Family Law Prof Blog

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

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Indiana State Court of Appeals Asked to Prevent State from Seizing Patient Records from Planned Parenthood of Indiana Clinics

Last Wednesday, the Indiana Court of Appeals heard arguments on whether the state may seize patient records from Planned Parenthood of Indiana clinics. Solicitor General Thomas Fisher argued that the Indiana Medicaid Fraud Control Unit was within its rights to seek the records, based on a complaint that Planned Parenthood may not be reporting instances of sexual activity by people under 14.  Kenneth Falk, legal director of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, which brought suit on behalf of Planned Parenthood to bar the seizures, rejected that contention. He said the term refers to the person who harmed the child, not to a clinic that later learns of it. Falk said Planned Parenthood follows the law in reporting suspected child abuse. Source:  Richard D. Walton, For more information, please click here (last visited December 17, 2005).

December 17, 2005 in Abortion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Senate Approves Extension of Domestic Violence Act

The Senate Friday approved an extension of the Violence Against Women Act. The House is expected to pass the legislation Saturday. The Violence Against Women Act is aimed at curtailing domestic violence through funding for women's shelters and law-enforcement training and expired in September. It originally passed Congress in 1994 and was renewed again in 2000. The latest renewal calls for extending the legislation for five years, at a cost of about $3.9 billion. The extension includes new provisions involving health care, early intervention and outreach to American Indian women. Source: For more information, please click here (last visited December 17, 2005).

December 17, 2005 in Domestic Violence | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Chinese Child Smuggling Ring Cracked

A Chinese newspaper has reported that more than 50 suspects have been arrested for their involvement in the ring, which allegedly schemed to buy and sell at least 100 children. The suspects are accused of selling the children for the equivalent of $110 to $165 each to orphanages. The orphanages then allegedly resold the children to other orphanages and childless parents for up to $4,200. Some of the children were reported to have been abducted from their parents. The allegations of a baby-smuggling have shaken North American families, prompting them to question whether their children were legitimately obtained and whether they should continue to donate thousands of dollars to Chinese orphanages. Source: Greg McArthur, For more information, please click here (last visited December 17, 2005).

December 17, 2005 in Child Abuse | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Oklahoma Lawmaker Seeks Legislation Requiring Ultrasound to be Offered Before Abortion

An Oklahoma Legislator, Kevin Calvey, is seeking legislation that would require abortion clinics to offer ultrasound scans to women seeking an abortion.  The proposed “Unborn Child Untrsound Imaging Act” would require abortion clinics to provide women with the opportunity to view an ultrasound 24 hours before an abortion.  Opponents charge that if the bill became law in Oklahoma, it would add extra expense and one more barrier to access for women seeking abortion services.  Source: For more information, please click here (last visited December 17, 2005).

December 17, 2005 in Abortion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Jessica Simpson Files for Divorce from Nick Lachey

Citing irreconcilable differences, Jessica Simpson filed a divorce petition this week in Los Angeles Superior Court. The couple had no prenuptial agreement and in the petition, Simpson asked the court not to grant Lachey spousal support. Ms. Simipson earned more than $30 million last year.  Source: ABC Entertainment News, For more information, please click here (last visited December 17, 2005).

December 17, 2005 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Zellweger and Chesney Marriage – A Mystery?

Oscar-winning actress Renee Zellweger and her husband, country singer Kenny Chesney met in January, were married in May, and in September Ms. Zellweger asked for annulment after 128 days of marriage, the first reason quoted in the papers being “fraud”.However, they have recently been spotted at restaurants apparently enjoying each other’s company. Some speculate they are going to get back together. Source: For more information, please click here (last visited December 17, 2005).

