Frozen Embryos and Divorce: Navigating the Challenges of New Reproductive Technologies
The ability to freeze embryos has been a game-changer for couples struggling with infertility. Thanks to advancements in reproductive technology, couples can undergo IVF, create embryos, and cryopreserve any surplus embryos for potential future use. However, this new technology also creates complex legal issues when a marriage ends in divorce.
What happens to frozen embryos when a couple divorces? This question is increasingly common for family law attorneys as embryo freezing becomes standard practice. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. The status of frozen embryos in a divorce case varies widely depending on state laws and court rulings.
Some states treat frozen embryos as marital property to be divided like any other asset. Other states view frozen embryos as living beings entitled to special consideration. And some courts have awarded frozen embryos to one spouse, while other rulings have ordered embryos donated to research.
This issue becomes especially complicated when ex-spouses disagree on what to do with remaining frozen embryos. One spouse may desperately want to use the embryos to have a genetically related child, while the other wants them discarded. With up to thousands of dollars invested in creating each embryo, these disputes over "custody" can become intensely emotional and expensive to litigate.
As reproductive technology advances faster than the law, family attorneys must help navigate these uncharted waters. We should advise clients to specify their wishes for frozen embryos in writing before undergoing IVF. However, even signed contracts regarding embryos may not hold up in court. There are few easy answers when family building and relationship dissolution collide.
The best approach is to compassionately counsel our clients through the complex practical and ethical dilemmas posed by new technologies. With thoughtful guidance, we can help build greater understanding of each person’s interests and values. While frozen embryo disputes will likely continue to vex the legal system, our clients deserve our deepest care and wisdom in the face of such deeply personal decisions.
Disclaimer: The content provided in this blog is for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice and readers should not act upon any information provided without seeking professional legal counsel. The author does not guarantee the completeness or accuracy of the information provided. This blog is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.