Modern reproductive medical technology makes it possible for people in Louisiana to conceive children without so much as having sexual relations. If one party voluntarily provides the necessary sperm and the other the required embryo, medical science can create multiple potential viable offspring at almost any time well into the future. That means potential parental liability arising long after a relationship between two consenting adults ends.
A recent Arizona Supreme Court ruling found a woman could not use several previously preserved and fertilized embryos without the consent from the sperm donor. The donor previously was her long-term boyfriend and donated the sperm only under the stipulation that the embryos only could be used when both provide their consent. Many couples agree to similar sperm and embryo donations for many reasons, including the short-term potential for loss of life in a car accident or other issue.
In the Arizona case, the woman was worried she soon would lose her ability to reproduce after undergoing planned chemotherapy to treat breast cancer. Her boyfriend at the time agreed, with the aforementioned stipulation of no embryo use without consent from both. Despite their breakup, the woman fought to obtain full rights over the embryo and to create a child, which the Arizona Supreme Court denied.
Although not a divorce case, the Arizona Supreme Court ruling illustrates the difficulties a divorce proceeding might encounter in a similar situation. A married couple might agree to a similar stipulation that one party might try to ignore long after the relationship ends, which could have long-lasting financial and social impacts.
The potential for legal liability over an unplanned child occurring after a divorce is granted requires diligence during the divorce proceedings to ensure full legal protection for both parties.