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.
IVF is the process by which sperm is used to fertilize eggs outside of a woman’s body. Due to the relatively low success rate of IVF, it’s common for a number of eggs to be fertilized and subsequently frozen. The resulting fertilized eggs are frozen sometimes for years, until they are needed.
One of the biggest legal issues arises where divorcing spouses’ dispute who owns the frozen fertilized eggs. The implantation of a fertilized egg against the other partner’s wishes, would result in one partner becoming a parent against their will. Conversely, destroying the fertilized eggs could destroy the other partner’s last chance at becoming a parent. While a number of IVF clinics require couples to enter into IVF contracts, detailing such things such as the preservation, disposal, and divorce of the couple such contracts are not always enforceable in court.
These frozen fertilized embryos occupy a special realm of the law where they’re neither legally considered to be property nor children (wherein custody law would apply). As a result of the speed at which these technologies are advancing and the patchwork of law that is attempting to catch up to this technology it’s important that you discuss with an attorney who is up to date on the law in this area all of your rights and the possible legal outcomes of entering into any IVF contract. Ideally, before beginning any IVF procedures.
Contact our team of experienced family law attorneys. It would be our pleasure to provide you with answers to questions concerning IVF law.