Fatherhood isn't easy, but for some men it's hard just to win the right to be one.
In California, there is no automatic right to paternity when the parents are unmarried. Legal fatherhood can only be achieved by voluntary acknowledgement or a finding of paternity by the court.
Actor Jason Patric has had to take his case trying to establish legal paternity over the child of an ex-girlfriend that was conceived using in-vitro fertilization (IVF) with his donated sperm all the way to the California court of appeals.
The child's mother had been in relationship with the actor for several years, during which they unsuccessfully tried to have a child. Even after they broke-up, however, the actor offered to donate his sperm for the IVF procedure, and he and the child's mother continued to have a tangled romantic relationship until around their son's second birthday before the custody battle began.
Although the actor had expressed doubts about his ability to be a father even before he donated his sperm, the appeals court ruled that it was his actions after his genetic contribution to the conception that established his paternity. Far from remaining an anonymous sperm donor, Patric had actively participated in his son's life, and the boy's mother had both permitted and encouraged that participation.
That was the ultimate deciding factor. The court has a vested interest in maintaining parental relationships where it can, since they give children "social and emotional strength and stability."
Additionally, a finding of paternity gives the actor full rights and responsibilities over his child. Part of those responsibilities includes child support going back to birth, which the actor did not contest. The child's mother, however, was not in favor of giving Patric all the rights of fatherhood -- namely, visitation or joint custody.
She protested a lower court's decision to recognize his parentage and give him joint custody based on allegations that he had engaged in domestic violence against her. It's likely, however, that Patric will be given the opportunity to participate in joint and individual counseling in order to rebut any presumption of domestic violence and gain joint custody of his son.
This sort of case illustrates just how complicated some child custody cases can be. If you need assistance establishing paternity in order to gain custody, talk to an attorney today.
Source: Hollywood Reporter, "Jason Patric Is Legal Parent of IVF-Conceived Child, Appeals Court Rules," Ashley Cullins, March 16, 2017