3 Ways to Protect Unmarried Couples against Property Disputes
More and more couples in England and Wales are choosing to live together rather than marry. However, the law hasn’t developed in line with this change in people’s habits and preferences.
News this week that a US-based law firm is now offering to fund fertility treatment for staff comes amid a widely-reported growing demand under COVID for egg freezing, as women look to preserve their fertility after life has been put on hold during the pandemic.
The statistics show a continued increase of people looking to freeze eggs for later use. There can be no doubt that for some people it is great option, but it is extremely important that anyone considering fertility-preserving treatment, such as egg or sperm freezing, makes a fully informed decision about whether it is right for them.
There is no substitute for research, and asking questions, but there are a number of key points you should always consider:
At present, there is a 10-year limit on the storage of frozen eggs or sperm, unless there are medical grounds for the treatment, in which case, deadlines are longer. If the eggs or sperm are not used by the end of that period, they are destroyed.
A woman freezing her eggs in her 20s may still not be ready to start a family in her 30s and it is important to think ahead about whether the timescales will work for you.
Sadly, we have seen clients who have been left devastated when their 10 year window has expired. There are calls for the law to change, but whether it will, and when, is unknown and for now, we are stuck with the rules as they stand. We also don’t know if they would apply retrospectively.
It is very important to think carefully about what consents you want to give for the use of your eggs or sperm in the future. No-one likes to think of the worst happening, but it is important to think about whether you would want your partner to use your eggs or sperm to have a child if anything happened to you.
There have been a number of high-profile cases (most famously, the Diane Blood case) which have tried to resolve the question, after a tragic event has happened.
Whilst you can’t plan for every eventuality, it is worth making sure you have thought about things like this, and what you would want.
Some couples freeze embryos, rather than separate eggs or sperm. What you may not realise is that can have a fundamental impact on what you can or cannot do in the future.
As the law stands, both parties must give their continuing consent to storage and or use of the embryos. If either party withdraws their consent, the embryos must be destroyed after a set “cooling off” period.
There is no provision as the law stands here, as there is in some US states, for separated couples to litigate over “custody” of embryos, and go on to use them in future.
There is also no provision legally for orders to be made for the embryos to be preserved and used in the face of one parties’ refusal. It’s crucial to be aware of this before taking the decision to progress to fertilisation.
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