San Francisco Couple in Bitter Divorce Battle Over Frozen Embryos

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Dr. Mimi Lee, 46, and Stephen Findley, her husband of five years, are going through a divorce in the state of California.  The proceedings between the couple have been fairly amicable and the only issue remaining is who has the right to the frozen embryos they jointly created. Lee wants the embryos implanted in her surrogate and Findley wants the embryos destroyed.

The court battle is playing out in a San Francisco Superior Court and the main argument is whether a consent agreement signed by both parties should be honored.  The agreement was signed by the couple at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center’s Center for Reproductive Health.  At the time, both parties consented to the process; Lee’s eggs and Findley’s sperm were used to create five embryos.

Mr. Findley argues that the agreement stipulates in the event of a divorce between the couple the embryos are to be destroyed.  The agreement stated Lee would only receive the embryos in the event of her husband’s death.

Lee argues that the embryos were created after her diagnosis of breast cancer, and the subsequent cancer treatments have left her infertile.  Lee states the embryos are the only way she can have a child with her own genetic material.  Her attorneys have repeatedly stated, “Mimi is entitled to her own genetic property, which both parties preserved anticipating Mimi’s infertility following her cancer treatment.”

However, in court, Findley has argued that his wife is doing this all for the money.  He has said that he does not believe the embryos should be an issue in the divorce and the court should uphold the agreement he and his wife signed when the embryos were created.  According to media reports, Finley has stated that during phone conversations his wife asked how much the embryos are worth and how much payment she will receive for each embryo.

The non-jury bench trial has ended the judge will have 90 days to return a decision on the matter.

This is not the first legal battle we’ve seen over frozen embryos and it won’t be the last. The laws in regards to embryos still aren’t crystal clear, as attorney Stephanie Caballero has stated, “the law has not caught up with the science.”

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John Schutz

John Schutz

Partner at John F. Schutz, P.L.

Representing clients exclusively in family law cases for the past 24 years, Mr. Schutz is widely regarded as a marital and family law expert. He is Board Certified in marital and family law by The Florida Bar. As a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), Mr. Schutz is committed to elevating the standards and improving the practice of family law.

John Schutz

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