Berman & Asbel, LLP

Property division or child custody? Fertility measures discussed

When Pennsylvania couples marry, discussion about starting a family may come soon after. For some, having children is not always an easy undertaking, and they may feel the need to take certain fertility measures. Freezing embryos for future implantation is a route some couples take, but legal issues could arise if a couple decides to divorce. Determining whether those embryos should be discussed in terms of property division or child custody could complicate separation proceedings.

Decisions concerning such a complicated matter depend heavily on state laws. In some previous cases, embryos were considered in terms of asset division, not child custody. Some parties may not consider the embryos as living beings, and, therefore, they would not fall under child custody laws. However, for obvious reasons, it is not a black and white issue.

Would-be fathers and mothers may not wish for the other to have access to pre-existing embryos. If a mother obtains rights to the embryos, would the biological father be responsible for child support should she choose to implant one after divorce? There is indeed the possibility that a biological father could be legally obligated to make support payments even if parental rights have been given up and the biological mother does not want the support.

This type of situation can severely complicate divorce proceedings. As such, it is important that parties understand relevant Pennsylvania laws when determining whether embryos could fall under property division or child custody. Discussing matters with knowledgeable individuals could help concerned parties better understand what they might expect during the process.

Source: Washington Times, Are unborn children people or property in a divorce, and who decides?, Myra Fleischer Myra, Sept. 19, 2013

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