Courts struggle with custody of children conceived in vitro

Like many other states, Illinois is gender neutral when it comes to child custody. That means the mother and the father have equal rights under the law to request child custody. This is surprising to some fathers who think that they have to settle for every other weekend with their children. The fact is that fathers’ rights have come a long way in the country over the past few decades.

However, things are more complex when it comes to the custody rights to children who were conceived in a lab. Currently, the California state legislature is grappling with this issue, and many other states will likely consider it soon as well.

In California, a man who had a child with his ex-girlfriend using in vitro fertilization has become the face of the issue. The man, who is an actor, recently testified before California lawmakers as part of a hearing on a bill that would give judges more freedom to consider the rights of biological fathers in similar child custody cases.

The man said he and his ex-girlfriend did not have anything in writing when he agreed to provide his sperm to impregnate her through in vitro, but he assumed that he would have a role in the child’s life. The ex-girlfriend, on the other hand, claimed that the man was never supposed to have custody rights to the child.

The ex-girlfriend was awarded custody of the pairs 3-year-old son and the man has appealed the decision. If the California lawmakers approve the bill being discussed, it will give the man a much greater chance at being awarded custody rights.

This issue is a complicated one that is the result of the advancement of modern medicine. Because children can now be conceived in non-traditional ways, the court has to figure out how child custody laws should apply. However, legislation, like what has been proposed in California, would be very helpful in guiding the way.

Source: Christian Science Monitor, “Father or sperm donor? Jason Patric’s custody plea prompts California hearing,” Patrik Jonsson, Aug. 13, 2013

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