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Court issues decisions on embryos following divorce

Many couples in California want children. As a result, they began to make plans, sometimes including the creation and storage of embryos. Unfortunately, some couples make the decision that a divorce is in their best interest, leaving them to disagree about the fate of frozen embryos. A former couple in another state has been at odds over the fate of their embryos. Although a state appeals court has recently issued a ruling on the case, the woman in the case has vowed to continue the fight.

The couple created the embryos in 2007. While twin boys were born through in vitro fertilization, two remaining embryos were frozen. Court records indicate that three years later, the man and his wife signed an agreement stating that his wife would receive the embryos in the event of a divorce. They divorced months later, but the man contested the agreement.

A circuit court ruled in favor of the man. Although the woman argued that Missouri law gives legal status of children to the embryos, the court argued that forcing the man to have children against his wishes would constitute a violation of his right to privacy. An appeals court recently upheld the lower court's ruling, further ruling that the woman failed to successfully argue at the agreement signed before the end of the marriage giving her custody was enforceable.

The ruling characterizes the embryos as marital property with special character. As such, neither can take action with the embryos without the consent of the other. The man has stated that he is willing to donate them either to science or an infertile couple or to destroy them. The woman has announced her intention to appeal the decision to a higher court.

Many people in California going through a divorce are able to settle their differences peacefully and efficiently. However, some encounter disputes that they are unable to overcome without the intervention of a court. Regardless of whether a divorce is contentious or amicable, an attorney with experience can help ensure that a person's best interests are protected throughout proceedings.

Source:, "Divorced St. Louis County couple's frozen embryos are property, not humans, appellate court rules", Joel Currier, Nov. 16, 2016

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