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What happens to embryos in a divorce?

In the past, couples who were unable to have children were left with few options. However, advances in medical technology, including in vitro fertilization, have opened up doors for those in Illinois and elsewhere who desire children but struggled to conceive. Unfortunately, family courts are often forced to decide what happens to embryos should the relationship end in a divorce when one person wants to have a child and the other does not.

A recent case in another state illustrates the complications this can create. A man and woman, who were not married at the time, chose to fertilize eggs after the woman was advised that the cancer treatments she was facing would likely prevent her from having children. The couple later married and divorced.

The man asked that the court rule that the woman could not become pregnant using the embryos, and the Arizona court said that the embryos must be donated to a third party. However, the woman appealed that decision and a state appeals court recently ruled in her favor. The judges explained that the lower court placed too much emphasis on the pair's inability to co-parent together rather than their intent when they created the embryos, which was to preserve the woman's fertility; the woman's desire to be a parent, they argued, outweighs the man's desire not to be. The dissenting judge argued that the new ruling overlooks the contract that the pair signed, which indicated that the the embryos cannot be used without both person's consent. The man, who the court acknowledged could be financially responsible for any child she might have using the embryos, still has the option of appealing the decision to the state's Supreme Court.

Unfortunately, the question of what happens to embryos in the event of a divorce is often a difficult one. Those who desire to be parents and those who do not are often left in a complicated legal situation. Because of the potential implications of a decision regarding these matters, those in Illinois facing such a question often ask an experienced professional for guidance.

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