At Heart of Odd Custody Ruling: a Turkey Baster

Joyce Bruce said because they never had sex, she should be sole parent
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 22, 2015 11:21 AM CDT
Court: 'Turkey Baster' Mom Must Let Child's Dad Visit
A blow to insemination-by-baster was delivered by the Virginia Court of Appeals.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – In Joyce Bruce's mind, Robert Boardwine was just an old friend who helpfully agreed to donate sperm so she could have a child—no parental rights attached. To Boardwine, however, and now according to a Virginia court, he's entitled to see his young son, CNN reports. The Virginia Court of Appeals' decision yesterday came down to semantics: In its judgment, the use of a turkey baster, which how Bruce inseminated herself with Boardwine's sperm in 2010, isn't enough to keep him out of the picture as the dad, per a Virginia reproduction statute, the Washington Post reports. Bruce contended that because the couple never had sex and instead used "noncoital reproductive technology," she was entitled to sole parenthood, per CNN.

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The court disagreed, writing in its decision: "The plain meaning of the term 'medical technology' does not encompass a kitchen implement such as a turkey baster." After making the conception plan, the couple's friendship started going south in October 2010 (a few months into the pregnancy) when they disagreed over baby names. She didn't call him when the baby was born, but when he found out, he started visiting. Bruce says those visits were "strained," however, and she asked him to stop coming, which is when he sued for parental rights. Boardwine concedes the two agreed Bruce would be the main parent, but he says they also agreed he could see the child as he pleased—all conditions they never agreed to in writing. The court awarded him joint legal custody and visitation. (A twist in a similar case: A Kansas sperm donor was forced to pay child support.)

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