Jason Patric Given Parental Rights To Son He Fathered By Sperm Donation
Remember Jason Patric? Hot vampire in Lost Boys, infamous Julia Roberts ex? The actor has been locked in a lawsuit with his ex-girlfriend, Danielle Schreiber, over parental rights to a son he fathered through sperm donation in 2009 and originally wanted nothing to do with. He just won his lawsuit, which is bad news for his ex but good news for families who conceive using IVF and egg/sperm donation. Confused? Let’s break it down.
Patric and Schrieber dated on and off for years, and broke up in 2008. At the time Schrieber was trying to get pregnant with an anonymous donor, and Patric stepped in to offer her his sperm for a child, but nothing more. “I don’t know if I’ll ever be a dad.…,” he wrote her in a letter obtained by Rolling Stone. “I want you to know that if you want to use my sperm, you have my blessing. It’s all I can give you right now.”
After doing all the pre-natal care and preparation alone, Schrieber gave birth to a son, Gus, in 2009. Patric is not on the birth certificate and did not attend Gus’ birth. They did rekindle their relationship in 2011, and Patric claims that during that time he and Gus became close, their relationship encouraged by Schrieber. This established relationship is what allowed him to pursue parental rights (had he just donated sperm and never had a relationship with Gus, he would have essentially had no case). She says Patric was abusive, and “dangerous” and they broke up for good in 2012. She got a restraining order against the actor last year. (Rolling Stone‘s detailed breakdown of the case is a must-read.)
Patric initially sued for custody in 2012, and then started his Stand Up For Gus foundation, on the premise of ending parental alienation. In 2013 a judge sided with Schrieber, but an appeal went in Patric’s favor this past May, saying that as a sperm donor he has parental rights. Last week a judge determined that Patric is Gus’ legal father, which means he can now sue for custody and visitation rights. It’s a huge win for Patric.
My heart breaks for Schrieber in this situation. She went into this believing she could have a child by sperm donor, and thought she was was protected by a California law (Family Code 7613b) that says sperm donors – known or unknown to the mother – have no claim on a child their sperm produces. But the thing about this law is that it’s outdated, and doesn’t account for or give rights to “non-traditional” families who conceive using IVF – unmarried couples, gay and lesbian families, friends donating sperms and eggs who then have a part of the child’s life.
In California, for example, legislators are working to pass the “Modern Family Act” which could help simplify the legal process for such families. Says LGBTNation: “The bill, AB2344, would expedite adoptions for non-biological parents, such a lesbian woman whose spouse gave birth to their child. The bill would remove a procedural requirement that adds a state investigation and court hearing. Non-biological parents are encouraged to formally adopt children because some states do not recognize them as parents even though California does. The bill also creates methods to clarify the financial and legal responsibilities of surrogate mothers and sperm donors. That’s an important step to prevent disputes from happening, some family law experts say.”
Our very own Megan Zander is a lawyer, and breaks down Patric’s case this way:
“He wasn’t declared the father because he was the sperm donor, he was declared the father because he can establish enough evidence to prove he had a parent like relationship with the child. The impact this has for laws in the works is that donors who maintain a relationship with the kids will have one less hurdle to cross when trying to get custody orders. By saying donors who are in contact with the kids have rights, it makes it a lower bar for them to meet to bring the case in the first place. So it does open the door for laws to give sperm donors more ” rights,” but not just because they gave sperm.”
Schreiber is now locked in a contentious legal battle with a man she claims is abusive, a man who did not initially want anything to do with his son. But the recent ruling in Patric’s favor means good things for families not covered by archaic laws that don’t consider or protect our modern, evolving family structure. Ultimately it’s a win for our culture as a whole. But it’s sad that it is born out of such a toxic situation in which the mom and sole parent is, in my opinion, being pushed aside.