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Could embryos be subject to property division?

When a Florida couple goes through divorce, a great deal of focus is placed on dividing their marital assets. In some cases, however, the assets in question fall outside the bounds of what the law is equipped to handle. An example is found in a high profile legal dispute between actress Sophia Vergara and her former partner. While not married, the two are embroiled in an unusual property division dispute regarding their frozen embryos.

In an attempt to have a child, the couple went through the process of creating multiple embryos, and even tried the surrogacy process two separate times. Those attempts failed, and the couple decided to part ways. The agreement that they signed at the time the embryos were created states that the embryos would remain frozen in the event that the couple could not agree on how to move forward.

Now, however, Vergara's ex wants the ability to use the embryos to have a child, while she wants them to be left frozen indefinitely. The matter will eventually go before a court, and the outcome could affect similar cases across the nation. At issue is which party should have the right to choose what happens to frozen genetic material once the relationship has ended.

In similar cases, the courts have largely chosen to look to the contract that was signed when the reproductive therapy process began. In certain exceptions, some courts have allowed a party to use the embryos against the wishes of the other side when there would be no other way for that individual to have a child that shares his or her biological background. Cases such as the one between Vergara and her ex could help shape the way that these property division matters are handled in Florida and across the nation.

Source: New York Post, "The Sofia Vergara embryo trial could change men's rights forever", Julia Marsh, Sept. 16, 2016

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