Family Law Prof Blog

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

Saturday, March 13, 2010

$30k for Nursing the Wrong Child?

That is the amount of damages a Chicago couple is seeking for briefly being given the wrong baby at the hospital following delivery in a story resembling the latest episode of The Office

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

The day after her son was born, Jennifer Spiegel was awakened about 4 a.m. in her Evanston Hospital room and told by a staffer, "Your baby wants you."

A patient-care technician then wheeled a newborn in and handed him to Spiegel, who breast-fed him.

Jennifer Spiegel says her obstetrician told her there was only a slim chance of the baby or her passing each other a disease or virus.

And while no one was injured or sickened, the Chicago couple says the hospital should be held responsible for the mix-up. They are seeking at least $30,000 in damages.

Read the rest here.


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

Friday, March 12, 2010

Hafemeister: "Castles Made of Sand? Rediscovering Child Abuse and Society’s Response "

Thomas Hafemeister (University of Virginia School of Law) has posted "Castles Made of Sand? Rediscovering Child Abuse and Society’s Response " (forthcoming Ohio North Univ. L. Rev.) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

It has long been recognized that stress, unemployment, and financial problems are risk factors for child abuse. Not surprisingly, as the economy has deteriorated, reports of and attention to child abuse have increased. Society has come a long way from the “Mary Ellen Wilson” era of the 1870s when the detection of child abuse was sporadic and random, with poorly-suited tools borrowed to craft a response. But child abuse has now for almost 150 years been widely recognized as a recurrent, pervasive problem with potentially tragic short- and long-term consequences for a staggering number of children that calls for a well conceived and executed societal response. The consensus is, however, that society is neither adequately preventing or identifying child abuse, nor appropriately responding to the needs of abused children. This Article provides an extensive and comprehensive review of society’s response to child abuse, including legislative efforts to redress it. In particular, this Article describes (1) the nature and impact of child abuse and the factors that contribute to it, (2) the evolution of this country’s response to child abuse and how we currently address it, and (3) how this country can and must do better. As has often been noted, a society should be measured by how well it treats its most vulnerable citizens. Preventing and appropriately responding to child abuse should be at the top of any ordered society’s agenda.


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

Babies’ DNA Stored Indefinitely by the Government without Consent

A recent CNN report raises privacy concerns regarding children’s genetic information.

From CNN:

 …Newborn babies in the United States are routinely screened for a panel of genetic diseases.  Since the testing is mandated by the government, it's often done without the parents' consent, according to Brad Therrell, director of the National Newborn Screening & Genetics Resource Center.

In many states, such as Florida, where Isabel was born, babies' DNA is stored indefinitely, according to the resource center.

Many parents don't realize their baby's DNA is being stored in a government lab, but sometimes when they find out, as the Browns did, they take action. Parents in Texas, and Minnesota have filed lawsuits, and these parents' concerns are sparking a new debate about whether it's appropriate for a baby's genetic blueprint to be in the government's possession.

Read the rest here.


March 12, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

King: "U.S. Immigration Law and the Traditional Nuclear Conception of Family: Toward a Functional Definition of Family that Protects Children's Fundamental Human Rights "

Shani King (University of Florida College of Law) has posted "U.S. Immigration Law and the Traditional Nuclear Conception of Family: Toward a Functional Definition of Family that Protects Children's Fundamental Human Rights " (forthcoming Columbia Human Rights L. Rev.) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

In this Article, the author exposes how Congress, by failing to protect functional families in the context of immigration law, has failed to follow human rights law in a way that is meaningful to children and that honors its own highly valued principles of family preservation. Although the paramount purpose of U.S. immigration law is not, admittedly, to protect the integrity of family, Congress does explicitly aim to do so in certain circumstances. But even where Congress aims to further family unity, it fails desperately because U.S. immigration law reflects a legal construction that is grounded in the traditional conception of a nuclear family and excludes what the author calls “functional” families: formations which may not satisfy this narrow conception, but satisfy the caretaking needs of children. By exploring current statutes and recent cases in the areas of family-based immigration, cancellation of removal based on family, and the Immigration and Nationality Act’s refugee provisions, the author illustrates that U.S. immigration law fails to recognize functional families and thereby ignores a child’s right to family as provided for by international law. The author also engages in a comprehensive exploration of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its interpretation, with an eye towards the historical evolution of the definition of family in relevant international instruments, while comprehensively exploring the extension of rights and protections to functional families under international human rights instruments in Europe and the Americas.


