If you didn’t catch it this weekend, there’s a interesting piece in the NYTimes, especially for the legal minded among you. It’s about a custody case that the actor Jason Patric is involved in (also, I had no idea that Patric was the grandson of Jackie Gleason).
The facts, in short, are these Jason Patric (The Lost Boys) donated his sperm to a friend, Danielle Schreiber. They were not romantic at the time, but the birth of the child brought them together as boyfriend and girlfriend. As such, Patric took on the roles of a traditional father, and was even called “Dada” by the child, Gus.
However, two years later, Patric and Schreiber broke up, and Schreiber withheld visits from Patric. He, in turn, sued for parental rights. And here’s the catch: California has two conflicting laws. One law states that he can be considered a parent if he “receives the child into his home and openly holds the child out as his natural child.” However, another law states that, unless there is a specific written agreement ahead of conception, then a sperm donor cannot be treated as the father. There was no such agreement.
The case has been bitterly contested for two years, and Patric hasn’t been able to see his biological son for the last 63 weeks. Schreiber contends that she never meant for Gus to consider Patric as a parent, and the lower court agreed, ruling in her favor. The case is currently headed toward an appeal, while Patric is also waging a war of public opinion, stating that “This is child abuse. When a parent is shut out, the only information is a skewed, perverted narrative — that mommy or daddy doesn’t love you,” he argues.
“It’s so emasculating, so totally devastating. He lives 10 minutes away from me, and I haven’t been able to see him in 63 weeks. Do you know how heart wrenching that is?”
Patric, meanwhile, has also started a foundation, Stand Up for Gus, which has raised over $200,000 to help low income clients deal with similar situations. Among his backers are Jon Hamm, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Chelsea Handler, Nikki Reed, Chris Noth, Sarah Silverman, Chris Rock, Mark Wahlberg, and Kiefer Sutherland, a friend of Patric’s despite the fact that Julia Roberts ran away to Ireland with Patric only days after she broke off her engagement with Sutherland way back in the day.
For legal scholars, it’s a fascinating case. For followers of celebrity gossip, it’s also deliciously scandalous. For Jason Patric, however, I suspect it’s devastating, and even if the law is not on his side, I sympathise with his desires to be a parent to a boy who considers him a father.