Celebrity Custody Battle May Lead to Expanded Sperm Donor Rights

Celebrity media have been buzzing recently over the dispute between actor Jason Patric (The Lost Boys, Sleepers, My Sister's Keeper) and a former girlfriend over Patric’s parental rights to a child conceived via sperm donation. The high-profile case may have long-term impact far beyond the salacious headlines: Patric has become the poster child for a proposed new law that would expand the rights of California sperm donors to have a parental relationship with their offspring under certain conditions.

In 2009, Patric, now 47, donated sperm to massage therapist Danielle Schreiber, a former girlfriend, for fertility treatment that resulted in her pregnancy. At that time, Schreiber told The Los Angeles Times, Patric asked that his role as sperm donor not be publicized and stated that he did not want to be a father to the child. The couple lived apart for most of the baby’s first year but later reunited, according to an ABC News report. They have since separated. Patric now claims to have had a “loving relationship” with the little boy, now age 3, and to have supported and helped raise him. Patric has sued for partial custody, which the mother contested. She won in court, and Patric has appealed the decision.

As explained in the L.A. Times article:

Under state law, someone who donates sperm through a doctor or sperm bank and who is not married to the woman who conceives is not recognized as the child's natural father. The only exception is if the couple agreed in writing before conception that the donor was to be considered a parent.

State Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) has introduced a bill that would allow courts to grant parental rights to sperm donors, even where no pre-conception agreement exists, if the sperm donor has acknowledged the child as his own and has had a relationship with the child, such as receiving the child in his home. The bill has already passed unanimously in the state Senate and awaits hearing in the state Assembly.

Reaction to the proposed law is mixed. Critics say it would disempower mothers who conceive via a sperm donation from a known donor but wish to raise the child alone or with a partner and do not intend for the sperm donor to have parental rights. The California National Organization for Women is “vehemently” opposed to the bill.

LGBT advocacy group Equality California, on the other hand, supports the proposed law on the basis that the sperm donor could only gain parental rights if the mother invited him to have a relationship with the child. One likely unintended consequence: Women who conceive via sperm donation are apt to be averse to allowing the sperm donor any role whatsoever in the child’s life for fear they may be forced to accept a familial relationship they never intended.

The litigation between Jason Patric and his former girlfriend demonstrates the need to have clear written legal agreements in place prior to sperm donation, especially in the case of known donors. Relationships change, emotions often run high where children are involved, and the original intentions of the parents and donors can easily be lost in the shuffle. The issues surrounding any form of assisted reproductive technology are broad and complex, and the best way to ensure the interests of all parties are protected, including the children, is to have competent, experienced legal representation.

Rich Vaughn
Richard Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya received her bachelor’s degree from Beijing Technologies and Business University, where she majored in Marketing. She moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeast University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015 and received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”

Miesha Cowart
Financial Coordinator

Miesha Cowart joined IFLG as a financial specialist in 2014 following a successful career in development and business finance. Miesha previously worked for 10 years in the construction industry as a controller and for 13 years as Development Coordinator for the non-profit U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In her free time, Miesha works with “Next Generation” at her church. “They are my heartbeats!” she says of the youth in her community.


Kim has over 25 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager of surrogacy and egg donation cases, and is also responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

Los Angeles

5757 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 645

Los Angeles, CA 90036

Phone:  +1 323 331 9343



New York

501 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1900

New York, NY 10017

Phone:  +1 844 400 2016



Molly O'Brien

Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.