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Divorcing couple argues over 5 frozen embryos

Texas residents might have heard about a divorce case in California in which the estranged spouses are arguing over what happens to the five embryos that they froze during their marriage. The San Francisco Superior Court case will determine whether the agreement that the couple, who were married for five years, signed should be upheld.

The 46-year-old wife, a part-time anesthesiologist and concert pianist, says that she and her estranged husband, an investment analyst, went to the Center for Reproductive Health at the UCSF Medical Center to save the embryos after they found out that she had breast cancer. This was their way of keeping open their option to have a baby with her genetic material after the cancer in case her treatments left her infertile, which did occur. The couple signed an agreement that stipulated that the embryos would go to the wife if the husband died or would have to be destroyed if they got divorced, according to the husband.

In court documents, the wife's attorney has argued that the wife is entitled to her genetic property, which the couple preserved together in anticipation of her infertility after cancer treatment. However, the husband has told the court that he did not think this would be an issue and that his wife asked him in a phone conversation about how much he thought the embryos are worth.

The issue of property division usually does not involve whether one spouse should be allowed to keep frozen embryos contrary to a consent agreement. When couples with complex assets decide to end their marriage but are unable to agree on terms, they might need the assistance of mediators or their respective divorce attorneys.

Source: NBC News, "San Francisco Couple in Bitter Divorce Battle Over Frozen Embryos," Emil Guillermo, July 16, 2015

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Bruce Turner

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