Custody battle over embryos seen as Supreme Court bound

Custody battle over embryos seen as Supreme Court bound

Advances in fertility treatment have opened up a wide array of questions in the area of family law that have never had to be dealt with before. Decisions by courts in Massachusetts and other states are made regularly and, in turn, they often generate yet even more questions. Many have to do with child custody and have ramifications in terms of child support. Emotions in the midst of the legal disputes over these issues can run high.

There’s one case making some headlines in another state right now that some say could be headed for the U.S. Supreme Court. Only time will tell on that score, of course, but the elements of the case may be of a lot of interest to our readers.

The material issue in the dispute out of Maryland is a cache of nine frozen embryos. They currently are in the custody of a woman who says she intends to use them. She notes that she can’t bear children any other way but through implantation of the embryos. The legal issue in the dispute is that the man who supplied the sperm that created the embryos doesn’t want them ever to be used.

The man and woman were once married and created the embryos in anticipation of having a family. Indeed, they used two of them, which resulted in their having a daughter who is now three. At the time the created the embryos, the father agreed in writing that they would go to the mother if they separated.

When they divorced last May, she got the embryos. But sole custody of the daughter was given to the father. A judge found her unfit.

Now, the couple is engaged in a court fight over the remaining embryos. The mother says she can’t get pregnant without them. The father argues that use of the embryos would force him to be a parent against his will. At the same time, his attorney argues that if a woman can abort a viable fetus if she wants, the father should have the same right. This apparently is what has pundits suggesting the case is destined for the nation’s high court.

Right now the matter is in state court. Whether it will ever reach the Supreme Court is a question only time can answer.

Sources: WRC-TV, “Judge Grants Stay in Divorced Couple’s Battle Over Embryos,” Tracee Wilkins, Jan. 14, 2013; Greenbelt Patch, “Maryland Woman Wins Custody of Frozen Embryos,” Bailey Henneberg, Jan. 7, 2013

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