As family law struggles to keep up with technology, California state legislature is considering a bill that would give fathers of children conceived using sperm donation greater legal standing. The bill was inspired by the public custody battle between actor Jason Patric and his ex-girlfriend, Danielle Schreiber.
To be clear, the proposed bill, H.B. 115, does not propose to make anonymous sperm donors the legal fathers of the children conceived through artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization (IVF). Men who donate sperm to fertility clinics would not be considered a child’s “natural parent” unless the couple agreed prior to conception in writing that the donor was to be considered the father.
Rather, it would give courts the ability to grant legal parental rights under broader conditions than presently allowed.
California law currently assumes that a child born in marriage is a child of that marriage; in other words, it presumes that the husband is the “natural father.” The state doesn’t see it that way when the couple isn’t married, however. And that’s a big problem: according to the bill’s sponsors, California has more fertility clinics than any other state, and it’s not like married people are the only ones using fertility treatments.
The new law would allow parental rights in the case of unmarried parents utilizing fertility treatments. The bill “provides that a man is presumed to be the natural father of a child if he receives the child into his home and openly holds out the child as his natural child.”
Jason Patric, best known for starring in 1987′s The Lost Boys, donated sperm in 2009 so that his on-again, off-again girlfriend Danielle Schreiber could conceive a child using fertility treatment. Because there was no signed agreement in place, California law holds that Mr. Patric is not the “natural father” of three-year-old Gus.
Mr. Patric and Ms. Schreiber offer wildly differing takes on what their verbal agreement was, and even whether or not they were a “couple” at the time of conception, says the Sacramento Bee.
Ms. Schreiber told the Los Angeles Times, “When Jason offered me his sperm, it was under the condition that his donation never be made public and that he would not be a father to the child.”
Mr. Patric told The Times that the couple agreed to have a child together and that he has had a “loving relationship” with his son.
“I cared for him, I supported him, I raised him along with his mother.” Mr. Patric told the Times. “No child should have to endure a painful separation from a parent who loves that child because the other parent is no longer willing to share the child and asserts a legal technicality.”
It appears they were a couple for the better part of 2011 to early 2013, during which time the three were photographed by various celebrity tabloids, looking for all intents and purposes like a family. When they broke up again, Mr. Patric tried to obtain custody rights, a battle that was lost in California courts earlier this year.
Unfortunately, none of the interviews with Mr. Patric or Ms. Schreiber answer the questions I have, like:
- ZOMG will somebody think about this poor kid?
- Does anyone else think it’s insane that they didn’t sign some kind of agreement? Had neither of them heard the words “custody” or “child support”?
- Does Gus consider Jason Patric to be his dad? Does he call him “Daddy?”
Sigh…these are the things I want to know. But mostly I hope that kid gets lots of hugs.
(via: Los Angeles Times)
(Photo Credit: iStockphoto)
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