In a recent landmark ruling, a West Coast judge has ordered that the embryos created by a couple who are now divorced will be destroyed. The decision is one that has been anticipated for some time, as the issue has arisen in states across the nation. When a couple ends their relationship but has created the earliest beginnings of a shared child, the courts are tasked with determining how to proceed. The case is of interest to many in Florida who have completed or are considering fertility treatments, but are concerned about a child custody battle over unborn children.
In this case, the woman went through the process to create the embryos after she was diagnosed with cancer. Fearing that her cancer treatment would render her infertile, she made the decision to create and store multiple embryos with her then-husband. Once the couple divorced just a few years later, she was in her mid-40s, a time when many women are unable to conceive a child on their own.
At the time the embryos were created, both parties signed an agreement that stated that the embryos would be destroyed in the event of a divorce. The man argued that the terms of that agreement should be binding, and told the court that he did not want to be forced into a co-parenting relationship with his former wife. The woman claims that she did not think that the agreement was a binding contract, and believed that she could change her mind at a later time.
The judge heard testimony and reviewed evidence, and ruled that the woman did not have the right to procreate with her ex-husband against his will. This also eliminates the risk of a future child custody battle between the parties. The ruling also stated that individuals who seek fertility interventions have the right to clarity in regard to the documents that they sign at the onset of that process. For those in Florida and elsewhere who are considering IVF as a means of having a child but are concerned about what would occur in the event of a divorce, this ruling may make that decision easier.
Source: Los Angeles Times, “Divorced couple’s frozen embryos must be ‘thawed and discarded,’ judge rules“, Maura Dolan, Nov. 18, 2015