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  • Janene Oleaga, Esq.

What's some sperm between friends?

Sperm Donation: What You Need to Know

While appearing as a guest on SiriusXM's Pop Culture Spotlight with Jessica Shaw, Ginnifer Goodwin revealed she recently offered her husband's sperm to her best friend.


Although Ginnifer's best friend declined the offer, Ginnifer insisted her motivation was to help her friend procreate and become a single mother by choice.


As magnanimous as Ginnifer's offer may be, there are a number of details to be addressed before participating in a sperm donation arrangement. Had Ginnifer's friend accepted her offer, and of course if Josh Dallas agreed, they would need to address a number of details, including entering into a legally enforceable sperm donation agreement, before moving forward with the contemplated sperm donation.

If your family building journey takes you the gamete donation route, whether egg donation or sperm donation, it is common to evaluate your closest friends as potential donors. While these scenarios are often nothing short of extraordinary, there are a number of details to address before moving forward.


Sperm Donation is regulated by the FDA. Sperm Donation Contracts are governed by state law.


Requirements surrounding the legalities of sperm donation vary from state to state. When working with a known sperm donor, an assisted reproduction attorney should be consulted early on in the process. For example, some states require physician oversight for the insemination procedure, while other states permit at-home insemination. Some states have clear laws governing assisted reproductive technology, and other states are legislatively silent on the topic.


Yes, you need a Sperm Donation Contract.


No, a wink and a nod does not suffice.


There are so many stories out there about a friend of a friend who didn't sign a contract and "everything was fine" and "they are best friends!" As a family formation lawyer, the only time I hear about sperm donations between friends is when they don't go as planned, or a party involved changes their mind. Now what?


You can watch a sperm donation between friends go horribly wrong, in the HBO Documentary: Nuclear Family. In this case, the parties did not enter into a written agreement of any kind regarding the sperm donation. Although it seemed all parties agreed the sperm donor would have no legal parentage to any resulting child, intentions were not formally memorialized. Growing closer to his genetic but not legal daughter, the sperm donor eventually changed his mind and sued the recipient parents for legal parentage and joint custody.


Sperm Donation Contracts:

  • protect the rights of all parties involved;

  • clearly set forth obligations of each party;

  • establish a basis for legal parentage; and

  • provide evidence of the parties' intent.

Failing to enter into a legally binding agreement drafted by an assisted reproduction attorney can have catastrophic consequences.


No, you cannot print a template Sperm Donation Contract from the Internet.


Just no. Want to see what can happen if you print a sperm donation contract from the internet and have a baby with your friend's sperm? Read the opinion of the Supreme Court of Idaho in Gatsby v. Gatsby.


Lawyers who specialize in assisted reproduction in your state are best suited to answer questions specific to your sperm donation arrangement. Each known donor arrangement is unique, and should be treated as such.


Yes, the recipient parent(s) on one hand, and the donor and their partner on the other hand, should have legal counsel.


While not required in all states, it is advisable that both the recipient parent(s) and the sperm donor have the benefit of independent counsel licensed in the appropriate jurisdiction when entering into a sperm donation agreement. Having assisted reproduction attorneys involved to represent the interests of each side can provide protection against future claims of fraud or duress.


What if your sperm donor is married? What if your sperm donor isn't married, but has a committed partner? The spouse or partner of a sperm donor should be included in the contracting process and execution of the final agreement. What if your friend, the donor, agrees to abide by certain conditions regarding sexual activity, travel, and future contact, but their partner doesn't? You may not be as protected as you intend to be by including the donor but not his partner.


No, your friend the donor is not a parent.


The benefit of entering into a legally enforceable sperm donation agreement is that you establish a basis for the legal parentage of the recipient parent(s). Some couples, especially lesbian couples, will have to complete additional steps to secure their legal parentage of any resulting child. See my webinar with connecting rainbows about Judgments of Parentage vs. Second Parent Adoptions. Your sperm donation agreement should set forth your plans for pursuing legal parentage and include expectations surrounding the donor's involvement in the process, if necessary.


Yes, Address Future Contact and Confidentiality in Your Contract


One of the most important issues to address during drafting is the expectations of all parties post-birth. How involved with the resulting child(ren) will the donor be? If you are friends, it is likely the donor will be involved with any resulting child on some level. Will the donor act as a sort of uncle to the child(ren) or will he be a distant acquaintance? Be sure your expectations align. Here are some other questions to cover:

  1. What level of involvement will the donor expect? What level of involvement are the recipient parents comfortable with? What will future contact look like among the donor and the intended parents?

  2. Does the donor expect to be compensated for his inconvenience in donating sperm?

  3. Does the donor want the option of having first right of refusal to any remaining vials of cryopreserved sperm once the recipient parent(s)' family is complete? If not, what will happen to these vials of sperm? Will they be discarded? Donated to science? Donated to another couple?

Ensuring all parties involved in a known donation arrangement are on the same page is essential to a successful arrangement.


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