Arty was conceived through the generosity of a known donor. A good friend that we know, love, and trust.
Going into the arrangement we felt confident that all parties understood each others needs, boundaries and expectations.
Part of this confidence came from the fact that we had a clear written agreement outlining all the areas that warranted consideration in a situation as complex and emotional as the conception of a child.
Not all aspects of our agreement are legally binding (simply because the relevant laws don’t exist), but they are a statement of mutual understanding and good faith.
The process of creating and reviewing the document itself gave all of us the opportunity to really talk about what we were getting ourselves into, and ensure that we all felt that our roles were clear and our positions were understood.
If you are considering conceiving a child using a known donor, I’d highly recommend going through the process of making a document like ours. Even if you feel your friendship with your donor is unshakeable, and their character is unimpeachable, there’s something about putting things in writing that will make all parties feel that little bit clearer and more secure.
Here are some of the things you should think carefully about when entering into an agreement with a known donor:
- Do you want your donor to disclose any heritable diseases that are present in his family? How much of his medical history do you feel you should know? How much is he willing to disclose?
- Has your donor been tested for sexually transmitted diseases? If not, do you want them to be tested before you begin inseminating with their semen? (As SJ so poetically put it when we were talking about this the other day: “no funky spunk in your junk!”).
- Do you want your donor to undergo fertility testing before you begin inseminating?
- If you do want your donor to undertake medical testing, who should be responsible for the cost of these?
- Will your donor agree to practice safe sex during the period that you are trying to get pregnant?
We were quite specific about laying out expectations regarding logistics in this section.
- How will you communicate about cycles, inseminations, and timing? Emails and texts can be unreliable, so you may want to stipulate that communication about this happens by phone.
- How many times per cycle does the donor agree to provide semen? Setting a maximum can put his mind at ease, and also give you a point at which you have to say “ok, that’s it for this cycle” when you’re getting the anxiety crazies.
- Where will inseminations take place?
- Will your donor agree to limit the amount of sex he has during the time that you’re most likely to be ovulating?
- Whose names will appear on the birth certificate? You will need to consult relevant laws on this one. In our case, our donor had to provide a letter to the Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages declaring that he was a donor and did not wish to claim parental rights before SJ could be listed on Arty’s birth certificate.
This issue is perhaps the most important of any that you’ll discuss with your donor. We believe that knowing where you come from is vitally important to the construction of personal identity, and that having a strong identity is in turn essential to mental health. How parents and donors approach the construction of this identity is variable, but it’s likely that all parties will have strong feelings about it (I actually think there’s a whole series of blog posts to be made about this issue, so I’ll leave off discussing it in detail for now, and just touch on the basics).
- Will the donor be known to the child?
- If so, in what capacity? Will they function as a third parent, a kind of uncle figure, a friend, or acquaintance? What will this mean for how your family functions on a day-to-day basis? Is this something that you need to stipulate the rules for from the outset, or are you happy to go by feel?
- Are there laws in your country or state that govern when the child must be told about their biological heritage?
- Has you donor been a sperm donor before? If so, do you want to know the identity of any children that have resulted from these donations, and are you happy for them to know about yours?
- Who has day-to-day and long-term responsibility for the child? Will the donor have a role here?
- Who is responsible for naming the child, making decisions as to their education, social and religious affiliation, medical treatment, etc.?
- Does the donor have any parental authority or responsibility?
- Where will the child live? Will the donor have some custodial rights, or will your child live solely with you?
Financial responsibility and inheritance
- Who is responsible for financially supporting the child? Your donor may feel safer if you include a specific clause absolving them of any responsibility to pay child support etc.
- Does the child have any rights to the donor’s estate or superannuation upon his death? This is particularly important to consider if your donor is partnered or has other children. You may need to include a clause along the lines of: “The parties acknowledge and agree that the child or children will not be a child or children of [donor] for the purposes of interpretation of the Wills Act 1997, the Administration and Probate Act 1958, laws governing superannuation or any other current or subsequent legislation relating to Wills, Estates, Inheritance and Superannuation.”
Changes to the agreement and dispute resolution
- You may wish to include a clause in the agreement that allows for changes to be made under certain circumstances – i.e. if the best interests of the child dictate that some aspect of your agreement needs to be altered.
- It is also wise to stipulate a process for dispute resolution within the agreement itself. Chances are, if you do find yourself in a situation where you’re having conflict about any of it, emotions will be running high, so having a predetermined process will help. Ours goes something along the lines of: discussion, then discussion with mediation, then Family Court of Australia. Hopefully it won’t ever come to that, but again, it’s reassuring to know what we’d do if it were to.
Don’t think of this as an exhaustive list, but rather as a series of discussion points for you to start from. There will be things that are relevant to one family’s situation, that aren’t to another’s. The point of the exercise is to make sure that all parties are going into this big thing with their eyes open, having considered all of the relevant variables.
Making a human, and being responsible for their wellbeing, is a big deal. You want to feel like you’re doing everything you can from the outset to avoid conflict, or instability in their future, as well as your own.