Family Law Prof Blog

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

Thursday, January 18, 2018

China Redefines "Marital Joint Liability"

From South China Morning Post:

Chinese spouses will from Thursday no longer be held accountable for unreasonable debts racked up by their partners, after lawmakers redefined the concept of marital joint liability.

In a revision to Article 24 – a document that helps courts interpret the Marriage Law – the Supreme People’s Court said on Wednesday that debts will be considered shared liabilities only if both partners sign the original paperwork, or if a non-signatory later approves the borrowing.

The change does not apply to spending or borrowing considered reasonable in a marriage, such as payments made for shelter or food, the court said.

Read more here.

January 18, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

U.S. Supreme Court Asked To Hear Child Custody Case


PHOENIX — Saying biology matters, an Arizona woman is making a last-ditch effort in court to keep from being forced to share custody of her child with her former wife.

Keith Berkshire, attorney for Kimberly McLaughlin, is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn last year’s ruling by the state’s high court, which concluded that Suzan McLaughlin had the same right to claim parentage as if she had been Kimberly’s husband.

Read more here.

January 17, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Lack Of Legal Representation In Child-Welfare Proceedings

From The Nation:

In the summer of 2015, Mary, 18, was living with her 1-year-old daughter and mother in DeSoto County, Mississippi, in suburbs just south of Memphis, Tennessee. A family friend had stolen money from them, and Mary and her mother could no longer make rent. With no available shelters in the area, they were soon homeless. Mary and her daughter bounced from place to place while the young mother sent out urgent requests for help on social media. “I would meet anyone who would help me, which was reckless, but…I would do damned near anything to help my daughter,” Mary told me.

Finally, Mary said, she felt she had no choice but to ask child welfare to take her daughter. (Mary’s name has been changed, because Mississippi law requires that information about child-welfare proceedings be kept confidential.)

Mary can’t remember how she got to the child-welfare office or much else about that day: “All I remember is my daughter in her car seat on the table, and saying, ‘Go ahead and take her. I will do whatever I’ve got to do to make sure she’s provided for, even if it’s not me.’”

After that, Mary was allowed to visit her daughter for just two hours every other week. Still, Mary told me, “I was led to believe it would be a pretty quick in-and-out process, a maximum of six months. My main fear—my massive, deep dark fear—was that my daughter would lose the realization that I was her mother.”

Instead of six months, her daughter stayed in the foster-care system for almost two years, even though Mary soon found a job and stable housing. Mary blamed her lack of legal representation for the delay. “If I would have had a lawyer from the beginning, this would have been a helluva lot shorter,” said Mary. “And if I had never gotten my lawyer, I would not have my daughter now.”

About 75 percent of poor parents in Mississippi walk into child-welfare proceedings without legal representation; it’s one of two states—Wisconsin is the other—where a majority of parents do not have a lawyer in these types of cases.

Read more here.

January 16, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Oldham: "A Survey of Lawyers’ Observations About the Principles Governing the Award of Spousal Support Throughout the United States"

J. Thomas Oldham has posted on SSRN A Survey of Lawyers’ Observations About the Principles Governing the Award of Spousal Support Throughout the United States, 51 Family Law Quarterly 1 (2017).  Here is the abstract:

At the beginning of this project, I distributed 5000 questionnaires to family lawyers around the country. I asked the lawyers to respond by estimating the spousal support award, if any, that would result for six hypothetical divorcing couples in their jurisdiction. While the response rate was not great, the responses received suggest that there are three different types of spousal support systems in the U. S. today. In some states, spousal support is rarely awarded, and then only to prevent severe hardship. In others, spousal support is frequently awarded when the spouses’ incomes are substantially different at divorce. In most states, however, it appears that there is no clear spousal support policy, and the award, if any, in any given case is the result of which judge is assigned to hear the matter. In these states, spousal support determinations appear to be arbitrary. I have included as an appendix to my article a summary of the responses.

Some states have responded to this lack of clarity regarding spousal support standards by adopting guidelines. These guidelines attempt to provide more uniformity in terms of award amounts and award duration. To date, they have not attempted to provide guidance regarding when a spousal support award is warranted. In this article, I discuss how spousal support standards could be clarified in those states where there appears to be no clearly accepted policy.

January 16, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 15, 2018

Colorado's Child Support Services Program

From The Denver Post:

Colorado is pulling off a culture shift in child-support collection, a new era far from the 1990s’ call to track down “deadbeat” parents, freeze their accounts and suspend their driver’s licenses.

The state has renamed its “Division of Child Support Enforcement” to the kinder and more constructive “Child Support Services.” And under an experimental program, it’s helping parents behind on child-support payments find jobs, fight alcohol and drug addictions, and reconnect with their kids.

The five-year program — aimed at parents who want to pay but don’t have the money — has been so successful it has attracted national attention as a model for other states. Colorado officials are hoping it will motivate Congress to change federal law, which limits division spending strictly to enforcement.

Read more here. 

