Berman & Asbel, LLP

Couples that divorce before completing IVF

Going through a divorce in Pennsylvania is usually more complicated for parents of young children than it is for couples with no children. Though arguing over child support and custody agreements can be difficult, the laws concerning these issues are generally understood. When a divorcing couple has embryos that were created for in-vitro fertilization, the laws concerning these potentially unborn children are much more ambiguous.

When a man and a woman agree to create embryos for IVF, they usually sign an agreement that authorizes the storage facility to preserve the embryos cryogenically. This type of agreement will usually contain clauses about what should happen to the embryos if the couple breaks up, dies or decides not to proceed with the IVF. The couple may choose to continue storing the embryos, donate the embryos to another couple, donate the embryos to medical research or have the embryos destroyed.

Many couples do not give much thought to the agreement that they sign during the IVF process because they are so anxious to become parents. If a couple's parenting plans change before the embryos are implanted, a legal battle over the embryos may ensue. Unless one party was a sperm donor, cryogenically stored embryos are considered the property of the two people that created them. Courts usually rule against one person imposing parenthood on another person against their wishes. However, some courts will consider whether destroying embryos would prevent one person from ever becoming a biological parent.

A family law attorney may be able to represent a person who is going through a divorce that involves a dispute over cryogenically stored embryos. After determining what contracts and laws apply to an individual's case, an attorney may help the individual to find a way to achieve their goals.

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