A Canadian court will soon decide if a sperm donor, who claims that he never intended to parent, will be required to retroactively pay child support for two children born from his donation which occurred nearly 20 years ago. Donor Michael Ranson’s attorneys are aiming to dismiss the case in light of Ontario’s new law, Bill 28, otherwise known as the All Families are Equal Act, ratified on Jan. 1, 2017. The new law serves to redefine family law in areas such as surrogacy and egg and sperm donations as assisted reproductive technology becomes more prevalent.
The court must determine if Ranson’s contact with and financial gifts to the children render him a father, rather than a donor. Plaintiff Amie Cullimore believes his behavior did amount to fatherly actions.
“My relationship with the children is that of an uncle or friend, not that of a parent,” Ranson noted in his affidavit.
In the National Post, reporter Ashley Csandady cited Ranson’s attorneys Kelly Jordan and Shirley Levitan, stating, “It’s common in sperm donation cases for the man to stay tangentially involved in the offspring’s lives. In some fertility circles, it’s jokingly referred to as a ‘spuncle.’”
Calling himself a “benevolent uncle” to the children, Ranson generously deposited $20,000 into a savings account and assisted in tuition costs for private schools.
According to Cullimore, “They [children] called him dad and always referred to him as their father.”
The parties also signed a written agreement giving Cullimore complete custody and financial responsibility for her children. Additionally, the sperm donation took place at a California fertility clinic; under California law, Ranson would not be considered a father. But this can be rebutted if Cullimore’s attorneys convince the court that Ranson indeed acted like a father over the years.
Ranson’s attorneys write that Bill 28, “…was designed, in part, to remedy exactly the kind of situation as the case at bar — where a gamete donor is sued for child support, let alone almost 20 years after the donation.” They also added, “If spending two weeks a year with the children and giving gratuitous monetary gifts is all that is required for someone to be endowed with parental rights and responsibilities, there is something alarmingly amiss.”