44 siblings and counting

A lack of regulation has created enormous genetic families.  Now they are searching for one other.

Kianni Arroyo clasps 8-year-old Sophia’s hands tightly as they spin around, giggling like mad. It’s late afternoon, and there are hot dogs on the grill, bubble wands on the lawn, balls flying through the air.lesbian moms

The midsummer reunion in a suburb west of the city looks like any other, but these family ties can’t be described with standard labels. Instead, Arroyo, a 21-year-old waitress from Orlando, is here to meet “DNA-in-laws,” various “sister-moms” and especially people like Sophia, a cherished ­“donor-sibling.”

Sophia and Arroyo were both conceived with sperm from Donor #2757, a bestseller. Over the years, Donor #2757 sired at least 29 girls and 16 boys, now ages 1 to 21, living in eight states and four countries. Arroyo is on a quest to meet them all, chronicling her journey on Instagram. She has to use an Excel spreadsheet to keep them all straight.

“We have a connection. It’s hard to explain, but it’s there,” said Arroyo, an only child who is both comforted and weirded-out by her ever-expanding family tree.

Thanks to mail-away DNA tests and a proliferation of online registries, people conceived with donated sperm and eggs are increasingly connecting with their genetic relatives, forming a growing community with complex relationships and unique concerns about the U.S. fertility industry. Like Arroyo, many have discovered dozens of donor siblings, with one group approaching 200 members — enormous genetic families without precedent in modern society.

Because most donations are anonymous, the resulting children often find it almost impossible to obtain crucial information. Medical journals have documented cases in which clusters of offspring have found each other while seeking treatment for the same rare genetic disease. The news is full of nightmarish headlines about sperm donors who falsified their educational backgrounds, hid illnesses or turned out to be someone other than expected — such as a fertility clinic doctor.

And while Britain, Norway, China and other countries have passed laws limiting the number of children conceived per donor, the United States relies solely on voluntary guidelines. That has raised fears that the offspring of prolific donors could meet and fall in love without knowing they were closely related, putting their children at risk of genetic disorders.

By Washington Post, September 12, 2018

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Guardianship for Children – Priceless Peace of Mind

Creating a guardianship for Children may be the most important reason for creating an estate plan.  With a thoughtfully chosen guardian, parents can rest assured that their children will be ok if something were to happen.

A guardianship for children in a Last Will and Testament is the only way to ensure that your children will be with whom you choose in the event of a death of a parent.  To dispel a common misconception, naming someone as a godparent through a church ritual has no legal weight when a guardian is required after the death of a parent or parents.  I would argue that the exercise of choosing that person is good for the parents as it has them thinking about why someone may be a good choice as a guardian for their children, but that exercise is just that until the choice is declared in a properly executed Last Will and Testament.guardianship for children

To be crystal clear, only a child guardian designation made in a properly executed Last Will and Testament is a valid designation of a guardianship for children

Becoming a parent forces that person to think in the long-term.  Imagining your children’s lives without you is certainly not easy but imagining their lives without you and without any clear direction as to where they should live or who they should live with is far worse.

Hypothetically, if no guardianship for children is established in a properly executed Last Will and Testament, the court will look to see if there are any family members who would petition the court to take on that responsibility.  That person, while being a close family member, may not be the person that a parent would choose for their child.  Also, the court prioritizes the closest living blood relatives, so if you have not made your wishes known through a properly executed guardianship for children in a Will, then a more distant family member who may be the better choice would have an uphill battle in court.

Another fact that most parents do not realize is that when there is a guardianship for children properly established in your Last Will and Testament, the designated guardian still must petition the court to be made the legal guardian of the child.  This process is streamlined when the deceased parent has made a clear guardianship for children designation, but that designee must still follow the protocols of having the guardianship established in court.

singleIf no guardianship for children has been properly executed, then the closest living blood relatives must petition the court to be named legal guardian, creating an often time consuming and emotional journey for all involved, especially the children.

