The Georgia Court of Appeals started slowly in December 2019, with only one family law related case. But, the Court ended the month with appropriate end-of-the-year fireworks, and an important case on the Option of Adoption Act. Indeed, the full text of the first opinion below provides a great primer on the Act.
In the Interest of C.B., a child, Case No. A19A2269, Georgia Court of Appeals, December 30, 2019.
During their marriage, Winston and Tonya Barksdale underwent in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures to have a child. Tonya carried, and gave birth to the child with an anonymous egg donation, fertilized with Winston’s sperm. The egg donor signed documents relinquishing all rights to the eggs and any resulting embryos or children. Tonya and Winston also signed an agreement with the fertility clinic wherein they both agreed to the procedures, and Tonya accepted the legal responsibilities of a parent.
In divorce proceedings in Fulton County, Winston alleged that Tonya was not the child’s legal, biological or adoptive parent, and therefore was not entitled to custody. Tonya subsequently petitioned for, and obtained, an “order of parentage” in Clayton County, declaring that she was the child’s legal parent. Winston appealed that order.
Affirmed. The Option of Adoption Act provides the means to establish legal parentage of a child born as a result of an embryo transfer. Thus, the Act applied to the instant case. O.C.G.A. §19-8-42 sets out the criteria for a “recipient intended parent” to petition for an expedited order of adoption or parentage. And, O.C.G.A. §19-8-43 provides that the petitioner is entitled to the expedited order if the trial court finds that the petition meets the criteria. In making this determination, pursuant to O.C.G.A. §19-8-42(d), the trial court has broad discretion, taking into account the interests of justice, the stability of embryo transfers, and the interests of the children subsequently born.
The trial court’s findings that Tonya was a “recipient intended parent” and that she received the embryo after the anonymous egg donor relinquished all rights to the embryo were supported by the evidence. Furthermore, pursuant to O.C.G.A. §19-8-42(b), the trial court properly exercised jurisdiction over the petition since Tonya was a resident of Clayton County. Winston’s argument that the case should have been transferred and consolidated with the Fulton County divorce action was unavailing. Rather, the cases presented different causes of action, which were appropriately handled in separate actions. Finally, the Court of Appeals found that there was no merit to Winston’s assertion that he was fraudulently deprived of notice of the final hearing on the petition.
Check out the recent review of another case involving IVF procedures at, Patton v. Vanterpool, October 28, 2019.
Related Family Law Cases Released in December, 2019:
Prenatal Abuse // Marijuana
White v. Georgia Department of Human Services, Case No. A19A2335, Georgia Court of Appeals, December 6, 2019.
Marijuana is not a controlled substance as defined by O.C.G.A. §16-13-21. Thus, a mother’s marijuana use during pregnancy does not amount to prenatal abuse.