We wrote recently about the child custody dispute in Florida involving two women that delivered twins through the in vitro fertilization process. Though we can expect these kinds of disputes to continue to arise throughout the country, it's easy to lose sight of the real goal in every type of family law circumstance involving children - acting within the best interest of the children.
In vitro fertilization has been going on since 1978, and through the process many individuals that otherwise could not have had children have now been allowed to become parents. Unfortunately, the law has not always kept up with the science. For example, there is no uniform method of determining who the actual parents should be when a child is born in vitro.
In 2003, a pair of twins was born in Florida through the in vitro process after the biological father was deceased. However, when the mother applied for death benefits for the children, the Social Security Administration ruled that these children could not inherit in this manner due to Florida law. The SSA's decision was upheld by the United States Supreme Court.
More recently, one state's attempt at legislation to have more than two legal parents recognized under certain circumstances in the event of in vitro birth was struck down by the governor of that state. That governor, perhaps rightly, was concerned with ambiguities in the legislation.
Still, this problem will not go away. There have now been more than 50,000 children born through the in vitro fertilization process, and the number is expected to greatly increase during the coming years.
Attorneys involved in child custody disputes where children were born in vitro will need to come up with novel approaches in making arguments for one client or the other - especially when legislatures provide little to no guidance. However, the arguments will need to continue to center on what is best for all parties concerned - and especially the children.
Source: Legal News Center, "In-Vitro Fertilization Raises Custody Rights and Family Law Questions," by Barbara Atkinson, Oct. 12, 2012
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