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Frozen embryos present unusual child custody issue

Many couples in Texas and across the nation make use of technology to create and freeze embryos for later use in conceiving a child. When such couples divorce, legal battles can arise over which party should determine the fate of those embryos. One such case is currently before an out-of-state court, and the result could lead to legal precedent in the matter. Eventually, these cases could also bring about child custody decisions that are very different from the norm.

The case in question involves a married couple who went through the process of creating frozen embryos after the wife was diagnosed with cancer. Believing that her treatment could render her infertile, five embryos were created and stored for future use. However, the couple then divorced, and the former husband wants the genetic material destroyed while his ex wife wants to use a surrogate to carry a child to term.

The couple signed an agreement at the time the embryos were created. Within that agreement, both parties agreed that the embryos would be destroyed in the event of a divorce. However, the woman is now asserting that she signed that agreement under duress, due to the fact that she was facing a life-threatening cancer diagnosis and the risk of becoming infertile, all while in the early stages of a new marriage.

The resolution of this case will likely set legal precedent in the parties' state of residence, and it could influence how courts in other states, including Texas, approach the matter. Science has given us great advancements in reproductive technology, but these new options can also lead to unusual child custody conflicts. This is especially true when a child is conceived against the stated wishes of one of the parents.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Divorced couple fighting in court over frozen embryos", Maura Dolan, July 13, 2015

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