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What happens to frozen embryos in a divorce?

When couples in California and across the country say their wedding vows, they likely have detailed plans for their future. For many, this includes whether they will have children. With the advances of medical technology, many have found that they are able to have children when, in the past, they may have been unable to do so. However, medical advances often raise questions in a divorce that may be difficult to answer. In fact, the Supreme Court of another state recently issued a ruling in a case that could ultimately provide some guidance for other courts ruling on similar issues.

The case in question dealt with a couple who created embryos, termed "pre-embryos," following their marriage. They had one child using the embryos and chose to freeze the remaining for future use. At the time, they signed an agreement that stated, among other things, that should the marriage end in divorce, the embryos would be destroyed.

However, when the couple ultimately went through a divorce, the husband argued that he would like to keep the embryos in the event of a reconciliation; failing that, he argued that they could be given to another couple. A judge ruled that their contract was not enforceable. Though the court decided that they should be considered marital property, the embryos were awarded to the woman.

The husband appealed that decision. A recent court ruling unanimously overturned the lower court's decision, finding that the contact was, in fact, enforceable. Though some anticipated the court's decision in this case might address questions about when life begins, the court claims that how embryos will be treated in similar cases in which there is no contract in place must be decided on "another day."

Some divorce cases contain unique elements that many without legal experience feel unprepared to address on their own. As such, many people in California who are seeking the next stage of their lives often choose to seek guidance from an experienced family law attorney. With such help, they often feel more prepared to represent their interests.

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