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Saturday, June 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Embryo Custody Battle Headed to Mediation

CLAYTON, Mo. (CN) - Two couples involved in a custody battle over two frozen embryos have decided to resolve their differences through mediation - for now. Jennifer and William McLaughlin, of Kirkwood, Mo., will travel to Santa Barbara, Calif. for the May 17 mediation with Edward and Kerry Lambert. The two couples traded custody lawsuits in two states last week.

Albert Watkins, the McLaughlins' attorney, filed a stay of the couple's lawsuit in St. Louis County Court on Wednesday. He said the Lambert's attorney is doing the same thing in California.

Watkins said both couples decided mediation was the best alternative after word of their lawsuits garnered worldwide headlines.

Going to court "probably doesn't serve the best interests of the unborn siblings, the other siblings or the parents," Watkins said. "This case is so rooted in moral tenants, ethical tenants and religious tenants that it is probably best for the parents to sit down and work it out."

Both couples say they believe the frozen embryos are living humans.

The Lamberts, who created the embryos, signed a contract in February 2009, granting the McLaughlins four frozen embryos.

The Lamberts claim the McLaughlins breached the contract by not returning the unused embryos after the McLaughlins gave birth to twins with the first two.

The Lamberts' suit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, says they do not want the remaining embryos implanted in Jen McLaughlin because of her violation of the contract and her "recent behavior in connection with the two embryos."

The McLaughlin lawsuit, filed in St. Louis County Circuit Court, states the McLaughlins' interests in "her unborn children" and the embryos' interest in their siblings "is of such uniqueness" to give the McLaughlins legal right to the embryos.

Watkins expects the mediation will bring an amicable conclusion on Saturday. But if that doesn't happen ... "Then light the match, light the fuse and (both sides will) go ahead with a bag full of lawsuits," Watkins said.

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