January 15, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Japanese Supreme Court Upholds Refusal to Return Children

From International Family Law Firm:

The Osaka High Court has just issued a decision in a case under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (the “Hague Convention”) that provides strong support for the claim that Japan does not comply with the terms of the treaty and that is, indeed, in violation of its treaty obligations.

It has not been possible until now to analyze the decisions of the Japanese courts in cases brought under the Hague Convention since they are unpublished and confidential.  Such secrecy has precluded Japanese lawyers from reporting on specific cases, and has frustrated scrutiny of court decisions.  However, the author has now obtained a copy of the shocking decision of the Osaka High Court in the case of Arimitsu v. Cook, issued on February 17, 2017.

This author has long asserted that the law by which Japan brought the Convention into Japanese law -- Act No. 48 of June 19, 2013, which is identified as the “Act for Implementation of the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction” (the “Implementing Act”) – contains provisions that inappropriately and excessively expand the so-called “grave risk exception” to the treaty. The author has also long expressed serious concerns that return orders issued by the Japanese courts would not be effectively enforced in Japan.

Read more here.

January 15, 2018 in Custody (parenting plans), International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 14, 2018

New York Fights to Keep Guns from Abusers

From Niagara Gazette:

In December 2015, a Chautauqua County man went to the Orchard Park home of his girlfriend, stole some of her property, destroyed other property and started a small fire in her garage.

The following January, David Lewczyk, 53, turned himself in and was charged felony criminal mischief and misdemeanor arson and petit larceny. A judge also issued a “refrain from” order, requiring that Lewczyk be cordial in any future contact with the victim, Ruby Stiglmeier, 51.

The order did not force Lewczyk to temporarily surrender his legally-registered pistol, and on March 29, he used it to shoot Stiglmeier to death in her Queens Place home, before turning the gun on himself.

Read more here.





January 14, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Pending Legislation Will Significantly Change Michigan Child Custody Laws

From The National Law Review:

Late this spring, members of the Michigan House of Representatives introduced House Bill No. 4691, the Michigan Shared Parenting Act. The proposed legislation stands to fundamentally change Michigan's child custody law. Some of the major changes include creating a presumption of joint legal custody and equal parenting time, and reducing the distance a parent may relocate without court permission from the current 100 miles, to 40 miles.

Joint legal custody means that the parents share decision-making authority as to important decisions affecting the child. A legal presumption would require judges to enter an order requiring joint legal custody in all cases, absent one of the parents establishing that a child's health, safety, or well-being would be materially compromised. The current law only requires the court to consider an award of joint custody based upon the best interests of the children. From a practical standpoint, most judges tend to order joint legal custody despite the fact that there is not a legal presumption. However, in cases involving domestic violence, abuse and neglect, judges do not always award joint legal custody.

Read more here.

January 13, 2018 in Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Recent Family Law Cert Petitions

Two interesting family law cert petitions have been filed in the past 30 days:

First, on whether the Indian Child Welfare Act defines “parent” in 25 U.S.C. 1903(9) to include an unwed biological father who has not complied with state law rules to attain legal status as a parent--available here.

Second, on whether the Arizona Supreme Court erred when it held that a biology-based paternity statute violates the Fourteenth Amendment and this Court’s decisions in Obergefell and Pavan--available here.


January 11, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Parental Alienation Threat to Public Health

From Dads Divorce (Cordell & Cordell, P.C.):

Many aspects of divorce can be heartbreaking, but perhaps nothing is more tragic than when an innocent child is turned against a loving parent.

Sadly, it is common for one parent to work to undermine the relationship their child has with the other parent thus putting the child directly in the center of the conflict of their divorce.

This process is called parental alienation, which is defined as the programming/brainwashing of a child by one parent to vilify the other in a way that damages or destroys the targeted parent’s relationship with their child.

Read more here.

January 11, 2018 in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Mennonites Split Over Same-Sex Marriage

From Life Site:

The largest conference of Mennonite congregations in the U.S. has officially split from the Mennonite community Monday over concerns that the wider church is beginning to affirm LGBT lifestyles.

The Lancaster Mennonite Conference (LMC) had voted to leave the Mennonite Church USA (MC USA) in 2015, and the decision became effective January 1, 2018.

The LMC, comprised of 179 congregations in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, left over the definition of marriage and the sinfulness of homosexuality, according to areport from Religion News Service.

A pastor for one of the LMC congregations told NPR back when the vote to split took place it was actually the MC USA that had departed from Biblical teaching.

“We are in a sense not really leaving,” said Steve Olivieri, pastor of Cornerstone Fellowship of Mill Run in Altoona, Penn. “They are the ones that essentially have left true biblical Christianity in this respect.”

Read more here.

January 10, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Bermuda Bans Same-Sex Marriage--Again

From the New York Times:

LONDON — At a time when support for same-sex marriage seems to be slowly advancing in some parts of the world, legislators in Bermuda have restored a ban on the unions, just six months after the island’s highest court approved them.

The Senate in the wealthy, self-governing British territory voted 8 to 3 in favor of a new law to allow only domestic partnerships for same-sex couples. The vote represented a rare reversal of an international trend broadening the number of jurisdictions that recognize same-sex marriage.

Read more here.

