Family Law Prof Blog

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

Sunday, June 25, 2017

President Trump Sued by Feminist Group

From The Daily Caller:

The National Women’s Law Center  (NWLC) filed a suit Monday against the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) for failing to give the organization data it wanted on sexual harassment in schools.

The feminist nonprofit alleges in its lawsuit that the DOE violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by not releasing records of pending sexual harassment investigations and other data related to Title IX in response to its January request.

The NWLC argues the issue is pressing because Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has not favored the stricter Title IX enforcement guidelines instituted during the Obama administration.

Read more here.

June 25, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 24, 2017

IVF Out of Reach

From HuffPost:

Much has been made of the high cost of rearing children in the United States, and rightly so. Families spend more than $230,000 on average to raise kids from birth to age 17 — a figure that doesn’t include the cost of college. 

But for the 6.9 million women who have turned to fertility services, the bills pile up well before they ever hold a baby in their arms. A single cycle of in vitro fertilization, or IVF, costs more than $12,000 on average in the United States, not counting the cost of medications and travel.

Only 15 states require insurance coverage for fertility treatments. So for many would-be parents, IVF is simply out of reach.

Against that backdrop, the Sher Institute — a network of nine private fertility centers across the country — has run a popular but controversial free IVF contest for the past five years. The institute encourages people who couldn’t otherwise afford IVF to vie for two free rounds by submitting personal and often extremely emotional video pleas about their quest to have a baby.

The contest has been slammed as a manipulative publicity maneuver ― and defended asa necessary response to a reality in which only the very privileged can afford fertility treatment. 

Documentary filmmaker Amanda Micheli dove into the controversy in her documentary “Vegas Baby” (now available online and playing in select theaters around the country).

Read more here.

June 24, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)


From Garnet News, written by Professor Jessica Dixon Weaver (SMU Law School):



Once one or two victims come forward, the gate opens and the flooding begins. In both the Bill Cosby andJerry Sandusky sexual assault cases, young adult women and children came forward after decades to report being sexually assaulted by a man who held a certain power in their lives, whom they trusted.

Our legal system is mostly designed to deal with crimes shortly after they have occurred. However, the laws in most states do not match up with the reality of victims’ experiences.

Read more here.



The mistrial in the sexual assault case against Bill Cosby reveals the difficulty of convicting “America’s Dad,” Dr. Healthcliff Huxtable. It may be easy to blame the hung jury on the fact that there were some inconsistencies in Andrea Constand’s statements, or on the fact that it is difficult to sentence a blind man who is almost 80 years old to jail for the rest of his life.

Read more here.

June 24, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Berlin Mosque Welcomes LGBT Muslims

From Heatstreet:

In the largely immigrant neighborhood of Moabit in Berlin, a prominent women’s rights activist opened the city’s first-ever LGBT, feminist mosque last Friday.

The Ibn-Rushd-Goethe Mosque meets in the third floor of a Lutheran church, which it has rented with money donated by Turks, Kurds and Arabs, the Associated Press reports.

Its first call to prayer was led by an American female imam. At the new mosque, men and women worship in the same room, and people of all genders and sexual orientations are welcome, the newswire reported.

Read more here.

June 24, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 23, 2017

Courts Acknowledging Third Parent

From NBC San Diego:

Sixteen-year-old Madison's family clustered for a photo in a California courtroom, commemorating the day it finally became official that she has three parents.

The adults she calls Mom, Dad and Mama were all there for her birth, after the women decided to have a child together and approached a male friend. They shared time with Madison and input on raising her. Their Christmas Day traditions involve all of them.

But legally, Victoria Bianchi became her daughter's parent only this fall, joining a small but growing number of Americans who have persuaded courts and legislatures to give legal recognition to what's sometimes called "tri-parenting."

"I just felt like I've been holding my breath for the last 16 years," Bianchi said. "She's already been my daughter ... she's finally, legally mine."

Read more here.

June 23, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Ending Child Abuse in the U.S.

From Huffington Post:

According to recent data from the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, one in 34 children is confirmed as abused or neglected in Massachusetts each year. That’s one case confirmed every 15 minutes.

To get a better picture of the issue, I sat down with Suzin Bartley, executive director of the Children’s Trust, an organization with a mission to stop child abuse in Massachusetts. Bartley also serves as a co-chair of the Massachusetts Legislative Task Force on the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse. In our interview, we discuss some of the systemic contributors to child abuse, the costs that abuse incurs for the individual and the community, and the most effective ways to end the epidemic.

Does public understanding and definition of child abuse differ across culture and region?

Yes, cultural norms play an important role in shaping parenting practices.

There have been social workers or others who are not necessarily sensitive to cultural parenting practices like corporal punishment or non-Western medicine, and will call them child abuse.

