Paternity cases are not often newsworthy, yet they do attract headlines when they concern a movie star with a Hollywood lifestyle. Such is the recent case involving actor Jason Patric and his former girlfriend Danielle Schreiber. Patric, a sperm donor, is now looking to have custody rights to the child he helped conceive four years ago. The California courts are grappling with competing statutes in searching for a resolution. The broader issue, however, is how technology is changing the definition of a family in our modern world and how our law is trying to adapt to these changes.

Patric and Shreiber dated sporadically between 2006 and 2012, living together but never marrying. During their relationship, they attempted to conceive a child naturally but were not successful, according to the court’s opinion in Patric v. Schreiber, 226 Cal. App. 4th 167 (Cal. App. 2d Dist. 2014). While they were not consistently together as a couple, Patric nevertheless gave Schreiber consent to use his sperm to conceive a child as long as she kept it secret. Schreiber went through in vitro fertilization (IVF) at a licensed fertility clinic. Prior to the procedure, Schreiber signed forms indicating that both she and Patric intended to parent the child. Schreiber became pregnant and gave birth to a son, Gus, in 2009. Patric was not listed on the child’s birth certificate, nor was there a voluntary declaration of paternity. Nonetheless, Patric developed a relationship with his son. He even attempted a reconciliation with Schreiber, but their relationship definitively ended in May 2012. By this time, Patric had grown attached to Gus and was very involved in the child’s life.

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