Monday, December 1, 2014
From Sean Williams (University of Texas), guest blogging for Concurring Opinions:
A few weeks ago, an Oklahoma judge was tasked with dividing Harold and Sue Ann Hamm’s $2Billion marital estate. And the judge’s only guidance was to divide it in any way that was, in his mind, “fair,” “just,” and “reasonable.” Billion dollar divorces like this one highlight long-known problems with divorce law. Namely, that courts have wide and almost unreviewable discretion over many aspects of a divorcing couples’ lives. When I ask students in my family law class how they would divide a particular marital estate, I generally get a lot of variation. Many people choose 50%-50%, a substantial number choose 66%-34% or 75%-25%, but there are always a lot of students who choose more extreme divisions, like 90%-10%. This highlights the lottery-like aspect of many family law issues.
But what can be done? I want to float a controversial idea, and then very briefly explain why it deserves serious attention.
Here’s the idea: Let local governments (like city councils) weigh in on how local judges should exercise their discretion.
Read more here.
Thursday, November 27, 2014
Saturday, November 22, 2014
Friday, November 21, 2014
From CBS News:
It's the kind of money that most Americans can't comprehend, but for one ex-wife it's an injustice.
Sue Ann Hamm, the ex-wife of Oklahoma oil tycoon Harold Hamm, plans to appeal a divorce settlement that awarded her $1 billion. While that might seem like plenty to most people, Hamm's argument is that the judgment shortchanges her, according to Reuters.
Over the course of their 26-year marriage, the value of Harold Hamm's Continental Resources (CLR) stock rose to $18 billion. That means Sun Ann Hamm's $995 million divorce settlement, which was ordered on Monday by Oklahoma County Court Judge Howard Haralson, represents just 6 percent of the marital wealth.
"She feels that an award of less than 6 percent of the couple's wealth, which had grown during the marriage up to the date of the trial by more than $18 billion, is not equitable," her attorney Ron Barber told the Oklahoman newspaper.
Read more here.
Thursday, November 20, 2014
Weddings in Iran have long been an over-the-top affair with families spending thousands of dollars to celebrate a union. But now some couples are splurging on an entirely different sort of nuptial celebration: a divorce party.
Local media outlets and blogs have been abuzz for months about lavish parties, complete with sarcastic invitations and humorous cakes, for couples splitting up. The phenomenon has become so widespread in Tehran and other large cities that one prominent cleric said couples who throw these parties are “satanic”.
Still, the divorce parties are a sign of an undeniable trend: divorce in Iran is soaring. Since 2006, the rate of divorce has increased more than one a half times to the point where around 20 percent of marriages now end in divorce.
Read more here.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
From Huffington Post:
Divorce may seem daunting, but that's not the worst part of the dissolution of a marriage: being separated is, according to a new Gallup poll.
After surveying 131,159 adults across the U.S. for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, the researchers found that those who are separated experienced significantly more daily stress than those who were married or divorced. Fifty-one percent of separated Americans reported feeling stressed the day prior to taking the survey, while only 38.6 percent of married Americans and 44.1 percent of divorced Americans claimed to feel the same way.
Read more here.
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Chris Hohn, one of the most successful U.K. hedge-fund managers, may recast the country’s divorce law if he wins more than half the family assets in his split from his wife.
A judge may rule as soon as this week in Hohn and Jamie Cooper-Hohn’s dispute over their $1.3 billion estate and roles in the $4.3 billion charitable foundation they created with their fortune. The case, which may lead to the country’s largest divorce settlement, could change the law for the super rich if the judge accepts Hohn’s argument that his financial talents constituted a special contribution to the marriage.
Read more here.
Monday, November 17, 2014
Here is the Balkinization symposium on Professor Clare Huntington's book Failure to Flourish, and the collected posts (with contributions from Professors Elizabeth Scott, Solangel Maldonado, Robert Emery, Robin Lenhardt, and Linda McClain).
Saturday, November 15, 2014
The first ever "World Adoption Day" is set for November 9th, 2014. The brainchild of entrepreneurial pastor, Hank Fortener, the campaign also includes Scott Harrison of Charity:Water, and Supermodel Jessica Stam as it’s co-founders.
Although it is being launched in many cities across the globe, the idea originated in a place that is not exactly known for its genuine relationships, Hollywood, California.
Read more here.
Friday, November 14, 2014
Thursday, November 13, 2014
In reporting this story I came across a number of people who chose not to take spousal they were entitled to. Here are their stories:
“Asking for alimony would be like asking for a pension for a job I no longer did. It just didn’t seem fair.”
