Family Law Prof Blog

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

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Bad marriage hazardous to both spouses

Being in a bad marriage may be equally hazardous to the health of both spouses, according to a new study. Researchers found men and women in unhappy marriages suffered from increased stress levels throughout the day at home and at work as well as higher blood pressure at midday at the office, which could raise the risk of heart attack or stroke. "What is happening is that marital problems are spilling into the workplace," says researcher Rosalind Barnett, a senior scientist at the Women's Studies Research Center at Brandeis Universityin Waltham, Mass., in a news release. "And if these tensions persist over time, there could be serious health problems."  By:  By Jennifer Warner, Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD.  Sources: Barnett, R. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 2005; vol 30: pp 36-43. News release, Brandeis University (last visited September 17, 2005, REO).

September 17, 2005 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Gay marriage foes face hurdles as they push new amendment

BOSTON --Opponents of gay marriage have a new magic number on Beacon Hill : 50. That's how many lawmakers they need to endorse a new, stricter anti-gay marriage amendment before the question could be put to voters in 2008.  And that's only one of a series of hurdles facing gay marriage opponents as they struggle to regain momentum after this week's crushing defeat of an amendment that would ban gay marriage while creating civil unions.  By:  By Steve LeBlanc, Associated Press,  (last visited September 17, 2005, REO).

September 17, 2005 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Legal Hotline Opened For Gay Victims Of Katrina.

Lambda Legal has opened a toll-free hotline for LGBT survivors of Hurricane Katrina who may be experiencing discrimination. The move follows the arrest last week of two transsexuals for using the women's shower at an emergency hostel in Texas. Although the women have been released Lambda believes that a number of legal issues for the LGBT community will arise over the next few weeks. By Newscenter Staff, (last visited September 17, 2005, REO).

September 17, 2005 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | TrackBack (2)

Three dozen Parents arrested for child support violations in Texas

More than three dozen parents in Travis County, Texas were in big trouble Friday morning for not paying child support. The constable's office began a countywide sweep Monday to round up people who have not paid up. Constable Bruce Elfant sent eight teams to arrest parents at their homes. The parents face contempt of court charges for failing to appear in court and pay child support. By: News 8 Austin Staff,  (last visited September 17, 2005, REO).

September 17, 2005 in Child Support Enforcement | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 16, 2005

Barriers to Marriage Among Low-Income Couples

The Brookings Institution recently sponsored a symposium in conjunction with the release of the latest Future of Children journal volume"Marriage and Child Wellbeing." Panelists at this event examined specific barriers to marriage among low-income couples and discussed strategies and programs which may strengthen marriages in this population. The entire journal volume is available on the web at (last visited September 16, 2005 bgf)

You can view the table of contents in the extension of this post

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September 16, 2005 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink

Case Law Development: Acknowledgement of Paternity Waives Defense under Sperm Donor Statute

The Supreme Court of Washington reconciled two provisions of its pre-2002 version of the Uniform Parentage Act to find that signing a paternity acknowledgement waives protections of the Act relating to sperm donation.  Father had a twenty-year affair with Mother while he was married to another woman.  He fathered three children with Mother: first a daughter, who was conceived in the old-fashioned way, and then two sons, conceived through in-vitro methods.  For first son, Father had signed a paternity acknowledgement at the hospital.  For second son, he had not.  He paid child support for all three children until his wife discovered the affair. 

The trial court granted summary judgment to Mother and Father appealed.  The Court of Appeals reversed but the Washington Supreme Court found no error in the trial court’s analysis.  The court held that, as to first son, by signing the paternity acknowledgement, Father had waived any rights he might have to claim protection from paternity under the sperm donation statute.  In any case, and as to the second son, the court held that, because father had donated sperm for in-vitro fertilization, the terms of the statutory provision exempting sperm donors from paternity applied only to artificial insemination.  The court refused to retroactively apply the new paternity statute’s defense, which applied to “assisted reproduction,” noting that the statute itself indicated that it should be applied prospectively only.

