This question Is it true that men are forced to pay child support for children they didn't consent to have? and some related popped up on my side bar and prompted a thought experiment.

Suppose a prospective parent stole cells from an unwilling donor and used them to conceive a child. Typically the cells would be eggs or sperm but these could be created by IVG (in vitro gametogenisis).

Is the child entitled to support from the genetic parent (who is actually a victim of theft)?

Assume no sex was involved. The cells were taken without permission. Maybe in secret during a medical procedure or stolen from a lab where they were intended for use in a different medical procedure.

I would have assumed not but the rules are currently only different for sperm and egg donation as part of an "statutorily authorized arrangement" with a willing donor (according to this answer).

I guess this would have to be determined by a test-case in a court. But presumably the other biological parent would have to take full responsibility in this case.

This is not the main question but if you want to make it even more interesting.

While these technologies are not viable yet they are all being worked on.

In this case I would presume those deliberately participating in the creation of the child to take full responsibility. This then raises the odd question of a lab team or corporation possibly being assigned the status of parents and thus made liable for child support.

  • 2
    The answer may vary between jurisdictions; please specify which one you want to ask about. Apr 30, 2022 at 16:14

2 Answers 2


The legal responsibility to support a child arises from "parentage" and not "genetic relatedness", therefore one of two identical twins will not be assigned such responsibility simply because of genetic relatedness. However, genetic facts can enter into a legal proceeding for support, and can be evidence to establish parentage. In the US, the rules for determining parentage are generally established by the Uniform Parentage Act, instantiated for instance in Washington state RCW Chapter 26.26A. RCW 26.26A.100 spells out the full set of rules:

A parent-child relationship is established between an individual and a child if:

(1) The individual gives birth to the child, except as otherwise provided in RCW 26.26A.700 through 26.26A.785;

(2) There is a presumption under RCW 26.26A.115 of the individual's parentage of the child, unless the presumption is overcome in a judicial proceeding or a valid denial of parentage is made under RCW 26.26A.200 through 26.26A.265;

(3) The individual is adjudicated a parent of the child under RCW 26.26A.400 through 26.26A.515;

(4) The individual adopts the child;

(5) The individual acknowledges parentage of the child under RCW 26.26A.200 through 26.26A.265, unless the acknowledgment is rescinded under RCW 26.26A.235 or successfully challenged under RCW 26.26A.200 through 26.26A.265 or 26.26A.400 through 26.26A.515;

(6) The individual's parentage of the child is established under RCW 26.26A.600 through 26.26A.635; or

(7) The individual's parentage of the child is established under RCW 26.26A.705 through 26.26A.730.

§§300-355 govern the use of genetic tests in determining parentage, according to which genetic test results can be evidence of parentage, but §§600 ff specifically address assisted reproduction and surrogacy agreements – RCW 26.26A.610 for example specifically assigns "parentage" to a person who consents to assisted reproduction by a woman with the intent to be a parent of a child, and under §605, a donor is not a parent of a child conceived by assisted reproduction.

  • The twins case is interesting. If you cannot prove conclusively which one of them is the parent what happens? Apr 30, 2022 at 23:14
  • Since this is a civil matter, you don't have to prove conclusively, you just have to prove what is most likely. There are (ahem) imaginable scenarios where a realistic assessment is that there is a 50-50 probability that it is A or that it is B. The plaintiff fails if the fact-finder concluded that here is a 50% probability that it was A. The specific instruction says "the proposition on which that party has the burden of proof is more probably true than not true".
    – user6726
    May 1, 2022 at 0:16
  • Worth noting that some presumptions can be overcome with genetic evidence and others cannot. SCOTUS has held that "the other man" having an affair with a married woman does not have to be given standing to prove paternity, although the mother, the mother's husband, and the child via a guardian, all have standing to do so.
    – ohwilleke
    May 2, 2022 at 21:36


Genetics has little to do with it, the legal definition of parenthood is relevant.

  • If a woman is married or lives in a marriage-like situation with a male person, then that male is presumably the father, no matter what genetic material is used. To overcome this, a different father has to be named - and then possibly proven (see below).
  • If a woman gets a sperm donation from a sperm bank, the genetic father can't have parenthood rights (or obligations for the matter!). In fact, in many countries, the kids have no right to know who that person is - or the father to know if he has genetic children.
  • In case the woman has no sperm donation but also no marriage or similar automatic father, then some countries' laws demand to have a father or possible father named. "Unknown" is possible, but often quite discouraged because the states want to have someone paying for child support. Only if one or more fathers can be named, do genetics come into play: to establish fatherhood in such a situation, genetic testing can be conducted to establish it and put the father on the hook for child support. However, since no sex is involved, that puts us back to It's a sperm donation where there legally is no father.
  • Can you get child support from a sperm donor? No, +1.
    – Mazura
    May 1, 2022 at 4:58

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