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Father's rights unclear for sperm donor seeking custody

Sometimes the biggest source of contention can be on the issue of fathers' rights. Custody agreements can already be a sore subject between a couple who is getting a divorce. But when a father is not married to the mother, custody rights are even more complicated. Sometimes the question to answer is "what does it mean to be a father?"

The question seems simple on the surface, but as courts are starting to see, finding the answer to that question is not so easy. This is especially true when a father is a sperm donor and is not married to the mother of the child.

What are some of the things that a court might look at when determining a father’s rights? Some factors may include how much time the father spent with the child and how involved he was. Is he the biological father? What sort of financial support has he provided, if any? Is there an existing relationship between the father and child? Was there any legal document where the father agreed to relinquish any custody rights?

An example that recently hit the media involves a celebrity and the mother of his child. The lawsuit he filed claimed that he had father’s rights because he took on the role of the father, acknowledging that the child is his. According to the father, he had a relationship with his son, bringing him toy planes and spending time with him.

But the mother is arguing the exact opposite. She claims that the father was, at the least a sperm donor and at the most “a visitor” with her son. In addition, she argues that because he donated sperm, the law prevents him from claiming any rights as a father. Only time will tell how this dispute will conclude; the father has vowed to continue to fight for custody.

This particular example did not take place in Arizona. However it is an example of how custody disputes and fathers’ rights issues are becoming increasingly more complicated as the definition of what constitutes a “father” continues to evolve.

Source: St. Louis Today, “Federal jury awards $3 million to family of man killed on bridge in Louisiana, Mo.” Valerie Schremp Hahn, June 24, 2014.

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