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How will future generations define a parent?

There have been a growing number of difficult child custody cases that have made headlines in the past few years, and surprisingly, many of them are not the usual suspects involving divorce. No, now with in vitro fertilization quickly becoming more accepted across the nation, many new child custody cases are begging the question: how do we define a parent when it comes to issues of custody?

Take for example any number of cases where a woman has conceived a child via a sperm donation or a case of surrogacy. In many of these cases, the definition of a parent no longer relies on whether the person is married to the person who helped them conceive the child but rather on how state laws are interpreted. Unfortunately, this leaves a lot of people across the country, including here in Maryland, largely wondering what parental rights they have and how they will fair in a child custody case.

If we look at the case of actor Jason Patric, who is currently trying to get custody of his son who was conceived through assisted reproduction methods, we see how difficult these situations can get. According to sperm donor laws where the case is taking place, a man who donates sperm to a woman who is not his wife is not considered to be the father unless the two parties sign an agreement stating otherwise. In the case of Patric, he did not sign an agreement waiving his paternal rights to his son whom he conceived with his ex-girlfriend.

Like with many child custody battles here, Patric has sought the assistance of an experienced attorney to help navigate the complexities of family law in order to gain continual access to his son. And just like other similar cases that have come before his, he will be bound by the court’s interpretation of what a parent is in relation to state laws.

Source: The Los Angeles Times, "Assisted reproduction: When does a father become one?" Naomi Cahn and June Carbone, Aug. 12, 2013