Advanced technology gives rise to new property division disputes

Readers of our Massachusetts family law blog know that property division is a necessary step in every divorce case. Even in the most amicable of splits, emotions can run high as couples face division of everything from bank accounts to personal mementos. As reproductive science has advanced in the past years, a new question must be pondered. How are frozen embryos of a couple to be divided in the event of a divorce?

In the past, frozen embryos were deemed property subject to division under applicable laws. However, several recent cases have emerged showing the struggle of courts over the legal issues associated with division of frozen embryos in connection to a divorce. The complexities of these issues are shown by a Maryland court decision from earlier this year.

In that case, a woman was awarded custody of several embryos frozen during her marriage. Following the couple’s divorce, the father wanted them to be destroyed. However, a legal document was signed at the fertility center. This document let her retain custody in the event the couple decided to part ways. The father was worried about several things in this case. He had been awarded sole custody of their daughter, and was worried the mother would be unfit to parent another child. Another potential question arose over child support, and whether he would potentially be responsible for support in the future.

This case and many others show the potential complexities of property division in our new technological age. Although the average divorce case taken on by a MetroWest Boston divorce lawyer does not involve disputes over frozen embryos, Property division disputes can quickly arise as couples fight over Separate property and Marital property. As Massachusetts residents face the inevitability of property division in the course of their divorce, an experienced family law professional can provide invaluable insight and legal advice throughout the process.

Source: The Washington Times, “Are unborn children people or property in a divorce, and who decides?” Myra Fleischer, Sept. 19, 2013