Local family law attorney says ruling on frozen embryos can open up Pandora's box

PHOENIX (FOX 10) -- A court ruling where a divorced woman is allowed to implant fertilized embryos, over the objection of her ex-husband, is raising some eyebrows.

This a very tricky case that raises a very clear question about paternal rights, over whether a father have a say in what happens to a frozen embryo after a divorce. Under the ruling, the courts has said "No", and that ruling has certainly caught the family law community by surprise.

"Wow, bombshell," said Douglas Gardner with the Davis, Miller, McGuire, Gardner law firm. Gardner has been in family law for 15 years, and he said and he's never seen a case like this.

The fallout from this ruling could be huge.

"One ripple is the abortion issue," said Gardner. "Can one parent insist on going forward and having children? Does that one parent even have the right, even if the other parent is saying, 'no, I don't want a child?'"

Ruby Torres wants to implant fertilized embryos that were created before she married John Terrell. The two are now divorced, but in a split decision, the State Court of Appeals gave Torres the okay to do so.

Gardner says the ruling opens Pandora's Box.

"Let's say this egg is frozen for 20 years after the parties get a divorce, and the wife decides to have the egg implanted and bring it forward," said Gardner. "A child is then born 20 years after the divorce, but this case still suggests the father would be responsible."

Also at stake is understanding the difference between a woman's eggs and a couple's embryos.

"These were not just eggs, they were embryos, which suggests they were eggs that were fertilized," said Gardner. "It's not just her life, it's his life."

FOX 10 examined the costs of IVF, and why a father's rights to an embryo could have a huge financial fallout. At one clinic, the success rate of IVF Chromosome testing creates an attractive option, and something that could cost nearly $3,000. Should that result in success, it's then on to child support.

At $1,000 a month for 18 straight years, that will add up to more than $200,000.

As for frozen embryo storage, it could add up to nearly $500 a year.

The case has breathed new life into the conversation over paternal rights.

"I think it is very likely that we will see this going forward, at least to the next level which will be to the Arizona Supreme Court," said Gardner.