Adoption or surrogacy? Legal issues for gay dads
Consider the situation: You’re a single gay man who hasn’t had a long-term relationship in a while. A good lesbian friend, or even just a nice lesbian you know casually, asks you to donate sperm for her child. She’s open to you having a relationship with that child, but you know the relationship will not be the same as if you were having the child with your partner. What do you do? Go for the sure thing, or wait till Mr. Right (and he would also have to be Mr. I Want to Be A Dad) comes along?
For some, the answer is pretty cut and dry. Of course, wait for the long-term relationship. In fact, you might even be insulted that I’m posing such an absurd idea. After all, we’ve come so far, and are able to have our own families now, so why give that up?
But it is an issue - one that is so prevalent that The New York Times Magazine has recently reported on it in a story called "Gay Donor or Gay Dad?"
The Times says that there are actually many reasons why a gay man might choose to go this route to have a kid. "In part, the answer has to do with the fact that a gay man’s options are already somewhat limited," the magazine reports. "Though gay men can and increasingly do become parents through adoption or by using surrogates, pursuing those avenues can be difficult. Many (though not all) states allow ’single people’ to adopt, but in practice some make it tough for gay men to do so. Surrogacy can be wildly expensive, easily costing $100,000 or more for multiple egg harvests, in vitro fertilization and the surrogate mother’s expenses."
And then there is the fact, the magazine says, that some gay men don’t exactly relish the idea of becoming a single parent. And really, who can blame them? It’s hard enough trying to raise a kid even when you do have a partner helping you out.
But donating sperm is not a simple process, at least not if you want to be in the child’s life. You have to figure out what relationship you want to the child (and you must be prepared not to get all your terms met), and the mothers have to figure out what they are willing to "give," so to speak. This is a case where an oral agreement simply won’t do. It’s too tempting to renege, because it’s such an emotionally charged situation.
"Frequently, gay men and women entering into co-parenting arrangements draft some kind of document that specifies participants’ roles and responsibilities - the father’s visitation schedule, how many kids everyone plans to have together, what happens if one of the partners moves, dies or becomes involved with a new partner," The Times says. "These homemade, sometimes expensively drafted documents can run as long as 30 pages." It probably goes without saying, but it’s best to have a lawyer involved at this stage, though, as The Times noted, even documents crafted by a lawyer don’t have much legal weight.
But even with a lawyer, you have to have something else: trust. A lawyer interviewed by The Times said that that was extremely important "because this relationship is going to be so tested in so many ways. If you can’t talk through every single, possible issue, this is not going to work. You’ve got to be able to bring your fears to them and vice versa." So if you see little red flags popping up - especially at the early stage - it’s better to act on them and tell the mothers no then regret your decision later.
But if it does work out, it can be a very good thing, particularly for the child. The Times, talking about one particularly complicated family, said, "though the relationships may seem confusing to outsiders, there is certainly no lack of people in their lives who care about [these kids] - something many ’straight’ families can’t claim."