Making the decision to use in vitro fertilization (IVF) is a major milestone in life and involves careful consideration. 


As happy stories for many couples or individuals wanting to have children emerge, legal considerations remain largely unknown. 


This is especially true when it comes to the fate of embryos once created after treatment ends.


What are the laws that govern decisions made about these often overlooked pieces of life? Let’s dive deeper.

What Happens to Unused Embryos?

Deciding what to do with unused embryos is a highly sensitive and difficult subject for couples looking to start a family. 


The debate over embryo disposition has been ongoing for years with different laws in place that guide people’s decisions on whether to discard or donate them. 


You see, when couples undergo fertility treatments, they often sign an agreement that outlines exactly what will happen to any unused embryos which usually include clauses in the case of divorce or separation of the partners. 


It’s essential to read and understand the contract before signing it to avoid any complications later on.

What Are Some Legal Issues Surrounding Unused Embryos?

The issue of embryos has been an emotionally charged one, especially in recent years with the laws constantly changing…”Are they a child? Are they property? Are they cells?”


Whether you’re deciding the fate of your own embryos or managing ones left over from fertility treatments, it’s important to be aware of certain legal aspects of things.


Surrounding Embryo Donation – If you’re no longer using your embryos you can donate them to an individual or a clinic, known as embryo adoption. 


In California, once an individual donates an embryo, they no longer have any legal rights to the embryo or any child that may result from it. 


But before doing this, there are legal requirements to consider, such as parental rights for the donors and recipients, and issues of consent. 


Both parties must give their written consent to donate and receive the embryo, and the fertility clinics that facilitate these transactions must meet certain legal requirements in order to do so.


Surrounding Embryo DispositionShould you decide to no longer use your embryos but do not want to donate them to the clinic or individual, you have options to have them destroyed or donate them for research purposes. 


Whichever way you decide the law requires both biological parents to agree on how to dispose of the embryo.  


If they cannot agree, the clinic storing the embryo may be granted permission to dispose of it as it sees fit.


Legal Issues Surrounding Embryo OwnershipEmbryos are considered property, which means that they may be owned and controlled by those who created them. 


Same holds true when there’s a dispute between intended parents or where one parent refuses to release the embryo for donation or disposal in instances such as divorce or a breakup. 


In these situations, the court may look at prior agreements, such as a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, to determine ownership and control of the embryo.


This is why having an agreement in place from professionals who specialize in this area of law is essential to fully protect your rights from whatever that may arise regarding the rights of their embryos.


Need guidance? Contact our offices today!