A furry of media outlets are jumping on the Jason Patric Hollywood bandwagon custody battle. Over the months, many have learned this wasn’t an ordinary “sperm donor” situation.
While writers are grappling for new material and different angles, there are some articles floating around on the web which I feel have missed the point completely.
The entire case turned on the fact that Patric became a “presumed” parent after the birth of his child, Gus. Patric took him into his home and referred to Gus as his son. Vacation photographs were taken when Patric, his former girlfriend, Danielle Schreiber, and little Gus went on vacation.
Jason became a parent when he took all those steps.
Yes, the couple may have talked about Patric “maybe” taking part in the child’s life when they did IVF, but if he never saw his son, he wouldn’t be a dad today.
Attorney Sara Cohen’s piece in The Globe and Mail, “When does a sperm donor have parental rights?” was spot on.
She understood the, “far-reaching implications in terms of our understanding of when a sperm donor may also be a parent.”
Schreiber used Patric’s sperm via IVF to conceive her baby, Gus.
They were together for quite some time, but the tumultuous relationship ended in a permanent breakup. When that occurred, Schreiber cut all ties between Patric and her son.
Cohen writes, “Patric turned to the court for help, arguing that he is a parent to the child. Schreiber responded by arguing that under California law, Patric is not a parent but only a donor and therefore without rights to the child.” She continued on in the recap, “At first instance, the court held in Schreiber’s favour, in February 2013, finding that Patric is a sperm donor only and not a legal parent. The court relied on a statute that specifically states that where a sperm donor is not a spouse of the woman using the sperm, without a preconception written agreement to the contrary, a donor is not a parent.”
Following this, Patric appealed and was victorious.
Even though Patric’s and Schreiber’s original intention may have been for him to only play the role of a donor, Cohen reports, this decision demonstrates that a sperm donor can become something more based on post-birth behaviour.
Cohen went on to say, “People who are unfamiliar with the specific details of the case, or at least with the court’s findings of fact, may see this case as cause for concern as it appears to provide donors with parental rights. Of course, many of us, myself included, think it is good policy for donors, parents and donor-conceived children that the law clearly indicate that a donor is not a parent, without something more.”
It’s in this part of the article where Cohen clearly defines that Patric’s case falls under the “something more” category.
Readers of this article are forced to consider that a parent may not merely mean a genetic connection. Another level of “parenthood” is the part that person plays in the life of a child.
As stated earlier in the article, Patric was part of Gus’ life in many ways and instances.
“Arguably, the same finding could be reached even if Patric had no genetic connection to the child,” she writes. “To be clear, Patric’s legal battle is far from over; he now must stand trial and prove to the court that his post-birth behaviour with Gus is sufficient to meet the threshold of a parent.”
While Cohen is an attorney who lives in Canada, she tells her readers not to “underestimate the importance of this legal decision.”
While California law is different from Canada, she notes, Canadians using donors would be prudent to establish the relationship a donor would have after the birth.
And I couldn’t agree more.
I counsel my known sperm donor clients about this all the time. I often have ex-boyfriends donating to their ex-girlfriends and I always tell my intended mothers, “You can negate this contract and make him a ‘dad’ just like Patric became one. If that’s what you want after the baby is born, great, but if not, keep the ex at arm’s length.”