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Ownership of frozen embryos in Texas

A highly contested issue in custody cases across the nation is determining the ownership of pre-embryos that are frozen by the couple for later use. The issue can be heart-wrenching and difficult, and decisions by courts have varied widely.

Texas uses a contractual enforcement approach to determine the ownership of pre-embryos that were frozen by the couple prior to breaking up. Couples who plan to freeze pre-embryos sign a contract either at the clinic or through the help of an attorney that outlines what will happen to the pre-embryos in the event their relationship ends.

One case out of Illinois that is currently on appeal is a case involving a couple in which the woman was diagnosed with cancer. Prior to receiving chemotherapy, the man agreed to supply sperm needed to create the pre-embryos so the woman could later have children. Neither were apparently under the impression that their relationship would last, and the man soon began seeing a woman with whom he had had a prior relationship. That relationship ended because of the existence of the pre-embryos, so the man filed a lawsuit to prevent the woman with whom he had created the pre-embryos from using them. The couple had signed a boilerplate contract with the clinic. It is unclear what the ultimate result of the case will be.

When people are planning to freeze pre-embryos and have children later, it is important for them to consider what will happen to those embryos in the event the relationship ends. They thus may benefit by seeking the help of a family law attorney in order to draft a contract that clearly outlines the intentions of both parties. An attorney may help their client protect their interests in drafting the contract. If the attorney represents the person who receives a proposed contract, the attorney may help by reviewing it.

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