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–law that allows for a claim of parentage based on the actual relationship with the child. Under California law (Section 7611) a person who establishes a familial role with a child may assert that she/he is a presumed parent. Patric isn’t barred from using this section just because he’s a sperm donor.
Third, the precise nature of the social/psychological relationship between Patric and Gus is crucial and hasn’t been determined. (This is because the trial court barred Patrick from using the 7611 route.). Thus, Patric may be a presumed parent, but it depends on the specific facts, and those fact will be determined in further proceedings.
This all makes perfect sense to me. Patric’s status as a genetic relative of Gus is essentially irrelevant. It doesn’t give him rights as a legal father nor does it bar him from establishing rights in the same way that someone who was not genetically related would be allowed to do. The law of parentage in CA doesn’t give any weight at all to genetics in a situation like this.
There’s a final point the court makes that I think is noteworthy. After concluding that Patric has the chance to use 7611, the court notes:
Our holding that a sperm donor is not precluded from establishing presumed parentage does not mean that a mother who conceives through assisted reproduction and allows the sperm donor to have some kind of relationship with the child necessarily loses her right to be the sole parent.
(page 12). The court goes on to explain that she can limit the contact allowed and that, further, 7611 only gives you a presumption of parentage–one that can be rebutted based on other evidence. I’m not sure what the contours of this are, but it seems clear that it gives those using AI the ability to have sperm providers who are known to their children but not present as parents.
Some of the media has overstated Patric’s win, I think. He may be a legal father but he may not be. What he’s really got is a chance to prove his facts.