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What happens to unused IVF embryos during divorce?

Child custody is a common matter in divorce and has been for decades. But as more and more married couples in Kentucky and across the country use in vitro fertilization (IVF) to have children, they may ask, “What happens to the unused embryos in divorce?”

The IVF process typically involves the creation of multiple embryos. Often, the couple uses one of the embryos to have a child and keeps the rest preserved for future use. But divorce can upend these plans.

Fertilization and divorce

When a woman who has frozen her eggs as a conception strategy gets divorced, she generally gets to keep them because they came from her body alone, not her spouse’s. But ownership of an embryo made out of a wife’s egg and a husband’s sperm is more complicated.

Clinics that perform IVF often have the would-be parents sign a form detailing when the embryos can be used. For example, in these documents, the spouses might agree not to bring any embryo to term unless both spouses agree. If the couple later divorces, this could practically speaking prevent either ex from using the embryos. Many times, people do not understand everything they signed at the clinic, or they assume that they will never experience personal complications like divorce that can affect their rights regarding the embryos.

These issues can be complicated and highly emotional. Consulting a family law attorney can ease your mind. The best time to do this is while you are still married, but if you are going through a divorce, your lawyer can advise you of how Kentucky law deals with disputes over embryos and seek a positive solution.