Family Law Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Isolation in Childhood Linked to Cardiovascular Disease

"Children who tend to work by themselves, are not very well liked by their peers, or are otherwise socially isolated may have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease in adulthood, new study findings show. "Longitudinal findings about children followed up to adulthood suggest that social isolation has persistent and cumulative detrimental effects on adult health," lead author Dr. Avshalom Caspi, of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and colleagues write in the Archives of Adolescent Medicine." Reuters Health, Yahoo News Link to Article (last visited 8-7-06 NVS)

August 8, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

India Proposes Only Women Judges Try Rape Cases

"India has proposed that only women judges try rape cases to help sexual assault victims get justice faster and make trials sensitive to their trauma, a law ministry spokesman said on Friday. The proposal, a bill which has to be passed by parliament, was approved at a cabinet meeting late on Thursday, S.M. Kumar said. Women's groups and rights activists have for long campaigned for reforming the judicial process that deals with sexual assault in a country where a woman is raped every 29 minutes. The national capital, New Delhi, is the most unsafe Indian city for women, accounting for 30 percent of rapes, according to government data. "This is a very positive step and will help get justice for the rape victim," said Girija Vyas, chairwoman of the National Women's' Commission." Reuters Link to Article (last visited 8-7-06 NVS)

August 8, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Explicit Teen Music Linked to Earlier Sex

"Teenagers who listen to music with explicitly sexual lyrics start having sex sooner than those who prefer other songs, a study found. Whether it is hip-hop, rap, pop or rock, much of popular music aimed at teens contains sexual overtones. Its influence on their behavior appears to depend on how the sex is portrayed, researchers found. Songs depicting men as "sex-driven studs" and women as sex objects, and with explicit references to sex acts, are more likely to trigger early sexual behavior than those where sexual references are more veiled and relationships appear more committed, the study found." Associated Press, International Herald TRibune Link to Article (last visited 8-7-06 NVS)

August 8, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 7, 2006

Case Law Development: Vermont Supreme Court Rejects Viriginia Court's Parentage Determination

The Vermont Supreme Court upholds its state's jurisdiction to determine visitation rights to the daughter born during a lesbian couple's civil union. 

Lisa and Janet lived in Virginia but traveled to Vermont in 2001 to establish a civil union.  Lisa had a daughter by artificial insemination in 2002, after which the couple moved to Vermont.  The couple separated in 2003 and Lisa moved back to Virginia.  She filed an action to dissolve the civil union in Vermont, alleging that Daughter was a child of the civil union, and the Vermont court issued temporary orders granting Lisa custody and Janet parenting time.   In 2004, after the Vermont court had already filed its temporary orders, and just after the Virginia Affirmation of Marriage Act became law, Lisa filed a parentage action in Virginia.  The Virginia and Vermont courts could not agree on the ensuing jurisdictional dispute and the Virginia court held that it need not recognize the civil union and found that Janet had no parentage rights.  The Vermont court refused to credit the Virginia court's decision and found both Lisa and Janet to be legal parents of their child and issued an order of contempt against Lisa for her failure to abide by the temporary visitation order.  Lisa appealed.

The Vermont Supreme Court summarized the case:

This case is, at base, an interstate jurisdictional dispute over visitation with a child. Lisa argues here that the Vermont family court should have given full faith and credit to the Virginia court's custody and parentage decision, which determined Janet had no parentage or visitation rights with respect to IMJ. The family court rejected this argument because it concluded the Virginia decision did not comport with the PKPA, which was designed for the very purpose of eliminating jurisdictional battles between states with conflicting jurisdictional provisions in child custody disputes. The Vermont court determined it had exercised jurisdiction consistent with the requirements of the PKPA and had continuing jurisdiction at the time Janet's action was filed in Virginia. Therefore, it further concluded the Virginia court was prohibited from exercising jurisdiction by the PKPA, § 1738A(g), and the Vermont court had no obligation to give full faith and credit to the conflicting Virginia decision.

In affirming the trial court's decision, the Vermont court noted that Lisa agreed that, were she and Janet a married heterosexual couple, there would be no question but that the PPKA would prohibit the Virginia court from taking jurisdiction over the parentage action.   Among the arguments presented, Lisa argued that the PKPA has been superseded by the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), 28 U.S.C. § 1738C (2000), which would require that the Vermont court give full faith and credit to the Virginia decision and order. The court rejected this interpretation, reasoning

in no instance does DOMA require a court in one state to give full faith and credit to the decision of a court in another state. Its sole purpose is to provide an authorization not to give full faith and credit in the circumstances covered by the statute.... Under Lisa's interpretation, we would be required to give full faith and credit to the Virginia court's decision not to give effect to the fully valid order of the Vermont court. Indeed, if we were to accept that argument, the Vermont biological parent of a child born to a civil union could always move to another state to make a visitation order unenforceable in every state, including Vermont.... [W]e will not give "greater faith and credit" to another state's judgment that is in conflict with a valid judgment of our own courts.

Finally, the court affirmed the parentage determination, reviewing the precedent from other states involving same-sex couples and concluding that there were many reasons supporting the trial court's parentage decision "including, first and foremost, that Janet and Lisa were in a valid legal union at the time of the child's birth." Other factors included the couple's intent and subsequent actions, Lisa's identification of Janet as a parent of the child in the dissolution petition, the fact that "there is no other claimant to the status of parent, and, as a result, a negative decision would leave [the child] with only one parent."

