Family Law Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Pakistan Court Says Village Council to be Punished for Ordering 3-Year-Old Girl to Marry 14-Year-Old Boy

On Monday, Pakistan's Supreme Court ordered that members of a village council be punished for ordering a 3-year-old girl to be given in marriage to a 14-year-old boy. This is apparently the same council, located in the eastern province of Punjab, that had ordered a woman to marry the younger brother of her alleged rapist.  The Council was following the ancient tradition of "vani," which is practiced in the tribal areas of Pakistan, where girls are given in marriage to settle a blood feud between two parties. The Supreme Court has arranged a process that will use local lawyers and committees who will hear complaints of "vani," so that a system can be set up to end the tradition.  Source. For the complete story, please click here (last visited April 26, 2006, reo).

April 26, 2006 in Child Abuse | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Case Law Development: Agency Actions that Make Parent-Child Bonding Impossible Make Termination of Parental Rights Unconstitutional

The Illinois Court of Appeals reversed a trial court's termination of parental rights in a case in which mother's 10-month-old son and her older daughters had been removed for neglect.  The girls were placed with grandparents but the son was placed in a foster home.  Soon thereafter, mother was convicted of drug violations and incarcerated for two years.  After nine-months of incarceration, the court held a hearing and determined she was unfit.  During mother's incarceration, Mother was not allowed visitation with her children.  She was finally allowed telephone contact 16 months into her incarceration and later was allowed in-person visitation with daughters, but not her son. After her release from prison, and on the basis of an evaluation by a psychologist regarding the trauma of resuming visitation with her son, visitation was restricted to twice-monthly meetings in the social services offices with the foster mother present, and mother was not be be introduced as his mother but as a relative named "Jenny."

At a hearing regarding termination, mother was able to reverse the court's finding of unfitness regarding her daughters, with whom she had regular visitation, but the trial court found that the best interests of son were to terminate mother's rights as she had not bonded with her son and he was bonded with the foster family.  The court of appeals noted that the trial court was correct in focusing on the best interest of the child analysis at this point in the termination process since "once a finding of unfitness has been made, all considerations must yield to the best interest of the child."  The court's task at that point is to "assess the relative degree to which the child has bonded to his foster parents and his biological parent, taking into consideration the natural harm to the relationship caused by the parent's derelictions. ... However, it seems that any harm to the parent's relationship with the child must be assessed absent artificial or coercive intervention of others into the bonding process. Such an assessment could not be made in this case, and there has, therefore, been a fundamental injustice to respondent."

The court concluded that mother's constitutional rights would be violated if her parental rights were terminated given the agency's prior failure to promote visitation, much less reunification, and its deception of the son regarding his mother's identity. "The [termination] statute nowhere suggests or condones decisions of child welfare agencies, enforced by the courts, prior to the best interest hearing that allow a parent to believe that she is progressing toward reunification while ensuring that she will fail the best interest test. When the actions make the best interest hearing a futile gesture there has been a violation of due process tainting the constitutionality of the termination of respondent's parental rights."

In re O.S., 2006 Ill. App. LEXIS 333 (April 17, 2006)
Opinion on the web (last visited April 25, 2006 bgf)

April 25, 2006 in Termination of Parental Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Case Law Development: Conviction of Domestic Violence Basis for Termination of Alimony Even Though Agreement Makes Support Nonmodifiable

The California Court of Appeals has held that the rebuttable presumption its Family Code that an award of spousal support not be made to a spouse who has been convicted of intraspousal domestic violence applies where Wife was convicted of domesic battery, stalking, and violation of a protective order in Florida, even though the parties' settlement agreement provided that spousal support was not subject to modification or termination.  "We conclude that the public policy against enforcement of the nonmodifiable spousal support provision clearly outweighs any interest in its enforcement. Though there is a strong public policy in favor of enforcing the spousal support provisions of the parties' settlement agreement and appellant would forfeit a substantial amount of spousal support if there were no enforcement, the parties could not have reasonably expected that respondent would finance his own abuse by appellant. Balanced against these factors, we note that there is a significant public policy against domestic violence. ... Refusal to enforce the spousal support provision will further this policy against domestic violence, because appellant will have fewer financial resources to continue her harassment of respondent. We must also emphasize that appellant's misconduct is extremely serious and has continued despite incarceration and court orders in California and Florida. Moreover, there is a direct connection between appellant's misconduct and the nonmodifiable spousal support provision."

In re Marriage of Cauley, 2006 Cal. App. LEXIS 566 (April 24, 2006)
Opinion on the web (last visited April 25, 2006 bgf)

April 25, 2006 in Domestic Violence, Maintenance (alimony) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Case Law Development: Immunity for Child Abuse Reporting

The US District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas provides a fine example of the strength of the immunity for child abuse reporting by medical professionals.  The court, applying Tennessee law, granted summary judgment to doctors who reported suspected child abuse to authorities when a seven-month-old child had a rib fracture.  The fractures turned out to be caused by a tumor.

