Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznare
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Researchers Study Willingness to Adopt Children with Special Needs

From Phys.Org:

Queen's University researchers Philip Burge and Dianne Groll (Psychiatry) and two co-authors have just published a study regarding the attitudes and preferences of prospective adoptive parents. The study found that those who were most open to considering children with special needs had been formally seeking to adopt for some time and had completed government-required SAFE assessments and training.

The report entitled, Making Choices: Adoption seekers' preferences and available children with special needs, explores the willingness of prospective adoptive parents in Ontario to adopt children with abuse experiences and various degrees of behavioral disorders, learning and /or physical disabilities among other factors.

"Finding adoptive parents for child wards with special needs has long been a challenge. Notwithstanding some recent minor improvements in government policy, serious challenges still remain in placing thousands of child wards with special needs in permanent adoptive homes or guardianship arrangements," says Dr. Burge.

The study examined the preferences and attitudes of 5,830 AdoptOntario online registrants between May 2009 and February 2012. The registrants were classified as "public users," "prospective adoptive parents," or "adoption ready," based on their stage in the adoption application process, and were asked a number of questions to determine their preferences in child characteristics for adoption. The categories included questions on adopting older children, sibling groups, or children with any of the 20 most common special needs referred by child welfare agencies.

Read more here.

November 28, 2015 in Adoption | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 27, 2015

Abortion Rates in the U.S. Continue to Decline

From CBS News:

U.S. abortions continue to fall, according to a new federal report released on Wednesday.

Federal statistics show abortions have been in a general decline for about 25 years.

The number of reported abortions dropped four percent in 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. About 699,000 abortions were reported to the federal government that year. That's about 31,000 fewer than the year before.

Experts offer various reasons for the recent drop: Better use of birth control and the lingering effects of the economic recession. Others argue there's been a cultural shift and more women opt to continue their pregnancy.

In 2012, the abortion rate fell five percent to 13 abortions per 1,000 women of child-bearing age. That's about half what it was in 1974, the year after the landmark Supreme Court decision that established a nationwide right to abortion.

Read more here.

November 27, 2015 in Abortion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Same-Sex Adoption in AL

Margaret Ryznar, an associate professor of Law at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, and Robin Fretwell Wilson, a Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law, discuss an Alabama woman’s request that the United States Supreme Court review an Alabama Supreme Court decision refusing to recognize her adoption of her same-sex partner’s 3 children in Georgia.  Listen to the Bloomberg Law podcast here.

November 23, 2015 in Adoption | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Central Indiana Domestic Violence Shelters Turn Away 1,743

From The Indianapolis Star:

More than 1,700 people who sought shelter to escape from domestic violence in Central Indiana didn't receive it, according to a report released Thursday.

The State of Domestic Violence in Central Indiana report, produced by the Domestic Violence Network, shows 1,743 people were denied shelter from July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014, because the agencies were over capacity and didn't have available beds. That is nearly triple the number of people who were denied temporary housing the year before.

"Housing continues to be our No. 1 obstacle," said Kelly McBride, executive director of Domestic Violence Network.

McBride said domestic violence agencies' resources are strained — with funding cuts, fewer staff members and victims who are staying longer in shelters because affordable housing isn't available elsewhere.

But Catherine O'Connor, president and CEO of the Julian Center, said people seeking help should not be discouraged by shelter limitations.

"We triage," she said. "If someone is in immediate danger, we’ll find a place for that person to be."

Read more here.

November 22, 2015 in Domestic Violence | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Nature of Embryos

From BuzzFeed News:

The technology to freeze embryos has been around since the 1980s. The recent surge in these cases — such as the highly publicized dispute between actress Sofia Vergara and her ex-fiance Nick Loeb — is because couples who opted to use the technology are now facing crumbling relationships.

“The people who happily froze their embryos once the new technologies arrived, those are the ones that are now getting divorced,” Nicolas Terry, a professor of law at Indiana University, told BuzzFeed News. “Now the issues are maturing.”

In some states, such as Colorado and Texas, the male partner has no say in what happens to the embryos, and he is not responsible for any costs of raising a potential child, Terry said. Louisiana is the only state that designates the biological material as “juridical persons” that cannot be destroyed.

But as the hodgepodge of state rulings reveal, no one is quite sure of how to categorize biological material that has the potential to become a human life.

“The courts have struggled with whether or not to deal with embryos as property or as something akin to a person,” Naomi Cahn, a professor of law at George Washington University who specializes in reproductive technologies, told BuzzFeed News.

