December 21, 2006
Family Law Writing Competition
"AFCC and Hofstra University School of Law are sponsoring the annual Family Law Writing Competition. The competition is run in cooperation with the editorial staff of Family Court Review, the academic and research journal of AFCC. The subject of entries may be within any area of family law, although topics which focus on international or interdisciplinary subjects of family law are especially encouraged. Articles should concentrate on a current legal issue and must have a strong foundation in legal research. Submissions must be received by March 15, 2007." By AFCC Link to AFCC e-newsletter (last visited 12-20-06 NVS)
Also see the AFCC (Association of Family and Conciliation Courts) E-Newsletter for family law information and announcements. Did you know that AFCC membership has grown 80% since the summer of 2002?
Eminem Divorces Wife for Second Time
"Rap megastar Eminem and his high school sweetheart divorced for a second time, less than a year after they remarried.Eminem and Kim Mathers agreed to divide property under terms of a private settlement and to share custody of their 10-year-old daughter, Hailie Jade Scott. They told a judge they understood the divorce was final." AP, FindLaw, Link to Article (Last visited 12-20-06 NVS)
Speed Dating for Book Lovers
"A 150-year old Australian public library has a new true-romance section after introducing speed-dating nights for lovers of classic texts. The state library of Victoria in Melbourne introduced dating with a literary twist after the idea was raised at a staff party. Those who attend must bring a book they either love or loathe as a conversation starter, ensuring there are no uneasy silences during the series of five-minute dates.
"It's speed dating with books. It's designed to bring book lovers together," the library's project manager, Jackie Felstead, told Reuters Wednesday." Reuters, Link to Article (last visited 12-20-06 NVS)
December 20, 2006
Use of Mandamus to Review Trial Court's Refusal to Dismiss Child Protective Actions
Texas statutes provide that, a trial court must dismiss a child protective action filed by the state if the court does not render a final order within one year of the appointment of the state Department as temporary managing conservator of a child (with a maximum extension of 180 days). Two years ago, in a case in which the the dismissal deadline had passed during a trial, the parents filed for and obtained a writ of mandamus with the court of appeals. The Texas Supreme Court stayed that writ (with the child presumably staying in foster care). In a decision this week, the Texas Supreme Court held that accellerated appeal was an adequate remedy to address the trial court's refusal to dismiss the action and it was error for the court of appeals to grant a writ of mandamus. The court qualified its holding and commented on the statute:
We do not hold that a party complaining of a trial court's failure to dismiss a SAPCR within the statutory deadline could never be entitled to mandamus relief, but under the facts of this case, we cannot conclude that an accelerated appeal was not an adequate remedy. Impending transfer of physical possession of the children or a trial court's unreasonable delay in entering a final decree might alter this conclusion, but this record raises neither concern. .... We recognize that in particular cases the statute could work injustice or encourage gamesmanship to push litigation beyond the deadline. We presume the Legislature recognized this also. But the Legislature also recognized that a statutory deadline would expedite the trial of these cases to help provide a modicum of certainty for children whose family situations are subject to the outcomes in these proceedings. It is not the Court's task to choose between competing policies addressed by legislative drafting.
One judge dissented, noting that mandamus has been used in numerous other contexts in which appeal is also available. The dissenting judge questioned whether the parents would even be able to appeal the trial court's termination of their rights at this point. Under these circumstances, the dissent concluded, "The error was clear, and the solution straightforward — an order directing the trial court to dismiss the case. While the overall effect on the legal system of the trial court’s failure to dismiss may not be widespread, the consequence to the family in this case is
deep and potentially irremediable."
China Tightens Adoption Restrictions
China is planning to issue new, tighter restrictions on foreign adoptions of Chinese children, which would prohibit adoptions by parents who are unmarried, who are obese or who are older than 50, according to adoption agencies in the United States. The new regulations, which have not yet been formally announced by the state-run China Center of Adoption Affairs, are to take effect on May 1, 2007, and seem certain to slow the rapid rise in applications by foreign parents to adopt Chinese babies.
