When actor Jason Patric broke up with his long-time girlfriend, Danielle, he told her he didn’t have any money to give her at the end of their ten-year-relationship – but he could give her his sperm so she could have a baby. In return, Danielle agreed to never tell anyone, never to ask for child support, and made herself an appointment to be artificially inseminated (this is important). In 2009, Baby Gus was born, and true to his word, Jason never paid child support. Then last year, Jason decided he wanted to be part of Gus’ life after all and he filed for 50/50 custody. Fast forward to today, and Jason’s story has evolved from Hollywood headline-fodder into a California legislative bill: Senate Bill 115 (SB 115).
Under current law, sperm donors are not legally considered to be the natural fathers of the children born using their donated sperm except under certain circumstances.* Furthermore, Cal. Fam. Code § 7613(b) makes it clear that if a man provides his semen to a licensed physician, surgeon, or sperm bank for the purpose of impregnating a woman who is not his wife, the man is legally barred from claiming parentage of the child the woman conceives.**
For example, in a 1986 case, Jhordan C. v. Mary K., a man gave his semen directly to a woman to artificially inseminate herself. The Court held that these facts did qualify for the statutory preclusion of paternity, because a California statute required the semen be instead given to a licensed physician. Accordingly, the Court allowed the donor to raise his claim for paternity.*** Conversely, a strong aspect of Jason and Danielle’s case is that she was inseminated by a physician – their case was not statutorily barred because her pregnancy did not result from a do-it-yourself insemination.
The purpose of the current artificial insemination laws is to allow unmarried women and women married to an infertile spouse the freedom to conceive via a sperm donor without the fear that the donor would interfere following the baby’s birth by asking for parental rights. However, SB 115 now seeks to allow a specific group of sperm donors to claim parentage – any donor who has “received the child into his home and openly holds out the child as his natural child,” regardless of the method of conception, would be presumed to be the father of the child. SB 115 passed the California senate in April 2013 and now, it’s up to the California assembly to determine if the bill will be signed into law. This raises questions about what qualifies as “openly holding out” a child as one’s own. There are many definitions of the concept of “family,” and the impetus for agreements to claim, or not to claim a child can change over time.
Parental rights can be a complicated and confusing issue. If you have any questions regarding your parental rights and obligations, or you are simply looking for more information regarding your legal options, please contact our California Certified Family Law Specialists (as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization) at Lonich Patton Erlich Policastri. Our attorneys have decades of experience handling complex Family Law proceedings and are happy to offer you a free consultation.
Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results. While this post may include legal issues, it is not legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.
*The Uniform Parentage Act, http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/cacode/FAM/1/d12/3.
**Unless the donor and the woman agreed otherwise in a signed writing prior to the conception of the child. http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/13-14/bill/sen/sb_0101-0150/sb_115_bill_20130408_amended_sen_v97.pdf
*** Jhordan C. v. Mary K., 179 Cal. App. 3d 386 (1986).