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Child custody and sperm donation debated in California

California courts have always taken issues of child custody seriously. When determining who has the right to legal and physical custody of a child, it is important to consider the best interests of the child involved. However, determining the best interests of the child is not always a clear and easy process. In an age where the nuclear family is changing dramatically, the parents of a child are not always as easy to identify.

Specifically, advances in artificial reproductive technology have permitted individuals who normally would not be able to have children due to reproductive difficulties or same sex barriers to start families. Using sperm donors is now relatively common among those who have faced hurdles in having a baby. While reproductive technologies have brought the gift of children to so many who could not have had them otherwise, the law is still struggling to keep up with technology.

The state of California is currently working on how to address legal issues surrounding sperm donation. Recently, the legislature brought forth a bill that attempts to define a sperm donor's rights. State law currently indicates that if there is not an agreement before donation, the sperm donor is held not to have any parental rights. This bill proposes to alter that presumption, permitting a consideration of the sperm donor's involvement in the child's life, post-birth. If the sperm donor receives the child in his home and holds the child out as being his own, then such acts could reverse the presumption.

This child custody debate hit the California assembly floor recently. It is hotly debated with proponents championing the empowerment it gives sperm donors who act as fathers after the child is born. In opposition are those who indicate the bill hugely undercut's women's rights to use sperm donors and raise a child independently.

Determining legal and physical parenting rights is certainly an important issue to address. Even more important is recognizing all scenarios in which parenting right debates may surface and creating laws to manage such debates.

Source: The Sacramento Bee, "In the California Legislature, a seminal moment in parenting...," Jack Ohman, Aug. 19, 2013.

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