Our Maryland readers probably know that the traditional notion of what it means to be a “family” in America is changing. Several states, including Maryland, have approved same-sex marriage, and economic troubles are often forcing several generations of family members to live together under one roof. But a recent article detailed yet another change that has had a profound impact on American families: reproductive technology.
Imagine this scenario: a married couple that wants to have children has trouble with natural conception. As a result, they receive medical assistance that results in several fertilized embryos. Sometime later the marriage breaks down and the couple files for divorce. What happens to those fertilized embryos?
That was exactly the situation in one Maryland case that was mentioned in the recent article, and it is a situation that courts are struggling to rule on as the law lags in keeping up with technology. There is a fundamental question that needs to be answered here: should the disposition of those embryos in the divorce be decided through the use of property division or child custody laws? This may be an interesting question from a legal theory standpoint, but the fact of the matter is that these types of situations are playing out in courts throughout the country more often than they ever have before.
Any divorce has the potential to be complicated, but a situation like the one outlined in the recent article can be flat-out mind boggling. While most Maryland residents won’t have that level of complication in a child custody dispute, a situation of such importance as determining child custody will need an equal level of diligence in reaching a decision that is in the best interest of the child.
Source: The Washington Times, “Are unborn children people or property in a divorce, and who decides?,” Myra Fleischer, Sept. 19, 2013