The last 18 months have seen increasingly acrimonious proceedings between Sofia Vergara, the Colombian actress from the U.S. sitcom Modern Family, and her ex-fiancé over what should happen to two embryos that followed IVF treatment. 

Vergara wants the embryos to remain frozen, whilst Nick Loeb, her former partner, wants the embryos to be implanted in a surrogate so that he can then raise the children alone.  

That Vergara stars in Modern Family is fitting for a dispute that is symbolic of modern family issues. Medical advances mean that family structures are constantly evolving but such advances also create greater potential for disagreement.  In the UK, the clinic where IVF treatment is carried out will ask the couple to sign consent forms covering issues such as the use of the embryos in the future, how long the embryos should be stored and what should happen to them in the event that one of the couple dies. However, consent can be withdrawn at any time prior to the embryos being implanted - which is precisely the situation that has arisen in the Vergara-Loeb case.  

A California court ruled last week in favour of Vergana. In circumstances where it is reported that the couple signed an agreement that neither could take action over the embryos without the other's consent, the case will provide interesting insight as to how the courts, albeit in California,  deal with issues of consent when disputes arise between a couple despite an agreement having been signed.