Family Law Prof Blog

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

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me A Match

As if your mom's matchmaking weren't enough, now there's the Korean government:

From the WSJ:

Korea’s ultra-low fertility rate (1.15 babies per woman) has driven policymakers to take drastic measures to get couples together.

Last Saturday, a group of 60 people, mostly in their late 20s and early 30s, gathered together at an event hall for a match-making event in Gangnam-gu, Seoul’s third most populated district, organized by the local authorities.

The gatherings started early last year amid an increased sense of urgency due to the district’s anemic birth rate of 0.79, which is particularly low even when allowing for its office-concentrated living environment.

“I’ve got a very good feeling about this today. I hope this event will produce at least 10 couples,” said Kim Sang-ju, chief of Welfare & Culture Bureau, in his ice breaking speech at the latest event.

Though it appears to be a symbolic move at best, officials are confident they can make a difference.

Read more here.



December 18, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Smith & Robinson “An Embarrassment of Riches or a Profusion of Confusion? An Evaluation of the Continued Existence of the Civil Union Act 17 of 2006 in the Light of Prospective Domestic Partnerships Legislation in South Africa”

Bradley S. Smith & Robbie Robinson have posted An Embarrassment of Riches or a Profusion of Confusion? An Evaluation of the Continued Existence of the Civil Union Act 17 of 2006 in the Light of Prospective Domestic Partnerships Legislation in South Africa, 13 Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal (2010) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

As it stands, South African family law currently holds that the Marriage Act 25 of 1961 applies exclusively to the solemnisation of heterosexual civil marriages while same-sex couples have no choice but to formalise their relationships in terms of the Civil Union Act 17 of 2006. In addition, the legal position is complicated by the fact that the latter Act not only allows both heterosexual and homosexual couples to conclude a civil union, but also provides that a civil union may take the form of either a marriage or a civil partnership, both of which enjoy the same legal recognition as, and give rise to the same legal consequences, as a civil marriage under the Marriage Act.

In January 2008, a draft Domestic Partnerships Bill saw the light of day, the potential enactment of which casts significant doubt as to whether the prevailing framework should be retained. With this potential development in mind, this paper considers the desirability of maintaining the separate but equal status quo by: (a) comparing the South African Law Reform Commission's pre-Civil Union Act proposals with the approach eventually adopted by the legislature; (b) comparing and contrasting the post-Civil Union Act position in South Africa with that of an established and well-ordered jurisdiction such as the Netherlands and, in the light hereof, considering the cases for and against repealing the Civil Union Act; and (c) by considering the desirability and practicality of the civil partnership's potential co-existence with the Domestic Partnerships Bill (as modified in accordance with a recent study). A proposal is made that could provide a less complex and better streamlined family law dispensation in South Africa.



December 17, 2010 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 16, 2010


It is no secret that good looks help in dating and in job hunting, and perhaps everything in between.  Interestingly, new research suggests that attractive men fare better than average-looking men in a job hunt, although attractive women did not enjoy the same benefit over average-looking women.  Read more here.


December 16, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Breger: "Making Waves or Keeping the Calm?: Analyzing the Institutional Culture of Family Courts Through the Lens of Social Psychology Groupthink Theory"

Melissa Breger (Albany Law School) has posted "Making Waves or Keeping the Calm?: Analyzing the Institutional Culture of Family Courts Through the Lens of Social Psychology Groupthink Theory" (20 Law & Psychology Rev. 55) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

This article argues that the institutional culture of Family Courts across the nation too often stifles conversation and innovation and discourages loyal client-centered advocacy. The article presents the social psychology theory of groupthink as a backdrop to hypothesize about the reasons such dynamics may exist and then suggests reform ideas to change negative aspects of the court culture. A groupthink mentality can manifest itself among the institutional players in Family Court, through monolithic thinking and myopic decision making, or through entrenched resistance to outsiders or outside opinions. If left unchecked, this can result in “mindless conformity” and a “collective misjudgment of serious risks” in case decisions, thus negatively impacting parties, in particular, and the legitimacy of the court system, in general. The article aims to encourage further discussion and research about Family Court institutional culture by providing a nexus to the groupthink literature and a framework for organizing that discussion.


December 15, 2010 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Women in Sweden

BBC recently ran an article on women in Sweden; read it here.


