It is important to establish paternity or “parentage” of a child for many reasons. For instance, paternity entitles a child to assorted rights and privileges that most people take for granted, such as knowing who your parents are, and having access to family medical records as well as financial support. Under California law, proof of paternity is required before a court will order custody, visitation or child support. The law identifies circumstances under which a person, who was not married to the mother at the time of conception or birth of the child, can establish paternity. People who are confronting child custody and/or related paternity issues are encouraged to contact a local San Diego family law attorney with experience handling such matters.
Establishing paternity becomes even more complicated when there is a sperm donor involved. In a widely publicized case, Jason Patric filed a petition in a California court to establish a parental relationship with Gus, a child born to a woman named Danielle in 2009. Danielle opposed his motion, claiming that Jason was a sperm donor under the state family code and therefore, not the child’s natural father as a matter of law. Jason responded by arguing (among other things) that he was not a sperm donor within the meaning of section 7613(b) and that he is the “presumed parent” under 7611(d).
The couple never married but lived together for many years. Jason provided sperm (at a licensed fertility clinic) for Danielle to use in an in-vitro fertilization procedure, through which she conceived Gus. During the trial, the parties agreed to the following facts: Jason is not named on Gus’ birth certificate, there is no voluntary declaration of paternity and Gus has no other presumed, natural or possible biological father. Jason maintained a relationship with Gus until Danielle ended her relationship with Jason in 2012. At the end of trial, the court granted Danielle’s motion for nonsuit, finding that section 7613(b) applied to the matter, precluding Jason from proving paternity under section 7611(d).
The court found that section 7613(b) was the exclusive means of determining paternity in cases involving sperm donors and unmarried women. Jason appealed, arguing that section 7613(b) does not preclude him from establishing paternity under section 7611(d). The court of appeals agreed and found the lower court’s decision to be incorrect, holding that section 7613(b) should be interpreted only to preclude a sperm donor from establishing paternity based upon his biological connection to the child. Further, the court held that the law does not preclude Jason from establishing that he is the presumed parent under section 7611(d) – which gives a person the opportunity to present evidence of his commitment to the child and the child’s welfare. In fact, a biological connection to the child is unnecessary to establish paternity, in order for the presumption of paternity to arise.
As a result of this decision, a sperm donor who can show that he has a familial relationship with a child, by receiving him or her into his home and openly holding the child out as his child may be able to establish presumed parent status. Paternity cases are interwoven with child custody, visitation and support issues. If you have any questions concerning such matters, you are encouraged to contact an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible.
The office of Doppelt and Forney, APLC has a great deal of experience handling child custody matters. Mr. Doppelt is a knowledgeable family law attorney with more than 20 years of experience representing parents in Southern California. Doppelt and Forney, APLC serves clients in Linda Vista, Encinitas, Scripps Ranch, San Diego, and throughout Southern California. For a free consultation with a dedicated family lawyer, contact Doppelt and Forney, APLC through the law firm’s website or give us a call toll-free at (800) ROY IS IT (769-4748).
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