Family Law Prof Blog

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

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Child Slavery in Haiti

An astounding new report suggests that because of poverty, at least 225,000 children in Haiti, two-third girls, have been sent into slavery as unpaid household servants, known as “restavek.”  Some of these children—especially girls—also suffer sexual, psychological, and physical abuse.  Counter-logically, 11% of families with a restavek have sent their own children into domestic servitude elsewhere.  Read more here.


January 9, 2010 in Child Abuse | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Hatcher: Collateral Children: Consequences and Illegality at the Intersection of Foster Care and Child Support

Daniel L. Hatcher (University of Baltimore School of Law) has published "Collateral Children:  Consequence and Illegality at the Intersection of Foster Care and Child Support," 74 Brook. L. Rev. 1333(2009).  Here is the abstract from SSRN:

This Article is the third in a series addressing the conflict between state revenue maximization strategies and the missions of state agencies serving low-income children. The Article examines the policy of foster care cost recovery through child support enforcement. When children are removed from poor families and placed in foster care, federal law requires child welfare agencies to initiate child support obligations against the parents. Resulting payments do not benefit the children but are converted into a government funding stream to reimburse the costs of foster care. This cost recovery effort often subordinates the child welfare system’s primary goals of protecting the interests of children and simultaneously strengthening and preserving families to the bureaucratic focus on replenishing government revenue. No such federal cost recovery requirement exists when children are removed from well off families. The policy targets parents whose children were often removed due to the circumstances of poverty, and the neglect that results. Already impoverished parents are further burdened by government owed child support obligations, hampering their struggle to reunify with their children. Federally required case plans intended to aid reunification are illegally converted into debt collection tools. And as the reunification efforts falter, an unconstitutional practice emerges: terminating parental rights for a government-owed debt. This Article reveals the framework and policy implications, and uncovers the illegality, when the core missions of child welfare agencies are diverted towards a self-interested fiscal pursuit.


January 8, 2010 in Child Support Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Gender Selection Technology More Common

It seems that selecting for a baby’s gender is becoming increasingly common.  Interestingly, according to one fertility expert in Los Angeles,"China is strongly in favor of boys, as we would suspect. India, strongly in favor of boys. But when you look at the world in general, it’s 50-50.”  Read more here.


January 8, 2010 in Alternative Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

In Chambers Examination of Children in TPR Case Violates Due Process

A Michigan Court of Appeals recently ruled that an unrecorded in camera interview with 4 children involved in a proceeding to terminate their parents' rights resulted in a due process violation.

The family involved in these proceedings has a protracted history with protected services.Before the petition was filed in the instant matter, the family had been referred to protective services 24 times. These referrals concerned allegations of physical abuse, truancy, or physical and educational neglect. Physical abuse was suspected because the male children often had bruises, while physical neglect was suspected because the children often came to school improperly dressed or having poor hygiene. In addition, the children missed school often, approximately 20 to 30 days per year, and arrived to school late without excuses. There were also ongoing concerns regarding suspected medical and educational neglect of one child, S.H.C., who was deaf and had very little knowledge of American Sign Language (ASL).

A petition was filed to terminate parental rights based on allegations of sexual abuse, physical abuse, and educational neglect.  Before making the decision to terminate parental rights, the court conducted in camera interviews with all 4 children to determine whether the TPR would be in the children's best interests.  Distinguishing custody disputes and other family law matters in which in camera examinations are permitted, the court held that:

given the fundamental parental rights involved in termination proceedings, the risk of an erroneous deprivation of those rights given the in camera procedure, and the fact that the information is otherwise easily obtained, it is clear that the child’s interest in avoiding the discomfort caused by testifying in open court does not outweigh the parents’ interest in having the child testify on the record. Thus, it is our view that the use of an unrecorded and off the record in camera interview in the context of a juvenile proceeding, for whatever purpose, constitutes a violation of parents’ fundamental due process rights.

Read the opinion here.


January 7, 2010 in Termination of Parental Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Domestic Violence Division Created in Cook County

Some changes are planned in Chicagoland courts for the New Year.  From the Chicago Tribune:

The chief judge of Cook County Circuit Court is creating a domestic violence division to try to improve communication among judges and ensure that abuse victims don't fall through the cracks.

Chief Judge Timothy Evans said he favors other recommendations made by a task force -- such as hiring new judges, strengthening sanctions against offenders and improving the intake of victims who turn to the court system for help. But he said he held off on those reforms until he gets more feedback from key players in the court system.

"There are no easy answers, but I want to make people safer," Evans said Tuesday.

The reforms come nearly a year after the Tribune found that certain victims had been killed by their abusers in spite of seeking legal protection and that less than one-sixth of domestic-violence cases brought each year in Cook County result in convictions.

Under the new domestic violence division to be launched in mid-January, all judges who handle domestic violence-related cases will report to a single presiding judge, Evans said.

Read more here.


January 7, 2010 in Domestic Violence | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Embattled Congressman's Wife Alleges Ownership of Funds Sought under Forfeiture Order

The wife of former Representative William Jefferson, convicted in August in federal court on 11 counts of corruption (see here), is alleging ownership of the proceeds of certain assets the government has sought to seize as restitution for the Congressman's crimes under Louisiana's community property rules.

