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Donor sperm in divorce: Is it property or not?

Advances in medical science and technology are amazing on one level. But on another, they can sometimes present unique challenges when it comes to legal issues. New questions surface regularly forcing courts in Arizona and elsewhere to make tough decisions that could have a ripple effect far beyond the immediate case at hand.

Take for instance the question of how donor sperm purchased by a couple as part of their efforts to have children should be handled in the event of divorce. Is it property? If it is, should it be viewed as community property and divided equally between the parties?

Just such a question came before a judge in Canada recently. At the heart of the case were 13 containers of sperm donated by one man. They had been purchased by a lesbian couple.

Each woman in the union gave birth to a child using the donor sperm. When they divorced, their asset division settlement failed to take the leftover sperm into account. Later, one of the women wanted to have another baby and she wanted to use the sperm so the siblings would be blood relatives.

She went back to her former partner and offered to buy back six and a-half of the containers. But the former partner turned down the offer, saying she felt morally that the sperm should be destroyed. The matter went to court.

After hearing the arguments for and against, the judge ruled this week that the sperm should be divided equally as property. She acknowledged that while a different emotional status might attach to the sperm than might be assigned to a car or house, it was still purchased and thus should be treated as property.

Noting that there was an odd number of containers and that it might not be possible to split one equally, the judge said the extra one should go then to the woman seeking to have another child.

Source: CTVBC-TV, "Spare sperm split up in court after lesbian breakup," Bethany Lindsay, April, 26, 2012

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