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Unusual family law case focused on frozen embryos

Technology has changed the landscape of American culture, and most Americans rely on technological innovations to improve virtually every aspect of their daily lives. In many cases, these advancements happen at such a rapid pace that the legal system is unable to keep up. When an unusual case with a technological component comes before a family law court in Maryland or elsewhere, the result often sets legal precedent.

An example is found in a legal battle between a woman and her former husband. The couple have been at odds over what should be done with the frozen embryos that they created while married. The woman wants to use the embryos to try for a successful pregnancy, while the husband does not want to be tied to his ex in a parental relationship, and he wants the embryos destroyed.

The matter went before a court, and the judge ruled that the man should not be compelled to enter into a fatherhood role against his will. In making that ruling, the judge reviewed a contract that the couple signed when they initiated the fertility process. That contract stated that, should a divorce take place, the embryos would be destroyed. The woman claimed that she thought that the document was an advance directive that could be changed at a later point in time, but the court rejected that claim.

The judge has ordered that the embryos be discarded. The woman has previously stated that she would appeal the family law matter if she lost her bid to use the embryos to have a child that shares her genetic makeup, and her attorney has stated that she is now considering her legal options in the matter. For those in Maryland and elsewhere who are considering fertility services, the case can be viewed as a cautionary tale.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Divorced couple's frozen embryos must be 'thawed and discarded,' judge rules", Maura Dolan, Nov. 18, 2015

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