Parents Battle Over Embryos; Births Hang in the Balance

The Rising Number of Frozen Embryos Has Created a New Kind of Custody Battle

The rising number of frozen embryos in the United States has created a new kind of custody fight with the usual lawyers and angry spouses, but one profound difference.

The parents aren’t arguing about where a child will live, but whether it will be born.

Augusta and Randy Roman married after a whirlwind courtship in 1996. Two years later, they began trying for a baby, but doctors determined that Augusta had fertility problems. Over the next couple of years she underwent extensive, often painful fertility treatments, with Randy by her side.

"All along he was very supportive. We would go to places where there were children and he would talk about what a good mom I would be," she said.

Doctors harvested 13 eggs from Augusta, fertilizing six with Randy’s sperm. But the night before the embryos were to be implanted, Randy delivered shocking news to his wife.

He wanted to put the procedure on hold because he had doubts about their relationship. Augusta said he wanted her to be closer to God before they had children.

"I was devastated," she said. "It was just like a bad dream."

Baby Battle Heads to Court

The couple froze their six embryos, but three didn’t survive the freezing process. Augusta and Randy went into counseling. It didn’t help, and they divorced more than a year later.

The courts awarded custody of the embryos to Augusta, who still wanted to have them implanted. But Randy argued the couple had signed a consent form stipulating that any remaining embryos should be destroyed in the event of divorce. He appealed the judge’s decision and won.

"If those agreements aren’t honored, fertility clinics aren’t going to be willing to freeze embryos and that will have a profound effect on all the couples in the future who want to try and have children," said Greg Enos, Randy’s attorney.

Augusta and her attorney argue that the consent form was meant only to cover any additional embryos that remained after the implantation process. Because Augusta and Randy had intended to implant all of their existing embryos – leaving no extras – she says his argument doesn’t apply.

The case will soon head to the Texas Supreme Court. Enos said his client didn’t want to become a parent against his will, but Augusta plans to fight for what she believes is her last chance to have children.

"I pray they will survive all this fighting, that I can have them one day and be a happy family, be able to tell them how much I love them," she said.


Preparing for Divorce

The Alabama Family Law Blog over the last few months has been running a series of articles about preparing for divorce:
I have posted each of them here. However, below is an index to each one with a link to the original post. This has been a great series packed with very useful information.

Step 1 – Find a Wise Guide

Step 2 – Make an accounting of the family finances

Step 2A – Determine what you own

Step 2B – Determine what you owe

Step 2C – Determine Income

Step 3 – Make photocopies of all the financial records

Step 4 – Prepare a budget (or two)

Step 5 – Document & Safeguard Personal Property

Step 6 – Establish your own credit

Step 7 – Assess the Financial Accounts

Step 8 – Address the Credit Accounts

Step 9 – Avoid additional debt or major purchases

Step 10 – Stay Put (until further notice)

Step 11 – Keep a diary

Divorce needn’t mean ugliness for children

Nearly half of all marriages end in divorce; most involve children. For decades, those children didn’t have much of a chance to experience cordial co-parenting, caught as they were in the verbal crossfire between two people they loved.

Ugly scenarios still play out regularly, but no longer exclusively. Instead of twisting in a win-lose court system, a growing number of parents are turning to a win-win world inhabited by a new breed of largely non-legal professionals.

Businesses are springing up in support of successful post-divorce parenting., for example, is a scheduling Web site designed to help families manage the chaos of daily activities from different addresses.

On a recent episode of "All of Us," on the CW Network, divorced Mom and Dad do a "nesting" scenario, in which they move in and out of the family home so their son doesn’t have to.

And last fall, Ford aired a controversial TV commercial as part of its "Bold Moves" campaign, in which a family spends a delightful weekend shopping, driving and hanging out at the beach. At the end of the day, though, Dad is dropped off at his apartment.

"Thanks for inviting me this weekend," he says as he hugs his kids and mom throws him a bittersweet smile.

Bloggers had plenty to say about the ad, some chiding Ford for putting Daddy in a "sad, recent-divorce condo complex." But one viewer wrote: "I thought the ad was bold and innovative. It portrays a post-divorce husband and wife who are working together to provide a normal life for their children."

"In spite of all evidence of high conflict everywhere, there’s a thread of a better way to do this," said Deborah Clemmensen, a licensed psychologist and child specialist. "There’s a belief that there can be more respectful and dignified ways to relieve conflict. The minute you start on that path, you keep going."

That path includes these three ideals: