Centuori & Alcoverde, P.C.

An unusual case has been making its way through the family court system. A recent ruling in the matter is expected to set legal precedent and has sparked debate in Arizona and across the nation. The matter at hand is the disposition of multiple frozen embryos that a couple created prior to seeking a divorce.

The couple made the decision to pursue fertility treatment after the woman found out that she had breast cancer. Knowing that the treatment for that disease would likely leave her unable to have a child, the couple went through the process of in vitro fertilization. The end result were multiple embryos, which were frozen for later use. When the couple divorced, the spouses disagreed on what should happen to those embryos.

The woman wanted to use the embryos to give birth to a child that shared her genetic makeup. The man, fearing a forced co-parenting relationship with his former wife, wanted the embryos to be destroyed. Prior to the creation of the embryos, both parties signed an agreement that stated that the embryos were to be destroyed in the event of a divorce.

The judge in the divorce case ruled that while the woman may have the right to procreate, she does not have the right to do so with a person who does not give his consent. In addition, the ruling spoke to the need to protect contracts within any setting, including one in which the issue at hand is nascent human life. The man has prevailed in the recent case, and the ruling states that the embryos are to be destroyed. That is not likely to take place, however, until it is clear that the woman will not pursue the matter in appeals. For those in Arizona who are considering similar fertility measures, this case may serve as a warning to read and fully understand any and all documents prior to signing.

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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