New adoption program further complicates family law

Some of our readers here in Texas may be familiar with the in vitro fertilization process. When a couple chooses to undergo this process, a woman freezes a number of fertilized embryos in order to achieve a successful pregnancy. In court cases in the past, the custody of the unused embryos has been extensively debated and has left many civil courts divided on the issue. But now a new issue regarding in vitro embryos could be cropping up in courtrooms very soon, including here in Texas.

The issue has to do with a new form of adoption involving in vitro embryos. Offered by Nightlight Christian Adoptions’ Snowflakes Embryo Adoption program, unused in vitro embryos are donated and then matched with other families, much like in the adoption process. But because the legal status of embryos in the United States is still under debate, some might be questioning whether such a practice could have significant legal consequences down the road.

Consider for a moment the donated embryo. What happens if the couple divorces and one of the spouses changes their minds about putting the unused embryos up for adoption? What if one spouse puts the unused embryos up for adoption but the other does not want this to happen? How will the courts determine whether a person’s parental rights have been violated?

If these legal problems weren’t enough, consider now the adoptive parents. What happens if they are not married but decide to separate? Because neither is actually the biological parent of the child, how will the other partner prove paternity when requesting child custody and visitation rights? Will couples even have the foresight to consider this when signing adoption documents?

Because the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption program partners with a few clinics here in Texas, it’s possible that the legal questions raised above could become real-life scenarios down the road. But will our family law courts be able to handle such a complex issue? Unfortunately now, only time will tell.

Source: Fox News, “Embryo ‘adoption’: Clinic seeks to match unused IVF embryos with loving families,” Amanda Woerner, Jan. 22, 2014