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Divorce: Who Will Get the Pre-Embryos


The advancements in reproductive technology have made it possible for infertile couples to fulfill their dreams of having their own child.  One method of reproductive technology that is gaining  popularity is that of in vitro fertilization (IVF). 

In this procedure,  eggs are extracted from the wife’s body, fertilized in a Petri dish, and then placed back into the womb.  This is an expensive procedure to undergo, and thus, many times fertilized eggs  will be frozen for future implantation in order to increase the couple’s chance of additional attempts at pregnancy.

Unfortunately, when a couple fails to address the issue of what to do with unused embryos at the time they are frozen, legal issues can arise in the future when the couple decides to divorce and cannot agree about what to do with the frozen embryos. Currently there are no federal laws that resolve disputes over the ownership of frozen embryos, although several states have enacted laws to deal with this problem. 

Florida law requires a written agreement between the couple seeking infertility treatment and their physician that provides for the disposition of the commissioning couple’s eggs, sperm and pre-embryos in the event of a divorce, the death of a spouse, or any other unforeseen circumstance.

If there is no written agreement and the couple disagrees on how to dispose of their frozen embryos, the decision is then passed down to the court.

Although IVF is a form of reproductive technology that has produced miracle births for many couples, the federal government will need to enact laws that address not only the status of unused pre-embryos, but the many other issues that arise from IVF and other methods of advanced reproductive fertilization.

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