December 17, 2005 in Annulment | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 16, 2005

Case Law Development: Domestic Abuse Statute Does not Violate Ohio Constitution's Defense of Marriage Amendment

The Ohio Court of Appeals found that Ohio's criminal domestic violence statute, which criminalizes domestic violence against spouses and persons "living as a spouse" did not violate the Ohio Constitution's Defense of Marriage Amendment.  The constitutional amendment defines marriage and provides that the state "shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage" The trial court had determined that the domestic violence statute was unconstitutional as applied to unmarried, cohabiting individuals because it conferred a "marital-type" status to such individuals The Court of Appeals reversed, finding that the statute does not create a legal status approximating marriage. "The statute does not confer or take away from a cohabitant a set of legal rights. "The statute's scope is very narrow; it defines the conduct that constitutes the crime of domestic violence, and sets forth categories of individuals considered potential victims under the statute. The statute classifies a cohabitant as one of many potential victims. We do not find that such classification creates a legal status for relationships between unmarried, cohabiting individuals....[the statute] does align unmarried, cohabiting persons with married persons in the sense that individuals in both groups can be classified as offenders or victims under the statute. However, such alignment does not amount to the creation or recognition of a legal status "that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effect of marriage."

State v. Carswell, 2005 Ohio 6547; 2005 Ohio App. LEXIS 5903 (December 12, 2005)
Opinion on the web at (last visited December 14, 2005 bgf)
Other resources available on the web include Lambda's amicus brief and articles on this and related Ohio litigation in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

December 16, 2005 | Permalink

Case Law Development: Limitations Period May Bar Attack of Adoption Judgment Granted with No Consent or Termination of Parental Rights

The Kentucky Court of Appeals held that an action to vacate an adoption judgment was time barred, even though the judgment of adoption had been entered without a termination of parental rights or consent to the adoption by the parents. The parents had executed "consent to custody" forms allowing their two children to be placed with the grandparents, but the court noted that these forms did not meet the statutory requirements for a consent to adoption even if one were inclined to interpret them as having that intent.  The parents claimed that they were unaware that an adoption proceeding had been filed.  The Court of Appeals concluded that the family court should never have entered the judgment of adoption.

Nonetheless, the court held that the action to attack the adoption was time barred because it was filed more than one year after entry of the judgment. Since there was no allegation of fraud, the one year limitation applied and the family court properly denied her motion to vacate. "Had [Mother's] motion been timely filed, we have no doubt that a different result would have been reached."

The dissent in the case characterized the original adoption judgment as "constitutionally infirm and void" and would not have affirmed its enforcement.  "Courts have been quick to give effect to the public policy that adoptions, more than other legal proceedings, need to provide certainty and finality for the child, as well as the adoptive parents.... However, a line must be drawn somewhere, and I am convinced that the facts as stated by the majority place this case clearly over that line."

Storm v. Mullins, 2005 Ky. App. LEXIS 262 (December 9, 2005)
Opinion on the web at (last visited December 15, 2005 bgf)

December 16, 2005 in Adoption | Permalink

Case Law Development: Modification of Maintenance after Bankruptcy Discharge

The Nebraska Supreme Court has held that bankruptcy law does not preclude the modification of maintenance based on changed economic circumstances that result from one spouse filing bankruptcy.  Upon divorce, wife was awarded maintenance of $1 a year.  Almost a year later, husband filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy when his veterinary clinic failed.  After discharge, the bank foreclosed and sued the wife, who had signed as a guarantor for the loan, for the deficiency. Wife then moved for a modification of maintenance on the basis of changed circumstances.  The court of appeals found the “wife's liability for the deficiency judgment resulted in a material and substantial change in the relative economic circumstances of the parties which was not within the reasonable contemplation of the parties at the time of the dissolution.”  Thus a modification of maintenance was appropriate.  The court noted however, that “if a spousal support modification is essentially a reinstatement of the property settlement under the guise of alimony, the modification violates 11 U.S.C.S. § 524 and is not permitted. Mere attempts to "end run" around a bankruptcy discharge are not allowed. However, if the alimony modification merely takes into account the fact that one spouse would no longer receive the property settlement payments upon which the original support award was premised and the discharge results in changed financial circumstances, then modification will not violate federal bankruptcy law.”

Collett v. Collett, 270 Neb. 722; 2005 Neb. LEXIS 196 (December 9, 2005)
Opinion on the web at (last visited December 15, 2005 bgf)

December 16, 2005 in Maintenance (alimony) | Permalink

Case Law Development: Alimony in Very Long Term Marriage

The Florida Court of Appeals reversed a permanent periodic maintenance award in favor of wife in a 47 year marriage.  Both husband and wife were on fixed incomes, though the husband's income was four times that of the wife.  Husband had paid $1000 a month temporary alimony during the couple's separation.  The trial court concluded that wife had not proven that she needed more or that husband could pay more.

