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Father responsible for paying child support despite agreement

The birth of any child is typically looked upon as a joyous and celebratory event. This is often especially true for couples that struggle with infertility and finally have success in conceiving a child. Many couples that face infertility eventually turn to procedures such as In vitro fertilization. What happens, however, when the couple is no longer together when the child is born?

A recent ruling by a state appellate court ruled that despite other pending agreements, a husband who gives consent for IVF to proceed is ultimately responsible for paying child support. The lawsuit involved a Nigerian couple living in the United States who had trouble conceiving and was on a waiting list for an egg donor. Prior to a donor being found, the couple separated.

Roughly a year later, a donor was found and the wife sought the husband's consent to proceed with the procedure to which he agreed, but only after signing a written agreement releasing him of his obligation to pay child support.

Twin girls were born in 2003 and the wife sued for child support in 2006. A 2009 court decision sided with the husband citing the written agreement and stating that consent alone does not equate parental obligation. An appellate court, however, overturned the lower court's ruling citing the written agreement between the couple as invalid and that the man's actions had directly and knowingly lead to the creation of a child for which he's therefore obligated to support.

This case is somewhat unique in that the couple was separated, but remained legally married due to their citizenship status. In fact, the husband's consent to allow IVF to proceed hinged on the wife's continued support of his citizenship application.

Couples in Tennessee facing complicated situations related to child support disputes may want to contact a family law attorney who can help navigate the legal systems and petition the court.

Source: The Boston Globe, "Court says father owes support, despite deal," Peter Schworm, Mar. 7, 2012

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