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Court decides fate of embryos in divorce conflict

When couples in New Hampshire choose to end their marriage, they must decide how to divide their assets as well as how to co-parent if there are children involved. Thanks to advances in medical technology, many couples seeking a divorce are also left wondering how to handle their frozen embryos. One court in another state has recently ruled in a case that could ultimately influence future decisions in other states.

The case involves a couple who arranged to freeze embryos in 2007. Through invitro fertilization, they ultimately had two children; two embryos remain frozen. Years later, the couple signed an agreement that stated the woman would receive custody of the embryos should they divorce. Despite the agreement, the man fought to stop his estranged wife from getting the embryos during the divorce.

The circuit recently ruled in favor of the man, arguing that the embryos are considered special marital property, and as such, both people should have custody. Neither can change or alter the embryos without the other's consent. A state court of appeals has recently upheld that ruling, but the woman claims that she will appeal the decision. The man has stated that he is open to donating the embryos to research or to an infertile couple or destroying them.

In this case, judges ruled that essentially forcing the man to reproduce against his wishes is a violation of his rights and overly intrusive of the government. Because of the special nature of the issues surrounding custody of embryos in divorce, many people in New Hampshire seek someone who is willing to be their advocate. While many issues involving the end of a marriage can be peaceably settled, it may be necessary to ask a court to intercede in certain circumstances.

Source:, "Divorced St. Louis County couple's frozen embryos are property, not humans, appellate court rules", Joel Currier, Nov. 16, 2016

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