December 15, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Puckett: "Rethinking Tax Priorities: Marriage Neutrality, Children, and Contemporary Families"

James Puckett (VAP at Seattle University School of Law) has posted "Rethinking Tax Priorities: Marriage Neutrality, Children, and Contemporary Families" (78 Cincinnati L. Rev. 1409) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Tax scholarship has long struggled with whether married taxpayers should be taxed differently from unmarried taxpayers. Currently, married taxpayers are subject to different tax rates than unmarried taxpayers, and may file a joint tax return. A married couple may pay a higher or lower amount of tax than an unmarried couple with the same total income, and a single person generally pays more tax on a given income than a married couple with a single earner with the same income. These outcomes are difficult to reconcile with a commitment to income tax progressivity, which in theory requires that higher incomes be taxed at higher rates. Moreover, the system penalizes some marriages, and benefits other marriages. This Article takes a fresh look at the problem of marriage bonuses and penalties, acknowledges that there may be difficulties with a separate filing system, but concludes that the joint return and special rates for married taxpayers should be abolished. In addition, drawing on the work of family law scholars, this Article argues that a stronger case can be made for supporting parenting rather than marriage in the tax system.


December 14, 2010 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Let the Kids Sleep in Late on Saturday...

...because if they do, it's probably your fault genetically.  New research on sleep suggests that not only are sleeping patterns genetic, but smart people sleep in late. 

From the Winnipeg Free Press:

Morningness or eveningness are often genetically-based, according to researchers Lambertus Klei at Carnegie Mellon Univesity, Patrick Rietz at the University of Pittsburgh and their associates. In 2008, studies at Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry demonstrated sleep-time preferences are often inherited, and subsequent data indicates that 50 per cent of sleep-time choices are dictated by genetic factors.

Read the article here.


December 14, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Orentlicher: "Multiple Embryo Transfers: Time for Policy"

David Orentlicher (University of Iowa College of Law) has posted "Multiple Embryo Transfers: Time for Policy" (40 Hastings Center Report 12) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

The birth of eight children to Nadya Suleman led to an outcry over the common practice in assisted reproduction of transferring multiple embryos to a woman during in vitro fertilization (IVF). The practice can increase the chances of a live birth, but greatly raises the likelihood of multiple births, with their substantial health risks to mother and children and substantial health care costs to society. Professional guidelines, as well as laws in other countries, place limits on the acceptable number of embryos transferred in IVF.

This paper considers the problems with multiple embryo transfers and the experience in other countries with statutory limits. After reviewing the reasons why women might prefer multiple embryo transfers, including the desire to maximize their likelihood of having a child and the desire to minimize their costs for IVF, this paper recommends legal restrictions on multiple embryo transfers in the United States, together with insurance coverage for the costs of IVF.


December 13, 2010 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sterilizing Drug Addicts

From BBC News:

Project Prevention is offering to pay £200 to any drug user in London, Glasgow, Bristol, Leicester and parts of Wales who agrees to be operated on.

The first person in the UK to accept the cash is drug addict "John" from Leicester who says he "should never be a father".

The move has been criticised by some drug charities who work with addicts.

Project Prevention founder Barbara Harris admitted her methods amounted to "bribery", but said it was the only way to stop babies being physically and mentally damaged by drugs during pregnancy.

Read more here.


December 13, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Arkes & Shen: "For Better or for Worse, But How About a Recession?"

Jeremy Arkes & Yu-Chu Shen have posted "For Better or for Worse, But How About a Recession?" on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

In light of the current economic crisis, we estimate hazard models of divorce to determine how state and national unemployment rates affect the likelihood of divorce. With 89,340 observations over the 1978-2006 period for 7633 couples from the 1979 NLSY, we find mixed evidence on whether increases in the unemployment rate lead to overall increases in the likelihood of divorce, which would suggest countercyclical divorce probabilities. However, further analysis reveals that the weak evidence is due to the weak economy increasing the risk of divorce only for couples in years 6 to 10 of marriage. For couples in years 1 to 5 and couples married longer than 10 years, there is no evidence of a pattern between the strength of the economy and divorce probabilities. The estimates are generally stronger in magnitude when using national instead of state unemployment rates.


December 12, 2010 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

'Tis the Season for...

...breakups?!  Or so say facebook data.

From CNN:

In the talk, McCandless said he and a colleague scraped 10,000 Facebook status updates for the phrases "breakup" and "broken up."

They found two big spikes on the calendar for breakups. The first was after Valentine's Day -- that holiday has a way of defining relationships, for better or worse -- and in the weeks leading up to spring break. Maybe spring fever makes people restless, or maybe college students just don't want to be tied down when they're partying in Cancun.

And let's hear it for cheapskates. The other big romantically treacherous time, according to the graph, is about two weeks before Christmas -- presumably as people begin pricing gifts for their significant others.

