Known Donor Family Law New York – Protecting Lesbian Mothers

Known Donor Family Law New York is changing. 

Many lesbian couples look to known donor family law New York prior to choosing known donors to help them have their families.  In my legal practice, I have seen this number increase steadily over the last 10 years.  Reasons for choosing a known donor include giving children a link to their biological heritage, having access to specific medical histories and providing male influences in the lives of children born into these progressive families.

The law appears to be coalescing in favor of intended mothers and a recent Appellate Division case moves known donor family law in New York further in that direction.  Before discussing the new case, let me give you a brief history of existing known donor family law in New York.known donor family law New York

Existing Family Law Treatment

Brooklyn Family Court Judicial Hearing Officer (JHO) Harold Ross, in a decision titled The Matter of L., et. al, held that as long as uncertainty exists for LGBT couples who create their families with assisted reproductive technology (ART), with both anonymous and known donors, then second parent adoptions are the best way to secure those families from this uncertainty.

In the Matter of Brooke S.B. v. Elizabeth A.  C.C., a landmark decision released in August of 2016, the New York’s highest court overturned previous New York precedent that had torn families apart for decades and ruled that non-biological and non-adoptive parents did have standing to sue for custody and visitation in the New York family court system.  While this case did not specifically address the issue of a known donor’s rights to a child he helped come to be, it brought New York family law in line with many other states which recognize “de facto” parents for the purpose of custody and visitation and prioritizes the best interests of the child in making these critical decisions.

New Case Law 

This new known donor case, entitled In the Matter of Christopher YY v. Jessica ZZ and Nicole ZZ, New York’s Appellate Division, Third Department (whose jurisdiction covers matters derived in South Central New York State to North Eastern and Central Eastern Counties in New York) addressed the issue of a known donor who sought to have a paternity test ordered by a family court.  The family court agreed with the donor and ordered the testing.  The mothers filed an appeal and the result of that appeal was to overturn the lower family court’s decision to order paternity testing for two reasons, thus codifying new known donor family law in New York.

The first reason was the marital status of the mothers.  They were married when they planned on having the child and they had an informal agreement (one drafted and executed without the benefit of legal counsel) with their donor, something that all intended mothers should have with their known donor prior to insemination.  The court stated that there existed a “presumption of legitimacy of a child born to a married woman.”  Even if this presumption exists, the court must conduct a “best interests of the child” analysis before any paternity testing can be ordered.

known sperm donorsThe key question is whether the paternity testing is in the best interests of a child.  The court determined that the presumption existed regardless of the gender of the parents, a huge statement of support for lesbian couples across New York.  However, that presumption can be “rebutted” by a donor in certain circumstances.  The court looked at the facts of this case, the existence of an agreement in which the donor stated that he would not seek paternity, and the lack of a significant relationship between the donor and the child after the child’s birth. 

To determine whether the presumption of parentage that the court established for the non-birth mother could be rebutted, they applied the concept of “equitable estoppel,” which bars a legal claim by a party if that claim is inconsistent with a prior position taken by them and relied upon by the other party.  In this case, the prior position was outlined in the known donor agreement he signed with the mothers, that he would not attempt to establish paternity,  and his lack of a relationship with the child after her birth.  Equitable estoppel prevented the known donor from proving to the court that the paternity testing was in the best interest of the child.

What does this case mean for Known Donor Family Law New York? 

This case is certainly a step in the right direction.  But these cases are fact specific and unless there is a legal instrument, such as a step or second parent adoption order, the possibility of taking a party to court will always be a financially and emotionally time-consuming specter over a family.  Another benefit of a step or second parent adoption is that is clearly and indisputably terminates the rights of a known donor, making a claim such as the one made by the donor in this case, a nullity.

Known Donor Family Law New York is moving in the right direction.  If you are considering a known donor, you must also consider how best to secure your family from unwanted paternity or visitation suits.  For answers to your questions, please contact Anthony M. Brown at anthony@timeforfamilies.com or visit www.timeforfamilies.com.

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A judge said an anonymous sperm donor is a boy’s real parent & not his lesbian mom

A lesbian mom is asking the Mississippi Supreme Court to rule that she is the legal parent of a child that her ex-wife conceived through artificial insemination.

Christina Strickland and Kimberly Strickland Day married in 2009 in Massachusetts. Kimberly already had a child that she adopted in 2007, and she and Christina wanted another child.

They decided that Kimberly would be the one to get pregnant, and they used a sperm donor.anonymous donor

In 2015, their relationship had ended and Kimberly got married to a man and told Christina that she couldn’t see their child, Z.S., anymore. Christina sued to have Kimberly’s second marriage annulled (since the two women never divorced) and to get divorced. She sought 50-50 custody with Kimberly.

