Family / Family-building

Jason Patric Brings Donor Issues into the Mainstream

large_6930928323This week the New York Times had an article titled, “Does ‘Sperm Donor’ Mean ‘Dad’?” Of course, as a member of a family that used a known donor, I read with interest. The article focuses on a specific public feud between former actor Jason Patric and his ex-girlfriend, Danielle Schreiber. The couple had tried to conceive while they were romantically involved and later, when they were no longer a couple, conceived a son via in-vitro fertilization. After some on-again off-again drama, they are in disagreement on whether Patric is the legal parent of the child or a sperm donor trying to change his mind about involvement in the child’s life. It’s he-said she-said when it comes to parental intentions and it’s unclear if it truly is a known donor arrangement gone wrong or a case of parental alienation through abuse of donor laws. Either way, it highlights the risks in a known donor scenario and calls into question the sensibility of forming a family the way my partner and I have. The truth is that this specific case is much different than most known donor situations, but it is a good reminder of how important clear communication, shared intent and written documentation can be in the planning of a known donor arrangement.

When my partner and I first considered a known donor to start our family we had some reservations. Ultimately, a known donor ended up being the best choice for our family, but there were several key factors that made us feel comfortable moving forward with a known donor.

First, we chose someone we trusted. In our case, our donor is my partner’s brother. He is someone she has known her whole life, they love each other unconditionally, and they have plenty of experience sorting out disagreements. It was still a leap of faith, as bringing a child into the world tends to be, but we felt confident that we were teaming up with someone we trust, respect and with whom we can be honest.

Secondly, we signed a known donor contract. Despite the fact that these rarely are legally binding, we found it very useful to lay out all the expectations in writing and go over them point by point. We were very clear that “donor” did not equal “dad” (especially since my partner goes by dad) and agreed that our kids would call him “Uncle.”  We also discussed how comfortable we were disclosing his donor status and how/if we would share that information with the kids. (Spoiler alert: We are pretty open about it, seeing as how you are reading about it on the internet.)

Finally, we’ve fostered an ongoing conversation. Things have come up – like the fact that it was pretty clear that we used a family donor when our kids were born looking just like my partner’s side of the family, so we ended up disclosing sooner than anticipated. Initially, we thought we might wait and let the kids know first and then decide who to tell and whens. So much for that plan. When we decided to have a second child, we checked in to make sure we were still on the same page. When our eldest son learned about how a sperm and an egg are needed to make a baby, and we told him that his uncle was the one who helped us make him – we made sure to loop our donor in, so he knew that conversation was happening.

When I saw the New York Times article my first two thoughts were:

1. This scenario is a bit of a stretch to be representing “known donor” situations and

2. The alarmist tone is unfair to families like ours who are not shrouded with so much confusion and misunderstanding.

Still, I always appreciate the opportunity to talk about our choice to use a known donor and dispel some of the misconceptions that sensationalistic articles like this perpetuate. I don’t regret choosing a known donor. I don’t think it’s for everyone, but I do hope no one lets the unfortunate situation in this article keep them from considering a known donor as an option.

FEATURE PHOTO CREDIT: QSIMPLE, MEMORIES FOR THE FUTURE PHOTOGRAPHY via PHOTOPIN cc

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One Comment

  1. I agree that there seems to be little in this Patric/Schreiber scenario that resembles a typical (if such a thing exists!) known-donor situation. Rather, to me, it seems like a woman attempting to find loopholes/misuse the sperm donor laws for her own (parental rights) gain.

    We, of course, have no knowledge of what really went down in their family unit, but her legal tactics do remind a little bit of some of the extremes LGBT families have to go in this country. For example, there was a time in my state (North Carolina) when same sex families used an obscure legal loophole (which has since been closed) to obtain second parent adoptions.

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