While this article focuses on how to properly execute a guardianship for children, I also want to remind readers of the different ways that parents can provide financially for their children if a parent, or parents, die.  Basic estate planning is essentialEstate planning with children in the mix offers new options, and challenges.

Remember also that you can name a guardianship for children even before they are born.  Carefully crafted Wills may refer to “future born children,” as well as defining children to include adopted children, children in utero, children you are in the process of adopting and children who are created through assisted reproductive technology. 

Now that you understand the process, the real work begins.  Being able to have these conversations among parents is crucial. Agreeing upon an appropriate guardianship for children may take time and effort, but it may be the most important decision you will ever make for your family.

 

Anthony M. Brown, Esq. September 7, 2018

 

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Sperm donor secrets emerge as Australia law erases anonymity

For Peter Peacock, fate arrived in the form of a registered letter.

The letter, at least initially, looked to be a bit of a letdown. Peacock had gone to the post office expecting the delivery of a big, furry aviator jacket he’d ordered online. And so it was with little fanfare that the Australian grandfather and retired cop tore the envelope open as he walked back to his car — at which point he stopped dead in his tracks.

“Dear Mr Peacock,” the letter began. “The Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA) has received an enquiry of a personal nature which may or may not relate to you. The matter concerns a record held in relation to a project you may have assisted with at Prince Henry’s Institute.”

Prince Henry’s? The Melbourne clinic where he’d donated sperm nearly 40 years ago?

There could be only one reason for such a letter, he thought. Someone out there had come to life through his donation.

His mind raced. How on earth was he going to tell everyone? How would he break it to his two grown daughters? And how could this person even know who he was? He had been promised that his donation would be anonymous.

And for decades it was, until a new law in one Australian state retroactively erased the anonymity of sperm and egg donors. Their offspring now have the legal right to know who they are.

Which is why a week after receiving that letter, Peacock found himself staring at a photograph of a woman named Gypsy Diamond, whose face looked so much like his own that he felt an instant and overwhelming connection. He gazed in wonder at her dark, almond-shaped eyes. His eyes.

“God almighty, I looked at it and I thought — ‘Bloody hell. I can’t deny that girl,’” he says. “She was my child from the start.”

By KRISTEN GELINEAU AP.com, August 2, 2018

Click here to read the entire article.

My Family’s Story

My husband Gary and I were able to share our family’s story with Robin and Jaimie of the hit podcast, If These Ovaries Could Talk.

 We spoke about being a known donor, having our son with a known egg donor and gestational carrier, as well as our commitment to inviting others to get to know us through honest question and answer.  Anthony Brown

This podcast is really important.  Not only are Jaimie and Robin helping others to have their families, they are demysifying the process and helping others to know that our families are just like theirs.

Go to www.ovariestalk.com for information and you can download their podcast on all podcast platforms.

Click here to listen to our episode, “They Met at the Disco.”

Lesbian mum in Italy told baby won’t be legally registered because she is gay

A woman claims she has been told her newborn baby will not be legally registered because she is gay.

Chiara Foglietta, a councillor in the Italian city of Turin, says authorities won’t recognise her baby, because he was conceived through artificial insemination.

Due to Italian laws, fertility treatments are only available to heterosexual couples.

When she and her partner, Micaela Ghisleni, tried to register their son Niccolo Pietro after his birth on Friday last week, she was told to say she had had sex with a man.

In a Facebook post, Ms Foglietta said she was told by authorities: ‘You must declare you had union (sexual relations) with a man to register your son.

‘There is no form to say you had artificial insemination.’

She said the legal black hole is due to a 2002 ministerial decree that does not foresee that a woman, rather than a heterosexual couple, would seek artificial insemination.

Ms Foglietta used artificial insemination in Denmark to get pregnant, with sperm donated by an anonymous man.

She was told she could lie about the child’s origins but she refused, writing on Facebook: ‘Every child has a right to know his own story.’

She argued that her son came into this world because she and Micaela had wanted a child, and that ‘he is our son’.