Earlier this year, a lower court judge ruled that Christina would have to pay child support and could have visitation rights, but that she wasn’t legally Z.S.’s parent.

“The court finds two women cannot conceive a child together,” county court judge John Grant wrote in his ruling. “The court doesn’t find its opinion to be a discriminatory statement, but a biological fact.”

He said that Z.S. already has two parents – Kimberly and Donor No. 2687 – so making Christina a parent would violate Donor No. 2687’s parental rights.

Grant insisted that the women should have terminated Donor No. 2687’s parental rights and that the donor’s waiver of parental rights wasn’t entered into the record in time. Even though no one knows Donor No. 2687’s identity, Grant said that Christina should have issued a public notice so that Donor No. 2687 could have asserted his parental rights if he wanted to.

In Mississippi, as in many other states, a mother’s spouse is automatically listed as a baby’s other parent on their birth certificate. But Z.S. was born before same-sex marriage was recognized in Mississippi, so while Christina was the baby’s parent in reality, legally she wasn’t.

by Alex Bollinger, LGBTQNation.com, December 11, 2017

Click here to read the entire article.

Lesbian Moms Give Tips on Picking a Donor

Brandy and Susan describe the process of picking a donor and give tips to lesbian moms about known donors vs anonymous as well as things to watch out for.

The Next Family is a diverse community where modern families meet. It is the start of an on-going, open-minded and sincere dialog between urbanite families, adoptive families, in vitro parents, interracial families, same sex parents, lesbian moms, gay dads, single parents and so on. It is a way to remind people that the Next Generation of families already exists in larger numbers than the old model of a “family unit”.

 

Click here for more information on your path to parenthood.

Gay Family Planning: Options For Your Family

For thousands of New York couples each year gay family planning is a daunting and intricate process. If you are part of a same sex couple, there are extra complications as you must decide what route to go down in order to have or adopt a child.

Gay family planning options include adoption, a surrogate NYC carrier, pregnancy by donated sperm, or IVF. Here we cover the basics for each of these options to help you consider the right option for your family:

Adoption

There are over 130 adoption agencies in New York State, and each of the 58 social services unit districts has an adoption unit. There are no fees for adopting children who have special needs or are in custody of the local social services commissioner, although there may be fees for adopting those children in the legal guardianship of local voluntary agencies. The fees are based on the adoptive family’s income, however, and help may be available in the form of grants or fee waivers, so don’t let finances put you off from looking into this as an option to start your family.

gay adoption

After deciding on an agency, the application forms must be completed. Information is taken about your current family, your background and the type of child you feel you would be able to give the best life to. Criminal history checks will also be made, with particular attention paid to whether someone in the prospective adoptive family’s home has previous mistreated or neglected a child. A criminal record does not necessarily mean that you will be refused for adoption, as it depends on several factors including the type of crime committed.

Within four months of submitting the application, a home study is started and carried out on the prospective adoptive family. This is a series of meetings, training sessions and interviews that enables the family and social services to ascertain the readiness of the family to adopt, and any issues that they may need help with. After the home study has been completed the caseworker writes a summary about the family, which the adoptive couple can also add comments to. Training is also required to cover some areas that are specific to adoptive parenting, such as the needs of foster children and what kind of child they would be most suited to as a parent.

Once the study and summary are complete, the work then begins to match the family with a child. There is no set process for this as it is individual according to the child’s situation and needs. The Family Adoption Registry provides information about waiting children, and adoptive parents can ask for more information about children they are interested in, in exchange for a copy of the home study. The process goes from there and hopefully ends with a child or children finding a loving home with their new parents!

Pregnancy via sperm donor

Lesbian couples have many options in their own gay family planning. Sperm donors may be someone known to the couple or, alternatively, screened samples from a sperm bank. Donors can be anonymous or known, and even with anonymous donors there is usually information available about the donor’s height, hair colour, eye colour, education level and nationality. Ensuring that you use an approved fertility clinic is essential in order to avoid potential diseases that can be transferred through sperm. If you are using a known donor, insist on having him medically pre-screened before insemination and it is a very good idea to consult with an attorney familiar with known sperm donation.