Are they? Yes. Are they intentional or malicious? No.

The key is working with parents to help them create a toolkit of positive disciplinary techniques. Once parents see that those techniques are effective, they will use them. Most parents don’t want to hurt their child.

Read more here.


June 22, 2017 in Child Abuse | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

GOP, Abortion, and the Health Care Bill

From ABC News:

Senate Republicans working on high-stakes health care legislation are anticipating problems with abortion restrictions that their House counterparts have already passed.

As a result, they're considering ways to channel new financing for health insurance through existing government programs that bar the use of taxpayer dollars for abortion, according to sources familiar with the policy discussions. Those options include the Children's Health Insurance Program.

The sources spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of closely held discussions about a Senate version of the health care bill. GOP aides said nothing has been resolved. Republican leaders are pressing for a Senate vote on health care, which could come before the July 4 holiday.

Senate GOP leaders want their bill to bar federal funds for abortions. Failure to include such restrictions would jeopardize support from conservative Republican senators, whose votes will be needed for passage.

Read more here.

June 21, 2017 in Abortion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Parness: "Marriage Equality, Parentage (In)Equality"

Jeffrey A. Parness (Northern Illinois University - College of Law) has recently posted on SSRN his new article Marriage Equality, Parentage (In)Equality, 32 Wisconsin Journal of Law Gender and Society __ (Fall 2017) (forthcoming).  Here is the abstract:

Recently, several quite distinguished commentators have asked how, if at all, the U.S. Supreme Court will speak, after its same sex marriage ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, to interstate inequalities involving the federal constitutional rights of childcaring parents. Specifically, Professor Mayeri notes in the Yale Law Journal that today the “constitutional law of the family stands at a critical turning point,” leaving us to ponder whether the “advent of marriage equality,” which “disrupted conventional definitions of parenthood” by demoting “marriage and biology in favor or a more intent-based and functional criteria,” will heighten or diminish the federal “constitutional significance of marital status” in parentage matters. Professor NeJamie worries in the Harvard Law Review that Obergefell “may reduce incentives to achieve laws that recognize unmarried, nonbiological parents,” though there is the “potential” for it to “yield more robust recognition for some unmarried parents.” And Dean Murray, while recognizing this “potential,” worries in the California Law Review that Obergefell may not be read to “sanction and facilitate … methods of family formation … that credit nonmarriage.”

Obergefell did not directly address any issues involving national parentage equality. It is not likely that the ruling will prompt the U.S. Supreme Court to address national parentage equality any time soon. The Court has historically deferred to state parentage laws while recognizing their significant interstate variations.

While interstate parental childcare equality issues are important, they pale in significance to issues of intrastate equality for marital and biological parents, as well as for nonmarital, nonbiological, nonadoptive parents who care for children and who are often deemed de facto or presumed parents, which can include grandparents and/or stepparents. In the article I offer a few thoughts on intrastate parental childcare equality after explaining why interstate inequalities will likely remain unaddressed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

June 20, 2017 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Normal Development through Fertility Treatment

From Reuters:

(Reuters Health) - Despite concerns that children born through Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) may develop differently from other kids, a UK study finds they have normal mental skills until at least age 11.

In fact, at ages 3 and 5 years, kids born as a result of these techniques had greater verbal cognitive ability than those born through natural conception, though this gap diminished with time. Researchers say that the older, better educated and more financially well-off parents of ART kids may play an important role in this difference at early ages.

“In the last decade, we’ve seen a huge increase in the use of ART and discussions about the outcomes and child development,” said lead author Anna Barbuscia, a sociology researcher at the University of Oxford.

The first “test tube baby” was born in the UK in 1978. And globally, about 5 million children have been conceived with ART since then, according to the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Read more here.

June 20, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Open Marriages

The New York Times has a video interview of couples in open marriages--see it here.

June 20, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Seeking Advice

A reader seeks advice in the New York Times Magazine:

After 25 years of marriage and three children, my husband and I divorced. He was a former seminarian and a pro-life Catholic when we married. He insisted on no birth control. When we divorced, he was a lawyer and vice president of a Fortune 500 company. I did not receive any spousal support, but he promised he would always be there for the children. I worked hard and was always able to take care of myself. I felt guilty about the divorce and never asked for more.

Shortly after our divorce, my ex-husband remarried and never again had anything to do with our children. He told the children that they owed him “filial piety,” but apparently he felt he owed them nothing. That was 30 years ago. Over time the children, now adults, have reached out to their father with the help of therapists, but he refuses to have anything to do with them. I have sent letters to him as well but have received no response. He and I have a daughter-in-law and two teenage grandchildren he has never met.

