Family Law Prof Blog

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

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Family Law Changes Planned in Ontario

From CBC News:

Under the changes, people will have more access to legal advice from the outset, as well as to options like mediation, arbitration or collaborative law, which are much less combative than the court process.

That will also free up court time for cases that must be argued through the system, although those will now have less paperwork and fewer steps so that people can get to a judge, and a decision, sooner.

"It takes the time and expense that we spend on cases that shouldn't have that time and expense, and moves those resources to the cases that need more attention, helping them to be resolved faster and better as well," said Bentley.

As part of the redistribution, some of the $150 million committed to legal aid over the next four years, for instance, will go toward providing more access to legal advice for people getting divorced.

The article notes, however, that the use of existing funding will change, but no supplemental funding will be given for the family law court system. 

My initial thoughts turned to the studies that suggest that litigation is best for divorcing women, who tend to be detrimentally passive in mediation.  However, I think providing legal advice on divorce early will be very effective because 1) I have read that many people change their minds after a divorce consultation, and 2) I know many people have misconceptions about divorce.  We shall see the effectiveness of these changes.

Read the full CBC article here.


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

Friday, December 18, 2009

Brazilian Court Orders Child Returned to NJ Father; Then Brazilian High Court Stays the Order

A New Jersey man embroiled in a long custody battle over his 9-year-old son living in Brazil has won custody of the child.

A Brazilian federal court, in a closed session, ruled Wednesday that Sean Goldman should be returned to his father, David, at a U.S. Embassy on Friday.

Goldman has been working tirelessly for the past five years to get Sean returned to the United States. Bruna Bianchi, Goldman's ex-wife, took the child to her native Brazil in 2004 on what was supposed to be a two-week vacation.

She later remarried and died during child birth last year. Her Brazilian husband argued that he should have custody of Sean.

Over the summer, the boy's Brazilian family said Sean met with a psychologist and stated he wanted to stay there. Sean told the psychologist that if he was sent back to live with his father in New Jersey, he will "break down totally," according to a transcript of the interview with the child.

Over the summer, a lower court in Brazil had ruled that Sean be returned to the U.S. However, that decision was later put on hold by a Supreme Court justice based on a petition that argued removing Sean from his current family environment would hurt him.

However, during Wednesday's ruling the court agreed with Goldman that the boy belongs in New Jersey under an international treaty governing cross-border child abductions.

Read the full story here.

But see this CNN report on how the father's celebration was short-lived.  Just hours after the appellate decree was entered, Brazil's high court issued an order prohibiting the father from removing his child back to the U.S.  More on this case to come . . .


December 18, 2009 in Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

ABC's 20/20 to feature a segment on "Parental Alienation Syndrome" Friday night

Parental Alienation Syndrome to be highlighted on ABC’s 20/20

Posted by admin in Brainwashing

20/20 show on parental alienation syndromeABC News’ show 20/20 will be featuring a segment this Friday, with a brief appearance by Dr. Richard Warshak, the foremost author and psychologist on parental alienation syndrome, aka “children brainwashed to hate a parent.”

From Dr. Warshak’s site,

I expect this show to have a major impact in educating the public about the suffering of children who have been turned against a parent, and about what can be done to help ease a child’s transition back to a rejected parent.

The segment will be anchored by 20/20 reporter Chris Cuomo. This topic, mental child abuse, is vastly misunderstood by parents, therapists, judges, and lawyers alike, so I’m excited that it will be in front of a national audience. Dr. Warshak is the foremost authority on parent-child alienation, so ABC did great in choosing to interview him.

The segment should air in the first hour of the 2 hour show (9-11pm EST). expe



December 18, 2009 in Child Abuse | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hendricks: “Contingent Equal Protection: Reaching for Equality After Ricci and PICS"

Jennifer S. Hendricks has posted “Contingent Equal Protection: Reaching for Equality After Ricci and PICS,” 16 Michigan Journal of Gender & Law__, (2009), on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

The Supreme Court's decision in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District #1 has been extensively analyzed as the latest step in the Court's long struggle with the desegregation of public schools. This Article examines the decision's implications for the full range of equal protection doctrine dealing with benign or remedial race and sex classifications. Parents Involved revealed a sharp division on the Court over whether government may consciously try to promote substantive equality. In the past, such efforts have been subject to an equal protection analysis that allows race-conscious or sex-conscious state action, contingent on existing, de facto inequality. Recent developments in affirmative action cases, however, have made it increasingly plausible for the conservative plurality to claim that substantive equality is not even a legitimate state interest. The Article demonstrates that this claim is nonetheless a radical departure from existing precedent across a spectrum of equal protection cases. It explores the consequences of the plurality's view, including the threat to remedial programs ranging from Title VII's disparate impact rules to the Family and Medical Leave Act. It also suggests some possibilities for developing the opposite view into a more robust and substantive theory of equality enforceable under the Equal Protection Clause.


