KNOXVILLE, TENN. -- The Tennessee Court of Appeals granted joint custody of seven frozen embryos to a divorced couple yesterday, overturning a landmark ruling that had granted custody to the ex-wife.

The court's ruling in the divorce case of Junior Lewis Davis, 31, of Maryville, and Mary Sue Davis Stowe, 29, of Titusville, Fla., can be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

"It would be repugnant and offensive to constitutional principals to order Mary Sue to implant these fertilized ova against her will," Judge Herschel P. Franks wrote for the three-member court. "It would be equally repugnant to order Junior to bear the psychological, if not the legal, consequences of paternity against his will."

The court said both should "share an interest in the seven fertilized ova." The embryos were created in vitro at a Knoxville fertility clinic in December 1988 by mixing Davis's sperm with eggs from his wife.

Two of nine original embryos were implanted but did not develop. The remaining seven were frozen for later use.

In February 1989, Davis sued his wife for divorce, asking the court to prevent use of the embryos without his consent. He contended that he should not be forced to become a parent against his wishes.