Suzan French married at 18, soon after had a daughter and found herself unhappily married. “My husband was a nice guy but worked 12 to 16 hours per day (as a manager at a manufacturing company) — I rarely saw him,” says French. When French was 24, she filed for divorce, but not spousal support. Her attorney told her she “definitely would have gotten alimony” — about $2,000 per month, she estimates. French had no college education, zero professional work experience, and only a brief resume from when she was a teenager.
“My marriage allowed me to stay home full-time with my daughter,” says French. “That was a luxury — not a job. I was compensated. I had a nice home, drove a nice car, had access to a bank account. Asking for alimony would be like asking for a pension for a job I no longer did. Why should he have to pay because he loved me enough to marry me? It just didn’t seem fair.”
French landed a job as a leasing agent at a nearby apartment complex, where she and her daughter moved. It took her 10 years of attending community college part-time, but eventually she graduated from Ivy League University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. Today, 20 years later, French owns a public relations and marketing company, owns her home and is putting two daughters through college.”
Read more here.
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
From the New York Times:
Haley Wesley, Lyn Balfour and Mikey Terry each had a different experience with the criminal justice system.
Ms. Wesley was charged with involuntary manslaughter in Napa County, Calif., and pleaded guilty to child endangerment. Ms. Balfour was acquitted by a jury in Greene County, Va., after spending much of her savings fighting her case. And Mr. Terry avoided prosecution altogether in Ellis County, Texas, after a grand jury declined to indict him.
But all three had one tragic thing in common: They were among the small but widening circle of people who have accidentally killed their children by absent-mindedly leaving them in a sweltering car.
Read more here.
Monday, November 10, 2014
From the Guardian:
The number of children being bullied on the internet has doubled in the past year, with more than one in three victims, research suggests.
In a poll of 11- to 17-year-olds, 35% reported that they have experienced cyberbullying – compared with 16% last year. Four in 10 said they had witnessed others being picked on online – almost double the 22% recorded last year.
Read more here.
Thursday, November 6, 2014
From SCOTUS blog (a private blog on U.S. Supreme Court issues):
Breaking ranks with a wide array of other federal courts, and coming close to setting up almost certain review by the Supreme Court, a divided federal appeals court in Cincinnati on Thursday upheld bans on same-sex marriage in four states. Dividing two-to-one, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit overturned lower court rulings in cases from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.
Probably the only way that this ruling would not predictably lead to Supreme Court review, it appears, is if there is a request for en banc review in the Sixth Circuit, and that request is granted.
The decision was based largely on the two-judge majority’s view that the question of whether to move the nation toward same-sex marriage in every state is for the people or the states, and not for judges applying the national Constitution.
Read more here.
Monday, November 3, 2014
Provencher, Gupta-Kagan, & Eschelbach Hansen: "The Standard of Proof at Adjudication of Abuse or Neglect: Its Influence on Case Outcomes at Key Junctures"
Ashley Provencher (Siena College), Josh Gupta-Kagan (University of South Carolina School of Law), & Mary Eschelbach Hansen (American University - Department of Economics) have posted The Standard of Proof at Adjudication of Abuse or Neglect: Its Influence on Case Outcomes at Key Junctures, Social Work & Social Sciences Review 17(2) (forthcoming 2014) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
We measure the extent to which the standard of proof a state child protection agency must meet at trial in a child abuse or neglect case influences the outcomes in the case. In the United States, the government of each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia sets its own standard of proof. We measure the influence of the standards of proof using survey data. We find that a higher standard of proof — one requiring the government to present clear and convincing evidence of abuse or neglect rather than only requiring a preponderance of the evidence of abuse or neglect — decreases the probability that the judge rules in favor of CPS. A clear and convincing standard also affects decisions before trial: it increases the number of visits made by CPS during an investigation; it lowers the odds that CPS substantiates the case; and it lowers the odds that a case reaches trial. After trial, it increases the probability of an out-of-home placement.
Saturday, November 1, 2014
Gupta-Kagan: "In Re Sanders and the Resurrection of Stanley v. Illinois, California Law Review Circuit"
Josh Gupta-Kagan has posted In Re Sanders and the Resurrection of Stanley v. Illinois, California Law Review Circuit (2014 Forthcoming) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
In 1972, the Supreme Court in Stanley v. Illinois declared that parents are entitled to a hearing on their fitness before the state places their children in foster care. Somewhat oddly, Stanley went on to be cited as a leading case regarding the rights of unwed fathers to object to private adoptions favored by mothers -- an issue not present in Stanley. Odder still, most states routinely violated Stanley in child welfare cases -- the context in which the Stanley rule arose. Most states apply the "one parent doctrine," which holds that finding one parent unfit justifies taking the child into foster care over the other parent's objections -- even when that parent (usually the father) has seized his opportunity interest in the child and is thus entitled to the due process protections ordered in Stanley. Cases around the country adopting this doctrine ignored Stanley -- many did not cite it at all and others noted it but offered no substantive discussion.