“We’re dealing here with potential children, we’re dealing with parentage, and when these cases get to court, we’re dealing with couples who are in conflict,” Cahn added. “It’s very human emotions that judges need to be dealing with here.”

Read more here.

November 21, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Cohabitation Continues to be Fastest Growing Relationship in UK

From Family Law:

Figures released today (5 November 2015) show that the cohabiting couple family continues to be the fastest growing family type in the UK in 2015.

The latest statistical bulletin, Households and Families, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), shows that cohabiting couple families in the UK have reached 3.2 million in 2015. This represents an increase of 29.7% between 2005 and 2015.

There were 3.1 million opposite sex cohabiting couple families and 90,000 same sex cohabiting couple families in the UK in 2015. Together, cohabiting couple families account for 17% of all families in the UK.

For opposite sex cohabiting couple families, there has been a statistically significant increase from 14% of all families in 2005 to 17% in 2015. Same sex cohabiting couple families as a percentage of all families also saw an increase over the same time period (0.3% to 0.5%).

According to Resolution, cohabiting couples currently have little legal protection when they separate. Lawyer Graeme Fraser, Resolution’s spokesman on cohabitation law, explains:

'Under current cohabitation law it’s possible to live with someone for decades and even to have children together and then simply walk away without taking any responsibility for a former partner when the relationship breaks down. This can have a huge impact on women and children, particularly in cases where a mother has given up or reduced her work to raise a family.'

Read more here.

November 21, 2015 in Cohabitation (live-ins) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 20, 2015

Study Finds More Child Abuse in Homes of Returning Vets

From USA Today:

The babies and toddlers of soldiers returning from deployment face the heightened risk of abuse in the six months after the parent’s return home, a risk that increases among soldiers who deploy more frequently, according to a study scheduled for release Friday.

The study will be published in the American Journal of Public Health. The abuse of soldiers’ children exposes another, hidden cost from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that killed than 5,300 U.S. troops and wounded more than 50,000.

Research by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia looked at families of more than 112,000 soldiers whose children were 2 years old or younger for the period of 2001 to 2007, the peak of the Iraq War. Researchers examined Pentagon-substantiated instances of abuse by a soldier or another caregiver and from the diagnoses of medical personnel within the military’s health care system.

“This study is the first to reveal an increased risk when soldiers with young children return home from deployment,” David Rubin, co-director of the hospital’s PolicyLab and the report’s senior author, said in a statement. “This really demonstrates that elevated stress when a soldier returns home can have real and potentially devastating consequences for some military families.”

Rubin said the study will help the Army and other services learn "when the signal [of stress] is the highest and the timing for intervention to help the returning soldiers."

The Army said it will use the information to help serve soldiers and their families better.

Read more here.

November 20, 2015 in Child Abuse | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Is a Prenuptial Agreement a Must for Most Couples?

From The Wall Street Journal:

It may not be the most romantic idea, but many couples planning to marry opt for prenuptial agreements. In a survey of 1,600 members of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, a professional group based in Chicago, published in October 2013, 63% of the respondents reported an increase in prenups over the previous three years.

Prenups come into play in divorces, of course, but that’s not all. Besides establishing how assets are divided when a married couple splits up, prenuptial agreements also can determine who gets what when one spouse dies.

With that kind of power over people’s financial fates, these are controversial documents.

Some proponents of prenuptial agreements argue that they protect the interests of both parties to the agreement and prevent nasty, costly court battles when a relationship ends. But some critics say the nastiness that can arise in negotiating a prenup can cripple a marriage before it even starts, and that there are laws on the books that do a better job in most cases of balancing the interests of both spouses when they split or one dies.

Read more here.


November 19, 2015 in Antenuptial (postnuptial) Contracts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Utah Judge Rescinds Order that Lesbian Couple Can't Keep Foster Child

From CNN:

A Utah judge who initially decided to take a baby away from her same-sex foster parents and place her in a home with heterosexual parents has changed his mind, after widespread criticism.

Juvenile Court Judge Scott Johansen rescinded his order, according to court documents obtained by CNN on Friday.

He amended Tuesday's first ruling, crossing out the line in the order that read, "The Court orders the Division to place the child with a duly married, heterosexual foster-adoptive couple within one week."

Court documents show Johansen wrote initially that it was not in the best interest of children to be raised by same sex couples, citing "belief that research has shown that children are more emotionally and mentally stable when raised by a mother and father in the same home ..."

Johansen, in his amended order, struck the sentence about the best interest of children and scratched out "belief" and replaced it with "concern."

