If you’ve lived in the Portland area for any time at all, you’re likely to recognize the name Jordan Schnitzer. Jordan, son of Arlene and Harold Schnitzer, is one of the richest men in Portland, and one of its native sons. His family name is on buildings throughout the city, and his philanthropy is well known.
He’s also a major party in one of the most interesting untested issues in family law in Oregon. His former partner, Cory Sause, the egg donor to his young son, Samuel, is taking him to court over parenting rights.
The case started between Jordan Schnitzer and Cassondra Gibeaut. Gibeaut is the surrogate, who carried the boy to term. Gibeaut signed the court paperwork relinquishing any rights to Samuel, and the court filed a judgment that Jordan Schnitzer was the sole genetic, and exclusive legal parent to Samuel. Shortly thereafter, Sause filed a motion to unwind that judgment and asked the court to recognize her as a biological parent to Samuel.
The case history goes something like this: Sause and Schnitzer were dating. Schnitzer tells Sause he’s trying to have a boy. He’s got two daughters already, from a previous marriage, but he wanted, more than anything, to have a boy. Sause has previously frozen her eggs and wants to let Schnitzer use them. They apparently agree that he will disavow any rights to any embryos that are female. They find a surrogate, who won’t claim parentage at all.
There now seems to be a disagreement between what Schnitzer and Sause agreed or didn’t agree to when Sause agreed to allow Schnitzer to use her eggs to have a son. To further complicate things, there seem to be text messages from Schnitzer to Sause where he referred to the birth of “their child.” But some of the text messages going the other way appear to show the opposite. On top of that, there are multiple agreements drafted by the parties regarding both the embroys and any children, one of which was signed, one of which was not. The ambiguities in the contracts are a large part of this parenting litigation.
So, to recap, and please, bear with me, we have Jordan Schnitzer’s sperm and Cory Sause’s frozen eggs in the uterus of a surrogate. A baby boy is born. Schnitzer then petitioned the court that only he should be listed as a parent on the child’s birth certificate. Sause then petitions the court to have her recognized as a parent.
Egg Donation and Parentage
Oregon does not have a specific egg donation statute; rather, they have a sperm donation statute. That statute is clear that sperm donors have “no right, obligation, or interest with respect to a child born as a result of the artificial insemination.” However, case law isn’t so clear on this. In McIntyre v. Crouch, found that a sperm donor could raise the issue of whether or not there was an agreement between the parties that the donor would have parental rights. While this is an egg donor case, that analysis may apply. Now, the difficult issue is to unpack what exactly the agreement was between the two parties.
Despite the fact that Schnitzer, who nearly limitless legal resources, he may not have completely covered his bases in this instances, and Sause may have a colorable legal argument. It’s certainly a lesson that no matter how much you can plan, things may not go your way. We’ll be following this case with great interest.