What are the legal implications of artificial reproductive technology in Michigan family law?

Understanding the Intersection of Artificial Reproductive Technology and Michigan Family Law

Advancements in artificial reproductive technology (ART) have provided countless individuals and couples with the opportunity to start families when natural conception is not an option. However, these scientific advancements have also introduced complex legal implications, especially within the realm of family law. In Michigan, as in many jurisdictions, ART presents unique legal challenges that require careful consideration.

Parental Rights and ART

In Michigan, determining parental rights in the context of ART can be complicated. The state's family law does not directly address every scenario that may arise from ART procedures such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, and sperm or egg donation. Generally, parental rights are established based on the legal parentage of the child, which may not always coincide with genetic parentage.

For example, in the case of a married couple using a sperm donor, Michigan law presumes that the husband is the legal father of any child born to his wife during their marriage, regardless of biological paternity. Nonetheless, disputes can arise if the couple separates or divorces before the birth of the child conceived through ART.

Surrogacy Agreements

Surrogacy agreements are another area where Michigan law intersects with ART. Michigan's Surrogate Parenting Act prohibits compensated surrogacy and deems such contracts unenforceable. This means that any agreement where a surrogate receives payment beyond reasonable expenses is illegal in Michigan. Intended parents must navigate these restrictions carefully to establish their legal rights without running afoul of state law.

Disputes Over Embryos

Disputes over embryos created via IVF present another legal challenge. In Michigan, there is no specific statute governing the disposition of embryos, leaving couples to rely on contracts or court decisions in the event of disagreement. Courts typically look at written agreements between parties to determine embryo custody but may also consider factors such as potential for parenthood and each party's intent.

Gestational Carrier Agreements

Gestational carrier agreements, where the carrier has no genetic connection to the child they are carrying, can also raise questions about parentage. In Michigan, intended parents must complete a post-birth adoption process or other legal proceedings to establish their parental rights, since gestational carriers may be presumed to be the legal mother at birth.

The Impact of Same-Sex Marriage Legalization

The legalization of same-sex marriage has further shaped ART-related family law in Michigan. Same-sex couples using ART must ensure that both partners are legally recognized as parents. While marriage creates a presumption of parentage for same-sex spouses, additional steps like second-parent adoption are often necessary to solidify parental rights.


The interplay between ART and Michigan family law continues to evolve as technology advances and societal norms shift. Prospective parents considering ART should consult with experienced family law attorneys who can guide them through potential legal issues and help secure their parental rights. As Michigan's legislature and courts address these emerging challenges, clarity will increase for those looking to build families through artificial reproductive technology.