Frozen Embryo Sparks Custody Battle for One Divorced San Francisco Couple
Within a typical divorce proceeding, just a little over 10% of custody cases are decided during the mediating process.
But what happens when the child in question is still an embryo?
After being married for five years, Mr. Mimi Lee and Stephen Findley officially divorced in April. The only unsettled dispute between them, however, is the destiny of five frozen embryos that the couple had produced during their marriage.
After Lee learned that she had breast cancer, the San Francisco couple made the embryos to plan for their future family. Although Lee is cancer free, her treatment has left her infertile. The frozen embryos represent her only chance to have children that genetically belong to her.
Findley, however, suspects that Lee’s desires to keep the embryos are motivated by money. During the settlement of their assets, the embryos were brought up by Lee; Findley claims the manner in which she put a price tag on their unborn children made him ‘sick to his stomach’.
Findley also claims that the couple had never gone through with having children because of unsavory power dynamic between him and his ex-wife, and he feared having children with her.
In 2013, Findley filed for a divorced, claiming his then-wife had ‘stepped all over’ him.
When the couples produced the embryos, Findley claimed that the two of them signed a form, agreeing to destroy them in the case of divorce. While Findley stated he wants to be a parent that provides for his child, he does not want to produce children with Lee outside of their marriage.
The judge has 90 days to deliberate and present his final verdict.
In past cases involving divorce and embryonic cells, the ruling has generally fallen in favor of the side opposing procreation.
The two noted exceptions, however, were cases that involved women who had cancer and were rendered infertile.