IVF AND DIVORCE
IVF and Divorce Lawyers in Denver, CO
What Is IVF?
IVF, or in vitro fertilization, is a series of medical procedures intending to aid with fertility, and to assist with conception. During the treatment, the medical professional collects mature eggs from the ovaries. Those eggs are then fertilized by sperm in a lab. The fertilized egg, or embryo, is transferred to a viable uterus. The full process takes around three weeks to complete. However, it sometimes takes longer if the process is split into different parts.
Many individuals believe IVF to be the most effective form of assisted reproductive technology. Couples usually decide to use their own eggs and sperm, if possible. If not, it is not uncommon to use eggs, sperm, or even embryos from a donor.
Many reasons exist for which doctors might recommend IVF:
- Damage to the fallopian tubes
- Ovulation disorders
- Uterine fibroids
- Previous sterilization
- Impaired sperm function or production
- Unexplainable infertility
- Genetic disorders
- Preservation of fertility due to cancer or other harmful conditions
Does IVF Cause Divorce?
No. IVF and divorce have no direct link. However, there are other explanations as to why many people believe that IVF and divorce share a significant link. Couples experiencing problems with conception or infertility often undergo times of severe stress and emotional strain. One study finds that there is no direct link to IVF and divorce, even despite the mental burden that often accompanies it.
The study infers from various sources of data that the real reason behind the higher levels of divorce is childlessness, not the exposure to IVF. Specifically, infertility, failed IVF treatments, and non-guaranteed results from these procedures lead to considerable mental strain for those involved. The stress could either lead to a negative or positive impact for the couple, depending on whether they can overcome the obstacles.
What Happens to Frozen Embryos if the Couple Divorces?
Today, more couples turn to IVF as a viable alternative to traditional reproductive efforts than ever before. Generally, couples sign agreements on how to use the embryos while they’re still together. However, what happens if that couple separates or gets a divorce?
In many cases, they also sign an agreement stating what happens to the embryos if their relationship should end, or if one or both of them pass away:
- Destroy the embryos
- Donate the embryos to medical researchers or third party recipients
- Decide that the couple either has joint authority or sole authority over the embryos
Unfortunately, things change drastically after a divorce, and if couples sign these contracts without a divorce lawyer present, they might find themselves in a sticky situation. At the time of the contract signing, they might think they’ll never undergo a divorce or separation. However, it is a very real possibility for any couple, no matter how strong their relationship is.
Laws regarding the status of the embryo after the divorce tend to vary from state to state:
- Uphold the original contract between the parties involved.
- Use a “balance test” regarding the right to procreate versus the right not to procreate. Generally, courts prefer the right not to procreate so long as the other party has some other means of procreation.
- Apply the “contemporaneous mutual consent” approach. This usually results in the embryos staying frozen until the two parties reach a mutually acceptable agreement.
Can You Do IVF Without Your Husband's Consent?
This is a very complicated question to answer, as it depends on a variety of factors. In order for both parties to qualify as legal parents, they both must consent to the treatment. However, cases exist in which one party wants to conceive the child, while the other does not. We sometimes see this in cases where the couple has separated, but is not yet divorced. Unfortunately, as this is not yet a widespread and common issue, it is difficult to know whether or not litigation is necessary to undergo IVF without the consent of the husband. We recommend speaking with an experienced Denver divorce attorney before making any concrete decisions, as they have access to all the necessary documentation.
Cases have arisen in which one party expresses their desire to withdraw their consent from the IVF procedure. During this time, if the other party undergoes the procedure before they formally withdraw their consent, they might still be able to conceive. The spouse or civil partner who did not withdraw their consent before conception is now the legal guardian of the child. This is the case unless they can prove that they had no knowledge of the procedure or that they did not consent to it.
Why Is IVF During a Divorce so Complicated?
These situations can be highly complicated. Legal issues arise for many couples in the event of a divorce, and it is important to discuss these issues ahead of time whenever possible.
Below, we list some of the most common issues that couples face with IVF and divorce.:
- Embryos are property. Who has a right to this property?
- How does legal custody and child support factor in when one spouse uses the embryos, but the other spouse has no desire to conceive with their ex-spouse?
- How does the IVF paperwork handle these issues? What do the contracts say?
Luckily, most cases have clear and concise contracts to reference back to in the event of a separation, divorce, or death. Unfortunately, however, not all of these contracts and consent forms are legally binding. Because this subject is relatively new in the realm of family law, we recommend hiring an experienced Colorado family law attorney to assist with your situation.