TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has ordered a lower court to hold a hearing to determine if genetic testing of a sperm donor is in the best interest of the child he allegedly fathered.
The court’s decision followed a May ruling from Shawnee County District Court Judge Mary Mattivi that ordered the sperm donor, William Marotta, to be tested to determine if he is the father of a now 4-year-old girl born to a couple after Marotta donated his sperm.
The Kansas Department for Children and Families has sought to have Marotta declared the father of the child born to Jennifer Schreiner in 2009. The state wants Marotta to be responsible for about $6,000 in public assistance the state provided, as well as future child support.
Marotta has said he contacted Schreiner and her partner at the time after seeing an ad they placed seeking a sperm donor and signed a contract waiving his parental rights and responsibilities.
The state sought genetic testing to determine Marotta’s paternity, and he sued to block it. Mattivi ordered the testing to take place without first conducting a “Ross hearing,” which would determine if genetic testing to determine biological paternity is in the child’s best interest.
The high court said in a ruling released Friday that Kansas law dictates that the best interests of a child must prevail in determining parental rights and obligations.
“Ross held that the shifting of parental roles from a presumed parent to a biological parent could be detrimental to the emotional and physical well-being of any child, thus necessitating a hearing to determine if the shifting is in the best interests of the child,” Chief Justice Lawton Nuss wrote in the majority opinion.
Marotta’s lawyer, Ben Swinnen, told The Topeka Capital-Journal he’s pleased with the high court’s ruling.
“It all turns on whether the state continues to take this kid hostage for its political agenda or we can use common sense,” Swinnen said. “She is in a family where she is growing up happily. Let’s not disturb that.”
Theresa Freed, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Children and Families, said in an emailed statement DCF “will respect the court’s order and comply with the ordered hearing.”
The hearing date hasn’t been scheduled.