Mother sued under theories of false light and outrage torts, claiming that the doctors acted in bad faith by not communicating the possibility of a secondary diagnosis to authorities.  The court, in granting judgment to the defendants, emphasized the strict proof requirements necessary to overcome immunity for child abuse reporting.  The court emphasized that Immunity extends to the diagnosis, reporting, and subsequent communications with state officials and is presumed to be in good faith and those seeking to overcome that presumption must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the report was made in bad faith.  This proof will ordinarily require expert testimony regarding the unreasonableness of the doctors opinion or report and affirmative proof of bad faith in making that report. Here, "Plaintiff at most has demonstrated a disagreement among physicians, but she cites no authority suggesting that such disagreement is to be made a part of the reporting requirement or that failure to acknowledge such disagreement in the report of suspected abuse constitutes bad faith." 

Sanders v. Lakin, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21940 (E.D. Ark. March 30, 2006)bgf

April 25, 2006 in Child Abuse | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 24, 2006

AALS Section on Family and Juvenile Law CALL FOR PAPERS

The AALS Family and Juvenile Law Section is issuing a call for papers to be presented at the 2007 AALS Annual Meeting in San Francisco at the section’s program, entitled, “Hot Topics in Family and Juvenile Law.” The section program is scheduled for Thursday, January 4, 2007, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

In order to insure open access, and, hopefully, to attract the best and most interesting topics on cutting edge research, the section has decided to issue a call for papers and to select next year’s speakers through a system of blind peer review. Submissions are encouraged in all areas of Family and Juvenile Law research, from a variety of theoretical perspectives, including not only theories that challenge paradigms in the academy, but also more practical research that provides important results for practitioners.

The focus of the program will be on increased interaction with the audience. Abstracts and papers should focus on a topic that can be presented in 12 minutes or less, with an additional 8 minutes for audience questions.

Submissions may be either papers or abstracts that are 4 to 5 pages. Authors’ names and other identifying information will be redacted before the submissions are circulated for review.

Papers may already be accepted for publication, as long as the paper will not be published prior to the annual meeting. Only full-time law faculty are eligible to compete.

Submissions must be received on or before June 30, 2006. Email submissions to Janet Richards at: Presenters chosen through the blind peer review process will be notified by July 31, 2006.

In addition, presenters should be aware of the following information and requirements:
(1) Presenters must submit their completed papers by October 1, 2006;
(2) The papers will be posted on the AALS web site where the section’s program is listed;
(3) The AALS will prepare a publication for those attending the annual meeting that will announce the “Call for Papers” selected speakers and the section program at which they will speak; and
(4) The AALS will not provide funds for speakers’ travel expenses or meeting registration fee; annual meeting speakers typically obtain funding from their home institutions.

Members of the Blind Peer Review Committee are:

  • Margaret Friedlander Brinig, Assoc. Dean, Fac. Dev. & William G. Hammond Prof., University of Iowa College of Law
  • Elizabeth Barker Brandt, James E. Rogers Dist. Prof., University of Idaho College of Law
  • June Rose Carbone, Prof. & Assoc. Dean, Fac. Prof’l Dev., Santa Clara University School of Law (and The Edward A. Smith / Missouri Chair in Law, the Constitution and Society at University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, beginning in spring, 2007)
  • Barbara A. Glesner Fines, Rubey M. Hulen Prof., University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law
  • Linda C. Mc Clain, Rivkin Radler Dist. Prof., Hofstra University School of Law (Visiting University of Pennsylvania, spring, 2006)
  • Sarah H. Ramsey, Laura J. & L. Douglas Meredith Prof. & Dir. Cntr. For Family Law & Social Policy, Syracuse University College of Law

April 24, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Legal Implications of Don'

"It's the rare woman who hasn't warned another woman away from dating one of her ex-boyfriends. But now, a website has brought this informal mode of social control to the Internet, and formalized it. The site is called Don' On it, women aim to alert other women across the country to the cheaters, and other bad apples, in their dating pool. (In a sense, it's the evil twin of another site,, where women recommend their exes to other women.)