January 9, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 8, 2018

Consanguineous Marriages On Decline

From the Economist:

CHARLES DARWIN MARRIED his cousin, and may have regretted it. The great scientist's experiments on plants later convinced him of the “evil effects” of persistent inbreeding. In 1870 he wrote to an MP, suggesting that the upcoming national census ask parents whether they were blood relatives. For, as he noted, consanguineous marriages were commonly said to produce children who suffered from "deagness and dumbness, blindness &c".

Read more here.

January 8, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 7, 2018

An Alarming Number Of Children In Indiana's Child Welfare System

From IndyStar:

Indiana has more children in its child welfare system than any surrounding state — including those with nearly twice Indiana’s overall population.

Republican legislative leaders in Indiana said the higher number of Hoosier children in care indicates the Indiana Department of Child Services has problems that go beyond funding.

"There’s something wrong systemically," House Speaker Brian Bosma said Wednesday.

Read more here.

January 7, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Child Marriage Targeted in Several States

From the ABA Journal:

On her TV show last summer, comedian Samantha Bee told the story of a teenage girl, Cassandra Levesque, who learned about child marriage laws at a Girl Scouts conference. Cassandra was upset after discovering that most states allow girls as young as 13—and boys as young as 14—to be married with the simple consent of a judge.

Cassandra promptly started work on a Scout project to craft legislation in her home state, New Hampshire, that would raise the minimum age to 18. State Rep. David Bates, a Republican, did not appreciate her help. “We’re asking the legislature ... to repeal a law that has been on the books for over a century, that has been working without any difficulty, on the basis of the request from a minor who’s doing a Girl Scout project,” the granite-haired legislator said. Bee screwed up her face in mock horror. “Yeah, what does she know? She’s just a minor. She shouldn’t get to make a decision about something as important as marriage!”

Child marriage, of course, is no joke. Worldwide, the nonprofit Tahirih Justice Center estimates that more than 14 million girls in their early teens will marry in the next decade—the vast majority against their will. One would think that such a situation would be outlawed in the United States. Not so. Tahirih looked at the results of a 2011 survey of about 25,000 U.S. women. It discovered that about 9 percent of all married women were younger than 18. Projecting nationally, the research estimated that 9.4 million had married at 16 or younger.

Read more here.

January 7, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 6, 2018

India Seeks To Ban Instant Divorce

From Al Jazeera:

New Delhi, India - India's lower house of parliament has passed a bill that seeks to criminalise "triple talaq", a style of instant divorce used by some in the Muslim community despite the country's top court suspending the practice in August.

The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights of Marriage) bill 2017, introduced by the Narendra Modi government in the lower house, or Lok Sabha, on Thursday, could see men found guilty of divorcing their wives through triple talaq end up in jail for three years.

The bill is, in part, the result of decades of campaigning by Muslim women's groups and victims against a practice that allows Muslim men to divorce their wives instantaneously by uttering the word "talaq" three times.

Read more here.

January 6, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Polygamy in the South Sudan

From the Economist:

IT IS a truth universally acknowledged, or at least widely accepted in South Sudan, that a man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of many wives. Paul Malong, South Sudan's former army chief of staff, has more than 100—no one knows the exact number. A news website put it at 112 in February, after one of the youngest of them ran off to marry a teacher.  The couple were said to be in hiding.  To adapt Jane Austen again, we are all fools in love, but especially so if we cuckold a war-lord in one of the world's most violent countries.

Men in South Sudan typically marry as often as their wealth—often measured in cattle—will allow.  Perhaps 40% of marriages are polygamous.  "In [our] culture, the more family you have, the more people respect you," says William, a young IT specialist in search of his second wife (his name, like some others in this article, as been changed).  Having studied in America and come back to his home village, he finds that he is wealthy by local standards.  So why be content with just one bride?

Few South Sudanese see the connection between these matrimonial customs and the country's horrific civil war.

Read more here.

January 6, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 5, 2018

Alabama's New Divorce Laws

From Dothan First:

Two new laws that went into effect January 1, 2018, will impact any future divorces.

The first, Alabama house bill 257, which provides courts a formula to now award just rehabilitative alimony, which are payments lasting five years or less, of course there are possible exceptions to the law.

If the courts find a reason to deviate from rehabilitative alimony, they cannot order alimony payments to last longer than the length of the marriage, unless the marriage lasted longer than 20 years.

Read more here.

January 5, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Women Filling Vacancies Left by Sexual Harassment

From ABC:

A number of the positions left open by the dismissal of prominent men as the result of sexual harassment and assault allegations have been filled by women.

The men have issued a range of statements in their defense, some admitting to some wrongdoing or none at all, but that hasn't slowed the dismissals. In the past three days, for instance, four of those powerful roles have been reassigned.

Read more here.

January 5, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Tax Options For Domestic Abuse Survivors

From KSAT:

SAN ANTONIO - Tax season can be daunting for the average American, but the level of stress it causes domestic violence victims is astronomical.

Financial control plays a big role in domestic violence, which is why an abuse survivor is thankful for a memo the IRS put out three months ago.

Read more here.

January 4, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)