Further in her post, Ms Foglietta urged people to do more to tackle the issue.

‘You have an important role and you can do so much more. We can do more together,’ she said.

‘Not for me, but for Niccolo, for all rainbow children, for families who do not have the same strength to face these battles, for the children of single women and those with partners who have chosen medically assisted procreation with external donor and want to tell the truth.’

Metro.co.uk buy , April 22, 2018

Click here to read the entire article.

Three Parent Family in NY Affirmed by Family Court

A three parent family in NY recently appeared in New York County Family Court.  The outcome shows movement toward acknowledgment and acceptance of modern families.

A three parent family in NY was granted the rights of custody and visitation on April 10, 2018 by family court Judge Carol Goldstein.  The issue before the court was whether the husband of the biological father of the child had an equal right to sue for custody and visitation as did the biological father and mother.

Over brunch in 2016, Raymond T. and David S., a married couple, agreed to have a child and co-parent with Samantha G., a friend of the married couple.  They agreed that the child would be raised in a “tri-parent arrangement.”  While the parties never executed a written agreement, they did engage an attorney to assist them in drafting one.  They agreed that the mother would continue to live in New York City and the married couple would continue to live in Jersey City, NJ, but would consider themselves a “family” for the purposes of raising their child, named Matthew Z. S.-G.Three Parent Family in NY

The parties proceeded to act like a three parent family in NY.  They made joint announcements on social media of the pregnancy.  The male couple attended childbirth classes with the birth mother and they created a joint savings account for the child, to which the non-biologically related father contributed 50%.

It was only after Matthew was born and a DNA test was administered did they find David to be the biological father.  Both fathers had contributed sperm over a period of eight days, each man alternating every other day.  They referred to one another as “Momma,” “Daddy” and “Papai,” which is Portuguese for father.

This case began when David and Raymond filed a joint petition for “legal custody and shared parenting time.”  Samantha filed a cross petition seeking sole legal custody, but allowing the fathers “reasonable visitation.”  The issue in the case is whether Raymond, the non-genetically related father has standing to sue for custody and visitation.  New York law states that the husband of a woman who gives birth is presumed to be the father of a child born into that marriage.  The unanswered question is whether the husband of a man who donates sperm to conceive a child with a woman that he is not married to has the legal authority to seek custody and visitation.  The court answered yes.

What the court did not address, and what is potentially the more monumental question, is whether Raymond as the non-genetically related parent is a legal parent under NY law.  This issue touches the heart of this three parent family in NY.  The Judge did ask the parties to prepare memoranda of law asking the question of whether legal parentage exists between Matthew and Raymond.  While the mother consented to custody and visitation, she opposed Raymond’s legal status as a parent and asked the court to make that distinction.three parent custody

Legal parentage would bestow much more than the ability to eek custody and visitation.  It would create intestate, or estate, related rights between the father and child.  There would be no question as to whether the child would qualify for the parent’s health insurance or other employment related benefits that flow from a parent to a legal child.

While this decision regarding a three parent family in NY is significant, it does leave unanswered questions.  Perhaps after the issue has been briefed to the court, we will know more about how the law treats a three parent family in NY.

If you are thinking about creating your own three parent family in NY, or any other state, please contact Anthony at Anthony@timeforfamilies.com for more information.

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Mississippi high court issues pro-LGBT decision

Mississippi is one of those deep South states that really did not want to allow same-sex couples to marry.

It didn’t want them to adopt children either. And even after the U.S. Supreme Court said states had to let same-sex couples marry, Mississippi fought back for a while to try and keep them from divorcing. So maybe it wasn’t such a big surprise recently when a state court ruled that the non-biological mother of a child born in Mississippi to a lesbian couple married in Massachusetts but now divorcing shouldn’t be able to claim any parental rights.anonymous donor

That’s what happened in 2016. A chancery (or family) court in Mississippi ruled that a child born to a lesbian couple using insemination of an anonymous donor’s sperm was the child of the biological mother and the anonymous sperm donor –not the biological mother’s same-sex spouse.

