Battle over Parental Rights Plagues Schnitzer

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Battle over Parental Rights Plagues Schnitzer

The name “Jordan Schnitzer” is synonymous with a robust financial portfolio punctuated by a history of generous philanthropy. While many might agree that Portland-based Schnitzer had it all, the one thing he felt he was lacking was a son.

With the medical advances of third-party reproduction, however, Schnitzer, 64, was able to complete his family.

A gestational surrogate carried his son and delivered him on Dec. 22, 2015.

Unfortunately for Schnitzer, the woman he chose to be his egg donor is a former girlfriend who also wants to be a legal parent.

The eggs were harvested from Cory Sause, 37, who is also a prominent figure in Oregon coming from an Oregon business empire. According to the Willamette Week, Schnitzer and Sause were in a relationship beginning in January 2014. By the time of the boy’s birth, however, their relationship had already ended.

Schnitzer thought he had safeguarded his rights as the sole parent of any son born from the embryos created with his and Sause’s genetic material. The contract between the parties delineated parental rights based on the sex of the embryo, stating in regard to a female “Schnitzer hereby relinquishes any claim to or jurisdiction over any female embryos from Sause and any resulting female offspring.” Sause relinquished her rights to any male embryo, but it was not specifically stated that the renouncement of rights also applied to any male offspring.

The process of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis was utilized to determine the sex of the embryo.

While Schnitzer made it quite clear he only wanted male embryos, Sause indicated she did not want the female embryos destroyed and wished to have them stored for the future.

Reporter Nigel Jaquiss writes, “Bob Barton, one of Sause’s attorneys, argues that in the contract prepared by Schnitzer’s attorney, Schnitzer renounced any involvement with any female ‘offspring,’ but that Sause made no such concession about a son.” He added, “Barton says Sause acknowledged Schnitzer’s sole custody of a male baby—but did not renounce either her parentage or visitation rights.”

According to Jaquiss, Schnitzer’s attorney maintains that Sause’s claims are without merit.

Jaquiss goes on to report, “On March 3 [2016], that dream turned into a nightmare when Sause challenged him [Schnitzer] in Multnomah County Circuit Court, saying he was violating their contract by denying her parentage of their son.” He added, “For Sause, it’s the desire to be a mother to a child whose genes are half hers. For Schnitzer, who already has two daughters, the imperative is to have a son he can raise without interference and who can carry on his family name.”

Obviously, there is no question that Sause is genetically linked to this baby boy.

Sause’s court filings also include a series of text updates from Schnitzer regarding the progress of their surrogate’s pregnancy.

Willamette Week published a text Schnitzer sent to Sause in May 2015 which read, “Very soon, we will know whether you are going to be a mom. This is our baby.”

In the filing, it was also stated that after the baby was born, Sause went to the hospital to visit him.

Jaquiss wrote, “That same day, Dec. 22, Schnitzer filed a petition in Multnomah County Circuit Court saying he was the baby’s sole parent.” He added, “Sause says when she learned that her name wasn’t on the birth certificate, she was ‘shocked,’ and further dismayed that Schnitzer went to court and obtained a judgment certifying that he was the sole genetic parent.”

Sause sought legal counsel after realizing she was not recognized as the child’s legal parent and would have no visitation rights. In Sause’s March 3 filing she stated, “It was always my intention to be the biological mother of any child that resulted from our embryos.”

A judge will hear this emotionally charged case on April 4, 2016.