Doubtless, the men who appear on this site must feel aggrieved - irrespective of whether the postings about them are false or true. Even someone who truly behaved badly in the past may wish for a fresh start. And typically, these men have committed no crime: With a few exceptions, this isn't a private Megan's List, publicizing convictions that are already public record (a development I'd welcome for violent or coercive offenses.) The site offers men a right of reply - saying it will post their reply next to the original posting. But some men may feel this isn't enough, especially since the posting may sit there for a while before they even become aware of it. Obviously, the men have the option of attempting to sue the women who post information about them, if they can figure out who they are. (The site gives women the option of posting anonymously, so the men may need to subpoena the site for user information before they can even begin a suit against the woman who's the source of the information. And the site may well fight such subpoenas.) But what if the men also want to go after the site itself, hoping it has deep pockets?" By Julie Hilden, FindLaw Legal News and Commentary Link to Article (last visited 4-23-04 NVS)

April 24, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Father Tries to Sell Daughter to Fund Home Improvements

"A man raising his 18-month-old daughter alone tried to sell the little girl for $7,000 so he could make improvements to his house, police said Friday. The man from Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin, tried to sell his daughter to a Grand Chute couple, who helped authorities in the investigation, Grand Chute police Chief Ed Kopp said. "He was having difficulties raising the child alone and wanted to use the money for some home remodeling," Kopp said." Link to Article (last visited 4-23-04 NVS)

April 24, 2006 in Child Abuse | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Physical Intimacy Coaching for Those With Mental Retardation and Related Disabilities

"Ms. Graham and Mr. Ruvolo, both 32, accept each other's foibles with tenderness. The one time their romance was in trouble — a girl "was spending too much time at Gary's house, and I didn't like it," Ms. Graham said — they went to couples' counseling and worked it out. Their next hurdle will be moving from their family homes, both in Brooklyn, to a group residence. There, for the first time, Ms. Graham, who is mentally retarded, and Mr. Ruvolo, who has Down syndrome, will be permitted to spend time together in private. The pair were coached in dating, romance and physical intimacy by a social service agency at the cutting edge of a new movement to promote healthy sexuality for the seven million Americans with mental retardation and related disabilities. In what experts say is the latest frontier in disability rights, a small but growing number of psychologists, educators and researchers are promoting social opportunities and teaching the skills to enjoy them.

A generation ago, young adults like Ms. Graham and Mr. Ruvolo were generally confined to institutions, with no expectation of a normal life. All that changed in 1975, when a court order closed the notorious Willowbrook State School on Staten Island and moved its residents, and others like them across the country, into community settings to live as fully as their limitations allowed. That could include attending neighborhood schools and holding salaried jobs. Now many men and women in their 20's and 30's, encouraged from childhood to be independent, expect the same when it comes to expressing their romantic and sexual needs." By Jane Gross, New York Times Link to Article (last visited 4-23-06 NVS)

April 24, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Voluntary Support of Adult Children Becoming Routine?

"At 23, Jason McGuinness lives a postcollege life in Manhattan that is very nearly typical. He works as a media research analyst, making about $30,000 a year. Sharing a two-bedroom apartment on the fourth floor of a walk-up building with a roommate on the Upper East Side, his portion of the rent is $1,100 monthly. . . . And like many of his peers — educated, employed, urban-dwelling young adults — he receives monthly assistance from his parents, in the form of a $300 check and the payment of his cellphone bill.

This is not the largesse of wealthy families doled out through trust funds. Nor is the money a couple of $20 bills tucked into a card at the holidays. Mr. McGuinness and others like him are the beneficiaries of an increasingly common subsidy arriving regularly from Mom and Dad, something like a family fellowship. It helps to pay for housing, bills and travel expenses, and the support has been increasing for the past two decades as education is extended, marriage is delayed and young people take the scenic route from adolescence to adulthood." By Anna Bahney,New York Times Link to Article (last visited 4-23-06 NVS)

April 24, 2006 in Child Support (establishing) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Denise Richards Obtains Restraining Order Against Charlie Sheen

"Actor Charlie Sheen on Saturday denied charges from his estranged wife, actress Denise Richards, that he had been abusive towards her and their daughters and had threatened to kill her."I move forward and I maintain my integrity ... and focus on my children," Sheen told Entertainment Tonight co-anchor Mark Steines in an interview for the Paramount Pictures Corp. program to be aired on April 24.

On Friday, Sheen was ordered to keep at least 300 feet (90 metres) away from Richards and their two young daughters after the abuse allegations were made in court papers.The restraining order is the latest chapter in the stormy marriage between Sheen, a one-time playboy, and model/actress Richards, 35, who filed for divorce from him last December, after less than three years of marriage." Reuters Link to Article (last visited 4-23-06 NVS)

April 24, 2006 in Domestic Violence | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Cruise-Holmes Baby Born

"Hollywood actor Tom Cruise has spoken of his delight at the birth of his baby daughter Suri last week. "It was everything that we wanted it to be. It was spiritual. It was powerful. It was indescribable," Cruise said on US TV show 20/20. "It's still something that I'm processing and keep reliving." Fiancee Katie Holmes, 27, gave birth to the couple's first child in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Cruise has two adopted children from his second marriage." BBC News Link to Article (last visited 4-23-06 NVS)

April 24, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

CALI Family Law Fellowship Team In Production


Since January 2006, CALI's Family Law Fellowship team has been hard at work on authoring lessons in family law for use by faculty and students at CALI member schools.  Over the next five months the Fellows will complete thirty interactive tutorials covering a wide range of topics in Family Law. Many of the lessons will be available by fall semester. Listed below are the CALI Fellows and the lessons they have written to date.

