Picture this: You and the love of your life get married, try for kids and have several miscarriages before deciding to try in vitro fertilization.
You miscarriage with IVF, too.
Then your spouse surprises you with divorce forms.
BUT, he agrees to try IVF again despite the pending divorce because you express how deeply you’ve always wanted kids.
You don’t want child support; you don’t want him to parent the kids. Really, you just want him to be listed as the father so your kids can have insurance.
But after the courts finalize the divorce, (four days after the IVF procedure), he rejects his paternity — despite the fact that he signed the IVF forms in front of a public notary.
You’d think because you conceived while still married, he’d be legally bound to your children, right? He’s your husband. Isn’t that how it works?
Since Georgia law says ‘artificial insemination’ and not ‘IVF,’ he’s not the legal father
Such was the scenario for mother Jocelyn Vanterpool and ex-husband David Patton, reported on by Jessica Noll of 11Alive.com.
And for clarification’s sake: Vanterpool eventually did argue in court for child support.
The couple’s 3-year legal battle began in 2014 and made its way to the Georgia Supreme Court in 2016 after Patton appealed a lower court’s decision that had ruled in Vanterpool’s favor.
According to Georgia state law:
“All children born within wedlock or within the usual period of gestation thereafter who have been conceived by means of artificial insemination are irrebuttably presumed legitimate if both spouses have consented in writing to the use and administration of artificial insemination.”
This past week, on Oct. 16, the high court ruled in a lengthy opinion that “artificial insemination” was not in vitro fertilization, and therefore, Patton was not the legal father.
What’s the difference between artificial insemination and IVF?
According to the Seattle Sperm Bank:
Artificial Insemination is a form of assisted reproductive technology whereby sperm is placed into a woman’s reproductive tract by means other than sexual intercourse.
On the other hand:
In vitro fertilization is the process of manually combining an egg and sperm outside of the womb, in vitro. (Then it’s put in the woman’s reproductive tract.)
Is this court ruling abnormal?
Randall Kessler, a family law attorney and adjunct professor at Emory Law School, told 11 Alive that the law leaves couples with a lot of gray area and potential questions.
“Until this decision, we all thought if you had a child or if the child was conceived during the marriage, that (it’s) both parents’ child. This child was conceived during the marriage.”
Adding to the confusion is the fact that the court found that Patton agreed to the IVF, though he allegedly disputes those claims. Noll’s reporting says he signed documents in front of a public notary.
“If you agree to get pregnant, whether it’s your sperm or somebody else’s, historically we have always thought (it was) over and done,” Kessler said. The kid was always assumed to belong to both. But now?
This ruling “throws everything up in the air,” he said.