Traditional Surrogate

gay surrogacy

Traditional surrogacy involves the sperm of the intended ‘adoptive’ parent fertilizing the egg of the traditional surrogate, so the child will be biologically related to both parties. Surrogacy contracts in NYC are not legally binding as they are declared ‘contrary to public policy’. This means that you cannot pay someone to carry a baby for you, or create a contract that mandates that the traditional surrogate mother has to give the child to the intended parents, (IPs) upon delivery. Surrogates, whether traditional or gestational, cannot accept money apart from expenses and medical fees directly related to the pregnancy, and heavy fines are levied for anyone involved in a surrogacy agreement – $500 for those involved and up to $10,000 for anyone found to be arranging such contracts (which are void and unenforceable in NYC).

Despite this, surrogacy has continued to be a pathway to family life that many gay male couples choose to take, and there are agencies that help to match potential parents with potential surrogates who live in other, surrogacy-friendly States. When needed, New Yorkers are able to complete second or step parent adoptions in New York to finalize parental rights for a child that has been delivered through a surrogate from another State.

Gestational Surrogate

The difference between gestational and traditional surrogacy is that the baby resulting from gestational surrogacy is not related to the surrogate mother. An egg and sperm create an embryo which is then transferred to the surrogate via IVF. For a male same sex couple, both partners can contribute sperm so that each have an equal chance of being biologically related to the child; they would also need a female third party to donate the egg.

Having the options of different pathways for gay family planning (adoption, surrogacy or pregnancy via donor sperm) can be reassuring to a couple looking to have children, but it can also be overwhelming when trying to decide what is best for you. For a reputable and trustworthy attorney in New York who specializes in helping same sex couples have families, call Anthony M. Brown, head of Nontraditional Family and Estates division of Albert W. Chianese & Associations, at 212-953-6447 or email questions to Brown@awclawyer.com.

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Anonymous egg donor, the secret I’m tempted to keep from my kids

I’m keeping a very big secret from my kids, that they have a anonymous egg donor, and my biggest fear is that once they find out, they will want nothing to do with me.

My preschool-age twin boys were born with the help of an anonymous egg donor. I’ve never second-guessed my decision to use IVF via donor eggs as my path to becoming a mother, but as my children get older, I’m more and more afraid of how they will react to learning the truth about their origins.anonymous egg donor

After trying and failing to get pregnant on my own in my late 20s, a preliminary blood test revealed my hormone levels were that of a post-menopausal woman. An internal ultrasound confirmed what a team of reproductive endocrinologists suspected: My ovaries had only four follicles them, and none of them were healthy enough make IVF a viable option. Devastated as I was, I took comfort in the fact that the rest of my reproductive system was perfectly healthy and more than capable of handling a pregnancy. All I needed was some donor eggs.

We looked into adoption, but in the end my husband wanted to share a biological connection to our kids, and I really wanted to experience pregnancy and labor. So after some long talks that lasted until the wee hours of the morning, a hard look at our finances and a bit of research into how much Ramen the human body can actually handle eating before it gives out, we decided to pursue a donor-assisted pregnancy.

Leafing through a binder of headshots and short biographies to choose a woman who will provide half of your children’s DNA is like a very high-stakes episode of The Bachelor. It’s bizarre to listen to your husband discuss other women he finds attractive while you try to balance any jealousy with the idea that your own children could inherit those good looks. In the end, we decided on a beautiful donor who looked nothing like me but whose application indicated she had similar interests and a personality close to my own.

We were lucky, and I became pregnant with twins on my first attempt at IVF. Through some quirk of genetics, neither of my kids inherited the donor’s red hair or hazel eyes. One favors his father’s coloring, and the other has my lighter locks. When we’re out as a family, the comment we receive most often is how we have “his-and-hers twins.”

Because we memorialized my pregnancy with tons of photos and videos, and because on the surface my children look like they could be my own, if I wanted to I could probably never tell the children the truth without them suspecting otherwise.

The idea of doing just that is tempting. Although my infertility story had the happiest of endings, the emotional pain of coming to terms with my diagnosis and undergoing the IVF process still lingers, and there’s a part of me that would love to lock it all away in a box, never to be spoken of. Not telling them would let me forget about that chapter of my life. It would also eliminate the risk of my being rejected by the kids or them feeling I’m somehow not their “real” mother in spite of carrying them and caring for them their whole lives.

But not telling them the truth is selfish. From a practical standpoint, they need to know about the donor’s medical history so they can be aware of any potential family hereditary issues. And it might be a plot line out of a soap opera, but I still want them to know they could have half siblings out in the world before they start exploring love and sex.

Knowing that telling them they were conceived with the help of an anonymous egg donor is the right thing to do doesn’t make it any less terrifying. I love my children completely.

by Anonymous – sheknows.com, January 4, 2016

Click here to read the entire article.  For more information about known v. anonymous egg donors, click here.