"The judge is clearly reacting to adverse publicity and critical comments regarding his controversial previous ruling," said CNN legal analyst Paul Callan after reviewing the court documents.

Callan said the change suggests that the judge was worried about his order "being viewed as an application of religious belief rather than an application of the law."

Read more here.

November 18, 2015 in Adoption | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Supreme Court to Hear Major Abortion Case

From CNN:

The Supreme Court announced Friday that it will hear a challenge to key parts of Texas' 2013 abortion law that supporters of abortion rights say is one of the strictest in the nation.

The court has not heard a major abortion case since 2007, and its decision will likely come down sometime next spring or early summer in the heat of the presidential campaign. If the justices uphold the lower court's decision and allow two provisions of the law to go into effect, the number of available clinics in the state is expected to fall to about 10.

While supporters of the law argue it's meant to protect women's health, opponents say it has nothing to do with health and safety, but instead is a disguised attempt to put an end to abortion. Other states have similar legislation percolating through the lower courts.

One provision at issue requires that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The other mandates that clinics upgrade their facilities to hospital-like standards.

Amy Hagstrom Miller, who owns and operates four clinics in Texas, is the lead plaintiff in the case and is represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights. She says the provisions directly challenge court precedent that renders a law invalid if it "has the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion."

Read more here.

November 17, 2015 in Abortion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Hundreds of Mormons Leaving Church Over Same-Sex Marriage Stance

From NBC News:

Hundreds of people are formally renouncing their membership in the Mormon church in protest over a new policy that punishes same-sex couples and their children, an attorney assisting them said.

Utah lawyer Mark Naugle, 30, whose family split with the church 15 years ago, is offering his services pro bono to those who want help with the paperwork involved in getting off the rolls — which have 15 million members.

In the week since the policy was announced, 1,700 people have contacted him, he said.  "People are fed up and just don't want their name associated with the church any more," Naugle said.

Salt Lake City realtor Joey Furtado, 42, became a Mormon as a teenager in Brazil and spent two years as a missionary before moving to Utah. But by 2001, he was disillusioned with his adopted faith and stopped attending services. But he said he never bothered to make it official, in part because he worried it would be a hassle.

"I have a friend who sent a resignation letter and months later had members of the church knocking at his door trying to reactivate him," Furtado said.

But after the church's declaration last week, Furtado decided to cut ties for good. "I am not a gay man. I have a girlfriend and two sons, so the policy does not affect me directly, but I have seen families in a situation like this," he said. "I don't want to have anything to do with them anymore ... enough is enough."

Leaving the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn't require legal representation, but Naugle said that his forms simplify the process and he acts a buffer between clients and church leaders who may try to convince them not to leave.

Read more here.

November 16, 2015 in Marriage (impediments), Religion | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Amazon Increases Parental Leave, Offers Paid Paternity Leave for First Time

From PBS NewsHour:

Amazon announced to its employees today that it has increased the amount of leave time it is giving to new parents, joining a host of other tech companies that are extending benefits in order to attract top talent.

Amazon’s policy change comes after a blistering New York Times investigation in which the company was lambasted for fostering a harsh work culture. The article included examples of women who felt they were penalized for trying to spend time caring for children or relatives. It’s a portrayal the company disputes.

Under the policy, all new parents, including those who are adopting a child, will get six weeks of paid leave. This means that birth mothers, who already had 10 weeks of leave, will now have 16 weeks of leave time, or 20 if they qualify for an additional four weeks of medical leave. New fathers, who previously did not have paid leave time, will now be able to take paid time off.

Additionally, Amazon is introducing a “leave share program” where employees can give some of their leave to a partner at another company. Under this program if the partner does not have paid parental leave, the Amazon employee returns to work, and the partner will be paid by Amazon to stay home. Returning to work, primary caregivers will have the option of working part-time for their first eight weeks back.

Amazon’s changes also come in the wake of Netflix's highly publicized policy of giving new parents unlimited time off during the first year after their child’s birth or adoption. Other tech companies such as Facebook, Apple, Google and Yahoo all offer maternity leave of at least 16 weeks for birth mothers, and at least six weeks paternity leave for fathers and non-biological parents.

Read more here.

November 15, 2015 in Paternity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Mormons Sharpen Stand Against Same-Sex Marriage

From The New York Times:

Children of same-sex couples will not be able to join the Mormon Church until they turn 18 — and only if they move out of their parents’ homes, disavow all same-sex relationships and receive approval from the church’s top leadership as part of a new policy adopted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In addition, Mormons in same-sex marriages will be considered apostates and ordered to undergo church disciplinary hearings that could lead to excommunication, a more rigid approach than the church has taken in the past.