Read more here.


December 11, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Dishion & Tipsord: "Peer Contagion in Child and Adolescent Social and Emotional Development"

Thomas Dishion & Jessica Tipsord (University of Oregon) have posted "Peer Contagion in Child and Adolescent Social and Emotional Development" (62 Annual Review of Psychology 189) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

In this article, we examine the construct of peer contagion in childhood and adolescence and review studies of child and adolescent development that have identified peer contagion influences. Evidence suggests that children's interactions with peers are tied to increases in aggression in early and middle childhood and amplification of problem behaviors such as drug use, delinquency, and violence in early to late adolescence. Deviancy training is one mechanism that accounts for peer contagion effects on problem behaviors from age 5 through adolescence. In addition, we discuss peer contagion relevant to depression in adolescence, and corumination as an interactive process that may account for these effects. Social network analyses suggest that peer contagion underlies the influence of friendship on obesity, unhealthy body images, and expectations. Literature is reviewed that suggests how peer contagion effects can undermine the goals of public education from elementary school through college and impair the goals of juvenile corrections systems. In particular, programs that "select" adolescents at risk for aggregated preventive interventions are particularly vulnerable to peer contagion effects. It appears that a history of peer rejection is a vulnerability factor for influence by peers, and adult monitoring, supervision, positive parenting, structure, and self-regulation serve as protective factors.


December 10, 2010 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Babies' e-Footprints

This is not surprising to me at all, especially during the holiday season:

From CNN:

Thanks to the ubiquity of photo-sharing websites like Facebook, 82 percent of children in 10 Western countries have a digital footprint before the age of 2, according to a study by internet security firm AVG.

The U.S. led, with 92 percent of American children under 2 appearing in online pictures, the report said.

New Zealand was a close second with 91 percent, followed by Canada and Australia with 84 percent. The study also covered the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy. Japan was the only country where less than half of 2-year-olds had an online presence.

AVG's report indicates that it's not necessarily a child's mother who is doing the uploading.

Only 33 percent of the 2,200 moms studied said they've uploaded pictures of their newborn or toddler to the internet. Other family members and friends often take the liberty of sharing baby pictures on the Web, making deleting them trickier for concerned parents.

Everyone likes to look at snapshots of cute babies -- or at least the babies' parents think so. But disclosing a lot of personal info, such as birth dates, middle names and mothers' maiden names -- which can be carelessly inserted into photo captions -- can aid identity thieves.

Read more here.


December 10, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Family Law Sees Its First "Lawsuit Lenders"

From the NY Times:

Michelle Pont and her husband amassed millions of dollars in properties and investments from a freight-hauling business that they started with a single stake-bed truck in 1991. They bought a four-bedroom home, then a second home, a vacation home, a motor home and half a dozen cars.

But when Ms. Pont decided to seek a divorce last year, she quickly ran out of money. She had no job. Her husband controlled the family’s investments. A few months of legal bills maxed out her credit cards and drained her retirement account.

She wrestled with accepting a smaller settlement than she considered fair. Then a lawyer referred her to Balance Point Divorce Funding, a new Beverly Hills lender that offers to cover the cost of breaking up — paying a lawyer, searching for hidden assets, maintaining a lifestyle — in exchange for a share of the winnings.

In October, Balance Point agreed to invest more than $200,000 in Ms. Pont’s case.

“It’s given me hope,” Ms. Pont said. “I don’t view it as a loan; I view it as an investment in my future. They are helping me to get what is rightfully mine.”

With some in the financial world willing to bet on almost anything, it should be no surprise that a few would see the potential to profit from the often contentious and emotional process of ending a marriage.

So far, the number of companies investing in divorce is small — Balance Point is one of the few that do it exclusively. But other businesses are gearing up. A New York start-up, Churchill Divorce Finance, also is planning to enter the business. The company’s chief executive previously co-founded a publicly traded Australian company, ASK Funding, that has invested tens of millions in divorce cases there.

While this business is in its infancy, Balance Point is part of a bigger trend — the growing industry that invests in other people’s lawsuits, arming plaintiffs with money to help them win more money from defendants. Banks, hedge funds and boutique firms like Balance Point now have a total of $1 billion invested in lawsuits at any given time, industry participants estimate.

Lawsuit lenders initially focused on personal injury cases, but over time they have sought new frontiers, including securities fraud cases brought by disgruntled investors, whistleblower claims against corporations and property development disputes.