But on April 5, the Mississippi Supreme Court, one of the most conservative in the nation, ruled unanimously that was the wrong result.

The nine-member court ruled that, because state law prohibits a father from “disestablishing” his paternity to a child conceived by alternative insemination, “the Legislature never intended for an anonymous sperm donor to have parental rights in a child conceived from his sperm –irrespective of the sex of the married couple that utilized his sperm to have that child.”

Beth Littrell, the Lambda Legal attorney who represented the non-biological mother in this case, Strickland v. Day, said that, while the decision is binding only in Mississippi, it can have impact elsewhere. Littrell said it can “help fill the void left by many states when it comes to the rights of children born via [alternative insemination].” And, she said, “it also is significant because it was rendered by a conservative southern state’s court of last resort….”

The Mississippi Supreme Court, said Littrell, “not only added weight to the consensus that biology alone does not establish parentage but did so in a gender-neutral way that recognized that the parties were a legally married same-sex couple at the time the child was born notwithstanding that it was years before Mississippi was forced to recognize marriage equality.”

Mississippi was forced to recognize marriage for same-sex couples in 2015, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled (in Obergefell v. Hodges) that state bans against equal marriage rights for same-sex couples violates the federal Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.

Subsequent to Obergefell, some states –particularly deep South states—tried to buck against that ruling. Mississippi tried to continue enforcing its state ban against allowing same-sex couples to adopt, and it passed a law allowing businesses to deny services to LGBT people and same-sex couples. That latter law is still in effect. Arkansas tried to bar a woman’s name from the birth certificate of a child she had with her same-sex spouse, the child’s biological mother. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed that decision, in Pavan v. Smith, but now the case is back before the U.S. Supreme Court because the Arkansas Supreme Court denied the couple’s right to recover attorneys fees.

And though the Mississippi Supreme Court decision in the current case, Strickland, is not binding outside Mississippi, Littrell said “it is persuasive authority that should be helpful whenever any court considers marriage equality, the retroactive application of Obergefell v. Hodges and the parental rights” of couples who use alternative insemination.

 

by Lisa Keen, keennewsservice.com, April 10, 2018

Click here to read the entire article.

LGBT Family Planning – The ABCs of Family Creation and Protection

LGBT Family Planning involves conscious decision making and careful preparation to ensure that your family is protected under existing laws, which are evolving every day.

LGBT family planning is crucial to provide the security that your family deserves.  While many more options exist for us to consider when creating our families, each one carries with it particular considerations which will inform and facilitate your choice.  Here are a few options:

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.LGBT family planning

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.  At this point, the couple, or individual, is considered “Pre-Certified” to adopt.

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!

Children from a Pre-Existing Relationship

If you are in a relationship where your partner or spouse has a child from a pre-existing relationship, the process by which you may secure legal rights to the child is called Second or Step Parent Adoption.  If the child has another living legal parent, this process will require that the other parent either surrenders their parental rights to the petitioning parent, or that their rights are terminated by the Court.

Lesbian Couples and Sperm Donation

One of the most cited reasons for choosing known sperm donors is to have a greater insight into the biology of your child. Having a known sperm donor’s medical history can be critical for mothers who have medical or genetic issues that they must consider before having a child.  An anonymous sperm donor file will provide some medical information, but a known donor can share his family medical history, which may be crucial for the health of your child. anonymous donor

The key for a successful selection of a known donor depends on several factors, all personal to the couple or individual.  One crucial consideration for individuals considering a known donor is that the donor CANNOT surrender his parental rights and will be able to sue for custody and visitation to any child born through such an arrangement.  Each state has different laws, but most favor a child having two legal parents.

