Louisiana Allows Embryos to Sue their Parents

In January, 2017, I was  asked by a Times-Picayune reporter to give my opinion on the Jefferson Parish case involving actress Sofia Vergara and her unborn embryos, which are being held in cryogenic storage in California, much to the ire of their biological father, Nick Loeb.

The upshot is this:  In Louisiana, embryos have legal personality, meaning that just like you and I, they can sue in court, even though, in this case, the embryos have not only not been born, but have not even been implanted in a woman’s uterus yet.

Biology aside, this is a very interesting case.  Vergara and Loeb created two embryos, now being called Emma and Isabella, and they were put into storage for a later time.  The couple then broke up, and the embryos remained in storage.  At some point a trust fund was set up for the benefit of these unborn children, and the trust was established here, in Louisiana.

The embryos, Emma and Isabella, have filed suit against their mother. They  insist that they have been abandoned and neglected by Vergara, who has chosen not to carry the embryos yet in her womb.   The suit requests that the embryos be implanted in a surrogate, and that Vergara’s rights as a parent be terminated. Once born, Nick Loeb proposes to have sole custody of the girls, and Sofia Vergara would have no rights to the children, or presumably to the trust established for their benefit.

There has never been a case like this before in the country, and Louisiana is the only place in America where this could happen, because of laws allowing unborn embryos to assume legal personality and sue their parents.

Since the filing late last year, Sofia Vergara has managed to move the suit to Federal Court, where she has claimed it should be dismissed altogether.  She has argued that Louisiana is not the proper state in which to make arguments concerning the embryos, which are being housed in California, and that there are certain indispensable parties, namely Nick Loeb and the facility holding the embryos, who were not named in the original lawsuit.  It will be interesting to see if the law permitting the creation of the trust and giving these embryos the power to sue will be strong enough to allow Louisiana to retain jurisdiction over the suit.  I for one am watching closely to see what happens next.

Voted One of New Orleans’ Best

I am thrilled to announce that I will appear in the November edition of New Orleans Magazine, listed among the top family attorneys in New Orleans.  This list was compiled with suggestions from members of the legal community, and so I am particularly happy to know I am becoming a respected practitioner in my chosen field.

Still, as much as those accolades mean, I can’t grow my practice without my clients.  If you have a family law need to discuss with me, please call at (504) 581-4334, or reach out  to me at liz@menerayfamilylaw.com.

A Fall Tradition

As I have worked with families from year to year, a pattern has developed that is interesting to me.  It’s as if the year begins in September for families with children.  School starts, there’s the bustle of buying books and uniforms, or new jeans and tennis shoes.  It’s a fresh start.  We open our windows and let in the cool breeze that is so refreshing and brief in our part of the world.  And our thoughts turn to change and things we want to make better about our lives and those of our children.

And so, after summer vacation parents begin to call me with questions:

  1. I’m getting child support, but I feel I should be getting more money than I do; am I eligible for a modification?
  2. I’m paying child support, but I don’t see my kids as much as I would like. Is there anything I can do about that?
  3. The holidays are coming and I don’t know if I will be able to see my children at Christmas or Thanksgiving; is it too late to make certain I can see them?
  4. I let my child see his parent over the summer, but the parent is refusing to let him come home. School has started and I don’t know what to do.
  5. My grandchild came to stay with me over the summer, but his parents have not returned to get him.  I don’t have formal custody of him; what can I do?

I’ve been here all summer, and I continue to be here for you as these and other family law questions roam your brains.  I have answers, and when I don’t I can certainly find the answers you need.  These are important questions that shouldn’t wait another year to be dealt with.  Give me a call at (504) 330-5522, or send me a confidential e-mail at liz@menerayfamilylaw.com, and let’s make a plan to deal with your family law concerns.


The Power of Good Will

In this age of instant, electronic communication, it’s really nice to get a paper and envelope note.  It’s really gratifying to hold a thank you card in your hand, and reflect upon the time and care it took to write it.  I get these notes from clients from time to time, and I hold on to them to remind me that my work is valued.

