Gay sperm donor told to pay for children by CSA

Family Law|October 29th 2012

A gay man who twice donated sperm to help a lesbian couple have children has been ordered by the Child Support Agency (CSA) to pay maintenance.

Mark Langridge, from Essex, has been told to pay £26 per week towards the upbringing of two girls, both born more than a decade ago, even though he is not named on either birth certificate.

Mr Langridge made the first of two donation in 1998, after he and his partner Shaun became friends with a lesbian couple who wanted to have children. The second donation followed in 2000, and on both occasions the couple was promised that he would not be named on the birth certificate. He was also assured that the lesbian couple were financially secure and would require no money from him.

Mr Langridge, who has been with his partner 16 years and in a civil partnership with him for five, had some contact with the family until 2004 but then lost touch.

The lesbian couple, who never became civil partners, split up, and the biological mother left with the children later claimed benefits. Mr Langridge claims she threatened to reveal his identity to the CSA and earlier this year, he received a letter from the agency demanding money.

He told the Guardian: “I have told the CSA what happened but it has fallen on deaf ears. As far it is concerned, if I’m the biological father I have to pay – irrespective of the circumstances.”

The mother’s former partner continues to visit the children but is not regarded as having any financial responsibility by the CSA.

The law on sperm donation and paternity was changed in April 2009. Now, under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, anyone who donates to a couple in a civil partnership or via a licensed clinic is not considered the legal father. In the former case, under section 42 of the Act, the other partner in the partnership is considered the legal parent of the child provided they consent.

However, Mr Langridge’s donation was made before this law came into force and via a private arrangement.

Mr Langridge earns a low income and says he cannot afford the £26 per week ordered – and a legal challenge to the order is even further beyond his means. He has called on the government to change the law:

“The law was changed because it was unfair, but it is still considered OK for men caught in my position to be penalised. Our only crime was agreeing to do someone a good turn. It is absurd that I’m being chased for the money while the children’s other mother makes no contribution to their upkeep. How can that be right in modern Britain in which we supposedly have equality?”

This case is an excellent illustration of the way in which the rigid application of rules can sometimes clash loudly with the peculiarities and complexities of a situation. Yes, from a legal and biological point of view, there is no doubt that Mr Langridge is the father but what about the other mother in the lesbian couple? Legalities aside, it would seem wholly fair that she bear some of the financial responsibility for two girls, who were, after all, born because of the family unit she had created with their mother.

Sometimes, it does seems as though parents are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Just last week we reported on the case of a girl refused military compensation after her father was killed in action because her parents were not married. And yet, Mr Langridge, who was perhaps as far from being married to the children’s mother as it is possible to be, still has to pay up.

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  1. DT says:

    Very interesting indeed. I’m still digesting the facts and moral dilemmas in this one.
    I agree with you – the other mum should have to make some financial contribution; most definitely.
    The law was presumably changed to make it more equitable however, Mr L is seeking retrospective consideration from a law that was not in place when he donated – that cannot be so.
    I’m always very uncomfortable about ‘private’ agreements – they seem like an accident waiting to happen. They rely upon everything going smoothly and life isn’t like that. I assume Mr L didn’t seek legal advice before donating.

  2. JamesB says:

    Not a lot of money.

  3. JamesB says:

    I am interested in the fireman who I heard was being stung in similar circumstances by £500 per month. Any update or news on him please?

  4. JamesB says:

    The moral is, if you are going to do this, do for a couple in a civil partnership or through a licensed center.
    A spokesman for the CSA confirmed the situation. “The law covering unlicensed sperm donation has always been very clear. Only anonymous sperm donors, at licensed centres, are exempt from being treated as the legal father of a child born as a result of their donation.
    “This has never applied to men who donate sperm as part of a personal arrangement. Unless the child is legally adopted, both biological parents are financially responsible for their child by law, regardless of whether both their names are entered on to the birth certificate.”
    Natalie Gamble, founder of Natalie Gamble Associates, the UK’s foremost experts on fertility law, says the law in this area changed a few years ago.
    “Had the donation taken place after April 2009, or through a clinic, the law would have viewed his responsibility very differently. In that case he would not be deemed the father, provided the consenting couple to which he was making the donation were in a civil partnership, or his donation to the couple was through a licensed clinic. The fact that it was made on a private basis before that date means the law is very clear. He is considered the father.” (from the below url).
    I just looked into as this is an important issue for many people, although I don’t intend to, I know many gay people.

  5. JamesB says:

    Question : Are NRP adopted parents liable to the csa?

  6. Jane Stanley says:

    Generosity eh? What the hell is the mother doing, giving the sperm donor’s name to the CSA? What the hell is the other mother doing, abandoning financial responsibility for her kids? The donor should fight this all the way.

    • Marilyn Stowe says:

      Could I mention that it is possible as the biological mother was in receipt of benefits, the CSA could have been pursuing the father because she had no choice at the time but to advise them who the father is or have her benefits cut? This is no longer the case but could have applied at the time and it is also entirely possible the other “mother” is providing for the children as well.

  7. JamesB says:

    Ok, I just got confused with all the talk of dna tests recently. My wedding date set for end of December today, I am very happy about that despite a very acrimonious divorce and ending to my 1st marriage 8 years ago.

  8. JamesB says:

    So, if not willing to do civil partnership the liability could go via adoption also in addition to the other options (civil partnership or registered centre).

  9. Observer says:

    Nothing all that new here. 1000s of men are already paying for the privilege of having been duped into marriage and then abused as sperm donors before being kicked to the curb.
    It’s a wonderful life indeed.

  10. JamesB says:

    Well, news is my fiance doesn’t have to marry me to get a passport anymore, so I am off the hook there for a while at least, phew. Especially since Judges can only go to a pre-nup once ‘needs’ have been met. Which would invalidate any prenup of mine on divorce and see the lady upon divorce cleaning me out based on her and the child’s needs. Isn’t that right Marilyn? Their needs are paramount? The law needs changing I think. Anyway, good news about my partner’s passport. G x.

  11. Garry Clarkson says:

    Exactly the same thing happens in Shared Residency cases. If the mother (wither biological or ‘other’) is on benefits the CSA chase the father. If the child is resident with the father he still pays the CSA. an ‘equality’ not conferred on the mother by virtue of gender. This is why many mothers are now on holiday with their children whilst the separated father is starving at home (as he’s paid for the holiday for 2 other people and can’t afford it himself).

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