Does ‘Sperm Donor’ Mean ‘Dad’?
He is a movie star who shot to fame on a motorcycle in “The Lost Boys.” She is a California massage therapist from a prominent East Coast family. Four years ago, with his sperm, her eggs and the wonder of in vitro fertilization, they produced a child.From there, the tale gets very, very messy.
For the last two years, Jason Patric and Danielle Schreiber have been waging what has become one of the highest-profile custody fights in the country — one that scrambles a gender stereotype, raises the question of who should be considered a legal parent and challenges state laws that try to bring order to the Wild West of nonanonymous sperm donations.
Played out on cable news, dueling “Today” show appearances, YouTube videos and radio call-in talk shows, this rancorous dispute, which heads back into a California courtroom next Thursday, serves as cautionary tale for any man considering donating sperm to a friend and any woman considering accepting it from one, experts say. “The resonance here is enormous because of the increasing number of families being formed today outside of traditional marriage,” said Naomi R. Cahn, a family law professor at George Washington University and the author of “Test Tube Families.” “Single heterosexual women, lesbian couples, men who donate sperm expecting to be part of a child’s life — they had better be paying attention.”
A couple of Patrick-Schreiber for a long time trying to have a baby, but all attempts were unsuccessful. They decided in 2009 (at a time when they were not romantically involved but still friendly) to pursue artificial insemination. The baby eventually helped rekindle a romance between Ms. Schreiber and Mr. Patric, although they never formally moved in together. For the next two years, Mr. Patric said that he played a parental role. Then, in June 2012, the couple broke up for good. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Patric filed a paternity suit for shared custody.
But then, according to court filings, Ms. Schreiber abruptly started to withhold visits. Ms. Schreiber’s lawyer, Fred Heather, said his client saw Mr. Patric as increasingly threatening and hostile. She filed for a restraining order, which was granted and is still in effect. Mr. Patric vigorously disputed that claim, maintaining that Ms. Schreiber’s shift was a legal maneuver, a result of stumbling across a loophole in state sperm-donor laws.
First court session Danielle won, but Patrick is not going to give up. According to his lawyer, the court was not taken into account a lot of facts in evidence, that Danielle had asked Jason to be a father and she was not against his participation in education.
But more men and women are choosing a nonanonymous route, experts say, prompted by societal shifts and concerns about the health histories of anonymous donors. Donation laws, some passed before the widespread use of in vitro fertilization, have increasingly drawn scrutiny. California lawmakers last summer considered legislation that was positioned as an attempt to clarify that state’s donor laws.
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