I know I’ve been silent for quite a while. Bit of a break. But there’s a new opinion that has brought me back to the keyboard. It’s from the Supreme Court of New Hampshire and is yet one more case of the breakup of a lesbian family. (Sadly you’ll find a number of those on the blog. Because the legal status of lesbian co-parents can be unclear there is often the opportunity for litigation if things get messy.)
For the purposes of its decision the court took the facts as stated by the petitioner, Susan B. I will do the same.
Susan and Melissa D met in 1997. They held a commitment ceremony (no legal marriage that time) in 1998. They wanted to have a family and bought a house together. Melissa gave birth to Madeline in 2002. She was conceived using sperm from an anonymous donor who shared Susan’s Irish heritage.
Many details seem to confirm Susan’s status as a parent (and here I mean social status):
Susan and Melissa decided to give Madelyn Susan’s middle and last names.
Susan and Melissa were both named as Madelyn’s parents in the birth announcements sent to friends and family and printed in the local newspaper, as well as in a “dedication ceremony” held in the Unitarian Universalist Church when Madelyn was a year old. Susan was listed as Madelyn’s parent in her preschool documents and in her medical records. Susan was involved in the daily care of Madelyn, and Susan and Melissa jointly made all decisions involved in raising Madelyn, including decisions regarding health care, education, and religion.
A few months ago I wrote about Thomas Lippert. Lippert worked for a fertility clinic in Utah in the early 1990s and apparently substituted his own sperm for that of intended genetic fathers on at least one occasion. This came to light recently as genetic testing revealed that a 21-year-old was the genetic child of Lippert and not, as was thought, her social/psychological (and legal) father.
Because this happened quite a while back and because the clinic closed in 1997, details of exactly how this happened are scarce. It is, however, clear that Lippert was anything but a model citizen. (He died in 1999.)
Once the story came to light, the University of Utah (the clinic had some affiliation there) did an investigation. And now that is complete. So the next chapter in this story is the University’s response. While it is interesting, it is not entirely satisfactory. Continue reading
There’s a lot of discussion (some parts of it more relevant than others, some parts of it more temperate than others) about the Jason Patric case–both here and out there in the world. (I do not really mean to suggest that you should read the 152 comments (a number of which are mine) on my post. That’s way over the top, as far as I’m concerned, and it’s part of the reason for starting with a new post.)
Anyway, I’ll remind you a bit about the case and what I think of it, but then move on to some broader observations. Patric provided sperm used to impregnant Schneider. Patric and Schneider had been a couple and had tried to conceive a child via sex. But that hadn’t worked–either the couple part or the conception part. I think it is agreed that by the time they were doing insemination they were not a couple. (If’ I’m wrong, by all means correct me.)
Schneider gave birth to Gus. Patric played some role in Gus’ life. (The details of what role are surely in dispute.) Patric wanted legal recognition as a parent. Continue reading
As you may have read elsewhere, the appellate court in California has ruled on the parentage case brought by Jason Patric. (You can get to the opinion from this page if you look under opinions issued on May 14.). The papers paint this as a victory for Patric, which is correct, but they also (at least the headlines I’ve seen) get the details wrong.
I’ve written about this case before and it’s certainly gotten it’s share of media coverage. I won’t recite the facts (which are sharply contested) in any detail, but it’s interesting and important to read the facts as recited by the court. Critically, Patric provided sperm for the insemination of Danielle Schreiber. The pregnancy resulted from insemination. And after the birth of the child (Gabe) Patric developed a social/psychological relationship with Gus. (This very barebones version of the facts may actually be consistent with both sides’ versions.)
So the court said several important things. First, the fact that Patric provided the sperm doesn’t make him a parent. It also doesn’t give him the right to establish any particular relationship with the child. (That’s footnote 10 and is a point that Patric conceded.).
Second, the fact that Patric provided sperm doesn’t preclude him from using California law that would be available to anyone else Continue reading
Many of you will know that there is a case from Kansas that I have been following for some time. Before I get to the newest twist, I’ll do a quick summary. For more details follow the link to earlier posts.
Angela Bauer and Jennifer Schreiner were a lesbian couple seeking to have a child. They found William Marotta via a Craig’s List ad. He agreed to provide sperm and, in a written contract, agreed that he would be a donor only and not a legal father.