Miller-Jenkins v. Miller-Jenkins, 2006 VT 78  (August 4, 2006)
Opinion on the web (last visited August 6, 2006 bgf)

News story on the case from Burlington VT WCAX-TV (last visited August 6, 2006 bgf)

August 7, 2006 in Jurisdiction | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Case Law Development: Father's Attempted Murder of Mother in Presence of Children Sufficient Basis for Dependency Action Against Father

The Florida Court of Appeals has reversed a trial court's dismissal of a dependency petition in an action based on Father's attempted murder of Mother, which the children witnessed.  The case presents yet another context for asking what degree of decision-making should be allocated to victims of domestic violence in protecting themselves and their children?

Mother had  obtained an ex parte protection order against Father, after which he attacked her in the home with a hammer.  Mother was hospitalized and the children were taken into custody of the Department of Children and Families.  Mother thereafter obtained a permanent injunction against Father's contact with either her or the children and custody was returned to her.  DCF filed a dependency petition against Father.  Mother had requested that the action be dismissed.  The trial court dismissed the petition on the basis that there had been no expert testimony regarding the emotional harm to the children from witnessing the attack and no expert testimony regarding a cycle of violence to support a threat of future harm.  The trial court reasoned that a dependency action would provide no greater protectionf or the children than was already provided by the permanent injunction in place.

The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that "It is unnecessary to present evidence of a "cycle" of domestic violence committed in front of the children in every case to sustain a finding of dependency.... a single act of domestic violence in front of the children, if it is sufficiently horrific, as here, is adequate."  Further the court found that the permanent injunction did not provide as much protection as would a dependency action:

Ample grounds exist to base a finding of dependency regarding the father as to these children based on both abuse and prospective abuse. A dependency adjudication against the father would presumably bar him from contact with the children, as does the permanent injunction, but it could also require him to attend domestic violence and anger management programs and address the basic causes of the problems which have brought him to this point in his life and that of his children.

One judge dissented, stating:

I  do not see that oversight by the Department can afford the mother any realistic protection from her homicidal husband beyond that which she has already procured from the court, i.e., a permanent injunction. The prospect of additional protection via "anger management" counseling strikes me as naive. There is no reason to impose the intrusions of the Department upon the mother's life against her wishes. Based upon the record before us, she is blameless, and the lower court has so determined.

Morcroft v. J.H., 2006 Fla. App. LEXIS 13040 (August 4, 2006)
Opinion on the web (last visited August 6, 2006 bgf)

August 7, 2006 in Child Abuse, Domestic Violence | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Legislative Update: Louisiana Lengthens Waiting Period for Divorce

Louisiana's governor has signed into law an act which doubles the living-separate-and-apart waiting period for divorce from six months to one year when minor children would be affected by a no-fault divorce. If it is demonstrated that one spouse is guilty of child or spousal abuse, the current waiting period remains unaffected. 

For more on the legislation, see the article  or download the legislation itself (warning: large pdf file)(last visited August 6, 2006 bgf)

August 7, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 6, 2006

Case Law Development: Child Support When A Child is Incarcerated

The Alabama Supreme Court rejected a father's argument that he should be relieved of child support obligations after his son had been sentenced to life in prison for murder.  Alabama's child support statute does not include a child's incarcertaion as a basis for emancipation, but the Alabama courts have found that "emancipation in fact" may provide a basis for terminating child support.  Nonetheless, the court here found that little legal or factual support for father's argument in this case.  The court noted that, while opinions from some states have suggested that a lengthy incarceration may provide a basis for finding a child emancipated, no court had yet done so.  Moreover, since Mother was continuing to provide financial support for the child (depositing money into his prison account), he was not emancipated.  Quoting a Missouri court opinion on the same subject,  Sutton v. Schwartz, 860 S.W.2d 833, 835 (Mo. Ct. App. 1993), the court commented that "[i]f a custodial parent is willing to help a child with behavioral problems, chemical dependency problems, and criminal convictions, the courts should not hinder the providing of such help by eliminating financial assistance by the non-custodial parent."

However, the court did find that the child's incarceration might provide a basis for a modification of child support and remanded for the trial court's consideration of that issue.

Finally, the court found that the chancellor abused his discretion in awarding Mother $5,000.00 in attorney's fees incurred in the defense of the child's criminal case.  The court found that these were not properly considered "extraordinary expenses" of supporting a child.

Edmonds v. Sharon Edmonds & Dep't of Human Servs., 2006 Miss. LEXIS 383 (August 3, 2006) bgf

August 6, 2006 in Child Support Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Decline in Marriage Rate, Especially Among Men Without College Degree

The New York Times reports today that "About 18 percent of men ages 40 to 44 with less than four years of college have never married, according to census estimates. That is up from about 6 percent a quarter-century ago. Among similar men ages 35 to 39, the portion jumped to 22 percent from 8 percent in that time.  At virtually every level of education, fewer Americans are marrying. But the decline is most pronounced among men with less education. Even marriage rates among female professionals over 40 have stabilized in recent years."

Read the story (last visited August 6, 2006 bgf)

August 6, 2006 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)