November 5, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
According to this article, Jason Patric has prevailed in the lower court (TMZ, 11/3/14). That means he has full parental rights to his son, Gus, and the opportunity to go to court to seek parenting time. Of course the lower court’s order will likely be appealed, but the last time Gus’s mother, Danielle Schreiber, did that, she lost. It’s hard for me to see the appellate court interpreting California law as it did and then turning around and reversing an order establishing Patric as the rightful father of his son.
For a more detailed analysis of the factual background and the appellate court’s first ruling, go here (NPO, 5/19/14).
Briefly, California has a law that’s intended to allow anonymous sperm donors to do so without fear of later being obligated to support the resulting child. The law is meant to protect both the male who donates and the female who uses the sperm to conceive a child. He doesn’t have to worry about being saddled with child support and she doesn’t have to worry about a man she’s never met showing up in her life claiming parental rights. Fair enough.
The problem came when Schreiber and her lawyers decided the law applied to Patric and Gus. Never mind that Patric has never been anything like the anonymous sperm donor intended by the law. The history of his relationship with Schreiber and Gus make that crystal clear, and so the appellate court ruled. As I wrote last May,
Patric’s “post-birth conduct” of course was to play the part of father to Gus. He treated the boy like his son, which he clearly was, and Gus treated Patric as his “Dada.” Had Patric walked away from the assisted fertilization and had nothing to do with his son for some significant period of time and later decided he wanted to be the boy’s dad, he likely would have been disappointed. But that’s not what happened. He did everything that fathers do for Gus and should never have been shoved out of the child’s life just because he and Schreiber had to make use of a fertility clinic.
The appellate court sent it back to the trial court for a hearing to determine just exactly whether Patric’s post-birth relationship with Gus warrants him being a full parent to his son. Although the court’s decision has been temporarily sealed pending appeal, it’s clear enough that the facts adduced at that hearing prove what Patric’s been saying all along — that he’s always been an active, loving father to Gus.
What I suspect it also shows is that he’s done so over the dogged opposition of Schreiber for the past two years at least. After all, a mother who tries to claim that a father like Patric is nothing but a sperm donor isn’t exactly someone who’s promoting a meaningful relationship between the boy and his father. If she were at all interested in that, she’d have welcomed Patric’s continued involvement with Gus and none of us would ever have heard of this case that’s probably harmed the boy already.
So my guess is that Schreiber will appeal this ruling and that the Court of Appeals will turn her down. If so, it’ll be back to the trial court to sort out who’s to have primary custody, who’s to pay child support and how much. Now, in that hearing, Schreiber’s own “post-birth conduct” will be of considerable importance. Her efforts to keep his loving father from her son should not go unnoticed by the trial court judge. She’s plainly bent on alienating the boy and that should weigh heavily in favor of Patric’s suit for custody.
We’ll see, but for now the news is good. Jason Patric can finally do that fine and modest thing he’s been fighting for years to do — be a father to his son.
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