Margaret Gettle Washburn, P.C.
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Disputes over embryos heads to court

Child custody can be a particularly upsetting topic of discussion for parents who are getting divorced or were never married to begin with. In most cases, parents find it difficult to be objective because of the negative feelings they may be harboring for an ex. Rather than focusing on what's best for the children, many parents focus on punishing the other parent.

As complicated as this situation already can be, it can get even more so when the "child" at the center of a dispute has yet to be born. In recent years, there have been several cases across the country involving ownership of frozen embryos. These cases can serve as a reminder of just how complicated disputes involving children can get in the event of a divorce.

Recently, for example, a divorced couple in another state went to court to determine what should happen to five frozen embryos that were created when the couple was married. Before they even got married, the woman was diagnosed with breast cancer and her fertility was a serious concern so they had the embryos created and frozen.

At the time, the couple signed a document stating that the embryos would be destroyed in the event the couple divorced. That document now plays a crucial role in their case.

Even though both sides acknowledge the signing of the consent form, the woman wants it challenged because the embryos are essentially her only chance to have biological children since cancer treatments left her infertile. The man says that the consent form can only be changed if both sides agree to it, which he does not.

It will be up to the courts to decide if the woman's right to procreate outweighs the terms set forth in the consent form. The court will likely take into consideration the fact that the document was signed in the midst of several life-changing events, including getting married, the risk of infertility and a cancer diagnosis.

Reports indicate that the ruling in this case could have a dramatic impact on laws in the state where the couple lives. It could also impact cases in other states, including Georgia, though that remains to be seen.

Source: LA Times, "Divorced couple fighting in court over frozen embryos," Maura Dolan, July 13, 2015

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Margaret Gettle Washburn, P.C.
4799 Sugarloaf Pkwy
Building J
Lawrenceville, GA 30044

Phone: 770-676-1191
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