Who Gets Custody of Embryos?

The new developments in reproductive technology have enabled many individuals and couples have babies. These individuals and couples would otherwise not have been in a position to have babies due to medical reasons. However this new development has brought with it certain ethical and legal challenges. Two decades back, no one would have imagined that a day will come when court will have to deal with the issue of who gets custody of frozen embryos.

Real-Life Cases

A couple from Tacoma, Washington had a baby using a surrogate. They had two embryos which were frozen as they wanted to implant them in the surrogate mother in the future but the couple soon filed for divorce and the judge awarded the husband custody of the frozen embryos. The wife appealed. The egg donor supported the wife and wanted to have a say in who gets custody of the embryos.

In Michigan, a couple fought for years over 5 frozen embryos. The wife wanted to use them in future to have kids but the husband objected and the court ruled in the husband’s favor. The wife unhappy with the court order, appealed.

In 1999, a court in Cooks County, Illinois ordered that the frozen embryos remain frozen until the court could determine the constitutional issues involved. During the divorce, the husband moved an application seeking to prevent the wife from attempting to become pregnant using the frozen embryos. The court ruled in favor of the husband holding that who gets custody of the embryos must be decided during the divorce trial.

These real life cases indicate the complex issues that can arise further complicating an already complex situation. If you are considering the use of assisted reproductive technology to help you achieve your dreams of starting a family, discuss the legal issues with an experienced attorney so that you will know what to expect in case your marriage does not work out.

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