You may have heard about Angela and Jeff Watts, the couple who used Facebook to find a suitable family for their unused IVF embryos. Within days, it seems, a family willing to meet the Watts family’s stipulations has come forth, and those six embryos will go to Rayn and Richard Galloway of Granville.

This story went “viral” for a few reasons, not the least of which was the use of Facebook as a screening tool to find the perfect family to whom to donate the embryos. But the stipulation that the Galloways must allow the Watts family to be a part of their lives, in that the embryos will all be biological siblings, is what I want to explore.

In Tennessee, you have a few options when it comes to embryo donation and adoption. You and the donor:

  • Can be completely anonymous
  • Can choose to exchange pertinent information that only excludes your names and your locations
  • Can pursue an “open” exchange where both parties decide how much information to exchange and how much contact you will have with one another

The Watts family’s request to play an active role in the lives of their donated embryos may not be very common, but it is certainly not an unheard of choice.

Growing your family with embryo adoption

I have given many lectures about adoption in Tennessee, and I have helped many couples start new families through traditional adoption methods – but embryo adoption is a wonderful option for couples who are having difficulties conceiving. According to the National Embryo Donation Center located right in Knoxville:

“[E]mbryo adoption does not require action of a court of law in order to establish parentage for the adopting couple. State laws in the United States utilize gestation (not genetics) as the legal basis for motherhood. Thus, since the embryo adoption mother carries the child, no additional legal action is needed. The custody of the embryos is transferred by a contract, from the donor couple to the adopting couple, before the clinical transfer of the embryos to the recipient mother’s uterus occurs.”

In other words, a couple who choose to adopt an embryo is automatically granted parentage and custody of that embryo. Unlike a traditional adoption, where the birth mother may change her mind at any time and retain custody of the child, you and your spouse would automatically be considered the parents of your child once your contract is signed.

I am glad that the story of the Watts and Galloway families has gained such traction in the news, because it has shined a light on another option for Tennessee families who are thinking about adoption. I am always happy to answer any questions you and your spouse might have, so please contact me at the law office of Kevin W. Shepherd, Attorney at Law if you have questions about traditional or embryo adoption options.



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