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Is the latest family-law issue fertility?

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Divorce triggers many family law issues for married couples in Illinois, such as alimony, child custody, child support and property division. Each of these issues highlights a theme, which is that divorce issues often boil down to money, children or both. Added to those issues might be a new one that melds money and children, which is fertility treatment.

Fertility treatment is just the latest frontier in divorce law. What that frontier will look like is still very much an open question, but a recent divorce case will likely have a role in its initial appearance. That case involves a wife who is requesting that her soon-to-be former husband pay for an egg-freezing procedure that would let the woman save fertile eggs now so that she could use them later.

The reasoning behind the woman's request, while controversial, is straightforward. She desired children, but could not have them, though not for lack of trying. Her path to parenthood included several failed attempts at in vitro fertilization. Those efforts established a marital lifestyle that should be maintained post-divorce. In other words, because fertility treatment was part of the marriage, it should be part of the divorce too.

Though fertility may seem like the last thing an ex-spouse should have to pay for, some experts think the case has a real chance. These experts analogize fertility to the decision to stay at home and raise a child. When a couple elects for one spouse to stay home, according to these experts, that is a life-altering decision that both spouses need to pay for following a divorce, not just the spouse that stayed at home.

Nonetheless, regardless of which side of the issue a spouse may fall, the woman's fertility request highlights the ever-shifting divorce-law landscape. Illinois couples dealing with a divorce that want to make sure they are prepared to handle what those shifts may bring might benefit from speaking a legal professional.

Source: The New York Times, "Alimony for your Eggs," Sarah Elizabeth Richards, Sep. 6, 2013

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