Family Law Prof Blog

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

Saturday, October 24, 2009

European Family Law Conference - Call for Papers

The 4th Conference of the Commission on European Family Law will be held at the University of Cambridge on April 8-10, 2010.  The conference will focus primarily on marital property law, but the organizers have issued a call for papers for scholars with "less than 10 years' research experience" in the areas of protection of the elderly, freedom of testation and protection of family members, and child maintenance.  Abstracts must be submitted by December 15, 2009.  The conference organizers will cover presenters' travel expenses.  Read about the conference and view the full program and call for papers here.


October 24, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Triger: "The Gendered Racial Formation: Foreign Men, 'Our' Women, and the Law"

Zvi H. Triger (The College of Management School of Law) has posted The Gendered Racial Formation: Foreign Men, "Our" Women, and the Law, 30 Women's Rights Law Reporter__ (2009), on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

This article analyses the paradox relating to the tension between cultural perceptions and legal norms. Throughout history, countless nations have instituted limitations on marriage and prohibitions on intermarriage. While many of these prohibitions were, for the most part, gender neutral, meaning that both men and women members of the community were barred from marriage outside the community, cultural norms have treated women marrying foreign men less forgivingly than the opposite case. Using historical sources and ancient texts on intermarriage and sexuality, the article argues that the discrepancy between law and culture is to be found in the early Judeo-Christian tradition, which attributed the foreign male with unquenchable sexual prowess while not perceiving the foreign female in the same vein. As the article argues, this was due to a patriarchal worldview which promoted close scrutiny of and control over women's sexuality. Patriarchy, then, led to the development of a cultural taboo on local women marrying foreign men while ignoring the case of men marrying foreign women, despite the gender neutrality of the initial ban.


October 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Ohio Adoptees Kept in Cages File Suit

The New York Times reports the latest in the case involving the Torrence family (read this older post about the early developments in the case):

Two Ohio teenagers forced by their adoptive parents to sleep in cages have sued the couple and caseworkers who arranged the adoptions. The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court in Cleveland on behalf of Sharen Torrence, 18, and Michael Gravelle, 17. Their adoptive parents, Michael and Sharen Gravelle, named the children after them. The couple are now serving two-year prison terms for abusing some of their 11 adopted special-needs children. The suit also names caseworkers and the Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services in Cincinnati. It said the Gravelles were unfit to be parents and should never have gotten custody of the children. Julie Wilson, a spokeswoman for the Hamilton County prosecutor’s office, declined to comment.


October 23, 2009 in Adoption | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dwindling Funds for Ohio Domestic Violence Attorneys

An Ohio newspaper article reports that the state will more than halve repayment rates for attorneys who work on domestic abuse cases from $150 to $60 an hour for court work and $30 an hour for travel.  In 2008, Ohio had paid $1.32 million to lawyers, and nearly half went to a handful attorneys or law firms.  A local advocate is quoted expressing concern for domestic violence victims as a result of these cuts, many of whom seek protection orders from the courts, but as state coffers continue to lighten, we might see more cost cutting.  



October 22, 2009 in Domestic Violence | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Montana Supreme Court Recognizes Parental Interest in Non-Biological De Facto Parent

In Kulstad v. Maniaci, the Montana Supreme Court recognized a parental interest, and thus upheld visitation, in a non-biological former lesbian partner (Kulstad) over the objection of the children's adoptive mother (Maniaci).  The court ruled that Kulstad established a long-term de facto status as parent to the six and ten year-old children adopted by Maniaci when Kulstad and Maniaci were involved in a live-in relationship.  The relationship created between Kulstad and the children was held to outweigh Maniaci's Troxel-recognized fundamental right to make decisions for her children.

Read the entire opinion here, and some interesting blog commentary on it here.


October 21, 2009 in Custody (parenting plans), Visitation | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Yablon-Zug: "Dangerous Gamble: Child Support, Casino Dividends and the Fate of the Indian Family"

Marcia Anne Yablon-Zug (University of South Carolina School of Law) has posted Dangerous Gamble: Child Support, Casino Dividends and the Fate of the Indian Family, 36 Wm. Mitchell L. Rev.__(2009/2010) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Casino dividends have created significant wealth for many Indian tribes and have greatly improved the lives of their members. However, these benefits do not come without a price. Other scholars have noted the negative effects of gaming on tribal membership, culture, and identity but, there has been virtually no discussion regarding how casino gaming may hurt the Indian family. A recent case from the Florida Court of Appeals vividly illustrates how casino dividends can be used in ways that harm Indian families. In Cypress v. Jumper, the Florida court completely relieved an Indian father of any and all financial obligation to his children due to his children’s receipt of tribal casino dividends. In this article, I explore both the basis for, and ramifications of, this decision. I conclude that the court’s decision is not supported by previous case law permitting the consideration of children’s income but rather, is the result of the parties’ Indian ethnicity and the historic and continuing negative perceptions regarding Indian parents. I then explore the importance of child support and demonstrate that the benefits of paying child support are not simply monetary, but are also emotional and psychological. These additional benefits are especially important for Indian children who, given the centuries long assault on the Indian family, are more likely to experience family break down and the emotional and psychological effects of such breakdown than non-Indian children. Consequently, I argue that the Cypress decision creates a dangerous precedent that if followed, will allow Indian gaming to significantly harm Indian families.