A few years ago, I received a letter from a woman, thanking me for my “professionalism and your kindness.”  She said “it eased my nerves more than you know when you greeted me so warmly at the hearing.”  This woman was not my client, but rather the unrepresented spouse of my client.    I have held on to this note as a symbol that my work impacts not only my clients but everyone else I encounter in the course of a case, especially when there is no lawyer on the other side.

Today, I received what I consider to be an even higher compliment from an unrepresented party – a referral.  The former husband of a client referred me to his friend, saying that he was really impressed with the way I handled their divorce matter.  Even though I was not his attorney, he respected my knowledge and skill enough to refer me to another person he cared about.

I try to approach everyone in a case with the same level of respect, with an understanding that both parties are hurting, are stressed, are frustrated, confused and probably scared.  Of course, my client gets the full benefit of my counsel and advice, but I feel it’s important to show both parties that I understand and respect their positions.  Sometimes this has unexpected consequences.  It’s called good will, and it has great value to me as a person, as a lawyer, as a counselor, and as a representative of the legal profession.

I would love to talk with you or those special to you about their family law concerns.  Contact me today at:  liz@menerayfamilylaw.com or (504)  330-5522.




2014 – Looking Back and Giving Back

2014 was a year for giving back to the community, to helping budding lawyers and paralegals alike, to continuing to serve those in need of legal services, and to celebrating the vibrant city we call home.  Here are some highlights of Meneray Family Law’s year:


As I have done for the past few years, I was part of a distinguished panel of Loyola alumni invited to present advice and instruction to students studying the Civil Law of Persons with Professor Monica H. Wallace.  This past semester we taught students how to interview clients, how to draft a divorce petition and how to present an argument in a child custody case.


I volunteered this past October at the Plaquemines Parish Public Library to offer free “mini consultations” to residents of the parish seeking family law help.  Similar events were held in every parish in the State of Louisiana, facilitated by the Louisiana State Bar Association Access to Justice Committee.


Continuing my belief that good lawyers make great paralegals, by giving them patient attention and instruction, I worked with student interns this past year, guiding them as they learned the complicated process of contributing to the work of a family law practice.


Last year I became a certified family law mediator, and this year I began working with the Domestic Mediation Program at the Orleans Parish Civil District Court.  It’s a new program, but I am confident that by using qualified mediators to help people resolve disputes without litigation, many people who could not otherwise afford to see their cases to conclusion will get results to assist them in parenting their children, obtaining child support and other relief.


I am now in my second decade as a volunteer for WWOZ 90.7 FM, as host of the program “Sitttin’ In,” which presents modern jazz in an all vinyl format.  This year I joined the Board of Directors of the NOLA Project, an energetic local theater company celebrating its tenth year of presenting “theater for the bold.”  I am looking forward to continuing to work within the New Orleans community to celebrate its culture and diversity.

Whether as attorney, mediator, volunteer, teacher, disc jockey or theater lover, I love the New Orleans community and am committed to serving it.  When we do what we love, that commitment shows in our work.  I look forward to working with you and your families in 2015.

If you or someone you care about needs family law advice, call Liz at (504) 330-5522 today, or send her an email request at liz@menerayfamilylaw.com.

New Domestic Law Help Center in Jefferson Parish

According to the Louisiana State Bar Association, the 24th Judicial District Court in Gretna is opening a domestic law help desk on Thursday, October 2.  It will be staffed by volunteer attorneys and lawyers from the Louisiana Civil Justice Center.  The help desk is located on the second floor of the 24th JDC courthouse building, at 200 Derbigny Street in Gretna.

Our parish courts often encounter unrepresented litigants in family law cases. Many people need help, but can’t afford attorneys to help them.  Hats off to the 24th JDC, the Louisiana Civil Justice Center and the Louisiana State Bar Association for providing a place for people in need of help to get advice and assistance.

There has been a help desk in Orleans Parish for some time now, and it’s encouraging to see our State Bar reaching out to help people in need of family law advice in other parishes as well.  Let’s hope the trend continues!

Honoring the Birth Mother’s Role in the Adoption Process

It’s nice to start off the new year with an adoption case.  Bringing families together is a very rewarding part of my practice.