Brock v. Kepl, 2005 Wash. LEXIS 790 (September 15, 2005)
Available on the web at (last visited September 16, 2005 bgf)

September 16, 2005 in Paternity | Permalink | TrackBack (1)

Case Law Development: Affirmative Defenses under International Child Abduction Act to be Narrowly Construed

The Third Circuit Court of Appeal’s opinion in this case provides a concise march through the elements of an international child abduction case under the Hague Convention. The court reverses the trial court’s decision on the basis that the court did not consider all of the required elements under the act and construed the defenses of consent and risk of harm too broadly.  The case presents a fairly straightforward fact pattern and provides a fine teaching tool for actions under the International Child Abduction Remedies Act.

Baxter v. Baxter, 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 19825 (3rd Cir. September 15, 2005)
Available on web at (last visited September 16, 2005 bgf)

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September 16, 2005 in Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | TrackBack (1)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Report on the Well-Being of Children

"America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2005 is a biennial report to the Nation on the condition of children in America. Nine contextual measures describe the changing population, family, and environmental context in which children are living, and 25 indicators depict the well-being of children in the areas of economic security, health, behavior and social environment, and education." Findings include the following:

  • "In 2003, there were 73 million children ages 0-17 in the United States, or 25 percent of the population, down from a peak of 36 percent at the end of the baby boom (1964). Children are projected to compose 24 percent of the total population in 2020.
  • The racial and ethnic diversity of America's children continues to increase over time. In 2003, 60 percent of U.S. children were White-along, non-Hispanic, 16 percent Black-alone, and 4 percent were Asian-alone. The proportion of Hispanic children has increased faster than that of any other racial and ethnic group, growing from 9 percent of the child population in 1980 to 19 percent in 2003.
  • In 2004, 68 percent of children ages 0-17 lived with two married parents, down from 77 percent in 1980. After decreasing from 1980 to 1994, the percentage has remained stable at about 68-69 percent from 1994 to 2004.
  • Between 1980 and 1994, the rate of childbearing by unmarried women rose sharply for women of all ages. For all age groups combined, this trend ended in 1994. Birth rates for unmarried teenagers have dropped considerably since 1994, while increases in rates for women in the twenties and older have slowed. In 2003, the overall birth rate was 45 births per 1,000 unmarried women ages 15-44.
  • In 2003, 62 percent of children ages 0-17 lived in counties in which one or more of the Primary National Ambient Air Quality Standards were exceeded, and improvement from 69 percent in 1999."

From America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2005 published by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. Link to Report (last visited 9-14-05, NVS)

"The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics (the Forum) is a collection of 20 Federal government agencies involved in research and activities related to children and families... The mission of the Forum is to foster coordination and collaboration and to enhance and improve consistency in the collection and reporting of Federal data on children and families. Also, the Forum aims to improve the reporting and dissemination of information on the status of children and families." About the Forum (last visited 9-14-05, NVS)

September 15, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Case Law Developments: Divorcing Spouse May not Waive Pension Rights without a QDRO

Students looking for a topic for a paper, might be interested in sinking their teeth into yesterday's decision regarding waiver of pension benefits in divorce.  In this case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in a 2-1 decision, adopts the minority rule on waiver of  pension benefits, holding that, under ERISA, absent a QDRO that meets the requirements of § 1056(d)(3) to change beneficiaries, a beneficiary of a pension may not waive his or her rights under the plan pursuant to agreement in a divorce action.  The case generated some careful statutory and policy analysis of the purposes of ERISA and the role of federal common law waiver analysis. 

MCGOWAN v. NJR SERV. CORP., 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 19710  (3rd Cir., September 13, 2005)
Opinion on the web at (last visited September 14, 2005 bgf)

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September 14, 2005 in Property Division | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Child Support Payment Hotline Established For Hurricane Survivors In Texas

Survivors of Hurricane Katrina who sought shelter in Texas may call a toll-free number to arrange to get their Louisiana child support payments. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Louisiana child support director Robbie Endris are urging parents to call 1-800-256-4650 to report their new addresses.  . . . The toll-free number for the Louisiana Customer Service Center is available daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CDT.Parents also may access the child support payment inquiry screen at But they must know their user ID and PIN to do so. By: (Last visited September 14, 2005, REO)

