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Who Gets Custody of Embryos in a Florida Divorce?

Once upon a time, if a couple had asked a family court judge, “Who gets custody of our unborn children?” they would have been laughed out of court. Today, however, such a question arises in divorce cases more often than you might think – and the judge must deliberate with careful consideration before providing an answer. Science today has made it possible for couples to fertilize a woman’s eggs, and then store the embryos until the couple decides they are ready to have children. While such advancements in medical science has helped many couples have children when they otherwise would not have been able to, it has also brought new ethical and legal dilemmas to the surface, many of which are not covered by state law.

Some common ethical issues raised by frozen embryos include: What becomes of the embryos if the parents should separate? Can either party claim paternity? Or should the embryos be allowed to go unused because one or both parties do not want the other to use them?

At the Law Offices of Schwartz | White, our custody lawyers stay well-informed on medical advancements, the law, and cases in which the two meet. This allows us to better serve clients who find themselves in a predicament in which the legal lines are not so clear cut. If you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse cannot agree on who gets custody of your frozen embryos upon your separation, reach out to our Boca Raton custody attorneys to learn more about your legal rights.

Real Life Cases of Frozen Embryo Custody Disputes

One of the most recent and publicized cases of a frozen embryo custody dispute involves actress Sofia Vergara and her now ex-husband, American businessman Nicholas Loeb. The embryos were created in 2013, and were even given the names Emma and Isabella. Nothing further was done with the embryos. On May 1, 2015, however, the legal dispute regarding what was to become of the eggs began. Loeb wanted the embryos to be implanted so he could have children; Vergara did not. Now, the two are locked in a legal battle over what should be done with the eggs. Vergara’s position is that Loeb only wants the embryos so that he can forever be linked to her fame and status. Loeb, on the other hand, has sued Vergara on the grounds that by keeping them in a medical clinic, she is essentially abandoning and neglecting the embryos. Loeb is also moving to take away Vergara’s parental rights to the unborn embryos.

When Lisa Ravine, a New York Real Estate Attorney, got married, she knew she wanted to have children. At the time, so did her husband. The couple, who could not have children of their own, went through 10 IVF cycles, all of which failed. When Ravine was in her mid-40s, the couple divorced. However, there were still embryos left. During their divorce, the couple fought over what was to become of the embryos: she still wanted to try and have a baby, while he wanted the embryos destroyed. The couple was locked in such a “custody dispute” until Lavine could no longer afford to keep fighting and relinquished her rights to the embryos. They were destroyed. He passed away soon afterwards, leaving Lavine in a continuous state of, “what if”.

The Dilemma

Most frozen embryo custody cases come down to whose rights should prevail: the person who wants the eggs destroyed or “put up for adoption,” or the person who wants to give them a chance at life? Unfortunately, many cases rule in favor of the person who does not want the embryos implanted, mostly because, as one Missouri man so eloquently argued, “forcing [an individual] to procreate with [an ex is] a violation of [one’s] constitutional rights, forcing [them] to have children [they do not] want.”

Planning Ahead

In some instances, a couple has the foresight to sign an agreement regarding the future of their embryos in the event of a separation. Most contracts agree to destroy the eggs, or to use them only when both parties agree to do so. If you and your spouse are thinking of procreating via IVF, it would benefit the both of you to have a lengthy discussion regarding what is to become of the eggs in the event that you divorce. Many times, a couple is not on the same page, so sorting out the specifics before procreating may save you a lot of time, money, and emotional anguish later on down the road.

Consult a Boca Raton Child Custody Lawyer

Whether you have yet to begin the IVF process, or whether you are already in the midst of a custody battle with your former spouse over the parental rights of your frozen embryos, the caring and compassionate team at the Law Offices of Schwartz | White are here to advocate for both yours and your embryos’ rights. Call our office at 561.391.9943 to schedule a private consultation with one of our child custody attorneys today.

Resources:

newseveryday.com/articles/59174/20161209/sofia-vergara-sued-by-her-own-frozen-embryos.htm

washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/11/17/ex-husband-in-frozen-embryo-dispute-cant-be-forced-to-become-a-father-mo-court-rules/

abajournal.com/magazine/article/contentious_battles_between_couples_over_frozen_embryos_raise_legal_and_eth

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