Read the New York Times article on the new adoption policies. (last visited December 20, 2006 bgf)
Rates of Premarital Intercourse Have Risen
The Washington Post reports on a new study of trends in premarital intercourse over the past half-century. The study, based on a 2002 survey of about 12,500 men and women, found that 97 percent of people who were no longer virgins at age 44 had sexual intercourse for the first time before they married. By age 20, only 12 percent of people interviewed had married, but 77 percent had sex, and 75 percent had sex before marriage. By age 44, 99 percent of people were no longer virgins, 95 percent reported having had premarital intercourse, and 85 percent had married at some point.
Read the Washington Post article (last visited December 20, 2006 bgf)
December 19, 2006
Donor-Conceived Child Speaks Out
"When she was 32, my mother -- single, and worried that she might never marry and have a family -- allowed a doctor wearing rubber gloves to inject a syringe of sperm from an unknown man into her uterus so that she could have a baby. I am the result: a donor-conceived child. And for a while, I was pretty angry about it.I was angry at the idea that where donor conception is concerned, everyone focuses on the "parents" -- the adults who can make choices about their own lives. The recipient gets sympathy for wanting to have a child. The donor gets a guarantee of anonymity and absolution from any responsibility for the offspring of his "donation." As long as these adults are happy, then donor conception is a success, right?
Not so. The children born of these transactions are people, too. Those of us in the first documented generation of donor babies -- conceived in the late 1980s and early '90s, when sperm banks became more common and donor insemination began to flourish -- are coming of age, and we have something to say. I'm here to tell you that emotionally, many of us are not keeping up. We didn't ask to be born into this situation, with its limitations and confusion." By Katrina Clark, washingtonpost.com Link to Article (last visited 12-18-06 NVS)
Shortage of Egg Donors in UK
"British couples desperate for a baby are travelling abroad for fertility treatment because of a shortage of egg donors in the UK. Patients blame the change in the law that gives children born through egg or sperm donation the right to trace their biological parents.
Some UK hospitals have closed their waiting lists because they are unable to recruit egg donors. Women are going abroad or making their own efforts to find egg donors at home." By Helen Briggs, BBC News Link to Article (last visited 12-18-06 NVS)
". . .In the United States, donated sperm is used in 80,000 to 100,000 inseminations each year. In 2003, at least 15,000 in vitro fertilization procedures -- in which the gametes, a woman's eggs and a man's sperm, are united in a petri dish and the resulting embryos are transferred into a uterus -- were performed with donated eggs; that number grows by 20 percent annually. More than 1,000 babies are born each year through surrogacy, in which a woman carries a child for another woman or, increasingly, for two gay men.
These explosively popular science-enabled multi-parent arrangements are altering our understanding of what parents are and how families can be formed. And they're confusing our thinking about genetic relationship and its importance to the parent-child bond. Collaborative reproduction is becoming widespread at precisely the moment when we've become ultra aware of how genes run the show in the unfolding of a human being: controlling everything from physical attributes such as height and hair color to a predisposition for certain illnesses to a tendency toward shyness or a taste for fine wine." By Liza Mundy, washingtonpost.com Link to Article (last visited 12-18-06 NVS)
Questions to Ask Before Marriage
"Relationship experts report that too many couples fail to ask each other critical questions before marrying. Here are a few key ones that couples should consider asking. . . " N.Y. Times Link to Questions (last visited 12-18-06 NVS)
Team Approach to Child Welfare
"In an effort to correct dysfunctional foster care systems, a growing number of child welfare agencies around the country are reaching outside their ranks to involve troubled families and the people in their lives in wrenching decisions about where endangered children should live. Some agencies find that by enlisting help from grandparents, church members, school counselors and sports coaches, they can reach faster, safer and more lasting decisions that result in fewer children languishing in foster care. Under the practice, known as team decision making, a group is assembled within 24 to 48 hours after a state agency is called into a crisis situation.
Programs exist in at least 21 states. Indiana, Michigan and Tennessee have adopted the team-approach statewide, while other programs are run at the county level. Officials in Denver County, Colo., credit the team approach for a 32 percent drop in out-of-home placements since 2002. In Cuyahoga County, Ohio, the program has reduced the number of children in foster care by more than half since 2001. Tennessee has reduced the number of children in state care by more than 1,000 since March 2004, when there were 10,600 in the system." By Lynette Clemetson, N.Y. Times Link to Article (last visited 12-18-06 NVS)