I first made mention of this case when it appeared aa couple of months ago on the television news media circuit.
When the news report first hit the airwaves, there were several gray areas in the story, such as if the mother of the children knew the sperm donor and why the sperm donor was allowed to see the children at all. As a Wayne County circuit court hearing date looms closer more information is becoming available.
Reporter, AAJ Trager of Pride Source, brings readers up to speed with Defendant, Annette Burgan. A mother of three children, Burgan was in a same-sex relationship when she and her partner decided to have children.
Burgan and her former partner originally lived in California. They decided to use the sperm donor bank, Zygen Laboratories, which was also located in California. Burgan now lives in Michigan and the sperm donor is suing her for parental rights.
Trager writes, “Burgan’s first child was born in 2004, with twins following in 2007, all conceived through in vitro fertilization,…” Trager continues, “In 2001 Burgan joined an online community aimed at connecting LGBT people together to have children. A Los Angeles gay man – Stacey Teruya, 60 – answered her ad, discussing that he’d like to provide the sperm for Burgan and initially stated that he would not pursue a role as the child(ren)’s father and would serve solely as the donor.”
Well, that obviously changed quite dramatically.
Although papers were signed in California, the sperm donor feels as if he has some legal leverage since the family now lives in Michigan. Teruya is counting on the fact that he has some legal wiggle room to gain custody.
I always advise my clients to be prudent when using sperm donors. If a woman does not want the donor involved in the life of the child then she must keep him at arm’s length, with no social meetings. Having the donor and child meet turn a solid line into a blurred one.
Trager reports, “Over the course of the children’s lives, Teruya has come to visit a couple of times a year and has gotten to know them. However, after allegations of inappropriate sexual misconduct and an investigation by Child Protective Services surfaced, Burgan decided to end Teruya’s visiting rights to the children. As a result, Teruya is now seeking custody of the three children.”
In earlier reports, Teruya’s attorney stated that Child Protective Services dropped the investigation.
Burgan’s attorney, Racine Miller, told the reporter, “When women go to apply for state aid, and when social services asks them how the child came into being, if the answer is ‘assisted reproductive technology’ they do not pursue child support against the sperm donor.”
Miller is holding onto this argument stating that Teruya never had the “obligation of child support or the benefit of parenting time.” She goes on to say that people need to sign an acknowledgment of parentage, signed the birth certificate or have an order of affiliation.
Teruya did none of the above.
Instead, a release was signed by both Burgan and Teruya at the California laboratory which released him from any paternity.
However, Teruya has a different opinion.
“….in his [Teruya] preliminary testimony, Burgan initially agreed upon co-parenting rights,” Trager writes.
Another argument in Miller’s courtroom arsenal is the Uniform Parentage Act. It has not been ratified in Michigan, and because of this, should navigate the judge to her legal viewpoint. To date, there are no laws in the State of Michigan which reflect egg or sperm donors.
“The Uniform Parentage Act establishes standards and rules for genetic testing, a process to establish paternity through adjudication and a comprehensive scheme for establishing paternity through voluntary acknowledgement,” Trager reports. “Under these processes, a sperm donor could not be entitled to custody or paternal rights.”
According to the reporter, a total of seven states have implemented a form of this California law.
With this and other legal angles, Miller officially filed a “motion to dismiss due to a lack of standing.”
Teruya’s attorney, Christopher Drouillard intends to argue that although a signed release of parentage was issued at Zygen Laboratories, it does not transfer in the same vein to Michigan.
Trager points out that the state currently has no statute for the rights of a sperm donor.
“Because the children are born out of wedlock, Teruya has the state right to file for paternity,” he reports, adding how Drouillard will utilize the Michigan Paternity Act as a foundational argument. As of January 13th, a Uniform Child Support Order has been entered into.
An appeal has been filed as of March 13, 2015. Source: Trager, AJ. “Lesbian Fights For Custody Rights Of Children.” Pridesource. Pride Source Media Group, LLC., 15 Jan. 2015. Web. 16 Mar. 2015. <http://www.pridesource.com/article.html?article=69779>.