October 21, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Working Around Preemption of Community Property Rules

When spouses in a community property regime hold certain federal assets, the doctrine of preemption often results in the inability of state community property law to step in to regulate their classification.  The United States Supreme Court's decision in Boggs v. Boggs is a classic example in the pension context, though there are countless other such assets (intellectual property, IRAs, social security benefits, just to name a few).

Louisiana has an interesting 2001 statute clearly designed to work around preemption (La. Rev. Stat. 9:2801.1).  It provides:

When federal law or the provisions of a statutory pension or retirement plan, state or federal, preempt or preclude community classification of property that would have been classified as community property under the principles of the Civil Code, the spouse of the person entitled to such property shall be allocated or assigned the ownership of community property equal in value to such property prior to the division of the rest of the community property...

A Louisiana appellate court, in the first decision directly applying the statute, recently approved use of the statute to allocate more community property to wife because preemption required that her husband's social security benefits, earned through effort expended during the marriage, be classified as husband's separate property.  The opinion includes no discussion of the constitutional implications of so blatantly undermining the result of the preemption doctrine.

Are there other examples of state law which so clearly undermine federal preemption?


October 20, 2009 in Property Division | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Child Protective Services to Investigate Balloon Boy's Home



The media coverage of the Heene Family (of Wife Swap fame) continues endlessly, even more so now that the adrift balloon once suspected of carrying six-year-old Falcon Heene has been declared a hoax.  Among the many questions being asked is whether Child Protective Services should investigate the Heene home.  This, in turn, raises the ageless question of when the threshold for such intervention has been established, implicating the tension between intervening too frequently and failing to intervene when intervention is needed.  Of course, the answer must carefully consider the very strong autonomy and privacy rights of the parents, the interests of the children (which often may be to remain free of intervention), and the very limited number of alternatives—particularly for a set of three siblings.               


October 20, 2009 in Child Abuse | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Conference on Juvenile Justice in February

Registration is now available for a juvenile justice conference in February sponsored by the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

Children and youth become involved with the juvenile justice system at a significant rate. While some children move just as quickly out of the system and go on to live productive lives as adults, other children become enmeshed in the system, moving to deeper problems and even to the adult criminal justice system.

This conference is focused on (1) avoiding this connection, whether brief or deep, and (2) intervening, at the initial contact between children and the system, in a way that most effectively prevents further involvement with the juvenile justice system, addresses the problems or mistakes that a child has made, and fosters their success as children and adults.

We hope to identify good systems, models and/or legislation. We hope also to be a sounding board for ideas, as well as a connecting place for those who might enrich each other's perspectives or assist in outcomes if they work collaboratively.

For more details and registration visit


October 19, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Louisiana Court Rules that Unmarried Mom Can Recover Child Support from Dad for the Period They Were Living Together

In Stanley v. Nicosia, a Louisiana trial court ruled that child support was due from an unmarried father during the period the father was living with the mother and the child.   When the father appealed this ruling, the appellate court affirmed.  The court stated that child support would not be due from a married father for periods the father was living with the wife and child, but that there was no analogous provision for an unmarried father.

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October 19, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Military Pro Bono Project

The Military Pro Bono Project  is looking for our assistance to provide pro bono representation to service members in family law matters.  The Project helps those who are sacrificing greatly for their country by moving pro bono referrals straight from military law offices to willing-and-able private sector lawyer volunteers throughout the country.  Extended American military missions overseas have generated unprecedented civil-law challenges for service members, many of whom have left family, home, and job for years at a time to serve their country in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locations.

There are resources available to you on line to provide assistance in your representation of the military personnel.  There is also  no continuing obligation once you provide the agreed upon representation.  You can also call for more information and then decide not to take the case.  Cases currently in need of pro bono assistance are available on the Project's website,
All the cases are screened by a supervising military attorney and then by Jason Vail, Project Director, Military Pro Bono Project the head of the Military Project with the ABA.  You may contact Jason directly at  312.988.5783 or

Thank you,

Catherine Moreau and Charla Stevens
Co-Chairs, Family Law Litigation Committee


October 19, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Fellowship Opportunity in Reproductive Rights

From Columbia Law School and the Center for Reproductive Rights:

The Center for Reproductive Rights – Columbia Law School Fellowship (“CRR-CLS Fellowship”) is a two-year, post-graduate fellowship offered by the Center for Reproductive Rights (“the Center”) and Columbia Law School (“the Law School”). The Fellowship is designed to prepare recent law school graduates for legal academic careers, with a focus on reproductive health and human and human rights. Fellows will be
affiliated with the Center and the Law School and will participate in the intellectual life of both programs.

The CRR-CLS Fellowship is a full-time, residential fellowship for up to two full years starting in July 2010. The Fellow will be a member of the community of graduate fellows at the Law School and will be integrated into the legal and policy work of the Center and will have work space at both locations. The Fellow will also have access to
law school facilities, including the library and on-line research resources, and faculty events. It is expected that the Fellow will work closely with an assigned Law School faculty mentor.

Read the full fellowship announcement here.


October 18, 2009 in Alternative Reproduction, Paternity | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)