The new policies are an effort by the church, which has long opposed same-sex marriage, to reinforce and even harden its doctrinal boundaries for its members at a time when small but increasing numbers of Mormons are coming out as gay or supportive of same-sex marriage.

At the same time, the church has recently been taking a tolerant public stance supportive of laws that ban discrimination against gay people in employment and housing. Since the Supreme Court established a right to same-sex marriage nationwide in June, Mormon leaders have parted company with the leaders of evangelical and other conservative churches by affirming that despite their religious convictions, even people of faith opposed to gay marriage must follow the law.

“The church is walking a fine line between on the one hand recognizing the reality of changing mores in American society externally, but internally holding the line on its own doctrinal rigor — its own beliefs and teachings,” said David Campbell, a professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame and a co-author of “Seeking the Promised Land: Mormons and American Politics.”

Read more here.

November 14, 2015 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Abortion Case Granted Cert

From the New York Times:

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a challenge to a Texas law that would leave the state with about 10 abortion clinics, down from more than 40. The court has not heard a major abortion case since 2007, and the new case has the potential to affect millions of women and to revise the constitutional principles governing abortion rights.

“Texas is the second-most-populous state in the nation — home to 5.4 million women of reproductive age,” abortion providers challenging the law wrote in their brief urging the court to hear the case. “More than 60,000 of those women choose to have an abortion each year.”

The case concerns two parts of a state law that imposes strict requirements on abortion providers. It was passed by the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature and signed into law in July 2013 by Rick Perry, the governor at the time.

One part of the law requires all clinics in the state to meet the standards for “ambulatory surgical centers,” including regulations concerning buildings, equipment and staffing. The other requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

Other parts of the law have already caused about half of the state’s 41 abortion clinics to close. If the contested provisions take effect, the brief said, the number of clinics would again be halved.

Read more here.

November 13, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Same-Sex Foster Parents in Utah

From the New York Times:

A Utah judge on Friday reversed, at least temporarily, his order that a foster child be taken away from a lesbian couple because of their sexual orientation, but he continued to question the placement of children with same-sex parents.

The judge, Scott N. Johansen of Juvenile Court, had issued an order on Tuesday saying that the child, a 9-month-old girl, be removed from the couple’s home by the end of the day next Tuesday and placed with a heterosexual couple.

The foster parents, Rebecca A. Peirce, 34, and April M. Hoagland, 38, and the state Division of Child and Family Services, both filed motions Thursday asking the judge to reconsider, and said they were prepared to appeal his decision. The couple, who were married last October, live in Price, southeast of Salt Lake City.

It is not clear that the fight is over, given the wording of the revised order the judge issued Friday.

Read more here.

November 13, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Seeing Double

From the Huffington Post:

Matrimony is a beautiful thing, and a double wedding is twice as nice!

A recent wedding in the Indian state of Kerala celebrated the marriages of a pair of twin brothers to twin sisters. And as if that weren't special enough, the quad also had twin flower girls, twin page boys, and the ceremony itself was officiated by twin priests, HuffPost India reported.

Read more and see pictures here.


November 13, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

12 Sterile Men Father Babies Through Spermatid Injection

From Daily Mail:

Twelve men considered sterile by their doctors have had babies, thanks to a breakthrough by scientists.

The ‘remarkable’ work brings could allow hundreds of British men a year to fulfill their dream of fatherhood, despite not making any sperm themselves.  The hope surrounds a technique called round spermatid injection.

It involves injecting a very immature sperm directly into a woman’s egg and is designed to help men in which sperm production stops half-way through, when the cells are still round and before they take on their distinctive tadpole shape.

It first caught doctors’ interest in the 1990s and a handful of babies were born worldwide, including one in the UK.  However, it was quickly banned here due to concerns that such early-stage sperm may be genetically abnormal.

Success rates were also low and the technique was abandoned worldwide.

In the latest study, Japanese scientists refined the method and used it to allow 12 infertile men father 14 babies between them.

All of the boys and girls were deemed to be healthy and free of physical, mental or genetic problems.

Read more here.