December 17, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Same Sex Marriage Bill Approved by D.C. Council

The D.C. Council gave final approval Tuesday to a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, setting off a wave of excitement in the gay community even as opponents vow to continue the fight on Capitol Hill. The bill, approved by a vote of 11 to 2, will now go to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), who is expected to sign it before Christmas. The bill will become law in the spring if it survives a 30-day legislative review period.

See the Washington Post story here.


December 17, 2009 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Epstein: "Romance is Dead: Mail Order Brides as Surrogate Corpses"

Daniel Epstein has published "Romance is Dead:  Mail Order Brides as Surrogate Corpses," 17 Buff. J. Gender, L. & Soc. Pol'y 61 (2009).  Here is an excerpt:

The economic imbalance between the male purchaser and the foreign spouse serves as one of many catalysts of abuse. American men spend thousands of dollars in fees to use the mail-order bride services provided by international marriage brokers (“IMBs”). [FN11] The prospective brides are on sale from “economically depressed countries” and have minimal ability to speak English, leaving them with little bargaining power as they marry American men. [FN12] In addition to these economic imbalances, there is significant disparity in the legal rights of the purchasing male versus the purchased spouse. For one, these foreign-bought brides have no knowledge of the American legal system [FN13] and fall at the mercy of their citizen-husbands who hold the power of petitioning the prospective bride's citizenship status. [FN14] This knowledge barrier coupled *64 with the everpresent threat of deportation, [FN15] leaves abusers virtually immune from prosecution and further stymies the brides' access to legal help. [FN16] “Consumer husbands” is the foreign bride industry's term for the male purchasers who use the paid-for status of a relationship to exercise control over women. [FN17]

The International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005 (“IMBRA”) reflects Congress's most recent attempt to resolve these problems in the mail-order bride system. IMBRA differs from past policies by focusing on the informed-decision making ability of the prospective brides. The Act requires that prospective brides receive critical information about potential buyers including background information on the prospective purchasers and legal information about conditional permanent residency and the battered spouse waiver. [FN18] Additionally, the United States now thoroughly profiles the men seeking to *65 purchase foreign spouses. [FN19] Despite Congress's continued progress in the regulation of the mail-order bride industry, the practice remains under the legal radar even though widely condemned. [FN20] Notwithstanding the country's negative opinion of sexual trade, this sexual “consumption” continues to define the mail-order bride industry and its players within the United States. [FN21]

This Article examines consumption in the mail-order bride industry as a normative explanation for the public health risks posed by sex trafficking. [FN22] Sex trafficking, when deconstructed into an epidemic of consumption, produces a conceptual tool for understanding the health risks of the *66 industry. [FN23] Consumption exposes the international trafficking of women as a manifestation of necrophilia. [FN24] Psychoanalyst Erich Fromm described necrophilia as representative of a disposition of manipulation, control, violence and force and not merely the attraction to and intercourse with dead bodies. [FN25] The public health risks posed by sexual trafficking are intimately related to the psychological health of the consumer husband-as-necrophile. [FN26] Part I of this Article explores the relationship between law and violence in the mail-order bride practice. The mail-order bride industry is widespread and the United States has devoted substantial legislative energy to curing the abuses that have resulted from the industry. Part II discusses how the economy of purchased sex perpetuates abuse. The economic basis of the mail-order relationship degrades the foreign spouse precisely because she is financially worse-off than her husband. Part III explores how the consumer husband is a symbol of the sexuality he consumes. The consumer husband's distorted view of sexuality is fueled through the dehumanization of women. Part IV connects the consumer husband's dehumanizing impulses to necrophilia.


December 16, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

Science’s Lessons for Parenting

This recent article in the Atlantic Monthly describes an emerging theory in behavioral science called, among other names, the “orchid hypothesis.”  This theory posits that the genes associated with ADHD, depression, and anti-social behavior can actually provide stability and success for people if they, as children, were raised in stable environments.  This theory may therefore have great implications for parenting and welfare policy.


Hat Tip: Elizabeth Ryznar

December 16, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Irish Court Grants Visitation to Sperm Donor

CBS News reports on a recent decision from the Irish supreme court:

The Irish Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a gay man who donated his sperm to a lesbian couple should be permitted to see his 3-year-old son regularly - in part because Ireland's constitution doesn't recognize the lesbians as a valid family unit.

The ruling was a legal first in Ireland, where homosexuality was outlawed until 1993 and gay couples are denied many rights given to married couples. Critics contend the case highlights how Ireland's conservative Catholic 1937 constitution conflicts with contemporary European norms and fails to address the reality that hundreds of gay couples in Ireland have children.

In their unanimous decision, the five judges of Ireland's ultimate constitutional authority said a lower court erred by trying to apply the European Convention on Human Rights in favor of the lesbian couple. The Supreme Court concluded that when the two are in conflict, the Irish constitution is superior to European human rights law.

