Conflict Resolution Regarding Frozen Embryos in New Jersey
Family Law Attorneys Assisting Divorcing Couples with Frozen Embryos Disputes in Ridgewood, Essex Fells, Wayne, and Woodland Park
Over 500 clinics across the United States utilize Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART). In Vitro Fertilization, more commonly referred to as IVF, is the primary method of ART. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 330,773 ART cycles were performed nationwide in 2019 from data collected from the 448 clinics reporting clinics. However, recent media reports with high-profile celebrities have demonstrated potential legal disputes that can arise when couples freeze fertilized embryos before separating.
For example, Sofia Vergara and her former partner Nick Loeb faced such an issue. Before their separation, Vergara had undergone IVF with Loeb in 2013 at the Beverly Hills ART center. After the relationship ended, Loeb wanted to use the embryos. Conflict occurs when one party seeks to bear children from the former couple’s frozen roots, but the other does not. In Vergara v. Loeb, the judge ultimately ruled in Vergara’s favor; the court, in 2021, granted her request for a Permanent Injunction preventing Loeb from using the embryos without explicit permission.
As illustrated above, it is crucial to have a solid agreement and discuss details and necessary provisions for conceivable scenarios, conditions, and changes in your relationship that could manifest in the future. Nonetheless, Megastars like Celine Dion, former First Ladies like Michele Obama, and people in your neighborhood have set out and successfully started a family with IVF. If you have questions about your rights and how to protect them when opting for in vitro fertilization or when you have already frozen your embryos in New Jersey, contact the Montanari Law Group. We are ready and able to assist you with frozen embryo agreements and disputes in Nutley, Hawthorne, Essex, South Orange, Hackensack, Totowa, Montclair, and towns in Northern New Jersey. Request an initial consultation free today by calling (973) 233-4396.
A Description of the Process of In Vitro Fertilization in NJ
IVF, the most widely used therapy, is a fertility treatment involving fertilizing an egg with sperm outside the body in a laboratory dish. The fertility treatment allows couples facing challenges or having difficulty conceiving to plan for a family. In addition, individuals or couples who have fertility issues, such as blocked fallopian tubes, low sperm count, or problems with the uterus or ovaries, may also turn to this fertilization treatment.
IVF is an indispensable therapy for countless couples struggling with infertility. The treatment is also helpful for individuals undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, which may, among other effects, negatively impact their fertility. IVF can reduce the potential for genetic conditions to be passed on. In addition, IVP allows for preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), which can screen embryos for specific genetic diseases and conditions before uterine implantation.
Steps Involved in the IVF Process
- The ovarian stimulation procedure involves taking medications to stimulate the release of multiple eggs, which will later be retrieved and fertilized under controlled conditions.
- Egg retrieval consists of eggs retrieved from the ovaries using an ultrasound-guided needle.
- Fertilization occurs when the retrieved eggs are mixed with sperm in a laboratory dish, and the resulting embryos are allowed to grow for a few days.
- Embryo transfer is when one or more embryos are transferred to the woman’s uterus, where they may hopefully implant and grow into a viable pregnancy.
- A pregnancy test is conducted around two weeks post-embryo transfer to determine if the treatment was successful.
IVF can be complex, requires financial planning for most couples, and is an overall precise process without guaranteeing success on the first try. However, it has helped many people achieve their dream of starting and growing a family. The text below contains vital information regarding New Jersey law relating to frozen embryos, embryo distribution agreements, the options available for a separating couple with frozen embryos, and how an attorney can assist.
How Are Frozen Embryos Understood by NJ Law?
In New Jersey, the disposition of frozen embryos is governed Under New Jersey’s Parentage Act. Enacted in 2003, the NJ Parentage Act provides that when a couple undergoes assisted reproduction, a written agreement may be entered into regarding any created frozen embryo disposition. This agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties, and it must be entered into before the assisted reproduction procedure is performed.
Under the Act, a couple may agree to dispose of the frozen embryos in any manner they choose, as long as their agreement is not contrary to law or public policy. The Act also provides that if the couple cannot agree on the disposition of the frozen embryos, the court may decide what is in the best interests of the embryos.
In its decision, the court will consider the parties’ intentions, as expressed in their written agreement or otherwise, and any other relevant factors, such as the parties’ relationship, health, and financial circumstances. The court may also consider the preferences of any gestational carrier, if applicable.
NJ Regulations for Couples Considering IVF
New Jersey has several laws that couples considering IVF should know. These laws pertain to issues such as the legal status of embryos, parentage, and surrogacy. Under New Jersey law, embryos created through IVF are considered legal entities. They are subject to property laws, meaning if a couple undergoes IVF and produces embryos, they may enter into agreements regarding the disposition of those embryos. For example, a couple may agree that one party will have the right to use the embryos to try to become pregnant, while the other party will waive any parental rights and responsibilities. It is vital for couples considering IVF to understand their legal rights and obligations regarding any embryos that may be created as a result of the procedure.
