Rapid developments in medical and reproductive technologies are raising new and complex legal issues in family law throughout the United States, including Pennsylvania. Many couples experiencing difficulties with conceiving have increasingly turned to in vitro fertilization (IVF) and other assisted reproduction technologies.
With the advent of reproductive technology, divorcing couples in Pennsylvania and around the country are not only compelled to grapple with the question of who should have custody of their living children, but also what to do with their prospective children. The Missouri court of appeals is grappling with just that question as they hear arguments between a husband and wife over the fate of two frozen embryos created via In Vitro Fertilization. This dispute is between a former husband and wife over whether the woman should be permitted to have these embryos implanted and carry them to term.
Family law lawyers are used to battling over custody of children to a point that some of the most extreme cases almost become typical. However, family law and custody is reaching into a new frontier as reproductive technology develops and changes further expanding the definition of children and ultimately the purview of the custody attorney. Leaving the personhood debate aside as it is a more appropriate conversation for our legislators, as reproductive technology expands, family law lawyers and litigants are forced to ask tough questions about whether the division of eggs, sperm and embryos is an appropriate subject for the custody trial or if it's more aptly an issue of property distribution (which complicates the issue for unmarried couples who don't have pending equitable distribution trials).