Adoptions are emotional for everyone involved, including me.  It’s probably because I am deeply involved with all the people who come together to make this happen.  I see how difficult it is for the birth mother to make the decision to adopt, how longing and hopeful the adoptive parents are to have a child, and how good counselors and lawyers working together with concerned judges can grow a successful adoption case.

If you’re pregnant and considering adoption, I can help you meet families looking for a child.  Except for taking care of yourself to make certain your growing child is healthy, finding the right family for your child is the most important job you have right now.  This is your child, and you are making decisions for his or her best interest.

Prospective parents put together profiles, which include pictures and words that help them tell you about themselves before you actually meet them.  Through the profile, you get a view into their lives and hear about their hopes and dreams, which of course involve having your child as a part of their lives.  You have control over who you want to meet, and it’s your choice who will adopt your child.

In addition to introducing you to hopeful adoptive parents, I will arrange for you to have counseling to prepare you for the adoption process.  I work with some very caring professionals who have many years of experience working with mothers like you.  They understand what you’re going through and can help you figure out what you and  your child need.  

Whether you choose adoption or not, it’s important that you take care of yourself and your baby.  I have great respect for your decision and would be glad to work with you.  Call Liz Meneray at Meneray Family Law, L.L.C. at (504) 330-5522, (504) 322-3222 or e-mail me at liz@menerayfamilylaw.com


Open for Business Monday, January 20!

I’ve been getting a lot of calls today from folks looking to take advantage of their Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday to take care of their legal business.  As a small business owner, it’s important to me to be available when my clients need me. Therefore, I will be open on Monday for consultations.  Give me a call at (504) 330-5522 or (504) 322-3222, or send me an e-mail at liz@menerayfamilylaw.com to set up a time to discuss your legal needs.  Call today!  My calendar is filling up!

2013 – The Year in Review

It had its ups and downs, but 2013 wasn’t a bad year, all in all.  Personally and professionally I’d say 2013 offered many challenges and opportunities to grow. 

  • City Business “Women of the Year”

I was included among the 50 women honored by New Orleans City Business in their annual Women of the Year issue for my contributions to the New Orleans community through Meneray Family Law, L.L.C., through work with organizations like Hagar’s House, a shelter for women and children transitioning from domestic violence, and for the radio show I do every Sunday as a volunteer for the community radio station, WWOZ, 90.7 FM.

  • Mediation Certification

In December, I completed a 40 hour course of training to become a certified family law mediator.  The training was intensive, but very rewarding.  I am looking forward to working with families seeking to work out problems without court intervention.  Look for future posts regarding Meneray Family Mediation, L.L.C., and a new website which will offer information about mediation services.

  • Interstate Custody Practice

Interestingly, I worked a great deal in 2013 with custody matters involving courts in different states.  I gained new knowledge of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), which is the law that applies when parents in different states have conflicts about where the child should live.  It’s a fascinating area of practice, and I hope to work with many more clients in this area of the law.

  • 2014 – Upward and Onward!

I have high hopes for the new year, and look forward to working with new families.  Please remember Meneray Family Law, L.L.C. to your friends and family with questions about divorce, child custody and support, spousal support or property distribution/community property concerns.  Please also remember the soon to be formed Meneray Family Mediation, L.L.C. to your friends and family looking to find a solution to problems outside of court with the help of a certified family law mediator.

I continue to be reached on my website:  www.menerayfamilylaw.com, by e-mail at liz@menerayfamilylaw.com and by phone at (504) 330-5522 or (504) 322-3222.  I look forward to speaking with you soon.  Have a wonderful 2014!

Wow, Thanks, City Business!

WomenoftheYear-13-ipad-300x200It was amazing  to be nominated for inclusion in New Orleans City Business’ list of outstanding women for 2013.  It was wonderful to see my name on a list with other accomplished women, all being honored for their contributions to the New Orleans community.  It is humbling to be recognized as a businesswoman, mother, lawyer, disc jockey, teacher, volunteer, even as someone who costumes as a 1950’s diner waitress in parades.  It’s hard to know what to say when you just live your life and do what you do, trying to be a good person and help others.  So I guess I’ll just say thank you.