What kind of parental rights should sperm donors have?
A new bill proposed by California State Senator Jerry Hill aims to increase parental rights to sperm donors. Under current state law, someone who donates sperm through a sperm bank and does not marry the woman who conceives is not considered the child’s natural father unless the couple agrees to it beforehand. But a case involving actor Jason Patric has gotten Senator Hill and supporters to consider some changes to the law.
In Patric’s case, the actor donated sperm to an ex-girlfriend in 2009 and now wishes to gain partial custody of the child. While Patric claims that the couple agreed to raise the child together and that he has a loving relationship with his 3-year-old son, his ex-girlfriend Danielle Schreiber claims that the couple agreed that Patric would not raise the child.
Under provisions written into the new bill, a person in Patric’s case would be eligible for more parental rights by proving to the court that he openly acknowledges the child as his own, and that he receives the child into his home.
Senator Hill argues that a father cultivating a parental relationship with a child deserves a fair crack at custody. But opponents of the bill worry that it will unfairly empower men and reduce the rights of the women, including women who wish to raise their children alone or lesbian couples who wish to create their own nuclear family.
What would the bill actually accomplish, and to what extent will it be able to affect a judge’s decision when contemplating custody? And who needs more help in the system? Should we be concerned to help fathers who build healthy relationships with their children gain some custody (despite what they and the mothers initially agreed) or to protect women who want to give fathers an entry into the child’s life without giving up control?
Carol Chodroff, Juvenile and Family Law Attorney; she also helped draft the California bill.
Patricia Bellasalma, President of the California National Organization for Women