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Child custody case will focus on in vitro fertilization

Many Alabama couples turn to fertility procedures to increase their chances of adding to their families. In vitro fertilization is a popular option, as it allows an embryo to be created in a lab and then implanted into a woman's womb. There are a variety of possible links that a woman can have to the child she carries, from surrogacy (in which the woman has no biological link to the child) to full parenthood (the mother supplied the egg and the sperm was provided by the intended father). One recent child custody case centers on the issue of parental rights and in vitro fertilization.

The case features a former same-sex couple and their two children. The women were not married, as their state of residence did not recognize same-sex marriage during the time they lived together as a family. When they were ready to have children, they used one woman's egg and donor sperm to conceive their daughter. Later, they had a son by means of a donated egg and a sperm donor. Both children were carried by the woman who provided the egg for the first pregnancy.

The other woman was granted limited guardianship of the children in 2011. When the couple split in 2015, the woman who carried both children filed a motion to terminate her former partner's guardianship of the kids. The other woman responded by filing for joint custody and child support.

This case will present an unusual challenge to the court. Both women clearly set out to begin and expand a family together, but only one has a biological link to one of the children. Technically, the couple's son is not tied by biology or law to either woman. As such, the outcome of this child custody case could set legal precedent for not only same-sex couples, but for anyone who has a child conceived through in vitro fertilization. The end result could guide similar cases in Alabama and throughout the nation.   

Source:, "Same-sex guardianship at issue in Monroe case", Oralandar Brand-Williams, March 20, 2016

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