Victory for Sperm Donors: Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Jason Patric
by Lovette T. Mioni
Jason Patric, perhaps best known for his role in the movies Lost Boys or Speed 2, scored a landmark victory in a California Appeals Court last week, regarding paternity rights for his son Gus. Gus was born via artificial insemination and Patric was the sperm donor for Gus’s mother, Danielle Schreiber.
When the couple split in 2012, Schreiber cut off all contact between Gus and Patric. Schreiber claimed Patric was the donor of sperm only, and cites a 2008 letter in which Patric said he was not ready to be a father.
California Family Code Section 7613(b) says a sperm donor is not a presumed parent, unless otherwise agreed to in writing by both parents. In reliance of this statute and previous court rulings, a Los Angeles trial court granted full custody to Schreiber, and denied Patric access to Gus.
A California Court of Appeals reversed on May 14th, directing the trial court to now determine whether or not Patric can be deemed a presumed parent under Family Code Section 7611. The battle isn’t over, but the reversal gives Patric an opportunity to seek legal rights as Gus’s parent.
Conditions of Presumptive Parenthood – What Do They Mean For Sperm Donors?
Both Family Code Sections 7613 and 7611 fall under the Uniform Parentage Act, which determines a parent-child relationship.
Once the relationship is officially decided, a parent can apply for child support, custody, visitation, and more, on behalf of the child. The California legislature did not specifically address the rights of sperm donors in the UPA. However, several conditions may determine when someone can be considered a presumed parent if:
1. A presumed parent and mother are or were married, or a child was born within 300 days after a marriage ended;
2. The parties attempted to marry before the child was born but the marriage was invalid;
3. The presumed parent and mother married or attempted to marry after the birth of the child, and the presumed parent is named on the birth certificate or obligated to provide support under a written agreement or court order
4. A presumed parent receives the child into his/her home and openly hold the child out to be his or her natural child
5. The child is conceived after the death of the presumptive parent, under certain conditions
Citing previous case law and the conditions for presumptive parenthood, the Appeals Court in the Patric case said:
a sperm donor who has established a familial relationship with the child, and has demonstrated a commitment to the child and the child’s welfare, can be found to be a presumed parent even though he could not establish paternity based upon his biological connection to the child.
Further, the court ruled that Patric did not have the opportunity to show the trial court – per condition #4 above – that he received Gus into his home and openly showed that Gus was his natural child.
Based on the Appeal’s Court remanding the matter back to the trial court, Patric now has a fighting chance. It’s possible that this landmark reversal could spur a change to California Family Law Code as well, giving sperm donors more parental rights in the future.
Contact our Family Law Practice Group Attorneys for more information.