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What happens to IVF embryos in the event of a divorce?

On Behalf of | Oct 9, 2023 | Assisted Reproduction

Starting or growing a family is harder for some couples than for others. Same-sex couples and those with certain health conditions may require medical intervention for a healthy pregnancy. In vitro fertilization (IVF) is one of the most cutting-edge fertility treatments available. It involves the harvesting of gametes from both parents and the transfer of fertilized embryos into the uterus.

IVF has a strong association with multiple births, as standard procedure usually entails the use of multiple embryos at once. IVF professionals will often harvest as many eggs as they can in one attempt to increase the chances of success without needing to repeat the procedures involved in the IVF process. Couples may have numerous embryos in storage, once they start trying. It is, therefore, understandable that couples may wonder what will happen to IVF embryos in the event of divorce.

Typically, couples have a contract in place

The IVF process is one that is fraught with both medical and legal complications. Professionals within the industry have learned over the years to take steps to protect themselves. Having the spouses reach a pre-existing agreement regarding the embryos created is an important part of the early IVF paperwork process. Usually, people will already have an agreement to either donate or potentially destroy any remaining embryos if there is a divorce. Occasionally, one spouse will agree to allow the other to continue the IVF process with the embryos post-divorce, although that option does usually lead to some degree of financial and legal responsibility.

Those who decide to divorce during IVF will usually defer to the paperwork already in place with their fertility specialist. However, some of these cases end up litigated, as one spouse may have signed the agreement while assuming they would remain married and achieve successful reproduction.

Medical challenges can complicate divorce

There are numerous implications to being mid-IVF when one spouse files for divorce. These include issues with changing insurance coverage, among other concerns. Those thinking about divorce will therefore want to very carefully review their existing agreements with their fertility specialists and any other written agreements they may have with their spouse.

Disagreements about IVF can make divorce much more emotional and expensive for both spouses. Ideally, those beginning the IVF process will think very carefully about the future and will plan agreements with each other and the medical professionals assisting in their attempts at reproduction in thoughtful ways. Understanding how family circumstances can complicate the divorce process may benefit those contemplating marital dissolution while navigating relatively unusual personal circumstances.