The Latest Supreme Court Decision on Parenthood

Libby Kane

Imagine: Your child is conceived via artificial insemination and delivered safely … after your husband’s death.

Your primary concern might be your fatherless child, or the sadness of your husband’s death. But the government has other concerns—namely, whether you get his Social Security survivors benefits for the child.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Supreme Court recently ruled no, you don’t.

In the case of twins born in Florida 18 months after their father died of esophageal cancer, the court relied on state inheritance laws to make their decision.

Florida doesn’t consider children born after a father’s death to be his heirs, and the father in question only provided for his existing children (one with the mother of the twins and two from a previous relationship) in his will.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg acknowledged that the verdict might have been different had the family resided in another state with different inheritance laws.

We’ve written before about the complicated issues surrounding artificial insemination (only exacerbated by the use of sperm donors), so we’ll add this one to the list. According to the Supreme Court, Social Security survivors insurance benefits aren’t for “‘needy persons’ in general, but for the more specific purpose of alleviating a family’s hardship upon a breadwinner’s death.”

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  • Michelle

    I think the Supreme Court was correct with their decision. This woman willingly had the twins 18 months after, so why should get get benefits?

    • terrilynnmerritts

      Because it was the husband’s sperm and he was the children’s father. 

  • ImpulseSave

    This is so fascinating! I think I agree with the court’s decision. As far as the father knew, those children were not going to be born. It is a difficult choice, but I agree – the children should not be considered heirs.

    • terrilynnmerritts

      They were his children biologically. When he had his sperm frozen, it was with the presumption that they were going to have babies with it. It doesn’t matter what he knew or didn’t know any more than if he impregnated a woman and left not knowing she was pregnant. The sperm was freely given to her by him. 

  • CleoBarker

    That is 18 months after… so what would your opinion be if the father died after conception and it was his sperm? I honestly think that the supreme court ruled right here, but I couldnt say the same if it were where the father died in the middle of the pregnancy. I think that should have also been noted as a caveat to that ruling. Otherwise I’m sure some poor mother somewhere is going to get royally f***ed  because of this woman. 

    • terrilynnmerritts

      It was his sperm and his wife’s eggs. She wanted to have his kids, the ones they had planned to have before he got sick. My opinion would be that if it is his children, they should legally be treated as such.