Custody dispute results from in-vitro fertilization in Virginia

On behalf of Jarrell, Hicks & Waldman, PC posted in Child Support on Friday, January 18, 2013.

With modern technology, children are conceived and families are formed in a variety of ways, including with the help of sperm donors, in-vitro fertilization, and adoption. Although these options make it easier to form a family, they sometimes complicate the issue of child custody when families separate. A recent court case in Virginia illustrates the kinds of questions that can arise when a couple has a child in untraditional ways.

A Virginia Beach man had a daughter with his girlfriend with the help of in-vitro fertilization. When the couple separated months after their daughter was born, however, the mother prevented the father from seeing the child, even though they had signed legal papers establishing the man as the girl's father. The mother attempted to classify the father as an unmarried sperm donor and invoke the state law that says that unmarried sperm donors have no parental rights. As the case went all the way up to Virginia Supreme Court, the Court finally ruled against her, saying the purpose of the law was not to deny parental rights in cases like this solely because the couple may have been unmarried.

Child custody can be a complicated issue, especially when the parents do not agree. In some situations, there may be conflict regarding which parent gets primary custody. In other cases, visitation rights may be at issue. Sometimes, fathers have the unique challenge of establishing their paternity if a mother attempts to deny them parental rights. Even when a satisfactory agreement is made at the time the separation first takes place, circumstances may change, resulting in the need for a modification of a custody arrangement at a later date.

Parents and courts should always be most concerned about the best interests of the child. With the help of an experienced family law attorney who understands the legal options and arrangements available, parents and judges can work together to reach a suitable custody agreement that meets everyone's needs as much as possible.

Source: WSLS10, "Virginia Supreme Court sides with sperm donor," Larry O'Dell, Jan. 10, 2013

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