A Los Angeles County child custody decision handed down this month by a court in Santa Monica involves one of those cases we see every now and then – the kind that seems unique on the surface, but can actually serve as a valuable lesson for Orange County parents, or potential parents, involved in custody issues.
According to the Santa Monica Daily Press, the story begins several years ago when Karen B., a lesbian woman living in Los Angeles, answered an online ad from a man offering to act as a sperm donor. The man, identified only as Daniel C., agreed to provide sperm for Karen to conceive via artificial insemination. The couple drew up and signed an agreement stipulating that Karen would raise, and take all responsibility for, the child while allowing Daniel only occasional visits.
The couple landed in Southern California family court because after the baby’s birth Daniel changed his mind. As detailed by both the Daily Press and ABC News the case, from there, rapidly became complicated: Daniel, though gay, reportedly told hospital officials he was Karen’s husband. He was later accused of stalking Karen and her partner, and got into an argument with Karen over his desire to take the baby with him on a visit to his native Brazil.
Last week, in a Santa Monica family court, Daniel lost. As the Daily Press put it, the court ruled that “there’s a big difference between being a sperm donor and being a dad.” Karen was awarded full custody of the child.
As I said at the outset, this might seem to be a fairly unique case. Many of Karen and Daniel’s problems, however, appear to stem from one flawed decision: drawing up a supposedly binding agreement with little or no assistance from a qualified California family law attorney. The stress, complications and expense Karen and Daniel have both endured as this case has made its way through the courts is a reminder of the important role experienced, thoughtful legal advice plays when couples (married or not) are embarking on major decisions, such as the conception of a child. It is difficult to overstate the importance of skilled legal advice when approaching important Orange County family law decisions. Be sure, at such moments, that you have all of the information you need to make the best choices for yourself and your family.
ABC News.com: California Sperm Donor Stalks Lesbian Mother
Santa Monica Daily Press: Sperm donor loses unique paternity suit