A North Carolina appeals court ruled this week that a judge should comply with the paternity laws of the state in which the child is conceived in deciding whether a sperm donor should pay child support.
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The case concerned Anthony Garrelts, a man from North Carolina who agreed in an “oral contract” to give artificial insemination to Ericka Glenn, who wanted to raise a child with her partner. Glenn and Garrelts met in Virginia, where the insemination and pregnancy took place before the child was born in late 2011. Glenn – the only parent mentioned on the birth certificate – moved the child to California in 2014, where she received public benefits.
In 2019, the Department of Social Services in Warren County, North Carolina went to court to get Garrelts to pay Glenn child support, claiming he was the child’s father.
Garrelt’s attorney argued that a sperm donor is not a parent of a conceived child under Virginia law. But District Court Judge Adam Keith applied North Carolina law, which he said did not appear to offer such an exception. He ordered the Garrelts to pay more than $ 13,600 in child support, going up to $ 50 a month, and child health insurance. Garrelts appealed.
Appeals court judge Darren Jackson wrote the unanimous opinion of a three-judge panel on Tuesday, saying that paternity laws are material rather than procedural matters lived together.
“Compliance with the paternity laws of the state in which the child is conceived not only meets the natural expectations of the parties, but also helps ensure predictable and equitable outcomes,” Jackson wrote, calling the case a “new choice of law issue.” Judges Richard Dietz and Allegra Collins also decided to reverse Keith’s decision. Given the unanimous decision, an appeal to the state Supreme Court would not be automatic.
The appeals court said other unknown facts could affect the lower court’s subsequent judgment. This includes whether the insemination was through a medical facility and a 2012 appearance by Garrelts, Glenn, and their partner in Virginia so the Garrelts can “sign parental rights” for the partner to adopt. The appeals court said the documents received did not reveal the outcome of that hearing.
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