March 11, 2010 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Gottman & Silver: “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert”

I recently ran across an interesting empirical study of marriage, originally published in 1999.  The book is John M. Gottman & Nan Silver’s The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert.  Interestingly, Gottman (emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Washington & co-founder of The Gottman Institute) says that it only takes him 5 minutes to predict—with a whopping 91% accuracy—which couples will eventually divorce.  He developed this skill after studying hundreds of couples in his “love lab,” sharing his insight and lessons in the book.

Check out the book here on Amazon, or a blog interview with Gottman here.

Interesting tidbits from the blog interview linked above:

Another puzzle I'm working on is just what happens when a baby enters a relationship. Our study shows that the majority (67%) of couples have a precipitous drop in relationship happiness in the first 3 years of their first baby's life. That's tragic in terms of the climate of inter-parental hostility and depression that the baby grows up in.


Science comes into the study of families and relationships because a scientist always admits to profound ignorance, doesn't presume to know about these things, takes this ignorance and goes to the people and observes them in situations that are vitally important — when people are having dinner, when they meet at the end of the day, when they are in the bedrooms cuddling, when they're having sex, when they're interacting with their babies — in these very important moments, a scientist without preconceptions observes and tries to understand — interviews people, measures their physiology, and tries to get at their inner experience. And then creates mathematical models that provide theoretical understanding of all these processes.


So far I believe we're going to find that respect and affection are essential to all relationships working and contempt destroys them. It may differ from culture to culture how to communicate respect, and how to communicate affection, and how not to do it, but I think we'll find that those are universal things.


Hat Tip: S.H.

March 11, 2010 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Woodhouse: "A World Fit for Children is a World Fit for Everyone: Ecogenerism, Feminism, and Vulnerability "

Barbara Bennett Woodhouse (Emory School of Law) has posted "A World Fit for Children is a World Fit for Everyone: Ecogenerism, Feminism, and Vulnerability" on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

This article explores the relationship between feminist theory and ecogenerist theory. Ecogenerism is a child-centered, ecologically grounded jurisprudence inspired by feminist methods and the ecological approach of developmental psychology. The author argues that feminism and child-centered jurisprudence need not be seen as antagonistic. Their methods and goals are not in tension but rather complementary. Women and children are both embedded in a larger political and social environment that can be shaped to meet their shared needs or to ignore them. To illustrate this , the author compares the ecology of early childhood in the United States and in Italy. She shows how family supportive structures and attention to both children’s and women’s rights benefits both women and children. She draws upon Martha Fineman’s work on “The Vulnerable Subject,” in which Fineman argues that vulnerability not autonomy is the most universal aspect of human experience. Viewed through the lens of our shared vulnerability, the task of law is to mitigate harms and foster interdependency. Both feminism and ecogenerism demand a focus on those “positive human rights” necessary to create social and political environments that are friendly to both women and children.


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

Invest a Divorce Settlement... avoid the dilemma facing Paul McCartney's ex-wife Heather Mills.

From BankFiesta:

According to multiple outlets, Heather Mills, ex-wife of Paul McCartney, has managed to burn through $54.5 million dollars in less than two years.  Heather received the funds in her divorce from McCartney in 2008.

Heather claims that plenty of the money was given to charities or “ethical businesses” and she also paid for a couple properties for her daughter.

Just to put this in perspective.  In order to go through that much money she’d have to have a burn rate of $2.27 million dollars a MONTH.

Read more here.


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

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Effect of Military Deployment on Child Custody

Controversy is heating up over a bill pending in Congress which would preclude courts from considering possible military deployment of a parent when considering the best interest of the child in a custody case and would force courts to review any temporary custody changes made for deployment when the service member returns home.  While a number of Veterans Affairs group are supporting the bill, the American Bar Association has expressed opposition.

Patricia Apy, who heads ABA’s committee on military family law, called the bill “well-motivated but not well-considered” and cautioned that it is “unnecessary at best and harmful at worst.”

In the worst case, she warned, it would introduce the possibility of child custody lawsuits in federal courts, something currently handled under state law. It also could create unintended consequences that might leave some military parents unprotected — such as someone on an unaccompanied tour that is not part of a contingency operation or on a routine deployment such as aboard a Navy ship.

Read the bill here or more news coverage here.


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

Criminalizing Reckless Miscarriage in Utah Halted

From the New York Times:

DENVER— A sweeping anti-abortion statute in Utah that would have allowed up to life in prison for a woman whose fetus died from her intentional or reckless behavior was withdrawn by its sponsor on Thursday and will be revised to be narrower in scope.