I never remarried. I try to provide emotional and sometimes financial support for our children and grandchildren because I love them. Nothing I do, however, will heal the wounds of being cut off from their father. My question is this: The law says that parents must provide financial support for their children until age 18. But what are the ethical obligations of parents to their children after age 18? Doesn’t a father have an ethical obligation to provide something for the children he has brought into the world? Name Withheld

Read the response here.

June 19, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 18, 2017


From Amy Ziettlow and Naomi Cahn, writing for the Institute for Family Studies:

In 1910, the first Father’s Day was celebrated. Today, more than 40% of Americans have at least one step-relative in their family. This new normal in modern families means that many children will send more than one card this Sunday to celebrate the father and stepfather in their lives.

Fatherhood is challenging enough, but a stepfather faces unique challenges. He may not have a life-long history of shared experiences and shared values with his stepchildren, so he needs to make extra effort to create a positive relationship. Although parents generally feel more responsible for their own children than for their stepchildren, and stepchildren feel less responsible for their stepparents than their own parents, many stepfathers and stepchildren have figured out how to reinforce their responsibilities to one another.

In our research on blended families, elder care, and loss, we observed critical ways that stepparents step in, step up, and step alongside their stepchildren that led to working together gracefully as a blended family for many years. The key element to this choreography was that the stepparent took the lead.

Read more here.

June 18, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Single Motherhood and Coverture in the U.S.

Hazen Alshaikhmubarak (University of California, Santa Barbara), Rick Geddes (Cornell University), and Shoshana Amyra Grossbard (San Diego State University) have posted on SSRN Single Motherhood and the Abolition of Coverture in the United States, CESifo Working Paper Series No. 6471.  Here is the abstract:

Under the common-law system of coverture in the United States, a married woman relinquished control of property and wages to her husband. Many U.S. states passed acts between 1850 and 1920 that expanded a married woman’s right to keep her market earnings and to own separate property. The former were called married women’s earnings acts (MWEAs) and the latter married women’s property acts (MWPAs). Scholarly interest in the acts’ effects is growing. Researchers have examined how the acts affected outcomes such as women's wealth-holding and educational attainment. The acts' impact on women’s non-marital birth decisions remains unexamined, however.

We postulate that the acts caused women to anticipate greater benefits from having children within rather than outside of marriage. We thus expect passage of MWPAs and MWEAs to reduce the likelihood that single women become mothers of young children. We use probit regression to analyze individual data from the U.S. Census for the years 1860 to 1920. We find that the property acts in fact reduced the likelihood that single women have young children. We also find that the “de-coverture” acts’ effects were stronger for literate women, U.S.-born women, in states with higher female labor-force participation, and in more rural states, consistent with predictions.

June 17, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Child Marriage Ban Legislation in N.Y.

From ABC News:

The New York Legislature has overturned a state law that allows 14-year-olds to legally wed, paving the way to end child marriage in the state.

The Democratic-led Assembly passed a bill Thursday that would increase the age of marriage to 17. The Republican-led Senate passed the measure earlier this week.

New York is one of three states that allows children as young as 14 to marry with parental and judicial consent. The other two are Alaska and North Carolina.

Child advocates say the New York law can trap minors in forced marriages, sexual abuse and domestic violence.

Health department data shows that between 2000 and 2010, 3,853 minors were married in New York. Eighty-four percent were girls married to adult men.

The bill the Legislature approved would prohibit marriage for individuals under 17 years old; those ages 17 to 18 would need court approval. The bill outlines a process of interviews and statements of rights to ensure a 17 year old enters a marriage by free will.

Read more here.

June 16, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

New Surrogacy Law in D.C.

From The Washington Post:

Edward Palmieri and Christopher Schriever were on the George Washington Bridge, barreling north on Interstate 95, when their twin babies were born. The couple arrived at the hospital after dawn to meet their children and settled into a room that had been reserved for their new family.

Kelli Rapp, a Vermont woman they had contracted with to carry their children, was recovering from an emergency Caesarean section in a room nearby. The Washington couple spent the next two days wheeling the babies’ bassinets between their rooms, visiting with her family and extended relatives.

The first days after birth were “a mix of complete joy and fear: This is really happening,” Palmieri said. “It was such a process.”

The couple’s journey to parenthood involved an egg donor, a surrogate, legal teams in six states, and well over $150,000 spent over the course of 2½ years.

Three years later, they have reason to hope that the path to parenthood will be more streamlined for other District residents: A 25-year-old law that banned surrogacy contracts was recently reversed by the D.C. Council. That means would-be parents will no longer need to leave the District to contract with a surrogate. The law, passed in December, became effective in April after a required congressional review.

Read more here.