This article argues that this trend may be changing. The Michigan Supreme Court held earlier this year that the one parent doctrine is unconstitutional, explaining at length, and with heavy reliance on Stanley, that the state must prove its case against parents before taking their children. This decision -- In re Sanders -- hopefully portends a welcome resurrection of Stanley v. Illinois in the foster care context. Such a resurrection would impose a core due process protection in an important body of cases. It would reinforce the policy -- also articulated in Stanley -- that due process protections are essential to determine whether a child's interest in protection of maltreatment or remaining with her family trump. And it would attack the gender stereotypes and other unhelpful heuristics that too often lead to poor decisions in child welfare cases.
Friday, October 31, 2014
Thursday, October 30, 2014
This Article proposes that child welfare law permit the non-exclusive adoption of foster children who cannot reunify with their parents — that is, adoption by foster parents without severing children’s legal relationships with their biological parents. Present law imposes a choice: extended family members or other foster parents may adopt foster children exclusively — and terminate the legal relationship between the child and biological parents — or they may become guardians — which preserves parent-child relationships but denies foster parents the legal title of “parent,” even when they are long-term primary caretakers.
Non-exclusive adoption would respect the lived reality of many foster children by legally recognizing all parents in their lives. Biological parents, even those who cannot reunify with their children, retain an important role for many foster children. Foster parents serve as functional parents and often see themselves, and are seen by children, as parents. Moreover, creating an additional legal path for foster children to leave foster care to new permanent families may help many children and families find legal options that minimize unnecessary litigation.
Some courts and legislators have recognized multiple parenthood, especially for children conceived through assisted reproductive technology (ART) and raised by same-sex partners. Yet multiple parenthood faces a core challenge — multiplying the number of legally recognized parents can multiply legal conflicts over children. Non-exclusive adoption in child welfare has a compelling answer. Child welfare law’s experience with guardianship demonstrates that the law can effectively allocate parental authority to avoid such conflicts by granting the adoptive parent legal and primary physical custody. This experience also shows one field where multiple parenthood is less radical than it appears at first. While this result raises equality concerns in ART cases, it is appropriate in child welfare cases which, by definition, involve biological parents who have been found unfit and unable to reunify with their children.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
The growth in international adoption has been spurred, at least in part, by the desire of adoptive parents to return to closed, confidential adoption where the identity of the birth mother is secret and there is no ongoing contact with her. After a long history of secrecy in domestic adoption in the United States, there is a robust trend toward openness. That is not the case with international adoption, which are typically closed transactions. There is, however, a growing interest in increased openness in international adoption. International adoptive families who were once happy to avoid birth parent involvement are now seeking them out, because of health concerns or because their child is interested in learning about their birth parents. Some adoptive families are concerned about issues of corruption, coercion, and trafficking in the birth country and want contact with birth parents to assuage those concerns. International adoptive families are learning about positive outcomes of domestic open adoptions, and hope to replicate those results in the international context. International adoptees are reaching adulthood and are increasingly interested in searching for birth families, despite the many practical difficulties in doing so. International human rights, and in particular the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, guarantee rights of identity and information that requires increased openness in international adoption. In addition, best interests of the child standards in international law points to a need for the same kinds of open adoption arrangements that have been studied in the West and have been determined to benefit children. Further, openness in international adoption is a practical solution to fraud, corruption and trafficking in international adoption by using the “sunlight as disinfectant” method. Countries involved in international adoption need to do more to take adoptees’ identity rights seriously.
Read more here.
From cafe. com:
In Part 1 of this interview, married neuroscientists John and Stephanie Cacioppo discussed her research on love. Here, John explains his research and some paradoxical behaviors of the lonely.
MG: You are one of the founders of social neuroscience. Can you explain what that is?
JC: The premise of social neuroscience is complementary to cognitive neuroscience – but distinct. In cognitive neuroscience you look at the brain as if it were a computer. The metaphor stimulates a number of questions. For instance, language is viewed as a way of representing information in the brain. So you ask: What is that representational system? Where is the encoding and decoding? What types of storage and memory systems exist? In social neuroscience, the appropriate metaphor is the cell phone. Brains are viewed as mobile, broadband-connected computing devices. This metaphor raises different questions, such as: Where’s the wifi card? What’s the communication protocol? Language is seen as one of the ways these devices are linked, rather than a way to represent information within the device. Neither cognitive nor social neuroscience is "correct." They are distinct and complementary perspectives on the human brain.
Read more here.