Family Law Prof Blog

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

Monday, January 16, 2006

Keeping in Touch with Parents in Prison

"One way to cut down on the number of inmates who end up right back in prison shortly after being released is to make sure that they preserve their ties with their families, especially with spouses and children, while they are serving time. But keeping in touch is often impossible for inmates and their families because of state prison systems that earn huge profits from inmates' phone calls by forcing the family members who receive those collect calls to pay usurious rates. As a result, a family must often choose between talking to a loved one in prison and putting food on the table.

A bill introduced in Congress by Representative Bobby Rush, Democrat of Illinois, would help end this shameful practice by requiring the Federal Communications Commission to set fair rates for interstate phone calls made from prison. The bill will surely face fierce opposition from the telecommunications lobby and from state prison systems that have grown accustomed to gouging the poorest families in the country to subsidize some prison-related activities. But the current arrangement is both counterproductive and morally indefensible." Editorial, New York Times Link to Article (last visited 1-15-06 NVS)

January 16, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Case Law Development: New York State Supreme Court Rules that Catholic Church Must Provide Mandated Insurance Coverage that Pays for Prescription Contraceptives

In a 3-2 ruling on Thursday, judges of the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court, an intermediate State appellate court, rejected religious groups' arguments that New York’s 2002 Women's Health and Wellness Act (WHWA), violates their religious freedom. The plaintiffs are all faith-based entities that operate a broad array of ministries in areas of human services such as health care, education and job placement, counseling, and a wide variety of services to the poor and needy. Each plaintiff is either operated in association with a diocese of the Roman Catholic Church or is a Baptist Church. The WHWA requires that any group insurance program that includes coverage for prescription drugs must also include a rider providing coverage for the cost of prescribed contraceptive drugs or devices.  Plaintiffs argued that the WHWA left them with a Hobson's choice: either decline to provide coverage for the cost of all prescription drugs or extend coverage for contraceptives, neither of which they view as an acceptable option. The majority found that the insurance requirement only incidentally imposed a burden on the plaintiffs' free exercise of religious rights, which was not sufficient to violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.  It also found that under New York’s balancing test, which weighs the interest of the individual right of religious worship against the interest of the state which is sought to be enforced, that the plaintiffs failed to rebutted the presumption that the Legislature conducted adequate fact-finding to support its enactment of the WHWA. Indications are that the case will be appealed to New York's highest appellate court. News Source:  Renée K. Gadoua, The Post Standard, For the complete news story, please click here (last visited January 15, 2006, reo). The decision, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany et al., v.  Gregory V. Serio, #96621, filed January 12, 2006, may be found here (last visited January 15, 2006, reo).

January 15, 2006 in Abortion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Oklahoma Christian University Reconsidering Policy that Would Allow Firing of Staff and Faculty Who Divorce

Oklahoma Christian University is apparently reconsidering a proposed policy that if implemented would allow President Mike O`Neil to fire any worker who separates or divorces for reasons that don’t meet “limited scriptural grounds.”  President O'Neal says that the proposed policy has been misunderstood and was not sensitive enough in its wording to persons who have experienced divorce. According to press reports, the policy would also have applied to prospective workers, which might have been denied employment if they had been divorced. Source:  AP, KOTV-TV, Oklahoma City, Please click here for more of this story (last visited January 15, 2006, reo).

January 15, 2006 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Canadian Provincial Court to Specialize in Handling Domestic Violence Cases

A new specialized domestic violence court was opened in Fort McMurray, Canada this week.  The new court will allow all the organizations involved in domestic violence cases -- from counseling services to child-protection agencies -- to come together at once. The goal of the new court is to prevent a repeat of violence by dealing with cases faster and more effectively.  Source:  Glenn Kauth, Fort McMurray Today, Please click here for the complete story (last visited January 15, 2006, reo).

January 15, 2006 in Domestic Violence | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Case Law Development: Court May Not Terminate Parental Rights Based Soley on Agreement of Parents

The California Court of Appeals reaffirmed today that parents may not, by mutual agreement, waive their obligations toward their children.  After the birth of their child, Mother and Father agreed that Father would pay Mother a lump sum of $6500 and that his parental rights would be terminated.  They sought the court's enforcement of their agreement, arguing that they should have the same rights to determine their parenthood as do persons conceiving children through artificial technologies.  The trial court accepted this argument, finding that the parents had made a careful consideration that the best interests of the child would not be served by the sporadic contact with Father that they envisioned for the future. 

The court of appeals reversed, holding that "Parents have no right, in California, to waive or limit by agreement a child's right to support.... Public policy intervenes to protect the child's continued right to support. A judgment so terminating parental rights and the attendant obligation to support the child is void as a breach of public policy and as an act in excess of the court's jurisdiction."   The court distinguished the situations in which a father's parental rights are terminated in sperm donor cases as instances in which agreements are made pre-conception and without which no child would be born.  The court concluded that the trial court had no power to terminate rights outside the statutory standards for dependency, emancipation and adoption proceedings.  The court concluded: "How can matters that reside in the realm of human emotion and the bonds of intimacy be subject to contract or agreement, let alone serve as a basis for a court decision?"

Kristine M. v. David P., 2006 Cal. App. LEXIS 34 (January 13, 2006)
Text of the opinion is on the web at (last visited January 13, 2006 bgf)

January 15, 2006 in Termination of Parental Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Canada considers legalized polygamy

A new study for the federal Justice Department says Canada should get rid of its law banning polygamy, and change other legislation to help women and children living in such multiple-spouse relationships. The research paper is part of a controversial $150,000 polygamy project, launched a year ago and paid for by the Justice Department and Status of Women Canada.  Read the news report of the study. 

Or you can access the entire report.  The report "Polygamy in Canada: Legal and Social Implications for Women and Children – A Collection of Policy Research Reports" includes the following four articles:

  • How Have Policy Approaches to Polygamy Responded to Women's Experiences and Rights? An International, Comparative Analysis;
  • An International Review of Polygamy: Legal and Policy Implications for Canada;
  • Expanding Recognition of Foreign Polygamous Marriages: Policy Implications for Canada; and
  • Separate and Unequal: The Women and Children of Polygamy.

Thanks to Prof. Nicholas Bala Faculty of Law Queen's University Kingston for pointing out the story. (bgf)

January 15, 2006 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0)