  • Len Biernat – Professor of Law, Hamline University School of Law: Custody Disputes, Paternity and Legitimacy
  • Andrea Charlow – Professor of Law, Drake University Law School: Support, Jurisdiction, Child Custody Jurisdiction
  • Cynthia Hawkins-León – Professor of Law, Stetson University College of Law: Divorce Grounds – Fault & No Fault, Adoption Law & Policy
  • Janet Leach Richards – Cecil C. Humphreys Professor of Law, Cecil C Humphreys School of Law, The University of Memphis: Child Custody Modification, Visitation and Relocation
  • Ruthann Robson – Professor of Law, City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law: Same-sex Relationships, Constitutional Aspects of Family Law
  • Cynthia Lee Starnes – Professor of Law, Michigan State University College of Law: Compensatory Spousal Payments under the ALI Principles, Alimony


April 23, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Kentucky Reverses Child Abuse Conviction Because of Expert’s Opinion Regarding Parental Awareness

In an unpublished opinion, the Kentucky Supreme Court reversed the conviction of a man accused of allowing his girlfriend to fatally abuse the couple's infant son.  It ruled 4-3 Friday that the trial judge erred when he allowed a prosecution expert, forensic pediatrician to testify that a parent is always aware of abuse in a household. The court stated that the statement was prejudicial and amounted to little more than a personal conclusion beyond the scope of expert’s expertise. Because the case was based mostly on circumstantial evidence,  the court could not rule out that the testimony influenced the jury when it convicted the defendant of of complicity to murder and child abuse in 2003. Source.  Brandon Ortiz, Herald-Leader, To read the complete story about this case, please click here (last visited April 23, 2006, reo).

April 23, 2006 in Child Abuse | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Pennsylvania Court Removes Triplets from Custody of Surrogate Mom

A Pennsylvania trial court on Friday removed custody of 2½-year-old triplets from their surrogate mother and awarded them to the man who paid the surrogate to birth the boys. The court ruled that the surrogate mother lacked standing to seek parental status or challenge their 64-year-old father’s right to his biological children. The surrogate had taken the children against the biological father’s wishes after she delivered them in November 2003 and set out to raise them at her home. The decision overturns a previous ruling that awarded the surrogate primary custody and granted the biological father only "liberal visitation" rights. Source.  John Horton, Plain Dealer Reporter, For the complete story, please click here (last visited April 23, 2006, reo).

April 23, 2006 in Paternity | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

South Korean Government Planning to Increase Benefits to Allow Working Fathers to take Paternity Leave

The government of South Korea is planning to increase cash benefits and rewrite labor regulations to enable more working fathers to afford to take paternity leave.  The new family-policies will become effective in 2008 and will require companies to allow male employees an unpaid, three-day paternity leave when their spouses give birth, which would not count as regular vacation or paid paternity leave that they are already entitled to.  Source.  Kim Tong-hyung, The Korea Times, To read the complete story, please click here (last visited April 23, 2006, reo).

April 23, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Massachusetts Considering Major Family Leave Provision

The leaders of the Massachusetts Senate will propose legislation this week to offer all workers in Massachusetts up to 12 weeks' paid time off to care for newborn and adopted children or sick family members, financed by an employee payroll premium of at least $1.50 a week. If approved, the bill would pay employees their full salary, up to $750 a week, and would create the most generous paid leave policy in the nation. Source.  Andrea Estes, Boston Globe, To read the complete story, please click here (last visited April 23, 2006, reo).

April 23, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

India’s Supreme Court Orders Police Protection for Muslim Couple Forced to Separate by Religious Leaders

According to news reports, India’s Supreme Court on Friday instructed a provincial government to provide police protection to a Muslim couple who were forced to separate when local clerics issued a religious ruling that they could no longer live together. While intoxicated, the husband had uttered “talaq” three times, which allows a Muslim man to divorce his wife with immediate effect. He later retracted his statement and said the couple wanted to live together. However, it is claimed that they were forced to live apart for the last nine months by clerics who issued a “fatwa” or religious ruling that the couple were divorced. The court ruled that because India is a secular country, the religious decision could not be used to justify keeping them apart.  Source. To read the complete story, please click here (last visited April 23, 2006, reo).

April 23, 2006 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)