June 15, 2017 in Adoption | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Christian Divorce in Pakistan

From the Houston Chronicle:

LAHORE, Pakistan - For a Pakistani Christian like Shameela Masih, divorcing her abusive husband meant two choices - both nearly as bad as staying in the marriage.

"I have to prove adultery allegations against him," said Masih, a 34-year-old mother of two. "The other option I have is to convert to Islam."

Masih recently filed for divorce from a husband she said "frequently beats me up" and a mother-in-law who she said burned her leg with coal.

But under the majority-Muslim country's laws, she must produce a witness who would testify to committing adultery with her husband. As a result, she's now reluctantly planning to renounce her faith.

"Converting is the easiest way out," she said. "My family tells me that they will disown me as a Muslim, but I don't have a choice."

Masih is one of thousands of Christians in Pakistan who have converted to Islam to divorce their spouses under laws stemming from the British colonial period, when traditional morals held sway.

Now Pakistani officials are considering revising the law to make it easier for couples to part ways.



Read more here.

June 14, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Divorce and the Hong Kong Housing Market

From Bloomberg:

The usual suspects for Hong Kong’s sky-high property prices are low interest rates, a housing shortage and demand from mainland China. But there’s another unforeseen factor: divorce.

Demand for separations and remarriages have accelerated sharply over the past two decades as the former British colony has deepened its integration with the mainland. That’s according to Richard Wong, an academic at the University of Hong Kong and a veteran analyst of the local housing sector.

The numbers tell the story: Between 1976 and 1995, cumulative total marriages reached 803,072, with 84,788 divorces and 65,794 remarriages, according to Wong. In the subsequent years, through 2015, marriages rose to 878,552 while divorces shot up to 323,298 and remarriages came in at 256,066.

Looser travel restrictions between Hong Kong and the mainland after Britain handed the colony back in 1997 have played a role in encouraging Hong Kong residents to find new partners across the border. The divorce phenomenon is distinct from the mainland, where couples have sometimes separated simply to get around curbs on housing purchases.

Read more here.

June 13, 2017 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 12, 2017

Anniversary of Loving

From the New York Times:

OAKLAND, Calif. — For their first date, in 1949, Leon Watson and Rosina Rodriquez headed to the movie theater. But each entered separately. First went Ms. Rodriquez, a fair-skinned woman who traces her roots to Mexico. Mr. Watson, who is black, waited several minutes before going in and sitting next to her.

“We always did it,” Mr. Watson said one recent afternoon. “They looked at you like you were in a zoo. We just held our heads high and kept going. If we knew there would be a problem, we stayed away from it.”

When they married in Oakland in 1950, mixed-race marriage had just become legal in California, the result of a lawsuit that reached the State Supreme Court. They are among the oldest living interracial couples legally married in the United States. It would be nearly two decades before all couples like them across the country were allowed to marry.

On Monday, they will mark the 50th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the United States Supreme Court case that overturned antimiscegenation laws nationwide. Mildred and Richard Loving, a black woman and a white man, had been sentenced to a year in a Virginia prison for marrying each other. The case would serve as a basis for the Supreme Court decision allowingsame-sex marriage.

Read more here.

June 12, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Not Selling Phones with Internet to Kids

From the Irish Mirror:

A child development expert has said a new proposed law here making it illegal to sell mobile phones with internet access to under-14s, is a “great idea” and it would safeguard kids.

Catherine Ross, a professor of law at George Washington University in Washington, will be a keynote speaker at the World Congress on Family Law and Children’s Rights in Dublin on Monday.

The proposed Internet Access for Minors Bill 2017, if enacted, will also make it illegal for retailers to sell mobile phones with internet access to under-14s and for parents to allow their kids (born after 2015) to own the devices.

She said: “Certainly, I think the idea of offering parents the choice of a non-internet phone is a great idea.

Read more here.

June 12, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Change in Abortion Procedure in Texas

From Reuters:

The Texas governor has signed into law new abortion restrictions that include requiring abortion providers to dispose of aborted fetal tissue through burial or cremation, despite a block on the regulation already imposed by a U.S. court.

Republican Governor Greg Abbott signed what is known as Senate Bill 8 into law on Tuesday and it takes effect from Sept. 1. It also includes a ban on the most common method of second-trimester abortion.

Texas is the most-populous Republican-controlled state. Its abortion restrictions have often been fiercely defended by the state's lawyers and copied by other socially conservative states.

"Texas legislation on abortion is typically amplified because the state can be a beacon for restrictions nationwide," said Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager for the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights research group.

The anti-abortion group, Texas Right to Life, praised Abbott and the legislation, calling it the" most significant pro-life victory" of the regular legislative session.

Read more here.

June 12, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)