The court of appeals reversed and remanded for additional findings on these issues.  The court noted that the couple's standard of living during the marriage was "far from frugal."  While recognizing that maintaining the same standard of living after divorce is impossible, the appellate court noted that the trial court should have explained a decision that left Wife with "less than the husband to cover her expenses in this long, long-term marriage."  The dissent would have given greater deference to the trial court's finding that wife had failed to prove that husband could pay more, noting that "Any additional obligation that the former husband must incur would require him to dip further into his savings or deplete his capital assets at an increased pace. This court has been loath to require such actions."

Sussman v. Sussman, 2005 Fla App LEXIS 19611 (Dec. 7, 2005)
Opinion on the web at (last visited December 15, 2005 bgf)

December 16, 2005 in Maintenance (alimony) | Permalink

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Statutory Rape of 13-Year-Old Wife

"A 22-year-old man charged earlier this year with the equivalent of statutory rape after impregnating his 13-year-old girlfriend, whom he later married, pleaded guilty yesterday to first-degree sexual assault of a child. . . .Mr. Koso and his wife, Crystal, began dating in September 2003, when he was 20 and she was 12. They were married in May in Hiawatha, Kan., with their parents' blessing. Their daughter was born in August.In Nebraska, it is illegal for anyone under 17 to marry, and for anyone 19 or older to have sex with someone younger than 16.Kansas has no minimum age for marrying, but requires anyone under 18 to have parental or judicial consent. The Kansas Legislature will consider a bill next month that would establish a minimum marriage age of 16." By Gretchen Ruethling, New York Times Link to Article (last visited 12-14-05 NVS)

December 15, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Suit Against 12-Year-Old and her Mother

"Brianna Lahara won't be sharing music files anymore. Less than a day after the recording industry announced its lawsuits, the 12-year-old Manhattan schoolgirl and her mother settled their case for $2,000."I am sorry for what I have done," Brianna said in a statement released by the Recording Industry Association of America on Tuesday. "I love music and I don't want to hurt the artists I love."

The RIAA accused Brianna of distributing more than 1,000 copyrighted songs on Kazaa. The recording industry has sued another 260 individuals for similar offenses. The organization, which represents the five major recording companies -- Universal Music Group, Sony Music, EMI, BMG and Warner Music -- filed its complaints on Monday in federal courts around the country....Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) said he was troubled by the lawsuits.

"I don't think we need to club people to death to get people to understand that downloading is a problem," Coleman said. "I worry that the tactics and the tools are excessive." "I'm still concerned that the law and technology are not in synch here," he said. Coleman said he was concerned about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's broad subpoena powers. The 1998 law requires Internet service providers to surrender the personal information of their customers to a copyright holder. Such a request does not require a judge's signature, or force ISPs to notify customers that someone is seeking their personal information." By Katie Dean, Wired News Link to Article (last visited 12-14-05 NVS)

December 15, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Has Parental Liability Gone Too Far?

"Durwood Pickle was shocked to find that the Recording Industry Association of America had sued him because his grandchildren had used his computer to illegally download music during visits to his Texas home. Increasingly, parents – or in Pickle’s case, a grandparent – are being held responsible for the misdeeds of their offspring. While much of the new legislation has been driven by high-profile violent crimes, such as the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado by two teenagers, the parents of shoplifters or Internet music downloaders can find themselves sued for damages. Advocates say that holding mom and dad responsible for the crimes of their children is good public policy. Such laws reduce juvenile crime and motivate adults to become “better parents” on pain of suffering serious penalties, even jail terms.