September 14, 2005 in Child Support (establishing), Child Support Enforcement | Permalink | TrackBack (1)

Lawyers argue gay marriage before New York appeals court

NEW YORK -- City lawyers told an appellate panel on Tuesday that gay marriage is a legislative and not a judicial issue, while attorneys for a homosexual legal group said the courts should uphold the fundamental right to choose one's spouse. Because same-sex marriage is an issue for lawmakers, city attorney Leonard Koerner said, the five-judge panel of the state Supreme Court's Appellate Division should reverse a lower court decision that approved such unions. . . . The disputed ruling was issued in February by state Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan, who found that a state law barring same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. The decision was the first of its kind in New York City and was a step toward allowing gay weddings. By Samuel Maull, Associate Press Writer,,0,415330.story?coll=ny-region-apnewyork  (Last visited September 14, 2005, REO).

September 14, 2005 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Activists push hard on gay marriage ahead of Wednesday vote

BOSTON --As lawmakers prepare for a second historic vote on a proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage, they are being pressed hard by backers and foes. Both sides are urging them to vote "no." . . . Wednesday is the second time the Legislature will confront the original amendment. Last year they narrowly approved it on a 105-92 vote. The proposal must pass on second vote by the new Legislature before it could reach voters on the 2006 statewide ballot, but that is unlikely. A survey of lawmakers by The Associated Press last week found at least 104 planned to vote against the proposed amendment, enough to defeat it. . . . Lawmakers crafted the amendment in response to a November 2003 state Supreme Judicial Court ruling that the state couldn't deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The first marriages took place May 17, 2004. By Steve LeBlanc, Associated Press Writer, News. (Last visited September 15, 2005, REO).

September 14, 2005 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Chiefs RB Johnson arrested in altercation

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Larry Johnson turned himself in to police Monday night after an altercation he had with his girlfriend early Saturday at a bar, the latest in a series of troubles with the law for members of the Kansas City Chiefs. Police Department spokesman Darin Snapp said the Chiefs running back was cited for domestic abuse assault. Johnson posted bond and was released, with a court date set for Sept. 20 on the municipal charge. Snapp said the girlfriend came into the bar and saw Johnson with a different woman. The 25-year-old girlfriend, of Overland Park, Kan. , saw Johnson and walked the other way, Snapp said, but Johnson text messaged her on her phone and asked her to meet him downstairs. By: Bill Draper, Associated Press, (Last visited September 14, 2005, REO).

September 14, 2005 in Domestic Violence | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Case Law Development: Federal Court Jurisdiction in Family Law Cases

The United States District Court for the District Of Maryland dismissed mother's complaint for enforcement of a child support agreement because the court found the amount in controversy to be less that $75,000.  The court commented that the plaintiff would have to demonstrate that the state court had entered an order with a present value exceeding the jurisdictional amount.  The court also offers commentary in a footnote in which it bemoans the United States Supreme Court's decision in Ankenbrandt v. Richards, 504 U.S. 689 (1992), saying that while the domestic relations exception did not apply in this case, "it should."
Servetnick v. Tulsky, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19569, (Dist. Md. September 7, 2005)
Opinion available at (last visited September 13, 2005 bgf).

What other kinds of cases are the federal courts are being asked to hear these days?  Given the 2005 opinions citing Ankenbrandt, I can't imagine why the federal courts aren't wishing for more...

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September 13, 2005 | Permalink

Monday, September 12, 2005

In Memory of Professor Emeritus Warren Heindl

Heindl_warren_1 "The Chicago-Kent Community was saddened by the recent death of Professor Emeritus Warren Heindl '47, who taught at Chicago-Kent from 1949 until 1994. He was 82. Professor Heindl's teaching touched the lives of generations of Chicago-Kent students. Chicago-Kent's Student Bar Association honored him several times as Teacher of the Year, and in 1993, he received the Dean's Prize for Excellence in Teaching. By his own count, he taught Family Law 75 times during his teaching career, along with other courses such as Conflicts of Law, Administrative Law, Admiralty, Civil Procedure, Negotiable Instruments and Legal Research...In a 1974 tribute to Professor Heindl in Chicago-Kent Law Review, Chicago-Ken Professor Ralph Brill wrote that although Professor Heindl had a gentle and even entertaining manner in the classroom, his exams were notoriously demanding...'He was a dear, sweet man, very bright and very brave,' said Professor Brill. 'He had a great, subtle humor. He laughed at himself, and never once said an unkind thing about anyone." A Message From Dean Harold J. Krent. Link to Article (last visited 9-11-05 NVS)

