27 May 2014 0 Comments

“Dad” or Sperm Donor?

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In Los Angeles, California, a messy, convoluted custody case weaves between Jason Patric and Danielle Schreiber. Jason Patric, an actor who has starred in roles in films like “The Lost Boys,” “After Dark, My Sweet,” and “Speed 2: Cruise Control” is trying to get partial custody of his biological son that he had with Schreiber, a massage therapist from a high-profile Californian family. The twist- Schreiber was artificially inseminated with Patric’s sperm.

There are various factors to consider on whether Patric has the right to custody, but the whole case begs the question, is a sperm donor the same as a father?

Over the past two years, the two parties have been lost in a custody gray-area. It all started when Schreiber, who had long wanted to be a mother, attempted to get pregnant with Patric. The two had been dating on and off since 2002. The pregnancy attempts were unsuccessful; Patric confirms he even had a surgery to improve their chances of conception.

In 2009, the two decided to try in vitro fertilization. At this time, the two were not a romantic couple but still friends. Finally, Schreiber became pregnant with and gave birth to baby Gus. The baby was named after Ms. Schreiber’s paternal grandfather, and his middle name, Theodore, came from Patric’s side of the family. Soon after, the couple started seeing each other romantically again, though they did not move in together.

Mr. Patric claims that for the next two years, he took on a parental role. He claims that he took Gus to get circumcised at 8 days old, and that by the time the boy was 4 years old he called Patric “Dada.” Ms. Schreiber even wrote a card to Patric from Gus, which read, “thank you for teaching me to pee in the toilet, watch airplanes, learn Beatles songs. I love you Dada, Gus.” This card was presented as evidence during court. Ms. Schreiber’s attorneys maintain that Mr. Patric did not attend the boy’s circumcision, but did provide a ride because Schreiber could not drive after the cesarean section. I

n June of 2012, the couple split up, which was followed promptly by Patric filing a paternity suit for shared custody. Legal mediation ensued, during which Gus and Mr. Patric were allowed to visit. Soon after, Schreiber began to withhold visits. Her attorney, Fred Heather, states that his client felt threatened and frightened of Patric, for herself and for Gus. Schreiber proceeded to file a restraining order, which was granted and is still in effect.

The main issue of this case is California’s conflicting statutes on the issue, which are present in many states. On one side, it is stated that any man can establish parentage if he “receives the child into his home and openly holds the child out as his natural child.” On the other side, it is held that a man who provides his sperm to a doctor for the purpose of inseminating an unmarried friend is “treated as if he were not the natural father,” unless there was a specific agreement decided on beforehand.

In this case, the parties had no such agreement, though Patric signed “intended parent” forms at the sperm-donor clinic which he presented at court. Schreiber stood her ground though, noting that Patric requested that his name not be on the birth certificate. To this, Mr. Patric claims, “It would have thrusted Gus into the limelight, and I wanted to protect him.” Schreiber and her lawyers also dismiss the fact that Gus calls Patric “dada,” stating that Ms. Schreiber always intended to have the child aware of his Patric’s identity, while still preventing Patric from having any parental rights. “The lies are stunning,” Mr. Patric states.

Schreiber won, and an L.A. appellate court is set to hear Patric’s appeal next week. Mr. Patric and his lawyers fully maintain that the court is in error. The case is convoluted in part because the sperm donation service is still such a secretive system. It is unknown how many men donate sperm to people they know, though experts are saying that more and more men and women are choosing the non-anonymous option due to concerns about health history.

California lawmakers considered last summer clarifying the state’s donor laws, but put the legislation on hold pending Patric’s appeal. a separate bill is working its way through the legislature that would put into effect standardized donor forms. Naomi R. Cahn, a family law professor at George Washington University and author of “Test Tube Families,” notes the importance of this case and cases like this, in a world where families are taking new non-traditional forms.“The resonance here is enormous because of the increasing number of families being formed today outside of traditional marriage,” said Cahn, “Single heterosexual women, lesbian couples, men who donate sperm expecting to be part of a child’s life — they had better be paying attention.”

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