Choosing a Friend as a Sperm Donor

Colorful balloons in spermatozoid shape on blue background - friend as sperm donor concept

An increasing number of people are choosing to become pregnant using donor sperm. Some are lesbian couples. Some are single women who don’t want to wait any longer to meet a partner before becoming parents. And some are opposite-sex couples in which it’s not possible or desirable to conceive using sperm from the male partner.

Intended parents who have chosen to try to conceive with donated sperm need to decide where that genetic contribution will come from. Sperm banks are an option, of course, but a growing contingent of women are considering another possibility: using sperm from a friend.

Why Choose a Friend as a Sperm Donor?

There are a number of reasons individuals consider choosing a friend as a sperm donor, rather than a sperm bank. People may find the process of working with a sperm bank cold and impersonal—the opposite of what they want for the start of their child’s life. Many individuals want to have a personal connection to the person who is contributing half of their child’s DNA.

Lesbian parents may seek to alternate use of the same sperm donor, whethera friend or family member, so that they will each be biologically related to their child. Sperm from a male family member of one partner can be used to impregnate the other, allowing both women to have a genetic connection to their child.

Some women may want their child’s biological father to have some form of presence in the child’s life, which typically does not happen when using donated sperm from a cryobank. Others may simply want their child to inherit traits they value from someone they know and love.

There’s also the reality that for non-white women who want their child to share their ethnicity, sperm bank options may be very limited. The Washington Post recently reported that fewer than two percent of sperm bank donors are Black. Waiting lists are long, requiring time many women may not have to conceive. Vials of sperm from non-white donors are in high demand and are often snapped up quickly. For Black women, or women of other ethnicities, donor sperm from a friend may be the only way to have a child who shares their skin tone, as well as their culture.

In short, there are many reasons that a woman or couple might choose a friend as sperm donor, and many benefits to doing so. However, there are also many precautions that should be taken to protect intended parents, their donors, and most importantly, their children.

Legal Considerations When Using a Known Sperm Donor

If you’ve ever wondered, “Can I use a friend as a sperm donor?” the answer is clearly “yes.” But while sperm donation may seem like a simple gift between friends, there are many legal considerations that must be taken into account. Addressing them doesn’t diminish the gift; it simply protects everyone. The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates sperm donation, but state law governs sperm donation contracts, and the law regarding sperm donation varies from state to state.

It is highly recommended for intended parents and their known sperm donors to have independent legal counsel for the sperm donation process. It is critical that everyone involved understand their rights and responsibilities, and to be on the same page regarding their expectations. For instance, in South Carolina, without the proper legal documentation, a sperm donor may be considered a legal father in some circumstances, and may have a financial support obligation. Assuming that that is not what you and your prospective donor intend, consult an experienced assisted reproductive technology (ART) attorney.

You are not legally required to have a sperm donation contract. However, in states such as South Carolina which has no donor statute to terminate parental rights, lack of a contract is a detrimental choice. That said, you absolutely should have one. A sperm donation contract:

  • Clarifies the legal rights and responsibilities of all parties
  • Creates a basis for legal parentage
  • Provides evidence of the parties’ intent in the event of a legal dispute

Even if you have verbally agreed about how you want to handle the sperm donation process and the aftermath, failing to commit that agreement to writing can lead to a legal nightmare for all involved, including the child or children.

With the prevalence of legal forms on the internet, you may feel that downloading an agreement is sufficient. It’s really not, and we are not just saying that because we are attorneys. You may not see the ambiguities or gaps in a boilerplate contract until it’s too late and a conflict has arisen. Every situation involving assisted reproduction is unique, and you need an attorney who can advise on your state’s laws and your specific circumstances.

Things to Think About When Using a Friend as Sperm Donor

Besides knowing the law, an assisted reproduction attorney can help you to consider questions that may not have occurred to you, including:

  • What, if any, level of involvement do the intended parents and the donor want the donor to have in the child’s life?
  • If the sperm donor friend is married or in a committed relationship, what (if any) role should his spouse or partner have in the contract?
  • Will the donor be compensated for his time/inconvenience in making the sperm donation?
  • Is the donor open to having any of their sperm cryopreserved and used to create subsequent pregnancies for the intended parents?
  • Will the donor have the right of first refusal to any remaining cryopreserved vials of sperm once the recipients have completed their family?
  • If the donor does not reclaim any cryopreserved sperm, what will happen to it? May vials be donated to another couple or to scientific research, or must they be discarded?

With careful planning and clear communication, using a friend as a sperm donor can be a beautiful, enriching experience for all involved. To learn more about sperm donor contracts and other considerations, please contact Brinkley Law Firm, LLC to schedule a consultation.