Bill Pending in California Would Grant Sperm Donor Child Custody Rights Under Certain Circumstances

August 8, 2013
By Thomas M. Huguenor on August 8, 2013 8:53 AM |

667713_-paper_family-.jpgFamilies come in all shapes and sizes. Thanks to technological advances and breakthroughs in medical science, families can now emanate from non-traditional methods. For whatever the reason, people may choose to become parents through alternative means, such as artificial insemination, in-vitro fertilization and adoption, among others. But with each procedure comes a whole host of legal and practical concerns to weigh and consider, including who is entitled to custody rights should a dispute arise. A local San Diego family law attorney can help parents anticipate and resolve any legal issues concerning child custody matters, with a focus on obtaining the best possible arrangement for you.

In widely publicized reports, the actor Jason Patric's custody dispute with former girlfriend, Danielle Schreiber, has inspired sperm-donor rights legislation in California. In 2009, Patric donated sperm as part of a fertility treatment that resulted in Schreiber becoming pregnant. He wants to help raise the child (who is now three years-old), but has encountered legal obstacles in attempting to gain partial custody.

State Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) introduced a bill that would allow courts to grant parental rights to sperm donors under such circumstances where the biological father has shown that he always intended to parent, did, in fact, parent - with the mother's consent - and never waived his parental rights. A Los Angeles Times article indicates that Patric and Schreiber disagree on the nature of their relationship and the extent to which Patric was involved in the child's life.

Critics of the legislation reportedly are concerned that the bill could "open the door to litigation by sperm donors" and lead to "male dominance." But others suggest that opponents of the bill do not fully understand the legislation, and in fact, may be doing a disservice to women and children. Many believe that the bill has been narrowly drafted, in that it only protects the relationship between a father and child when the father has assumed that role, acted as his child's father, and helped raise and care for him or her, with the mother's previous consent.

An overwhelming number of babies are born to unmarried mothers: statistics compiled by the Children's Defense Fund indicate that a baby is born to an unmarried mother every 19 seconds in the United States. Of course not all of these mothers conceived their babies via the help of a sperm donor, but for those that have, the legislation seeks to protect a child's ability to maintain a relationship with his or her father, if the child was conceived by artificial reproductive technology to unmarried parents.

Child custody cases are of supreme importance to the parents and children involved, as the outcome will likely impact the rest of their lives. Disputes over physical and legal custody have the potential to escalate, as both parents typically want to remain fully involved in their children's lives. In order to ensure that your rights and interests are protected to the greatest extent possible, it is important to consult with an experienced family law attorney as soon as a child custody matter arises.

Thomas Huguenor is a divorce and child custody lawyer certified by the State of California. For more than 35 years, he has represented people in San Diego finding their way through the California divorce process. Contact us today online or at (858) 458-9500 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

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