Last month, we wrote about the highly publicized custody battle between actor Jason Patric and his former girlfriend. The two were in an on-and-off relationship for about a decade, and during that time, they had a son conceived through in-vitro fertilization.
Patric’s case has been lauded by fathers’ rights groups across the nation because it is about more than one man’s fight to stay involved in his son’s life. The case sheds light on laws that sometimes rob devoted fathers of their rights simply because they did not marry the child’s mother of because they conceived using IVF and other alternative methods.
A particularly controversial aspect of the case was a California law cited by Patric’s former girlfriend. That law states that if a man’s sperm is used by a fertility clinic, he has no parental rights unless there is a written, signed agreement in place demonstrating that he plans to co-parent. Since Patric’s case, the state senator who authored the legislation has sought to amend it. He presumably did not intend for it to be used in this way.
Some other states have laws that base a man’s status as father primarily on whether he is married to the child’s mother. The biological relationship may be of secondary importance.
This is not to say that all men automatically deserve parental rights simply because they share DNA with a child. There are certainly instances in which parental rights might not be warranted. But by all accounts, Jason Patric was a devoted co-parent to his son for several years before his ex-girlfriend unilaterally decided to deny him access to the boy.
Such moves as those allegedly made by Patric’s former girlfriend can do serious damage to both fathers and to the children who love them. Hopefully, this case will inspire common-sense legal reforms to protect the parental rights of fathers facing similar circumstances.
Source: The Huffington Post, “A Father’s Crusade to Stand Up for Parentage,” Fred Silberberg, June 6, 2014