After three years, Georgia’s highest court decided in Patton v. Vanterpool that the children conceived by in vitro fertilization (IVF) in this case had no legal father. The Georgia Supreme Court’s decision overruled an earlier decision by the Superior Court. The recent state supreme court verdict can be life-altering for any child conceived by IVF in the state of Georgia.
According to a recent article on the case published by 11alive.com, the Georgia Supreme Court’s opinion could affect and set a legal precedent for thousands of people. The Center for Disease Control (“CDC”) reports that more than 70,000 infants were born across the nation in 2015 via assisted reproductive technology. Of those 70,000 infants, 99% were conceived via IVF. IVF is the medical process of extracting eggs and retrieving sperm to then combine them manually in a petri dish. Once the two have been combined, the embryo is then injected into the mother.
Patton v. Vanterpool
In the case before the Georgia Supreme Court, Vanterpool was injected with an embryo that consisted of donor eggs and donor sperm, not biological ones. David Patton, who serves in the military, and Dr. Jocelyn Vanterpool married in 2011 and divorced in 2014. The couple were involved in a legal battle that spanned six years. By the time Vanterpool was to give birth to twins, she was becoming a single mother. During three years of marriage, the couple experienced three miscarriages – two of them via IVF with her husband. While Patton filed for divorce in January of 2014, the parties consented to undergoing IVF treatment pending the divorce. They agreed to use both donor eggs and donor sperm.
In November of 2014, after Vanterpool underwent IVF, Patton confirmed he no longer wanted to be married. Four days after her IVF procedure, a final judgment for divorce was entered. The divorce settlement agreement, however, reflected that at the time they agreed, neither was expecting children as a product of the marriage. During the divorce hearing, there was no mention of children. When paternity came up after the divorce because Vanterpool wanted Patton to legitimize the children and provide health care coverage, Patton refused. She returned to court for judicial intervention.
In June 2015 she gave birth to twins, one of which passed a few months after birth. Vanterpool asked the superior court to set aside the divorce decree, which was denied, so that she could include her daughter in the agreement. Vanterpool then filed a paternity action against her ex-husband, alleging that he gave informed consent for IVF treatment, creating an irrebutable presumption of paternity, and sought child support. Patton argued that he never consented to the treatment but, rather, signed the agreement under duress. As a result of her paternity action, the Superior Court ruled Patton was the legal father. Patton appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court, which reversed the lower court’s decision and cited to a decades-old law that addresses paternity and artificial insemination. Court held the law did not apply to IVF.
Family Law Attorney
If you or someone you know has any questions about paternity or is dealing with any other family law issue, contact a knowledgeable family law attorney today.