New Jersey law also establishes the legal parentage of children born through assisted reproduction, including IVF. Typically, the intended parents of a child born through assisted reproduction are considered the child’s legal parents, regardless of whether the intended mother is the biological mother, or the intended father is the biological father. However, suppose the intended parents are not married when the child is born. In that case, the intended mother is the legal parent unless the intended father takes steps to establish paternity, such as signing a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity or obtaining a court order establishing paternity.
Finally, New Jersey law regulates surrogacy arrangements, which may be used in conjunction with IVF. Under New Jersey law, a surrogacy arrangement is generally enforceable if it is in writing and signed by all parties and if it is entered into before the surrogate becomes pregnant. The law also requires that the intended parents and the surrogate undergo counseling and that the intended parents undergo a psychological evaluation. It is essential for couples considering surrogacy to understand the legal requirements and implications of surrogacy arrangements.
Couples contemplating IVF should be aware of these laws and should never hesitate to seek legal advice if they have any questions or concerns. In addition to helping couples understand their legal rights and obligations, attorneys can draft the necessary agreements properly and precisely.
Takeaways from a Prior NJ Court Decision on Frozen Embryos when a Couple Separates
JB v MB is a case that the New Jersey Supreme Court decided in 2017. It involved a dispute between a couple who had undergone IVF and had created several embryos. After the couple separated, they disagreed about what should become of the embryos. The case is significant because it established the legal rights and responsibilities of individuals who have created embryos through IVF in NJ.
A critical issue in the case was the legal status of embryos created through IVF. The court upheld that embryos created through IVF are legally separate entities and subject to NJ’s property laws; therefore, individuals who create embryos through IVF can enter into agreements regarding the embryos’ disposition, e.g., donating to an individual or couple or destroying them.
The case also addressed the issue of parentage in the context of assisted reproduction. The court held that the intended parents of a child born through assisted reproduction, including IVF, are the child’s legal parents, regardless of whether the intended mother is the biological mother or the intended father is the biological father. Thus, if a couple undergoes IVF and one party carries the resulting pregnancy to term, the other party is considered the child’s legal parent.
In addition, the case addressed the issue of surrogacy in New Jersey. The court held that surrogacy arrangements are generally enforceable in the state if they are in writing and signed by all parties and if they are entered into before the surrogate becomes pregnant. The court also noted that the law requires that the intended parents and the surrogate undergo counseling and that the intended parents undergo a psychological evaluation before entering a surrogacy arrangement.
Overall, the JB v MB case provides necessary guidance for individuals considering IVF or who have frozen embryos in New Jersey. It establishes the legal rights and responsibilities of individuals in these situations and helps to clarify the legal framework surrounding assisted reproduction in the state. It is crucial for individuals in these situations to be aware of the legal issues involved and to seek legal advice if they have any questions or concerns.
Find the Answers to the Uncertainty Surrounding Frozen Embryos in Divorce with the Help of Our Lawyers
If you are involved in a dispute over frozen embryos in New Jersey, an attorney at The Montanari Law Group can help you in several ways. You can obtain legal advice and guidance from our family lawyers concerning your legal options, rights, and alternatives. In addition, we will help you get familiar with the complexities of the legislation governing disputes related to frozen embryos in the state of New Jersey.
If you face any legal proceedings that may be necessary to resolve the dispute, our dedicated family law attorneys will represent you and offer valuable counsel and efficient strategies. Other circumstances may include negotiations with the other party or parties involved in the dispute or filing a lawsuit. We can help present your case effectively and advocate for your interests in court or further legal proceedings and settings.
Another significant need for hiring an attorney is drafting any necessary agreements or documents related to the dispute. For instance, if you and the other party ultimately reach an agreement about the disposition of the frozen embryos, an attorney can help you draft a legally binding agreement to ensure that the terms of the agreement are clear and enforceable. At The Montanari Law Group, our lawyers know this area inside and out, providing us with a critical advantage when preserving our clients’ interests and reaching their goals regarding embryos in West Milford, Millburn, Caldwell, Montclair, Wayne, and other towns throughout Essex, Hudson, Bergen, and Passaic County.
Seeking legal advice if you are involved in such a dispute is imperative. The related legal issues are complex, and the stakes are often high, but achieving a fair and satisfactory resolution is possible. Reach out to an experienced New Jersey family law attorney helping clients handling artificial insemination in marriages and divorce cases at (973) 233-4396, or complete our online contact form for a free and confidential consultation.