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Obligations: Child Support Essay

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Updated: May 7th, 2022

Introduction

Within the past few years the institution of marriage as well as the means by which children are conceived has entered into a variety of different iterations with the growing social acceptance for same sex couples as well as the popularization of in vitro fertilization (Peplau & Fingerhut, 2007). Unfortunately, while such changes have occurred within society at the present, current laws and policies have yet to sufficiently catch up (Peplau & Fingerhut, 2007). At the present, child support obligations as well as custody of the child are firmly embedded within the context of a biological and legal relationship and it is in only a few select cases where this is overturned.

Case Examples

For example, in the case of biological sperm/egg donors for same sex couples or for couples that are having problems having children on their own it is usually the case that the donor of the egg/sperm waves all legal rights they have to the child (Greene, 2005). This also happens to work both ways wherein the donor is not held liable towards providing child support payments in lieu of being the biological parent. What this particular law also happens to imply but does not explicitly state outright is that obligation can only be implemented if the following factors have been met:

  1. The parent/donor acknowledges the child as hers/his (Greene, 2005)
  2. They do not waive the right to have a legal obligation in the case of their “donation”
  3. The act of conception was entered into with the full awareness of both parties regarding their respective roles (Greene, 2005)

The last statement is particularly important when taking into consideration child support obligations in cases where in vitro fertilization and other artificial methods were utilized. For example, in the SJC vs. Middlesex county sperm bank case within England, a woman tried to get child support payments from her ex-husband through the use of frozen embryos that were stored within a fertility clinic within Middlesex county. While the resulting children from the embryos would biologically belong to both the father and mother, the court ruled that the man in this particular case cannot be forced to become a father against his wishes even if he had previously signed off the rights to the embryos to his ex-wife. A similar case was seen in Jo vs. Coleman (2008) within the Arlington district court, this particular case involved famed Mr. Universe contestant Ronnie Coleman performed sperm donation to a woman he met several years prior. In this instance, though the sperm donor was known and there was some degree of social contact between Coleman and the children in question, the court ruled in favor of Coleman stating that since they utilized a sperm donation facility in order to conduct the donation, Coleman is not legally obligated to be forced into paying child support payments. One of the latest instances that creates the initial precedent for arguing against the biological and legal relationship requirement can be seen in the case of Scollar vs. Altman 2012 which was held in a Family Court within New York. In this instance the judge actually sided against the child’s biological mother (Brook Altman) in favor of the child’s adoptive mother (Allison Scollar). The main reasoning behind such a decision was based on the judge’s ruling stating that “under law, the biology of the child in question was irrelevant, despite Altman being the biological parent this does not mean she gets automatic priority over the child; rather in this particular case the best interests of the child are paramount over a biological connection”. In this instance, it was deemed that Scollar was a more responsible parent who was truly looking out for the interests of the child as compared to the girl’s biological mother who had proven herself to be an unfit parent. From these three examples it can be seen that child support obligations should not be based on a biological relationship with a child, rather, it extends more into the legal relationship an adult has with a child. It should be noted though that Greene (2005) indicates that in cases where same sex couples exist a clear legal or biological relation must be established during the relationship (i.e. marriage or sperm donation to create the child) before any form of child support obligation can be enacted. If such factors were not established beforehand it is usually the case that there is no obligation on the other partner. Based on this particular example, it can be seen that a sufficient legal obligation must be established for child support obligations to be enacted.

Conclusion

Overall, based on the case examples, judicial rulings and current academic literature on the subject, it can be stated that child support obligations should focus more on legal obligation as established through binding agreements willfully entered into by both parties since aspects related to the biological or social relationships have been shown by this paper as being insufficient given the changing nature of marriage and procreation.

Reference List

Greene, J. (2005). Divorcing Marriage from Procreation. Yale Law Journal, 114(8), 1989-1996.

Peplau, L., & Fingerhut, A. W. (2007). The Close Relationships of Lesbians and Gay Men. Annual Review Of Psychology, 58(1), 405-424.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "Obligations: Child Support." May 7, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/obligations-child-support/.

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