Federal Judge T.S. Ellis III ruled in November that Jefferson, who was convicted on 11 of 16 corruption charges, must forfeit $470,653 the government says he obtained through the illegal activities at the core of the guilty verdicts.

David Smith, Andrea Jefferson's attorney, said because Louisiana is a community property state, a spouse is entitled to half her mate's assets.

Smith said the Justice Department has already agreed to let Andrea Jefferson keep half the $380,000 in the former congressman's thrift savings account that the government has sought under the forfeiture order. But Smith said Andrea Jefferson also wants half the $15,000 deposited in a bank account for the Nigerian telecommunications project her husband championed and half the proceeds of a buyout agreement from William Jefferson's former New Orleans law firm. The buyout amount is a $200,000, according to a bankruptcy filing by the couple.

I suspect the $90,000 the feds found in Jefferson's home freezer is community property also!

Read the full story here.


January 6, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

No Court-Martial for Pregnant Soldiers

In November, Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo announced a policy that would permit the court-martial of soldiers who became pregnant and those who caused the impregnation.  Last month, however, Maj. Gen. Cucolo clarified his policy, saying that he was not going to jail these soldiers.  Instead, the women soldiers would be sent home, as usual, with letters of reprimand—letters which their sexual partners would receive if soldiers, as well.  Read more here and here.


January 6, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Divorced at 10 Years Old

The BBC reports on a Yemeni child bride who fought for, and miraculously received, a divorce from her 30 year-old husband.

She had not even known she was to be married on the day of her wedding. With her father's consent, she was brought by her future husband to his village where his family laid on a big ceremony. Afterwards, when she saw everyone leaving, she wanted them to drive her back home but was told by her new husband that she was married.

She took advantage of the absence of her father, her mother, her stepmother and her elder brothers to take a bus and a taxi to the court. The judge took her home to his own house and family where she stayed for three days, being treated kindly. He then sent her with an escort to her parents' house. Her parents were not in but one of her sisters passed on the message that she had gone to court for a divorce.

After her father and her new husband came to the court themselves, they were arrested and sentenced to 10 days and 15 days in prison respectively. A few weeks later, the judge granted the divorce. Her husband was led into the court for the ruling but said nothing to her.

Read the full story here.


January 5, 2010 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Custody Battle of Same-Sex Couple in VT Intensifying

With the Brazilian custody dispute recently resolved (see here), the media has been focusing on another one that has been ratcheting up, with the child recently gone missing. 

From the Associated Press:

MONTPELIER, Vt. – A Vermont woman locked in a child custody battle with a former partner who has since renounced homosexuality asked a judge Monday to hold her ex in contempt and help find her and their 7-year-old daughter.

A lawyer for Janet Jenkins filed an emergency motion for contempt for not surrendering the couple's daughter, Isabella Miller-Jenkins, on Friday.

The motion seeks court sanctions and the assistance of law enforcement in locating Lisa Miller, whose last known address was Forest, Va., but whose whereabouts are now unknown.

Read more here.


Hat Tip: Elizabeth MacDowell

January 5, 2010 in Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Call for Proposals for Conference on Child Representation

Representing Children: Ethical and Practical Problems, April 2-3, 2010, Oregon Child Advocacy Project, University of Oregon School of Law, Eugene, Oregon


Representing children charged with delinquent acts or who are the subjects of child custody disputes or juvenile court dependency proceedings presents a host of issues in addition to the perennial favorite, whether to advocate for a child's expressed wishes or best interests.  This conference seeks papers that explore these issues.  Papers already have been published or may be works in progress.  Possible topics might include:

·        Client counseling and the best interests/expressed wishes dilemma;

·        Competence to stand trial as an alternate approach to the best interests/expressed wishes issue;

·        Scope of representation of a child's court-appointed lawyer—If a child in state custody may have a tort claim against the state, what can the lawyer do?  What must the lawyer do?

·        Representing siblings—current and former client conflicts of interest;

·        Confidentiality and the child client—who can you talk to and what can you tell them?

·        Impaired adult clients—who can ask for a guardian ad litem and what happens if you don't?


Please submit your proposal to by Jan. 25, 2010.  For more information, please contact Leslie Harris at


January 4, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Honor Killings on Rise in England

But hopefully, the New Year will see a dramatic decrease in these honor crimes.  From the London Evening Standard:

In the financial year 2007/08, a total of 161 incidents, including 93 criminal offences, were reported to police. The rest were “non-crimes” such as intimidation or attempts at forced marriage.

But the following year the number had jumped to 256, of which 132 were criminal offences. And 211 incidents have already been reported in the first six months of this financial year, of which 129 were offences.

This number is more than double the same period last year. There have been a series of horrific attacks which police suspect were motivated by “honour” within the family or community.

Read more here.


January 4, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Hope Cheating Spouse's Lover is Rich

That's the advice from CNN, which recently did a whole story on the old tort of alienation of affection.  This allows a spouse to sue the other spouse's lover.  I suppose to maximize revenge, one should collect a huge divorce settlement in addition to a good alienation of affection settlement.  Read more here.


January 3, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)