Family Law Corner: How One Becomes a Legal Stranger to Their Own Child
When Jason Patric (star of “The Lost Boys” and “Speed 2: Cruise Control”) and his on-and-off girlfriend of over 10 years broke up in early 2009, they made an unusual agreement. Jason agreed father Danielle Schreiber’s child via artificial insemination under the condition that she never reveal him to be the father and that she would never seek child support. Baby Gus was born in December 2009. For the next year, the agreement went as planned. Then, Patric and Schreiber reconciled in 2011 and spent the next several months together before breaking up again in May 2012. This is where the story takes a turn. Schreiber remains happy with the agreement, but Patric is now seeking joint custody of Gus. So far, the judge has temporarily granted sole legal and physical custody to Schreiber and visitation to Patric. Schreiber objects to the judge’s order because she doesn’t believe Patric should have any legal rights to custody or visitation.
While many details are missing, most likely Patric waived his parental rights (much like a sperm donor). Schreiber is likely the only legal parent to the boy. If that is the case and Patric waived his rights as a biological parent, his only option to be named a legal parent is to find grounds under Family Code §7611, which set for the grounds for finding someone is a presumed parent. Family Code §7611(d) requires that Patric take the child “into his home and openly hold out the child as his natural child” in order to be a presumed parent to the child.
The kind of actions which constitute holding a child out as his natural child has been the subject of a number of cases, usual lesbian parentage cases where the second mother seeks validation of her parental status. In Charisma R. v. Kristina S. (2009) 175 CA4th 361, the Court found that there does not have to be a specific duration of time to make the relationship clear, but the actions have to make the relationship clear. Similar to this case, in S.Y. v. S.B. (2011) 201 Cal.App. 4th 1023, the Court found that the parent had held the children out as her own even though she never resided with the children and may have understood at the time of birth that she was not going to be parent to the child. However, the cases under §7611(d) do agree that the holding out has to be unambiguous, such as by providing financial support and doing the things parents do, for example taking children to doctors’ appointments or school. It remains to be seen if Patric has evidence of this kind of behavior or if he was just dating Schreiber and spending time with the child. If the Court finds Patric did not hold himself out as a father, then he will remain a legal stranger to the child.