Last week, actor Jason Patric, best known for his roles in "The Lost Boys" and more recently "Entourage" held a fundraiser for his charity, "Stand Up For Gus."
Patric formed the Charity after a court in California dismissed his application for legal visitation rights to his son, Gus, with former girlfriend, Danielle Schreiber.
Schreiber maintains that Gus was conceived through sperm donation after the former couple broke up. She alleges that Patric offered to donate on the condition that Schreiber not seek child support or disclose the parties' arrangement to anyone. TMZ reports that Patric made the arrangement at the end of the parties' 10-year relationship in 2009 because he did not have money to settle claims between them.
The situation became more complicated in 2011 when the parties attempted a reconciliation. When Patric and Schreiber split again a year later, Patric had become attached to his biological son and decided to seek a shared custody arrangement whereby he would have Gus in his custody 50 per cent of the time.
Unfortunately for Patric, there is a wonky law in California which stipulates that if an unmarried man artificially inseminates an unmarried woman, he is not legally the father and therefore does not have custodial rights. The matter is further complicated by the fact that Patric signed a document prior to Gus's birth agreeing that he would not be considered the boy's father. Subsequent to the court ruling, both parties made court appearance on the Today Show and the Katie Couric show, respectively, arguing their case.
Fortunately for all those out there fretting about their custodial rights, Ontario's laws are very different. In Ontario, both biological parents are equally entitled to custody, as a general rule, until separation (s. 20, Children's Law Reform Act). That being said, a parent's entitlement to custody, but not access is suspended if he or she consents or acquiesces to the child residing with the other parent, in the absence of a separation agreement or court order to the contrary.
While Patric's and Schreiber's arrangement may have originally been for sperm donation, the fact that Patric subsequently lived with Schreiber and cared for the child, suggests that, in Ontario, he would at least be entitled to access.
In the end, a court's only consideration when determining custody and access in Ontario is the best interests of the child. Thus, if Patric could demonstrate that it was in Gus's best interests to have some contact with him, then it would be contrary to Ontario's law to not allow Gus access to his father. While a parental relationship does not guarantee access, access is generally ordered where it is of benefit to the child.
Moreover, the failure of the custodial parent to permit access with the access parent may result in emotional harm to the child, which is a ground for finding a child in need of protection.
Unfortunately for Patric, California law governs in this matter. Hopefully, if "Stand Up For Gus" is successful in lobbying for legislative changes, other parents will not face the same challenges as Patric in the future.