Pending legislation would affect custody rights of sperm donors

A bill now pending in the California Senate could have what some believe to be far-reaching effects on child custody. The bill would modify the rights now granted to biological parents who were sperm donors. As the law now stands, a parent who donates sperm through a donor bank or as a part of a doctor-supervised fertility treatment and who is not married to the woman who conceives is not considered by the law to be the child's natural father. Unless there is a signed agreement before the procedure stipulating to the contrary, the donor has no standing in court to petition for any kind of custody or visitation.

Jason Patric, a well-known actor, brought this issue to light when he filed for partial custody of the child he fathered through a doctor-supervised sperm donation. He and the child's mother were in a relationship when they decided to pursue the treatment. According to Patric, he has always claimed paternity of the child, cared for him, and has developed a loving relationship with him. Hel believes that just because he and the child's mother have now separated, the relationship with the child should not end. The woman claims she and Patric agreed to certain conditions before the procedure; namely that information about the child's conception would not be made public and that Patric would not act as a father to the child.

The bill that is pending in the Senate would allow a judge to, under certain conditions, consider evidence of whether a parenting relationship existed between a donor-parent and a child when making custody decisions. Proponents on both sides of the issue believe that the legislation, if passed, would significantly affect status of donor-fathers. If this legislation is passed, it will open the door for many more donor fathers who may wish to file a claim for paternity.

As medical technology advances, we become able to do things that were not possible before. Often, California courts must scramble to keep-up: modifying laws, overturning established precedents or even making new law. Knowing what the current and pending laws are regarding child custody and paternity allows those who wish to share in the responsibilities of parenting an opportunity to present strong arguments in court concerning their cases.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Jason Patric custody case inspires sperm-donor-rights legislation," Patrick McGreevy, July 6, 2013

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