Who Gets Custody of Frozen Embryos in a Michigan Divorce?

Advances in technology have significantly changed the way some couples approach the prospect of parenthood. Everyone knows that as we age, we become less fertile and contend with higher risk factors. However, this may be a moot point now that couples can freeze fertilized embryos for later implantation, preserving the chances for healthy conception at the peak of fertility, even if the parties involved aren’t quite ready to be parents yet.

This allows couples to solidify a career path, travel together, and take on other challenges early in life, potentially entering into parenthood when they’re more financially prepared or emotionally ready to start a family. Frozen embryos allow couples greater opportunity it enjoy all the benefits of becoming parents later in life with none of the drawbacks.

Unfortunately, many couples that enter into the process never stop to consider what will become of the embryos if the marriage dissolves, and they fail to create a legal agreement to this end at the time the embryos are frozen. This can lead to serious disputes during the divorce process. Are the embryos marital property? Should they be treated as living children and granted to one party or another through custody?

Unfortunately, the legal system often struggles to keep pace with technological advances, and this situation applies to frozen embryos. This relatively new development in family planning simply isn’t covered by existing divorce laws in many states, and while precedents are being set by court cases across the nation, most depend on the situation and the judgment of the court.

In one case, a woman was granted the right to destroy embryos that her ex-husband hoped to use at a later date. She argued that the court could not force her to become a biological parent against her will. This is a common argument that many courts have upheld, even in cases where there were provisions in place for divorce.

In one Massachusetts case, a woman and her husband created seven separate embryos through IVF treatments, and each came with a contract that granted the woman rights to use the embryos in the event of divorce. However, the man fought this and the courts upheld his right to avoid becoming a biological parent, even though he had signed the agreements when the embryos were created. In general, it seems that courts tend to favor spouses that prefer to avoid becoming parents following divorce.

If you plan to freeze embryos with your spouse, it’s best to first understand the laws and precedents in your state, and then to discuss your positions on what will become of them in the event of divorce. When you come to an agreement, sign a contract. This won’t necessarily determine a court’s position in the event of dispute after divorce, but it’s a good place to start.

A qualified attorney can not only draft legal paperwork for you when freezing embryos, but also help you through the process of a dispute. Contact the experts at The Gucciardo Law Firm at 248-723-5190 to get started.

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