Stacey Napp, a lawyer by training who has spent her career in finance, founded Balance Point last year with money from her own divorce. Since then, she has provided more than $2 million to 10 women seeking divorces. She says she is helping to ensure both sides can defend their interests.

Divorce cases may be a promising niche for lenders because costs can mount quickly — some top lawyers in Los Angeles charge more than $500 an hour — and because state laws uniformly require plaintiffs to pay lawyers upfront, rather than promising them a contingency fee, or a share of any winnings, as is common in other civil cases.

Read the full article here.


December 9, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


An interesting article from The New York Times:

Courtesy of the state, French women seem to have it all: multiple children, a job and, often, a figure to die for.

What they don’t have is equality: France ranks 46th in the World Economic Forum’s 2010 gender equality report, trailing the United States, most of Europe, but also Kazakhstan and Jamaica. Eighty-two percent of French women aged 25-49 work, many of them full-time, but 82 percent of parliamentary seats are occupied by men. French women earn 26 percent less than men but spend twice as much time on domestic tasks. They have the most babies in Europe, but are also the biggest consumers of anti-depressants.

A recent 22-country survey by the Pew Research Center summed it up: three in four French people believe men have a better life than women, by far the highest share in any country polled.

“French women are exhausted,” said Valérie Toranian, editor-in-chief of Elle magazine in France. “We have the right to do what men do — as long as we also take care of the children, cook a delicious dinner and look immaculate. We have to be superwoman.”

Read more here.


December 9, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

To Blend or Not to Blend?

Interesting piece from the NY Times on blending, or choosing not to blend, families:

BEGIN with one formerly married couple and an amicable divorce. (Don’t snort, it happens.) Add children, maybe two or three. Give each former spouse a new partner. Perhaps the new partners have children, too. Add them. Oh, and the new partners’ exes. Factor in an equitable (say, nearly 50-50) physical custody arrangement for all the parties.

What do you have? For many couples, it’s a complex data set in search of an equally complex algorithm to tame it. Do they move in together, mixing developing teenagers like snarling cats in a bag? Or are they risk-averse, maintaining separate households and seeing one another on the odd weekend?

Or perhaps they are fortunate enough to establish some sort of contiguous living arrangement, like the members of the Curtis-Hetfield-Petrini household, who have as irresistible a scenario as anyone could devise.

It is a post-divorce living arrangement — you might call it the unblended or partly blended family — that some couples are pursuing to promote the well-being (and sanity) of children and adults.

The old, Brady Bunch stepfamily model — the so-called “blended family” — has long been out of favor. Indeed, the term is almost universally loathed by family therapists for the unrealistic expectations it promotes of previously unrelated children blending harmoniously with one another and a new adult, and the disjunction between that rosy vision and the more prickly reality that is stepfamily life.

Into the breach pour all manner of scenarios: stepfamilies whose children move in and out of the home following various custody decisions; the nesters, whose children remain in the family home, while the parents move in and out on a schedule; the partial-blenders, like Ms. Curtis and Mr. Petrini; and the Living Apart Togethers, or L.A.T.’s, to use the term for couples who maintain entirely separate residences.

“Children are a disincentive to marry or cohabit,” Dr. Stewart said. “It’s why fewer women marry after divorce than men.”

But what’s really driving the practice of committed couples with children living in separate abodes, Dr. Stewart continued, “is that middle- and upper-income women have their own money and independence. They are working, and can live on their own.”

“We know that kids with two married parents do better,” she said. “A lot of that can be explained by other factors like income or residential stability. For example, there is very little difference in the well-being of children from single-mother households and a household with a mother and a stepfather. But it’s one more layer of complexity.”

And couples who remarry have a 60 percent chance of divorcing; some demographers put that figure closer to 70 percent when one or both of the spouses have children from a prior relationship.

“Not cohabiting is a way of having a relationship when there’s a lot of obstacles,” Dr. Stewart said. “Not all women can do this, of course. It makes more economic sense to share resources. If I didn’t have enough money to live on my own, Chris wouldn’t be the best partner for me.”

Yet the economy is one factor freezing some new couples in place and apart.

Family therapists like to think of the state of maintaining separate residences as a temporary one, a transition toward moving in together, except in extreme situations.

On the other hand, cautioned Ms. Friedman, who has a Ph.D. in social work: “Looking at this from family systems therapy, which emphasizes working through family dynamics to a resolution, a couple can’t completely unify when the dividing line is literally at the front door. While it’s beautiful to put your children’s emotional and physical needs paramount, by denying a bonded relationship with a new partner or spouse, you are sending a clear message to the children that they don’t have to adjust to new, possibly difficult scenarios and that the parent will defer to the child through sacrifice and martyrdom.”