September 12, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Case Law Development: Hearsay Evidence Insufficient in Failure to Protect Action

The California Court of Appeals reverses a trial court’s termination of reunification services in a child abuse proceeding based on failure to protect.  The trial court based its decision on a social worker’s report and testimony and the testimony of children that mother was continuing her relationship with a man who abused both mother and children.  The Court of Appeals held that this hearsay evidence alone did not satisfy the requirements of due process and, if uncorroborated, could not constitute substantial evidence. The dissent strongly objected to the majority’s interpretation of the law and review of the evidence.

Like most California appellate decisions in child abuse and neglect cases, the opinion is designated as unpublished. 

Consuelo N v. Superior Court of Riverside, 2005 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 8148 (September 8, 2005).

Opinion on the web at (last visited September 12, 2005 bgf)

September 12, 2005 in Child Abuse | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Case Law Developments: Exercises in Transmutation and Title

The Alaska Supreme Court reviewed the division of several items of property for which arguments for transmutation were offered. The case provides stark examples of the rule that title alone does not determine the characterization of property. Among the property characterizations the court reviewed were:

  • Wife’s personal injury settlement proceeds, which the court characterized as separate property even though they have been deposited into a jointly titled account. The court found that the commingling was for “administrative convenience” and the intent was to use the funds for future medical expenses.
  • The marital home, which the court held was transmuted into marital property even though Husband purchased the property before marriage and wife was not on the title.
  • A substantial increase in value of Husband’s street sweeping business, which was characterized as marital because it was the result of active appreciation.

Abood v. Abood, 2005 Ala. LEXIS 131 (September 2, 2005)
Opinion on the web at (last visited September 11, 2005 bgf).

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September 12, 2005 in Property Division | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Ontario Premier rejects use of Shariah law to Settle Family Disputes

ONTARIO - Premier Dalton McGuinty said today Ontario will reject the use of Shariah law and will move to prohibit all religious-based tribunals to settle family disputes such as divorce.  His announcement comes after hundreds of demonstrators around the world this week protested a proposal to let Ontario residents use Islamic law for settling family disputes. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty was reacting to a recommendation, by former NDP attorney general Marion Boyd, to allow Muslims to establish Shariah-based tribunals similar to Jewish and Catholic arbitration bodies by CBC News (last visited September 12, 2005 bgf)

September 12, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Congress rushing to renew Violence Against Women Act

WASHINGTON -- Congress is rushing to renew the Violence Against Women Act, the landmark legislation that changed the way courts, law enforcement and communities dealt with cases of domestic violence, sexual abuse and stalking. The 10-year-old law is set to expire at the end of September. The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday voted unanimously to reauthorize and expand the law to include more money for abuse prevention and more outreach to children caught in the cycle of violence. . . . The act created the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE) and helped train police and court officials to better deal with victims. It also established new federal criminal penalties for domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. By: Jennifer Brooks / News Journal Washington Bureau, (Last visited September 11, 2005, REO). Additional information: Violence Against Women Act Passes Senate Judiciary Committee With Amendment, September 8, 2005, Weekly Feminist, (Last Visited September 11, 2005, REO).

September 11, 2005 in Domestic Violence | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tenured and Battered – Why did I remain married?

I received my bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees from elite institutions. When I went on the job market I received three tenure-track job offers from top colleges, one of which was my first choice. Two years into the perfect job, I fell in love, got married, and ultimately gave birth to several healthy children. I learned how to teach and how to publish and was tenured.  So, if I'm so smart, why did I remain married to a batterer for 12 years? . . . Chronicle of Higher Education, By Madeline Bates, (Last visited September 11, 2005, REO).

September 11, 2005 in Domestic Violence | Permalink | TrackBack (0)