Modern reproductive technology has in recent years helped many parents who would have otherwise had difficulty having children. For example, in vitro fertilization is often effective for those who want to be parents but cannot do so through traditional means. The in vitro process involves harvesting mature eggs from the female and fertilizing them in the lab. Thereafter, they are often frozen to be used later.
However, a couple may divorce before the frozen eggs are used, and questions arise about what to do with the eggs or who owns them. This is why some Texas courts have addressed the matter recently. Our Dallas divorce lawyers at Orsinger, Nelson, Downing, & Anderson can help with questions about this and other divorce-related issues.
How Texas Views Frozen Embryos
Laws about frozen embryos in Texas view the matter from a contractual point of view to decide who owned the frozen eggs before the couple divorced. When a couple decides to freeze embryos, they must sign a contract detailing how the embryos are owned in the event of a divorce. The document must be signed at the fertility center or in front of an attorney.
Laws in this area stem from a case that eventually made it to a Texas Court of Appeals. It involved a couple who filed for divorce before their frozen embryos were implanted. The contract signed by the couple stated that the embryos had to be thrown out if they divorced. The Court of Appeals ruled that the contract had to be followed; the embryos should be destroyed.
While this would seem to resolve the issue, there are still uncertainties in specific situations involving frozen embryos today. Depending on the circumstances, Texas legal experts say a court could rule on frozen embryo ownership during a divorce as follows:
- If the couple does not have an agreement that states what happens to the embryos after divorce, the court would not force one person to be a parent if they do not want it.
- If the couple has an agreement and the embryos go to one person, the Court could disregard it so one person is not forced to have children they do not want.
- If they agree that the embryos must be donated to another couple or for scientific research, the court could disregard it with additional conditions so one party is not forced to be a parent when they do not want it.
Are You Planning To Freeze Embryos?
If you and your spouse want to freeze embryos for later use, there are steps you can take now to reduce the chances of future disagreements.
First, before freezing the embryos talk about all of the possibilities with your partner. For example, talk about who would take possession of the embryos in case of divorce or what you would do with them if that happened. It may not be the most comfortable conversation, but it can avoid future complications by having a frank discussion now.
Second, check the policies of the fertility clinic you intend to use; different clinics may view this matter in different ways. You may want to choose a different clinic if the policies of one do not meet your expectations.
Third, talk to an experienced family law or divorce lawyer to help you determine how to handle the frozen embryo ownership. Planning in case of divorce, especially with such a potentially contentious topic, in this area is critical to ensure your rights and wishes are respected.
Contact Our Dallas Divorce Lawyers Today
If you have questions about divorce or how the Texas embryo laws affect you during or after a divorce, we understand your concerns. Our Dallas divorce lawyers at Orsinger, Nelson, Downing, & Anderson can help, so call (214) 273-2400.