. When schools start honestly (accurately) reporting *those numbers, things will get interesting real quick, and the looks on student's faces will be priceless!

  3. Whilst it may be true that Judges and Justices enjoy such freedom of time and effort, it certainly does not hold true for the average working person. To say that one must 1) take a day or a half day off work every 3 months, 2) gather a list of information including recent photographs, and 3) set up a time that is convenient for the local sheriff or other such office to complete the registry is more than a bit near-sighted. This may be procedural, and hence, in the near-sighted minds of the court, not 'punishment,' but it is in fact 'punishment.' The local sheriffs probably feel a little punished too by the overwork. Registries serve to punish the offender whilst simultaneously providing the public at large with a false sense of security. The false sense of security is dangerous to the public who may not exercise due diligence by thinking there are no offenders in their locale. In fact, the registry only informs them of those who have been convicted.

  4. Unfortunately, the court doesn't understand the difference between ebidta and adjusted ebidta as they clearly got the ruling wrong based on their misunderstanding

  5. A common refrain in the comments on this website comes from people who cannot locate attorneys willing put justice over retainers. At the same time the judiciary threatens to make pro bono work mandatory, seemingly noting the same concern. But what happens to attorneys who have the chumptzah to threatened the legal status quo in Indiana? Ask Gary Welch, ask Paul Ogden, ask me. Speak truth to power, suffer horrendously accordingly. No wonder Hoosier attorneys who want to keep in good graces merely chase the dollars ... the powers that be have no concerns as to those who are ever for sale to the highest bidder ... for those even willing to compromise for $$$ never allow either justice or constitutionality to cause them to stand up to injustice or unconstitutionality. And the bad apples in the Hoosier barrel, like this one, just keep rotting.

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