Donor or daddy?

There’s a hot news story that certainly has personal finance implications for William Marotta, a 46-year-old Kansas resident. Marotta may be forced to pay child support after the mother of the now 3-year-old girl he fathered through a sperm donation applied for public assistance, the Associated Press reports.

The Kansas Department for Children and Families argues that because Marotta didn’t work through a clinic or doctor, as required by state law, he should be held responsible for about $6,000 that the child’s biological mother received through public assistance — as well as future child support, AP says. The state says it’s routine to try to determine a child’s paternity and require support payments to lessen the potential cost to taxpayers.

The Topeka-Capital Journal reports that Marotta donated sperm in March 2009 to a Topeka lesbian couple, Angela Bauer and Jennifer Schreiner, after responding to an ad they had placed on Craigslist. Marotta and the women signed an agreement in which he relinquished all his parental rights and responsibilities, according to the paper.

Schreiner stayed home to care for the eight children -- who range in age from 3 months to 25 years – whom she and Bauer were co-parenting (the couple have since broken up). But when Bauer couldn’t work because of an illness, Schreiner applied for public assistance for their daughter, the Topeka-Capital Journal reports. The state demanded Schreiner provide the sperm donor’s name, claiming that otherwise it would deny benefits because she was withholding information.

Marotta told the paper that he is “a little scared about where this is going to go, primarily for financial reasons.” He says he’s already had to spend thousands of dollars in attorney fees fighting the state of Kansas.

Let’s talk about this. The Color of Money Question of the Week: Do you think Marotta should be forced to reimburse the state and pay child support? Send your responses to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Be sure to include your full name, city and state. Put “Donor or Daddy” in the subject line.

Helicopter Parents

There’s another case in the news about parenting that I’d like to discuss.

Aubrey Ireland, a 21-year-old senior at the University of Cincinnati College – Conservatory of Music, recently filed a civil stalking order against her parents, David and Julie Ireland, saying that they installed monitoring software on her laptop and cellphone, allowing them to see her every keystroke and phone number dialed or received. She also says that they often drove 600 miles from Leawood, Kan., to visit her in school unannounced, reports Kimball Perry of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The parents accused their daughter of illegal drug use, promiscuity and mental instability.

“It’s just been really embarrassing and upsetting to have my parents come to my university when I’m a grown adult and just basically slander my name and follow me around,” Aubrey Ireland said in a court hearing last year.

Clearly miffed by their daughter’s actions, the parents stopped paying for her tuition and demanded that she repay them the $66,000 they’ve already paid to the school. By the way, her parents so wanted her to have a successful musical and acting career that they paid her tuition to CCM even though Ireland was offered full scholarships to other schools, according to the report from the Cincinnati paper. When the parents stopped paying, the school gave Ireland a full scholarship for her final year.

A judge has ordered the parents to stay 500 feet away from their daughter until Sept 23.

So, when parents are paying the bills, do they have the right to drop in and snoop on their adult child’s life? What do you think? Send your responses to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Put “Helicopter Parents” in the subject line, and please include your full name, city and state.

Zipcar Zinger

Steven Pearlstein, a longtime Washington Post columnist who has been contributing to the Post’s Wonkblog, recently wrote about Avis purchasing car-sharing company Zipcar for $500 million.

His take: Avis will ruin Zipcar.

“Oh, sure, Avis executives will say how they respect Zipcar — its culture and its way of doing business — and promise to preserve it,” Pearlstein wrote. “But a year down the road when it comes to some decision in which they will have to forgo some cost savings or some revenue increase in order to maintain those differences, the decision will be to do it the ‘Avis’ way. And that will be it: Zipcar as we know it will be history.”

Family Financial Fights

Do finances have your family fighting?

If so, I can offer some advice on how to work through the issues.

Send your Family Financial Fight stories to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Be sure to include your full name, city and state and put “Family Finance” in the subject line.

New Year, big fiscal changes

For last week’s Color of Money question, I asked: “How will the fiscal cliff deal affect you?”

“I just got my paycheck and there is a difference in the deduction for Social Security by $63,” wrote Quinea Postell of Bowie, Md. “This means that my disposable income (I use this term loosely) is reduced by $1,638 annually. Ouch! So far, I am not impacted by the other recent changes. I hope it stops here, or I’ll be forced to downsize and give the bank my home!”

To help financially struggling Americans, the Social Security payroll tax was lowered to 4.2 percent from 6.2 percent for 2011 and 2012, which meant people took home more of their paychecks. The White House deal with Congress to avert the fiscal cliff allowed that payroll tax holiday to expire Jan. 1. That’s what Postell was referring to when she saw a difference in her pay. Here’s more about this change.

“I lost $36 and I think that’s a lot of money,” said Monecia Samuel of New York. “I will go to the early shows at the neighborhood cinemas now to avoid the $14 movies here in the Big Apple,”

Bruce Brandt of Harswell, Maine, wrote that he and his wife benefited from the fiscal cliff legislation. “My wife and I are retired. We get about $60,000 to $100,000 per year from Social Security and retirement plans. Unfortunately, we older folks are doing well at the expense of children and working people. I wish it were not so.”

Tia Lewis contributed to this report.

You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Please include your name and hometown; your comments may be used in a future column or newsletter unless otherwise requested.

Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, “The Color of Money.”
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