In her written judgment, Supreme Court Justice Susan Denham said the lesbian couple provide a loving, stable home for their son - but that the constitution defines parents as a married man and woman, and gays are not permitted to marry in Ireland.

She said Irish law does identify the sperm donor as the father, and he therefore had a right to have a relationship with his son.

"There is benefit to a child, in general, to have the society of his father," Denham wrote. "I am satisfied that the learned High Court judge gave insufficient weight to this factor."

Read the full article here.


December 15, 2009 in Visitation | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Increased Value of Husband's IRA Due to Community Efforts

The Arizona Court of Appeals recently disagreed with the family court that "[an] increase in value of [a husband's] IRA Accounts can be attributed solely to the inherent nature of the investments," determining that instead the increase was partially due to community efforts.  The court remanded for a recalculation of property awarded to the wife to reflect her efforts in increasing the IRA's value.  See Quinlan v. Quinlan, 2009 WL 3644806 (Ariz. App. 2009), or see here for the opinion.


December 15, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 14, 2009

New York Times Article Highlights Problems Created by Lack of Regulation of Surrogacy

A front-page article in the Sunday December 13 issue of the New York Times highlighted various problems that have been created by the lack or regulation of surrogacy.  Some states, like Texas, provide regulations for what needs to be done to create an enforceable surrogacy agreement.  Most states do not.  So, it is not uncommon for parties to make surrogacy arrangements in situations that seem more likely to lead to problems.  The Times article refers to cases when, for example, the mental health of the intended parents had not ben tested.   Problems are also common when the surrogate has not given birth before.  In many states surrogacy agreements are not legallly enforceable, so when the surrogate and the intended parents get into a dispute about who should have custody of the child, litigation is common.



December 14, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Genes Passed on Only Through Sperm May Limit Lifespan

Scientists working on mice have highlighted a specific gene that, although carried by both sexes, appears to be active only in males. They believe it allows males to grow bigger bodies - but at the expense of their longevity. The study, by Tokyo University of Agriculture, appears in the journal Human Reproduction. Although the study was conducted on mice, the researchers believe it could apply to all mammals - including humans.

They studied mice created with genetic material from two mothers, but no father. This was achieved by manipulating DNA in mouse eggs so the genes behaved like those in sperm. he altered genetic material was implanted into the eggs of adult female mice to create embryos. The resulting offspring, completely free of any genetic material inherited from a male, lived on average a third longer than mice with a normal genetic inheritance.

Read the full BBC article here.


December 14, 2009 in Alternative Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Flu Smallest Problem in this Swine Flu Shot Dispute

From the Associated Press:

An estranged couple whose case was in family court Monday may be on the cutting edge of marital disputes. The issue: Whether their healthy, school-age daughter will be given the swine flu vaccine.

Dad says yes; Mom says no. Barring a last minute agreement, a judge on the island of New Jersey will decide.

Read the full article on this Channel Islands case here.


December 14, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Johnson: "A Suggested Solution to the Problem of Intestate Succession in Non-Traditional Family Arrangements – Taking the ‘Adoption’ (and the Inequity) Out of the Doctrine of ‘Equitable Adoption’"

Irene Johnson (Pace University School of Law) has posted "A Suggested Solution to the Problem of Intestate Succession in Non-Traditional Family Arrangements – Taking the ‘Adoption’ (and the Inequity) Out of the Doctrine of ‘Equitable Adoption’" on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

This article examines the judicially created doctrine of equitable adoption under which a child who has been raised by people who are not the child’s birth parents and who, in the traditional doctrine, had promised to adopt the child but had not done so will be permitted to inherit from the “parent” or “parents” who have raised the child if these “parents” have died intestate. After examining the traditional equitable adoption doctrine and demonstrating the several difficulties with the doctrine in terms of the theories on which it is based and the requirements imposed for finding an equitable adoption, the article proceeds to discuss the major difficulty with the doctrine – its under inclusiveness and the disproportionate impact that this under inclusiveness has on economically disadvantaged communities. The article proposes an amendment to intestate succession statutes which would permit many more children to inherit from the people who have raised them.

The article exposes an important defect with the current equitable adoption doctrine – the use of the term “adoption” to refer to a circumstance in which a legal adoption might not have been possible. The article also considers the issues of the modern family and how the equitable adoption doctrine is not responsive to the needs of members of non-traditional family arrangements, the reasons that people fail to adopt children about whom they may have promised adoption, the reasons that people die intestate rather than having a will, and the purposes to be accomplished by intestate succession statutes. The article concludes with a statutory proposal which would eliminate many of the inequities of the equitable adoption doctrine while still being consistent with the goals of intestacy statutes.


December 13, 2009 in Adoption | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)