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Should the division of marital assets include genetic material?

Agreeing on the division of property can sometimes be difficult for a couple who is facing divorce. Arguments about wedding china may be quite common; the custody of a pet, perhaps less so. Child custody is, of course, something that many people are familiar with; however, a recent case brought before a California Superior Court is testing the unusual matter of frozen embryos as part of the division of marital assets.

The couple was married for five years. At some point during the marriage, the wife was told that she had breast cancer. This led to the couple consulting a California reproductive health facility in order to create embryos for future implantation. An agreement was signed by both the husband and wife at that time, which allegedly stated that the embryos would be destroyed upon divorce. However, in the event of the husband's death, the wife would have the right to claim the embryos.

The wife was left unable to conceive naturally due to the treatment she received for her breast cancer. The five frozen embryos are now her only means of conceiving a child who would carry her DNA, and she wishes to keep them in order to exercise that desire. However, her husband wants the original agreement upheld. He alleges that he wife is using the embryos for financial leverage.

This is an unusual case, and the idea of genetic material as part of the division of marital assets may raise emotional and ethical debates. Previous cases of a similar nature have resulted in a successful outcome for the woman; however, this is a complicated issue. Successful implantation of one or more embryos could result in litigation regarding custody or financial support, and, ultimately, the best interest of the child would the most important consideration.

Source: nbcnews.com, "San Francisco Couple in Bitter Divorce Battle Over Frozen Embryos", Emil Guillermo, July 16, 2015

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