Parents struggling with fertility issues, same-sex couples, and many others nowadays use sperm donation to begin their families. Typically, a sperm donor voluntarily terminates their parental rights when they provide a donation. Likewise, a similar procedure is followed when couples use private donors they know instead of using a fertility clinic or doctor for anonymous sperm donation.

However, if a sperm donor does not relinquish their parental rights, issues could arise after the child is born regarding custody, visitation, and child support. Potential parents and sperm donors should ensure they understand their rights and responsibilities when considering sperm donation.

Waiving Parental Rights for Sperm Donations in California 

A parent has a legal obligation to support their child, even if the parent does not have custody. However, terminating parental rights ends the obligation to support a child. Generally, a parent can only waive or lose their parental rights in one of three ways:

Terminating Parental Rights of an Unfit Parent

A family court judge rules that a parent is unfit based on objective evidence and terminates the parent’s parental rights. If parental rights are terminated, the parent will not be required to pay child support payments. 

Relinquishment of Parental Rights

A parent signs a relinquishment of parental rights. After the document is complete, the parent giving up parental rights has no rights or responsibility regarding the child, including the requirement to pay child support. 

Receiving Sole Custody by Court Order*

A family court judge grants sole custody of a child to one parent. Sole custody and termination of parental rights are not the same thing, so this category is a bit different than the previous two. It only removes certain parental rights, not necessarily all of them.

The custodial parent has sole parental rights and can make decisions for the child without consulting the other parent. However, the other parent is not relieved of their obligation to pay child support for their child since the court did not terminate all of the parental rights. 

California Sperm Donor Laws 

Sperm donation is a common way for women or couples to receive assistance in conceiving a child. There are two basic ways to make and receive sperm donations in California – through a licensed clinic and private donors. 

Donating Sperm Through a Licensed Clinic

Many people choose a licensed fertility or sperm donor clinic when they donate sperm or receive sperm. When a man uses a licensed sperm donor facility, they are protected from child support obligations. 

California Family Code §7613 states that a man who donates sperm through a licensed physician and surgeon or a licensed sperm bank for use in assisted reproduction procedures for a woman is not considered the natural parent of the child conceived by the woman. 

However, the parties can agree in writing, signed by both parties, before the child’s conception for the sperm donor to be the child’s natural parent. In this case, the man could be financially liable for child support.

Donating Sperm Through Private Agreements

Parties can make private arrangements for sperm donations. However, things could be more complicated when you use a private donor. The law states that if the sperm is not provided to a licensed physician or licensed sperm bank, then the donor is not the natural parent of a child conceived using their sperm if:

  • The donor and the woman sign a written agreement before a baby is conceived that the donor would not be the natural parent; OR,
  • A court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the donor and the woman had an oral agreement before a baby is conceived that the sperm donor would not be the natural parent.

The above does not apply when a sperm donor and a woman have a written agreement signed by both parties prior to a baby’s conception that they intend for the sperm donor to be a parent of any child conceived using the donated sperm.

If the sperm donor is the natural parent because the parties followed the legal requirements for him to be a parent or failed to follow the legal requirements to prevent the sperm donor from exercising parental rights, the sperm donor could be responsible for child support payments.

Contact an Experienced San Diego Child Support Lawyer

The safest way to ensure a man does not have parental rights when donating sperm or receiving donated sperm for assisted reproduction purposes is to use a licensed sperm bank or doctor. If you choose to use a private donor, consult an experienced San Diego child support lawyer to ensure written agreements comply with California sperm donor laws to protect your legal rights.


Contact our experienced San Diego child support lawyers at San Diego Divorce Lawyers, APC, today for legal assistance. Contact our San Diego office at (619) 866-3756 to schedule a free consultation.

San Diego Divorce Lawyers, APC
2851 Camino del Rio S #430
San Diego, CA 92108