SAN FRANCISCO—Dr. Mimi Lee, 46, and her ex-husband Stephen Findley, 45, have been unofficially separated for two years; the couple’s divorce was finalized in April 2015. Lee and Findley are still bound to one another due to a custody battle involving the couple’s unborn children; specifically their five frozen embryos.
On Thursday, November 19, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Mussullo ruled in favor of Findley, noting that the couple is contractually obligated to destroy the embryos as stated in the mutually agreed upon contract they signed when deciding to preserve their embryos.
Lee was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, just a few weeks before the couple’s wedding. The cancer diagnosis caused fertility concerns, which was officially confirmed through a diagnosis by a medical expert in April 2015. In 2010, the couple decided to freeze their embryos, so that they could stand a chance of having children of their own in the future.
The couple had signed a form which Lee claims she did not carefully read, stating that the embryos were to be discarded in the event of a divorce. According to Lee, she interpreted the form as “an advance medical directive that could later be changed,” and argued that this was her last opportunity to have her own genetic children. According to court documents, Findley is worried that Lee would use potential children to take financial advantage.
Lee has the option to contest Mussullo’s ruling. Mussullo stated that the California law is clear in having couples determine the course of action in the case that there is a potential separation or divorce. “The policy best suited to ensuring that these disputes are resolved in a clear-eyed manner…to give effect to the intentions of the parties at the time of the decision at issue.”