The original bill, which was sent to Gov. Gary R. Herbert, a Republican, for his consideration — and set off a firestorm of anxiety and criticism from abortion rights and women’s advocacy groups around the country — now goes back to the Legislature, neither signed nor vetoed.

Read more here.


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

Monday, March 8, 2010

Practicing Family Law = Big Money???

Sounds like it's good, at least for a select few, to be a family law attorney these days.

[Los Angeles Dodgers owners] Frank and Jamie McCourt's divorce could become one of the costliest splits in California history, with attorneys and accountants commanding as much as $19 million in fees — more than the Dodgers will spend on their starting infield this season.

Frank McCourt has estimated his "divorce-related expenses" at $5 million to $10 million, according to court filings. Jamie McCourt has estimated her expenses at $9 million — and asked that her estranged husband be ordered to pay them.

Although records of salaries and statistics are omnipresent in baseball, specific information about divorce costs is largely unavailable. The Times consulted with several family law experts, none of whom could recall a divorce costing $19 million.

"I'm pretty sure there's not been any litigation in a California divorce where they've spent so much on attorneys' fees," said Lynn Soodik, a Santa Monica family law attorney who represented Meg Ryan in her divorce from Dennis Quaid.

Soodik said it was "very unusual" that each of the McCourts has retained multiple law firms. Seven lawyers appeared in court last month for a hearing on whether to postpone the trial date, on the same day other lawyers in the case were said to be conducting a deposition of Jamie McCourt.

Connolly Oyler, another Santa Monica attorney with experience in celebrity divorces, said a total cost of $5 million would be "consistent with most high-profile cases."

Jamie McCourt has asked that Frank pay $8.5 million to two law firms and another $500,000 to the accountants retained to unravel the couple's finances. In a deposition filed last month, Jeff Ingram, the chief operating officer of the McCourt Group, testified that Frank McCourt could need $5 million to $10 million to pay the lawyers and accountants working on his behalf.

Read more here.


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

Battle Over Daughter’s Religion

Last week, “20/20” featured Joseph Reyes, a law student at John Marshall law school who was accused of violating a court order by exposing his daughter to Catholicism without his Jewish ex-wife’s consent.  He had taken the girl to church and, earlier, had baptized her.  In case you missed the broadcast, an excerpt and description of the case is available here, and more information on the case is available here.  No doubt, it is a sad story illustrating the problems of parental autonomy following divorce.


March 8, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Pressures Facing Working Women

The Washington Post reports on South Korean women's choice to put off marriage and family in order to work, and the corresponding birth rate decline.

In a full-page newspaper advertisement headlined "I Am a Bad Woman," Hwang Myoung-eun explained the trauma of being a working mom in South Korea.  

"I may be a good employee, but to my family I am a failure," wrote Hwang, a marketing executive and mother of a 6-year-old son. "In their eyes, I am a bad daughter-in-law, bad wife and bad mother."

The highly unusual ad gave voice to the resentment and repressed anger that are common to working women across South Korea.

In a country where people work more and sleep less than anywhere else in the developed world, women are often elbowed away from rewards in their professional lives. If they have a job, they make 38 percent less money than men, the largest gender gap in the developed world. If they become pregnant, they are pressured at work not to take legally guaranteed maternity leave.

Most South Korean corporations do little to accommodate working mothers -- or working fathers, experts say. South Korean law allows a full year of subsidized parental leave, but intense peer pressure at work means that working mothers usually take little time off, according to government surveys. Only about 35,000 parents in this country of 49 million people took advantage of child-care leave subsidies last year.

"The longer leave they take, the less the likelihood of getting their old job back, even though that is illegal," said Yoo Gye-sook, an associate professor of family studies at Kyung Hee University in Seoul. "Flextime is frowned on by human-resources managers. They feel that company discipline might erode."

To lower stress as they climb corporate ladders, women in South Korea are postponing marriage and motherhood. The number of unmarried women in their 20s and 30s is surging. For three years running, South Korea has had the world's lowest birthrate, according to the U.N. World Health Organization.

The no-husband, no-baby trend has become a demographic epidemic in East Asia. Among the 10 countries or territories with the world's lowest fertility rates, six are in the Asia-Pacific region, according to a 2008 CIA ranking. From Japan to Singapore, the percentage of women who remain single into their mid-30s is rising at historically unprecedented rates. In South Korea, the percentage of unmarried women ages 30 to 34 nearly doubled in the past five years, rising to 19 percent from 10.5 percent.

Read the full story here.


March 7, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)