The Fate of Frozen Embryos after Divorce

The recent ruling of a California judge in family court was a hot topic of conversation in California family law matters. In fact, it was the first such ruling of its kind in California. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo ruled that a couple’s five frozen embryos had to be “thawed and discarded,” due to a binding contract the couple had previously signed.

The contract was created during their engagement, when Mimi Lee was diagnosed with breast cancer. Lee argued that the embryos are her last opportunity to have a genetic child of her own. Her ex-husband, Stephen Findley, on the other hand, argued that per contract they had signed, the embryos are to be destroyed in the event of divorce. The couple’s divorce was finalized earlier this year in April, but the fate of the couple’s five frozen embryos was still undecided.

During the trial, Lee presented a fertility expert who testified that a woman of her age, 46, had a 0.03% chance of having a child. Another expert testified that Lee had between 0% and 5% chance of being pregnant.

Lee argued that she was not aware she was entering into a binding contract when she signed the agreement, and thought it was merely a medical consent form. However, Judge Massullo wrote in her ruling that, “given Lee’s education, profession and intelligence, the court finds that her testimony that she did not intend to enter into a binding agreement was not credible.”

Judge Massullo also wrote that the ex-husband, Findley, “should be free from court compelled fatherhood and the attendant uncertainties it would bring.” She also said that, “the consent agreement was a binding contract under state law that couldn’t be rewritten by the court.”

Lee had indicated before that she would appeal if she lost the case. California divorce lawyers should stay tuned to see what happens next in this controversial case.