In an article in the University of Illinois Law Review, Amy L. Tomaszewski questions these assumptions and asserts that parental liability laws are a misguided and simplistic solution to the problem of youth crime.  “Parents may be held liable for the violent crimes of their children under a theory of strict vicarious liability; however, the applicability of this theory is called into question when technology and business enter the picture,” Tomaszewski wrote. She is a former editor at the journal." By Mark Reutter, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Link (last visited 12-14-05 NVS) Link to law review article (last visited 12-14-05 NVS)

December 15, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

South Dakota Task Force Suggests Reversing Roe, Imposing More Abortion Limits

A task force authorized by the state legislature to examine the issue of abortion in South Dakota and determine what legislative steps should be taken about it has recommended more laws to limit abortions there. Following a contentious meeting, a majority of the task force voted to say that the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling was flawed because the high court did not have access to modern medicine to reveal the humanity of the unborn child. The 72-page draft report recommends the Supreme Court reverse its landmark decision. Source: Steven Ertelt, Editor, For more information, please click here (last visited December 14, 2005, reo).

December 14, 2005 in Abortion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Newspaper Stories Help Find Texas Dad Owing $39,000 in Back Child Support

One of the most-wanted child support evaders in Texas turned himself in to police last week after he was featured in news coverage across the state. Silva  Charles Silva, who owes more than $39,000 towards the care of his two children, was taken into custody Dec. 6, one day after his name and photograph were featured on a list of the top ten child support evaders released by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.  Source: The Dallas Morning News, For more information, please click here (last visited December 14, 2005, reo).

December 14, 2005 in Child Support Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Rules Sex with Minor Not a Crime of Violence

A federal appeals court ruled Monday that a Peruvian immigrant cannot be deported for having sex with a minor because the act by itself is not a "crime of violence." The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed rulings by an immigration judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals that had earlier ordered the deportation of Victor Valencia, who petitioned for a rehearing of his case. Source: For more information, please click here (last visited December 14, 2005, reo). 

December 14, 2005 in Child Abuse | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Gay Rights Organization asks Iowa Court to Recognize Gay Marriage

A gay rights organization filed a lawsuit on behalf of six gay and lesbian couples in Polk County, Iowa District Court Monday, asking for the right to marry for same-sex couples. Lambda Legal, the organization that spearheaded the same-sex marriage drive across the country, said it seeks full recognition of the civil rights of gay couples. Source: For more information, please click here (last visited December 14, 2005, reo).

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

Pregnant 37-Year Old Georgia Woman who Married 15-year-old Father Says He “Aggressively Wooed Her”

The 37-year-old Georgia woman, Lisa Clark,  who is seven months pregnant by her 15-year-old husband, says she actually prefers older men. She also says that she told the boy "no" several times but he aggressively wooed her and was just "so nice and so sweet." Ms. Clark is charged with child molestation, statutory rape and enticing a child for indecent purposes.  Ms. Clark is now out on bond. She defended the morality of her actions in a series of broadcast interviews, noting that it used to be common for 13-year-old girls to be given in marriage. Source: For more information, please click here (last visited December 14, 2005, reo).

December 14, 2005 in Child Abuse | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Officials in India Stop Mass Marriage of Children

Social activists and government officials in India last week intervened and stopped a mass marriage of children aged between 6 and 14 years.  Last Thursday was ‘Ambaiyya Jatara’, which is a day considered auspicious for weddings. Over a hundred members of the Gangiredulla community gathered in Kagazmaddur village for the mass marriage when a community member tipped off some social activists who in turn alerted government officials and the police. “We faced a lot of resistance as the villagers were concerned about the money already spent on organizing the event,” said M Subhash Chandra of Centre for Action Research and People’s Development (CARPED), a social organization that has been working among members of the same community in another village  to put an end to child marriages.  Source: Roli Srivastava, For more information, please click here (last visited December 14, 2005, reo).

December 14, 2005 in Child Abuse | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Polygamy Bride Suing Fundamentalist Church Leader

A woman claiming she was forced as a young teenager to marry a much older man to fulfill her duties as a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is suing church leader Warren Jeffs, accusing him of arranging the union. The civil lawsuit was filed Tuesday in a  Utah court and asks for a jury trial and unspecified monetary damages for the woman, who in court papers is identified only as "M.J."  "The nonconsensual spiritual marriage, the required sexual relations, and M.J.'s resulting pregnancies have been physically and emotionally devastating to M.J.," court documents state. Source: AP, Arizona Daily Star, For more information, please click here (last visited December 14, 2005, reo).

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