November 13, 2015 in Alternative Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Long Shadow of China's One-Child Adoption Policy

From The New York Times Magazine:

If you get stuck in a crowd in China — it’s not hard to do in a country of nearly 1.4 billion — you may hear someone mutter, “Ren tai duo!”: “Too many people!” It’s a common but misleading complaint. The real demographic crisis that prompted the Chinese government’s decision last week to end its one-child policy is more palpable on the quiet Shanghai lane where I live with my family: There is a dearth of young people.

Our neighbors consist mainly of aging pensioners and young Chinese families with a single child, or no children at all. After 35 years of one of the world’s most radical experiments in social engineering, Shanghai’s fertility rates have plunged to perilously low levels: just 0.7 children per couple, less than half the national average and a third of the 2.1 replacement rate. (The United States’ replacement rate is about 1.9.)

When we go out together on the streets of Shanghai, our two sons draw double takes (along with the inevitable question: “They’re twins, right?”). The confusion provoked by the sight of two boys in a single family may soon dissipate, even if the social complications triggered by the one-child policy will continue to shape China for decades to come. By promising to allow families to have two children — but no more — the government hopes to avert a demographic time bomb that is the precise opposite of the one it faced 35 years ago. Back then, in the aftermath of Mao Zedong’s patriotic campaign to produce more children to “make the nation stronger,” Deng Xiaoping instituted the one-child policy to reduce the number of mouths to feed, stimulating economic growth and prosperity.

The debate over whether the one-child policy has been essential to China’s rise, or whether that would have been achieved naturally without such an intrusive campaign, will rage for years to come. But even the government has come to recognize, belatedly, its dangerous social and economic consequences.

Chinese officials still seem impervious to the needless human suffering the policy has inflicted: the forced abortions and sterilizations, the undocumented children born and raised in the shadows, the persecution and even imprisonment of those (like the blind lawyer Chen Guancheng) who tried to expose its abuses. But Beijing’s reversal is an attempt to mitigate the massive social imbalances that will most likely reverberate for generations: the shrinking work force that is hurting China’s competitiveness; a rapidly aging population with too few young people to shoulder the burden; and a sex ratio so skewed that there is now a bubble of 25 million extra males of marrying age, “bare branches” on the family tree with few prospects of ever finding a wife.

Read more here.

November 12, 2015 in Adoption | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Mississippi Supreme Court Narrowly Grants Same-Sex Divorce

From ABC News:

The Mississippi Supreme Court voted to allow a lesbian couple to seek a divorce, even as two justices questioned the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage and suggested that landmark ruling has no constitutional basis.

The decision Thursday came after DeSoto County Chancery Judge Mitchell Lundy Jr. ruled in 2013 that the Mississippi Constitution and state law prevented him from granting a divorce to Lauren Czekala-Chatham and Dana Ann Melancon because the state didn't recognize same-sex marriage.

Czekala-Chatham appealed, and it was initially opposed by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat. However, Hood asked the court to allow the divorce after the June 26 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Friday, same-sex couples will be in federal court seeking to overturn Mississippi's last-in-the-nation ban on adoption by gay couples.

In the Mississippi court's divorce ruling, five of nine justices said in a two-page order that because Hood had reversed his position, "we find no contested issues remain" and sent the case back to DeSoto County for further action.

Justices Leslie King and James Kitchens agreed with the outcome, but dissented, calling for the court to issue a full opinion. King and Kitchens called for Mississippi to overturn its ban on same-sex marriage and grant the divorce in February.

Czekala-Chatham and Melancon were married in San Francisco in 2008 and bought a house in Mississippi before separating in 2010. Czekala-Chatham said she hopes to soon be divorced from her wife, who now lives in Arkansas.

Read more here.

November 11, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Unkown Siblings

From NBC News:

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine does release guidelines that put limitations on the number of offspring that can be conceived by sperm donation, according to ASRM spokesperson Sean Tipton. But they're guidelines, not law.

Judith Daar, the chair of ASRM's ethics committee and a professor of law at Whittier Law School, questions whether it would be appropriate to put limits on sperm donors.

"Could a similar regulation be enforced in a natural situation? Would we tell people who want very large families to restrict the number of offspring?" said Daar. "I think we would not favor the law limiting the individual's ability to procreate naturally."

Others see potential advantages to providing donor children and their parents with more information on their genetic background, and some are in favor of limits on how sperm donations are used.

"I think that allowing donor-conceived offspring to be able to have information about their donors is critical, and I think we need to establish as a country a limit on the number of offspring that can be produced from one donor," said Professor Naomi Cahn, a family law specialist at George Washington University. Other countries, including the Netherlands, Australia and England have put limits on how many times sperm from a single donor can be used.

Read more here.

November 10, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)