Lesbian Couple's Custody Battle with Sperm Donor Could Set Legal Precedent

A lesbian couple from Salem County are locked in a custody battle over their son after a sperm dono...


A lesbian couple from Salem County are locked in a custody battle over their son after a sperm donor sued them for parenting time.


The outcome of their case, according to their attorney and a Rutgers law professor, might change the status of reproductive rights for couples around New Jersey who conceive by artificial means.

Sheena and Tiara Yates of Pennsville had a son who was conceived by at-home artificial insemination -- known colloquially as alternative insemination -- in June 2013 under the counsel of a physician. The couple already had a toddler, also conceived by artificial insemination from a different donor, and had drawn up contracts in which both men relinquished their legal paternity.


It looked for a while as though everything had gone smoothly. In the same five-month span between December 2013 and April 2014, however, both sperm donors came forward and filed for visiting rights with each child.

State law addressing artificial insemination and domestic issues, as the Yateses discovered, says that only when the insemination process is carried out under the direct supervision of a physician, can the non-biological parent be legally considered the natural parent of the child. The law also protects the donor from having any "rights or duties stemming from the conception of the child."

The Yates family lost the first custody case, and that donor now has visitation time with the older child -- a court ruling the couple decided not to dispute. The same thing happened with the second suit in September after a Salem County Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the donor, Shawn Sorrell. His parenting time begins with a few hours each weekend in addition to paying $83 a week in child support.

"Emotionally it's very hard for us," said Sheena Yates. "All we want is a family, and we can't have kids without an outside party. It's a lot for us to have to deal with. It's not just hard on us, it's hard on the kids, too."

The Yateses asked that their children's names not be revealed to protect their privacy.

Continue reading at NJ.com

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