Read the full article here.


December 8, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bix: “Private Ordering and Family Law”

Brian Bix (University of Minnesota Law School) has posted Private Ordering and Family Law, Journal of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (forthcoming 2010) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Until recently in American family law (and the family law of most countries), private arrangements to alter the legal rules surrounding family status were rarely enforced. There was, of course, “private ordering” of a basic sort: e.g., one chose whether to marry or not, and whom to marry, but once one married, the legally enforceable rules of marriage, the ability to exit through divorce or annulment, the financial obligations upon divorce, and so on, were all set by the state, which might also limit the power of the parties to distribute their own property upon death, as with a spouse’s “statutory share.” Similarly with parenthood: one could choose whether to have (and whether to adopt) children, but once one was a parent, one’s obligations and rights were set by the state, which would also determine the limited circumstances and set terms under which one could surrender parental rights to a child.

Much has changed in recent decades, with American states increasingly allowing different types of private ordering in a range of different family law areas. One can speak of premarital agreements, marital agreements, separation agreements, open adoption agreements, co-parenting agreements, agreements on the disposition of frozen embryos, and agreements to arbitrate disputes arising out of any of the above agreements. This article offers an overview of the changes and limits to private ordering in American family law, while considering the extent to which these changes have been a positive development.



December 8, 2010 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

We Still Believe

From CNN on the role education plays in attitudes about marriage:

The 2010 edition of "The State of Our Unions" -- a report on attitudes toward marriage -- indicates highly educated Americans are "embracing a pro-marriage mindset" even as middle Americans lose faith in the institution. That shift resembles trends normally seen in the poor, where marriage is "fragile and weak," according to the report, issued Monday

The findings show moderately educated women, or those with a high school diploma and some post-secondary education but no four-year degree, are choosing the single life more often these days, especially when it comes to becoming a mother.

According to the report, "in the early '80s, 13% of babies of moderately educated mothers and 33% of babies of least-educated mothers were born outside of marriage, while 2% were born to highly educated mothers.''

In recent years, the numbers soared to 44% for moderately educated mothers and 54% for the least educated mothers. For mothers with a four-year college degree, births outside of marriage increased to only 6%.

Highly educated women also are getting married more and staying in those relationships longer, according to the report, which suggests this is a "striking reversal of historic trends"

The report cites an adherence to a "marriage mindset," which means religious attendance and faith in marriage is now a way of life for the highly educated.

Three national surveys were used to compile the final report. They were the General Social Survey, which conducts basic scientific research on the structure and development of American society; the National Survey of Family Growth, which gathers information on family life, marriage and divorce, pregnancy, infertility, use of contraception, and men's and women's health; and the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a federally funded program at the University of North Carolina.

Read more here.


December 7, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Can it really be THAT bad out there?

...that you have to marry yourself?  That's what a Taiwanese woman did.  Read about it here.


December 7, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Choudhury: "Exporting Subjects: Globalizing Family Law Progress Through International Human Rights"

Cyra Akila Choudhury (Florida International University College of Law) has posted "Exporting Subjects: Globalizing Family Law Progress Through International Human Rights" (32 Michigan J. of Int'l Law) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

This article examines the global export of domestic U.S. legal projects and strategies in the realm of family law and gender justice to South Asia. While such projects have undoubtedly achieved substantial gains for women in the U.S., there have also been costs. At a remove of two decades, scholars have now begun to theorize those costs and argue that feminism needs to reconsider its commitments to particular projects that have been held central to women’s emancipation. Yet much of these critiques have not reached the transnational women’s movements that are led by U.S. feminist activists and scholars. Relying on Liberal notions of personhood or subjectivity and progress, U.S. transnational feminists continue to export those subjects and projects now being critiqued at home to the Global South. The primary means by which this export occurs is through the conflation of domestic family law with women’s rights as “human rights.” Indeed, international human rights provide a convenient discursive and structural vehicle to achieve this export. However, within local contexts, such Liberal projects are often met with resistance and reshaped in ways that may not make sense to women in the North. Moreover, women in the South have articulated a different set of priorities focused on economic distribution and development that are often ignored by women’s rights activists in the North. This has to do with a general discomfort with economic redistribution inherent in Liberal theory as it has evolved in the U.S., as well as with the more traditional focus on civil and political rights. The aim of the article is to highlight the difficulties of exporting notions of personhood and progress and to argue for a reorientation of transnational feminism in a manner that adopts the priorities of local women in the Global South and not just their elites.


December 6, 2010 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)