Use of frozen embryos after divorce or separation

There are a number of reasons why couples may create and store frozen embryos.  If embryos are stored and the couple either divorces or separates, there are often issues about what happens to the embryos.  These cases will often be very sad, since it may no longer be medically possible to create fresh embryos with another partner or donor gametes.  

In the UK, embryos can only be used with the consent of both parties.  Consent can be withdrawn at any time.  If one person withdraws their consent to the use of embryos, a 12 month “cooling off” period will be triggered, following which the embryos will be destroyed if there has not been a change of position in relation to consent.  

It will not be possible for treatment to take place during this cooling off period, since consent will need to be obtained not only for continued storage, but also for consent to use in treatment (taken at the time of the treatment taking place).

It is also important to take advice on the implications of legal parentage in such circumstances, especially ongoing legal obligations to support any child.  Even where a former partner may consent to the use of his sperm/genetically related embryo post separation, there will still be an obligation for child support regardless of whether that was the intention of the parties.