In prior articles, I have referenced the potential to have child support ordered when there is not a biological link between the child and the support obligator. The latest case to discuss that principle is the May 21st case of Alexandria S. versus Pacific Fertility Medical Center, Inc.
Alexandria was born to Lorraine as a result of artificial insemination. Lorraine and Gordon were married and discussed having a child. Gordon has a vasectomy prior to marriage, investigated the possibility of reversing it and also discussed artificial insemination with Lorraine. In 1992, Lorraine and Gordon went to the fertility clinic, discussed the insemination procedure and selected a donor who resembled Gordon. While the clinic provided the couple with a multiple page consent form, the first few pages dealt with an acknowledgement that the parties would treat any child born from artificial insemination in all respects as though it were their natural born child. This consent included an agreement to support and educate the child. The last page included a waiver of the right to sue the clinic for difficulties arising with the artificial insemination procedure and signature lines. Gordon stated that he was given only this last page for signature and that he did sign it.Lorraine underwent the insemination, became pregnant and gave birth to Alexandria on December 26, 1992. Several months later, Gordon filed for divorce.
The divorce court concluded that Gordon had no legal duties or responsibilities towards Alexandria. The trial court believed that although Gordon wished Lorraine well during her pregnancy and was happy for her that she realized her wish when a healthy child was born, that he adamantly denied ever consenting to be a father of the child or that any person or written document informed him that his merely acquiescing in her desire to have a child would have that effect. The court also cited that the parties relationship was brief and stormy. Physically separating after about five days of marriage, resuming living together a few weeks later and again separating a few days after that.
Lorraine did not appeal from the Judgment denying child support, instead, she and Alexandria filed a complaint against the fertility clinic alleging that they were damaged as a result of facility failing to obtain appropriate consent. The Court hearing that matter struck the complaint for reasons outside the scope of this article. The judgment in favor of the clinic was appealed. The appellate court agreed with the trial court in refusing to allow the suit to go forward, however, made the following comments in the unpublished portion of the opinion. “While we find Alexandria has no action against PFMC, our finding does not necessarily preclude Alexandria from ever receiving child support. Support orders are unique in the respect the superior court retains jurisdiction to modify them. Alexandria, therefore, may choose to file a supplemental complaint alleging the original order is voidable because the Court has no power to give conclusive effect to a judgment made clearly in error, especially where it involves the interests of the children and the state…” The Family Law Court gave too much emphasis to the degree of consent Gordon gave. To permit defendants parental responsibility to rest on a voluntary basis would place the entire burden of support on the child’s mother, and if she is incapacitated, the burden is then on society. “Gordon only had to consent to the AID procedure… Just as a court does not inquire whether a husband having sexual intercourse with his wife consented to being a father, it should not attempt to determine whether a husband who knowingly agrees to his wife’s insemination by a donor, consented to the legal responsibilities following such and act.” No doubt, Lorraine will follow the instruction of the appellate court.