Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Little Old Woman Would Be Confused

As a child, I remember my mother telling us about the little old woman who lived in a shoe who had so many children that she didn't know what to do. The world has changed. Today, I could tell my nieces about the little girl who has so many parents that she doesn't know what to do. We live in a world where it is possible for a child to have as many as six legally recognized parents. Consider the following scenario:

Married couple, A and B contract with C to conceive a child using assisted reproduction technology. Neither A nor B is able to contribute genetic material for the procedure, so C is impregnated with sperm donated by D, a family friend of A and B, and eggs donated by E. C's husband consents to the procedure. A and B are the intended parents, so they may be considered to be the legal parents of the child. E's eggs contributed to the conception of the child; therefore, she is the biological parent. C is the child's gestational mother, so she may be recognized as the child's legal parent. The child was conceived during C's marriage to F and F consented to the procedure. Hence, F may be presumed to be the child's legal father. Finally, as a known sperm donor who contributed to the creation of the child, D is the child's biological father and may also be deemed to be the child's legal father. I failed to mention that, at the time of the child's conception, E or D could already be dead.

This would make a great science fiction movie. However, the situation is real and could have a profound impact on family law and inheritance law. In spite of the significance of the situation, the assisted reproduction area is largely unregulated.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Who or what is a mother?

Aristotle stated ,"Mothers are fonder than fathers of their children because they are more certain they are their own." The use of assisted reproduction to create children has removed the certainty mentioned by the great philosopher.

Recently, the parents of a dead soldier received a court order to permit them to have sperm extracted from his corpse. After obtaining the sperm, the parents selected a woman to give birth to their dead son's child. The grandparents plan to raise the child as their own and the woman has agreed to have her parental rights terminated. What happens if the woman changes her mind and decides to retain possession of the child? In a custody battle between a biological parent and grandparents, the biological parent usually wins. What happens if the grandparents die while the child is still a minor? Should the woman be permitted or forced to step in and raise the child? The answer depends or whether or not the biological mother is recognized as the legal mother of the child. Courts are currently grappling with that question. Several tests have been used to reach an answer and there is not a true consensus.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Dead Men Having Baby

One of the consequences of the war in Iraq is the impact on family law. The spouses of dead soliders are using their genetic material to produce children who may be eligible to receive their veteran benefits and to inherit from their estates.