Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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May 17, 2014

Actor's custody case ruling may impact other dads

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A ruling in actor Jason Patric's custody battle could have repercussions for an unexpected population — women who use fertility treatments.

Legal experts say an appellate court ruling issued Wednesday in favor of Patric's fight to regain visitation with his son could lead to changes in cases like his, in which a man donates sperm to a woman he knows and then maintains a relationship with the child.

And Patric's legal victory doesn't just impact heterosexual couples; experts say it could also affect same-sex couples who have friends or acquaintances serve as sperm donors.

Wednesday's decision doesn't completely resolve Patric's fight to reunite with Gus, the 4-year-old boy he fathered through in vitro fertilization with Danielle Schreiber, an ex-girlfriend who no longer wants the actor in their lives. The "Lost Boys" actor must still prove to a Los Angeles judge that he qualifies as a father through his actions.

But experts say the Patric case will have a lasting impact on certain paternity cases.

In California, sperm donors outside of marriage are assumed to have no parental rights or child support obligations. Problems arise when a man donates sperm to a woman he knows and then, as in Patric's case, begins to establish a paternal relationship with the child.

In Patric's case, a family law judge determined his role as a sperm donor who wasn't listed on his son's birth certificate precluded him from having an ongoing parenting role. But the appellate justices unanimously ruled that decision was flawed.

"I don't think the (Patric) case was groundbreaking," said Melissa Murray, a Berkeley Law professor who specializes in family law issues. "I do think it will be an important decision for filling in a vacuum in the law. It will be important for those individuals who are in families but they are not families who have been joined in marriage."

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