Couples who choose assisted reproduction for their family have many decisions to make. Sometimes, their best decision leads them to utilize a sperm or ova donor to induce pregnancy. Prior to taking that step, it’s important that the couple understands how California treats the couple and the donor legally.
The intended parent is the natural parent
When a woman conceives utilizing the sperm or ova of a donor, and the intended parent provides their consent, the intended parent becomes the natural parent in the eyes of the law. The consent should be in writing and signed by both the intended parent and the mother.
Failure to provide consent in writing does not, however, prevent a court from finding that the intended parent is the natural parent. The court can rule, based on clear and convincing evidence, that the mother and intended parent had an oral agreement prior to conception. With such a ruling, the intended parent is also treated in law as the natural parent.
Donors and natural parenthood
When a donor provides semen to a physician or sperm bank, and the semen is used in assisted reproduction by someone who is not the donor’s spouse, the donor is not the natural parent by law. This rule can be negated by the agreement of the donor and mother, in writing, prior to conception.
If the donor does not prove the semen to a physician or sperm bank, the law does not treat them as the natural parent if the donor and mother agreed, in writing and before conception, that the donor would not be a parent. In the absence of a written agreement, a court may find by clear and convincing evidence that the parties had an oral agreement that the donor would not be a parent.
If a donor provides ova for use in assisted reproduction, and the person using the ova is not the spouse or partner of the donor, the donor is not the natural parent by law. However, the court can make a finding, based on satisfactory evidence, that the donor and mother intended the donor to be the natural parent.