The problem is that in Kansas that contract does not have legal effect. What would have accomplished the purpose was if the sperm had been provided to a doctor rather than directly to the women. An agreement–even a clear written agreement–simply doesn’t do it under KS law.
Now as it happens all of the individuals involved (Marotta and the two women) honored the agreement. The child was raised by the two women and had no contact with Marotta. But then the one woman who was a legal mother needed financial support from the state and the state, looking to recoup its costs, determined that Marotta was a legal parent and hence owed support. It commenced suit against him. Continue reading
A couple of days ago I blogged about the contested parentage case involving Jason Patric. There’s been a bunch of discussion there and as I was reading through it I thought of an interesting variation on the problem.
To be clear, this has absolutely no basis in fact, as far as I know. But since (as I pointed out before) we really don’t know the facts that seems fine to me. Instead, a variation like this (what law professors generally call “hypothetical”) allows you to test you thinking about legal rules. It allows you to see which facts would matter to you–and that in turn can lead to questions about why those facts matter.
With all that in mind, here’s the imaginative exercise. Suppose they facts are as we know them–which is to say that there is disagreement between the parties about what exactly the plan was, but somehow the plan went forward. Further, suppose that (as is the case) after the birth of the child the man played some role in his life. (We can talk about what role if you like–but in the real case that’s a part of the contested facts, so I won’t lay it out here). But now suppose that just before heading into court we learn that, through some terrible error, the sperm used to create the child was NOT Jason Patric’s. Continue reading
I know that the parentage case involving Jason Patric and Danielle Schreiber has been all over the web for a long time but as it has finally arrived in the NYT, I thought I might as well take the time to comment. I don’t think I can begin to summarize the facts, so for starters I’d suggest you go and read the article. (I’m going to work off the facts as reported there.)
One thing to note at the outset is that many of the facts are disputed. I don’t pretend to have any special knowledge of the facts. Thus, I do not know about what did or did not happen. For instance, I do not know why Jason Patric was the one who took Gus to be circumcised when Gus was eight-days old. But there do seem to be a bunch of things that there is agreement about. Jason Patric is the genetic father of Gus. Continue reading
This essay is from today’s Motherlode blog. It’s by David Dodge, a gay man who lives in NYC. He’s provided sperm so that a lesbian couple he knows can have a child. He did this as an act of friendship and so, I think, is rightly described as a sperm donor.
The essay recounts all the things he thought about as he considered his friends’ request for his sperm. I think it gives a great sense of the issues that anyone contemplating providing gametes for third-party reproduction ought to think about. Indeed, I think it’s a list of considerations that women considering being surrogates ought to read and think about, too.
For those who are worried about the identity issues that might arise with a sperm donor, I’ll note at the beginning that it is clearly the plan that he will be known to and, to an as yet undefined degree, involved with the child. At the very least this ought to allay concerns about family medical history questions. Should a question come up the people to ask will be available. Continue reading
I’ve been meaning to get back to this thread I started so confidently with “part I.” Without a “part II” it seems sort of silly. This post will make more sense if you go back and read that other one first.
Just the same I’m doing a brief recap. Maybe it’s like a running start. Maybe I’ll say something slightly different. I’ll try to summarize some principles and then go forward.
I generally support the legal recognition of functional/de facto parents. What I mean is that I think the law should recognize the people who actually function as the social/psychological parents of a child as the child’s legal parents. My primary reason for endorsing this approach is that it is, in a general way, good for children. I believe that children need stability in those primary relationships. (I think I could back this up with a lot of studies, by the way. ) So the law should protect them.
Now there is another thing about the functional/de facto approach. Continue reading
There’s a case out of Kansas I have been following for some time. William Marotta served as a sperm donor for two women in 2008 or 2009. The women found him via Craig’s list. The three people entered into a contract saying that Mayotte would only be a donor and would have no rights or obligations as a parent. The parties to the contract have, apparently, abided by its terms even as the two women split up.
The problem is that after the women split up the legal mother (I think in Kansas only one of the women could be a legal parent) obtained public assistance to support herself and her child. The state then sought reimbursement from Mayotte, asserting that contract or not, he was the legal father and obliged to pay child support.
Now a court has ruled that the state’s position is correct. Continue reading