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Historic ruling enables actor to assert paternity rights

For the past nine months, our blog has been following the ongoing custody battle between actor Jason Patric, star of such films as "The Lost Boys" and "Sleepers," and his ex-girlfriend over custody of their four-year-old son whom they conceived via in-vitro fertilization.

To recap, the couple began dating nearly a decade ago and turned to IVF when they encountered difficulty in their efforts to have a child. These IVF procedures were ultimately successful, culminating in the birth of their son in December 2009.

In the ensuing years, the three parties functioned much like a family. However, the couple's relationship ultimately ended in 2012, and the aforementioned legal battle was launched in California after Patric's former spouse cut off access to his son.

At trial, Patric's attorneys indicated that he had signed an "intended parent" document and spent considerable time in the boy's life until his relationship with his girlfriend ended. The girlfriend's attorneys, however, countered that the actor's involvement with the boy was never as an intended parent, but rather merely a byproduct of their relationship.

The judge ultimately found that Patric clearly met the criteria for a sperm donor under a 2011 California law allowing men to donate sperm without fear of later being held responsible for child support, and therefore had no parental rights to assert.

Patric appealed the matter and the 2nd District Court of Appeal handed down a historic decision just last week.

While a complete examination of this decision is beyond the scope of a single blog post, the opinion essentially held that the aforementioned 2011 statute had been interpreted incorrectly by the trial court in that it doesn't preclude a sperm donor from seeking to establish himself as a presumed parent "based on post-birth conduct" under another state law.

Specifically, the court held "a sperm donor who has established a familial relationship with the child, and has demonstrated a commitment to the child and the child's welfare, can be found to be a presumed parent (under another state law) even though he could not establish paternity based upon his biological connection to the child."

This ruling doesn't mean that Patric has won custody, rather it means he now has the ability to seek to establish his parental rights in a trial court by presenting evidence of a "familial relationship" with his son. If his attorneys prove successful here, it would likely result in the issuance of custody and visitation rights.

Stay tuned for updates on this intriguing case ...

Consider speaking with an experienced legal professional if you would like to learn more about divorce and/or have questions concerning fathers' rights.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Paternity rights of sperm donors expanded in actor's custody dispute," Jacob Gershman, May 14, 2014; The Hollywood Reporter, "Jason Patric allowed to seek legal paternity of child in landmark ruling," Eriq Gardener, May 14, 2014

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