In recent years, more couples than ever have turned towards in vitro fertilization. In the latter half of 2020, fertility clinics across the country saw up to a 30 percent increase in their number of new patients. The National Embryo Donation Center, the largest embryo donation clinic in the country, also estimates that the number of frozen embryos in storage has doubled in the past decade.
I.V.F involves extracting eggs in order to fertilize them in a clinic laboratory. The embryos can then either be placed back into the womb or be frozen for a future embryo transfer. A couple may opt for freezing embryos if they are not yet ready to have children.
Alternatively, there may still be remaining embryos after a couple successfully has a child through I.V.F. Therefore, any couples who undergo I.V.F may be left with the difficult decision of what to do with their embryos in the event of divorce.
Deciding who gets custody of the embryo
Deciding who should get custody can be a very difficult issue, complicated largely by the emotional investment. Generally, clinics require partners to sign paperwork when beginning the process and address this very issue.
Sometimes spouses agree that in the event of their separation, neither partner should keep the embryos. Other times, they might agree as to who should retain sole custody. However, due to the stress, excitement and unfamiliarity of the situation, couples sometimes fail to fully consider the implications of the forms they are signing.
For example, a 52-year old women interviewed for the article claims her mental state was so complicated at the time that she did not even remember signing the forms. Nevertheless, her now ex-husband was able to rely on the clinic forms in order to prevent her from using the embryos.
Divorce is often a complicated process; deciding what to do with your embryos can make things even more complicated. In the even that a spouse disagrees with the agreement they previously signed, it might still be possible to restrict the other spouse from developing an embryo.
Judges often rule in favor of the person who does not want to develop the embryo, though weight will surely be given to any signed agreements. Therefore, a helpful course of action is to discuss the issue thoroughly prior to signing any legally binding agreement.