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Divorce dispute centers around frozen embryos

When divorcing couples have a difference of opinions concerning asset and property division during divorce, there are normally legal provisions in place to help guide them through the process to a satisfactory divorce settlement. However, as technology and society rapidly evolves and changes, some Oregon couples might encounter divorce issues with little or no legal precedence. An out of state couple recently made national news when their dispute over frozen embryos stalled their divorce. 

Shortly after marrying, the wife was diagnosed with cancer and was told that the chemotherapy she needed would leave her infertile and unable to have children of her own. Eager to avoid that fate, the couple chose to create embryos from the wife's eggs and husband's sperm, and then they had them frozen for future use when they were more prepared to have children. Only five embryos were created, and the couple signed an agreement that outlined what should happen to those embryos in the event of different situations, such as death or divorce.

Throughout the divorce, the wife has insisted that she has the right to retain the frozen embryos, which are her own genetic property and her last hope of having a biological child. Her soon-to-be ex-husband disagrees with this stance, claiming instead that they should be destroyed per their signed agreement. He claims his wife's motives are financial and not maternal. 

Oregon's child custody laws do not apply to instances of frozen embryos, and it is unclear exactly how property division would treat this type of situation. Although there was an agreement signed by the couple stating that the embryos would be destroyed should the couple divorce, previous divorce cases dealing with the same issue did not uphold those agreements, instead siding with female cancer patients who had lost their fertility following treatments. Mediation is often a highly valuable tool for divorcing couples, but some instances do call for further help. In such instances, proceeding to court where a judge will have the final say can be the most appropriate decision for couples.

Source: NBC News, "San Francisco Couple in Bitter Divorce Battle Over Frozen Embryos", Emil Guillermo, July 16, 2015

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