BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD | The Ohio Court of Appeals has ruled that a gay man who donated sperm to a lesbian couple so they could conceive a child and subsequently sought a declaration of paternity was obligated to pay for support of the child.
The court held that the failure of the man, Robert Curtis, to appeal the original paternity determination (which, after all, he sought) barred his attempt six years later to resist a child support order.
Nearly seven years after child’s birth, man who insisted on paternity finding dunned
According to Judge Carla Moore’s December 8 opinion, domestic partners Laura Prince and Vicki Griffin asked Curtis, who is gay and was a friend at the time, to donate sperm so they could conceive a child. After initially resisting, he agreed, and a child conceived with his sperm, identified in court records as M.P., was born to Prince in July 2002. Curtis, Prince, and Griffin had signed a written agreement providing that his name would not appear on the birth certificate and he would not be designated as the father, but that he could babysit the child from time to time.
Shortly after the child’s birth, however, Curtis instituted an administrative proceeding before the Summit County Child Support Enforcement Agency to determine his paternity. On November 27, 2002, an administrative paternity determination that he was the father was issued. Several months later, the agency ordered Curtis to provide child support of $282.56 per month, but he successfully appealed to a trial court, which found that Prince had waived such support. That court’s records show Curtis sought an order for parenting time with M.P., but that he was told he would have to file a separate motion on that question. He never did so.
Curtis subsequently moved from Ohio to Florida, where he currently resides. Prince, meanwhile, evidently changed her mind about needing child support for M.P., as the Summit County agency filed an administrative action seeking child support on her behalf in December 2008. A magistrate who heard the case in April 2009, with both Curtis and Prince appearing without attorneys, rejected Curtis’ argument that as a sperm donor for alternative insemination, he should not be held liable for child support. He was ordered to pay $533.22 a month.
Curtis, at this point, decided he needed a lawyer, with whose help he went to a trial court, which sustained his objection to the support order. The Summit County child agency appealed.
The court of appeals agreed with the agency’s argument that the trial court abused its discretion in its finding that Prince and Curtis had engaged in “artificial insemination,” given the official determination of Curtis’ paternity. Judge Moore pointed out that an administrative determination not appealed stands as a final judgment on the merits. His appeal of the 2003 child support order, in contrast, was never judicially decided, since Prince had then waived her right to support.
“Any challenge regarding artificial insemination should have been raised at that time,” wrote Moore. Having failed to do that in 2003 precluded him, six years later, from mounting that defense against a child support claim.
The Ohio court’s order that he pay child support is enforceable in Florida.
Summit County prosecuting attorneys Sherri Bevan Walsh and Lisa M. Vitale represented the child support agency and Prince, with private attorney Sarah Gabinet representing Curtis on the appeal.