Caven blog

Informal sperm donor must pay child support 13 years later

Mark Langridge, 47, was shocked to be told by the Child Support Agency (CSA) recently, that he must pay £26 a week child support for two children he fathered as a favour to a lesbian couple, as yet unnamed, who were his friends years ago.

The Daily Mail reports that Essex-resident Langridge and his long-term partner, Shaun Keeble, met the women in a gay nightclub in Southend in 1997.

Although Langridge and Keeble, who became civil partners five years ago, did not want children of their own, it was suggested to Langridge he donate sperm so that one of the lesbians could become a mother. He says he thought it “a lovely thing to do”.

Nevertheless, according to the Mail, he asked that there should be no strings attached, and consequently nothing regarding the informal arrangement was legally documented.

A baby girl was born to the mother in question in late 1998, and subsequently Langridge agreed to donate again. In 2000, another baby girl was born to the same mother. In accordance with the parties’ verbal arrangement, the donor was not named as the father on the girls’ birth certificates.

Although Langridge saw the children at social events when they were small, the two couples eventually drifted apart and, apart from occasional letters from the girls, there has been no contact since 2004.

However, the lesbian couple, who did not become civil partners, separated at some point in the years after Langridge and his partner lost contact with them, and the mother started to claim state benefits. Although the ex-partner of the mother continues to live near the girls and sees them regularly, the woman has not been pursued by the CSA for financial support as she never legally adopted the children.

The CSA have told the donor father that he must pay a contribution until the girls reach adulthood. Langridge says he is on a low income as a self-employed book-keeper and paying the money will cause hardship for him.

Langridge’s ‘act of kindness’ donation was made before the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 came into force. Under this law, anyone who donates to a couple in a civil partnership or via a licensed sperm donation centre will not be considered the legal father.

If one member of a civil partnership receives donated sperm and conceives, the other partner will be considered the legal parent, provided they consent.

However, sperm donations made informally have never been covered by the law; therefore the biological father is considered to have a financial responsibility. If paternity is disputed, the CSA will arrange a genetic test.

It is understandable that Langridge feels aggrieved, as he felt he had a firm understanding with the children’s mother. Maybe this story illustrates that it can be important to obtain legal advice before potentially life-changing decisions are made.

Original story:

The Daily Mail

 

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