Lesbian couples considering a known donor should always enter into a Known Donor Agreement prior to any attempts at insemination.  This agreement will spell out the details of understanding between the intended parents and the donor, including the donor’s intent to surrender his parental rights to the non-birth mother.lgbt family planning

While medical considerations are one of the top reasons for having a known donor, knowing the emotional and social character of the donor is also an often overlooked consideration in many people’s path to parenthood.  No anonymous donor profile can show the complete picture of the person who may be the biological father of your child.

Legal considerations are also important reasons to choose between anonymous donors and known sperm donors. Anonymous donors surrender their parental rights to any children born with their genetic material upon deposit to a sperm bank or fertility clinic.  When you choose an anonymous donor, they may offer the option of allowing the child to contact them at age 18, but there is no question as to their lack of parental rights to that child.

Surrogacy

Surrogacy is the process by which a woman carried the child, or children, of the intended parent/s.  Male couples often see this as the most viable method of LGBT family planning. 

Currently, only 5 states ban compensated surrogacy, New York being one of these states.  New York does allow for compassionate surrogacy, where the surrogate mother, or carrier, is not compensated for the risks, dedication and disruption to their lives when having a child for someone else.  Traditional surrogacy is where the surrogate mother, or carrier, is also the egg donor.  Gestational surrogacy is where a separate egg donor exists and the carrier has no biological relationship with the child born through surrogacy.surrogacy

It is imperative that if you choose surrogacy to help you have your family, that you do so in an ethical manner and make conscious choices about how to go about the process.  It is also a wise choice to research perspective agencies and fertility clinics thoroughly and ask a lot of questions.

Once your child is born through surrogacy, it is critical to secure the legal rights of the non-genetically related parent through both a pre or post birth order in the state where the child is born and a confirmatory second or step parent adoption back in the home state of the intended parents.  A pre or post birth order is a court order that terminates the parental rights of the surrogate mother and, in some states, establishes the rights of the intended parents.  There is evolving, and in some cases, conflicting, case law about whether the confirmatory adoption is required when a pre or post birth order exists; however, there is nothing more important than ensuring that your family is completely and securely protected.

Co-Parenting

Many single LGBT  and non-LGBT individuals are choosing to co-parent.  Co-parenting may be the latest frontier in the world of LGBT family planning This is defined as two individuals who are not in an emotional relationship, choose to raise a child together and share parenting responsibilities.  This process also requires a carefully considered Co-Parenting Agreement to spell out the intentions of the co-parents and their responsibilities to the child and to one another.  Many websites exist today to connect those interested in co-parenting but it is critical that anyone considering this option visit a family law attorney who is versed in the intricacies of co-parenting.

Once you have your family plan in place, remember to protect that family with careful and considered estate planning.  If unmarried, you may also consider the benefits of a pre-marital agreement to define separate and joint property.

LGBT family planning can take many forms.  With so many LGBT family planning options available to couples and individuals, take your time and figure out which one is right for you.  If you have any questions at all about these processes, please visit www.timeforfamilies.com or email me at Anthony@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.

Best Interests of the Child – Evolving Family Law

Best Interests of the Child – In this next installment of the Columbia Teachers College series on professionals working within the LGBT community, I have the privilege of discussing dome of the recent case law that affects our families and we, as professionals, can better educate the circles in which we work.

 Family courts focus appropriately on the best interests of the child when attempting to determine such issues as custody and visitation in disputed matters.  This essential premise should inform their decision making processes.best interests of the child

Columbia Teachers College has created a series of videos for students who want to work with the LGBT community. I am privileged to have been featured as a mentor and to be able to tell my story. This video discusses the current law in New York, recent changes that have had an immeasurable impact on LGBT families and how the best interests of the child are paramount to a court’s adjudication of an issue.

There is no written “standard” for a best interests analysis. A judge will rely on several factors including,  familial stability, mental and physical health of the parents, drug or alcohol abuse, primary caretaker role, the ability of the parents to get along with one another and, depending on the child’s age, what the child believes is in their best interest.  The health and safety of the child are always the utmost consideration.  

I hope that you enjoy watching this video and, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out to me through the contact form below.

timeforfamilies.com

 

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