Divorced Couple Battle Fate of Frozen Embryos in Court

in-the-lab-2-1251077When a couple chooses to divorce, there are many issues to address and resolve in order to move forward with their separate lives. Each family law case comes with a unique set of facts that can often dictate how the couple proceeds, to some extent. In an ideal case, the separating spouses will be able to come to an agreement on the most significant issues related to their marriage. And even when the parties do enter into a marital settlement agreement or some other consent agreement, one spouse or the other may attempt to challenge the terms down the road. In order to ensure that your separation or property settlement agreement complies with applicable Maryland law, you are encouraged to consult with a local, experienced family law attorney.

The importance of crafting and executing an enforceable agreement in any family-related matter cannot be overstated. In a recent case making national news, a divorced couple has been in court arguing over the fate of their frozen embryos. During their relatively short marriage, Dr. Mimi Lee and Stephen Findley chose to create five embryos upon learning that Dr. Lee had breast cancer. Two years ago, Findley filed for divorce and sought to have the embryos destroyed. Dr. Lee, 46, wants to implant the embryos, since she considers it her last chance to have a biological child.

A San Francisco court held a trial this past July to determine the enforceability of the consent agreement that the couple signed before they underwent reproductive technology. The agreement provides for the embryos to be destroyed should the parties get a divorce, but they would go to Dr. Lee upon Findley’s death. Furthermore, the consent agreement sets forth that it can only be changed by mutual agreement. Dr. Lee argued that she did not consider the consent agreement to be a binding contract.

As far as earlier precedent goes, observers point out that most of the cases have favored the party who wishes to avoid procreation. At least one decision pointed out that it would be against public policy to force a man to become a parent against his wishes. But there have been two cases where the embryos were awarded to the women, both of whom were infertile and had received a cancer diagnosis.

If the court rules in favor of Dr. Lee and permits her to go ahead with implantation, she has stated that she would raise the child by herself and waive future child support from Findley. But at least one observer pointed out that the wife’s agreement to take responsibility for the child does not necessarily relieve the husband of his potential role in the child’s life.

According to one article, the court’s decision will likely make new law in California. And while laws governing marriage and divorce are regulated by state, and this decision would not have a binding effect on cases resolved in Maryland courts, it is certainly a controversial issue, likely to make an impression on various jurisdictions handling family law issues throughout the country.

Family law cases present a myriad of sensitive issues that must be addressed in order for the parties to move on with their lives. Reaching out to an experienced Maryland family law attorney is a good way to protect your rights in an efficient manner. Parties anticipating a divorce are encouraged to contact Anthony A. Fatemi, an experienced Maryland family law attorney, for representation and legal guidance in all aspects of divorce. Mr. Fatemi can be reached at (888) 519-2801 or (301) 519-2801.

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