What happens to IVF embryos in a Washington divorce?

On Behalf of | Nov 12, 2021 | Divorce

Some couples can grow their family quickly and with minimal effort. In fact, some people wind up pregnant without trying at all. For others, it can be a much more difficult process, possibly requiring expert medical intervention.

In vitro fertilization (IVF) has allowed people who might otherwise not have biological children to have their own kids. Both members of a couple can contribute genetic materials, which medical professionals combine and store. After careful medical preparation, the mother can undergo an implantation procedure that could result in pregnancy.

However, IVF and fertility issues in general can put a lot of strain on a marriage. Some couples will divorce before IVF succeeds or while there are still embryos or pre-embryo material stored at a fertility clinic. What happens to those embryos or materials when you divorce?

Washington often upholds the contract that parents sign

There is no specific law in Washington addressing IVF materials in the event of a divorce. Instead, the courts often have to interpret the contract signed by the couple when they began the fertility process. It is common for clinics to require that couples agree with one another about what happens to their genetic materials and embryos.

In theory, that contract should still guide what happens if you divorce. Some couples have already agreed to destroy the embryos. Others might donate embryos or materials to couples in a position much like their own. In some cases, couples can even reach an agreement where one or the other retains some materials or embryos, often while waiving the other parent’s financial obligations to any resulting child.

If you disagree with the terms set in the initial contract, you and your spouse could potentially reach a settlement outside of court that deviates from that agreement. However, if you litigate the matter, it will be the contract you signed that will likely determine what happens.

Complex divorces often require a careful approach 

What a couple undergoing IVF divorces, there will be multiple complex issues that influence what happens in the divorce. Often, there are debts or diminished assets to consider due to the IVF treatments. There may be other practical or financial concerns depending on the circumstances, the existing fertility contract and any marital agreement between the spouses.

Learning more about what happens during a Washington divorce can help you prepare for your filing.