Who Gets the Final Say About Frozen Embryos After Divorce?

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Family Lawyers Bloomington, IL

There are many reasons why a couple, married or not married, may want to have embryos frozen. For many women who are diagnosed with cancer, having embryos frozen is the only way that they will be able to have biological children after chemotherapy and radiation therapy. And, while both partners may have agreed to have embryos frozen at the time, couples often end up changing their minds, particularly after splitting up or getting divorced. If you are in disagreement about how the embryos you and your partner had frozen will be used, you need to talk with a family law attorney.

Courts Generally Side with the Spouse Who Does Not Want the Embryos to be Used

Freezing fertilized embryos is becoming increasingly popular, and the chances of having a birth with a frozen embryo are just as good as using a “fresh” embryo for in vitro fertilization. But when a couple splits up or has a change of heart about having a child via frozen embryo, who gets the final say? Can a woman have the child against the man’s wishes, or vice versa? It is a constitutional right not to have to procreate, and courts usually side with the spouse who wishes not to have the embryos used to develop a child, as no person should be forced to have a child against his or her will.

Most States Have No Specific Law Regulating the Fate of Frozen Embryos, But Arizona Does

A day-old frozen embryo, created with a man’s sperm and a woman’s egg, is not a living human being. Despite this fact, anti-abortion advocate groups have helped to create a law in Arizona that requires the court to give “custody” of frozen embryos to the party who wants them to develop to birth. Women’s rights groups see this as a direct attack on a woman’s right to choose whether to give birth or receive an abortion. According to the chair of the American Bar Association’s committee on fertility technology, the Arizona law is an attack on abortions in disguise. “The new law is in fact an end around aimed at establishing the ‘personhood’ of unborn embryos,” he claims, which is a top goal of anti-abortion campaigners designed to destroy personal choice. Arizona is the only state to have such a law, though some are worried that others may follow.

For Answers to Your Questions, Call a Family Law Attorney

Because the method of using frozen embryos for in vitro fertilization is so relatively new, there is no particular state law that governs disputes about embryo “custody” and whether the embryos should be discarded or made into a child. If you are going through such a dispute, call skilled family lawyers in Bloomington, Illinois from Pioletti & Pioletti to schedule a free and confidential consultation.