Family Law Prof Blog

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

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Who Wants a Pony When She Can Have Baby’s First Office Cubicle?

Adam Frucci at, in referring to a new office-cubicle-like computer toy for toddlers, asks: “Baby’s First Cubicle: The Most Depressing Toy Ever?”  Check it out here and see for yourself.  Commentators on the site also uploaded a “Girls Only: My Cleaning Trolley” picture.  Whatever happened to blocks and picture books?



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

Friday, May 14, 2010

Blame it on the Genes

New research is helping to flesh out whether there might be genetic and biological factors at play in influencing marital stability:

Why do some men and women cheat on their partners while others resist the temptation?

To find the answer, a growing body of research is focusing on the science of commitment. Scientists are studying everything from the biological factors that seem to influence marital stability to a person’s psychological response after flirting with a stranger.

Their findings suggest that while some people may be naturally more resistant to temptation, men and women can also train themselves to protect their relationships and raise their feelings of commitment.

Recent studies have raised questions about whether genetic factors may influence commitment and marital stability. Hasse Walum, a biologist at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, studied 552 sets of twins to learn more about a gene related to the body’s regulation of the brain chemical vasopressin, a bonding hormone.

Over all, men who carried a variation in the gene were less likely to be married, and those who had wed were more likely to have had serious marital problems and unhappy wives. Among men who carried two copies of the gene variant, about a third had experienced a serious relationship crisis in the past year, double the number seen in the men who did not carry the variant.

Although the trait is often called the “fidelity gene,” Mr. Walum called that a misnomer: his research focused on marital stability, not faithfulness. “It’s difficult to use this information to predict any future behavior in men,” he told me. Now he and his colleagues are working to replicate the findings and conducting similar research in women.

While there may be genetic differences that influence commitment, other studies suggest that the brain can be trained to resist temptation.

Read more here.


May 14, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Parental Alienation Acknowledged in NJ

A New Jersey court of appeals recently ruled that, in extreme situations of parental alienation, parents could sue each other for intentional infliction of emotional distress.  Read the case here and news commentary here.


May 14, 2010 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Male Birth Control Pill?

According to this CNN story, it is still "5 to 10 years away . . .":

"The joke in the field is: The male pill's been five to 10 years away for the last 30 years," said Dr. John Amory, researcher at the University of Washington.

Researchers have been promising a male hormonal contraceptive option for a long time, but there are good reasons why it's so hard to get that technology right. While women make one egg a month, men produce about 1,000 sperm every second, Amory said.

"It proves more difficult to shut down that level of production," he said.

The female pill uses hormones to make the woman's brain think she is pregnant and turns off egg production. But men don't have periods where they turn off sperm production, so it's harder to get them into that state, he said.

The male hormonal methods in progress uses a combination of testosterone and progestin, which turn off signals from the brain to the testes. Approximately 3,000 men have been enrolled across more than 30 studies on the topic over the last 30 years.

About two-thirds of men who have had hormone injections suppress sperm production totally, and in 90 percent overall, it's very low. For the remaining 10 percent, however, it does not adequately protect against possible pregnancy.

But a large study on more than 1,000 men in China, published in 2009 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, showed more than 95 percent efficacy for hormonal injections in men. Men received the injections and relied on them as the sole method of contraception; researchers looked at whether the couples got pregnant.

It's unclear why hormonal contraceptives appear to work better in men in China than in the United States, he said.

"It's something to do presumably with the genetics of the Chinese," Amory said. The regulatory agencies have not approved this method in China, he said.

Male contraceptive gels and injections are farther along than the pill in clinical trials because they're easier to dose, Amory said.

The gel, in phase 2 trials looking at efficacy, absorbs across the skin of the arm, chest or upper back, akin to putting on sunscreen, he said. Phase 3 would be large-scale trials.

"It could be very effective in preventing pregnancy, but if there isn't a clear market for it, companies understandably are a little reluctant to invest heavily in it," said Andrea Tone, professor of history at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Tone has written extensively about the history of contraceptives.

Researchers are also working on an at-home sperm count test, similar to a pregnancy test, so that men (and their female partners) would be able to see that the hormonal contraception is working, Amory said.

There has also been talk of a spray-on condom, which began testing in 2007. It works by spraying liquid latex over the penis, ensuring a perfect fit. The challenge, however, is getting the latex to dry fast enough.

Read more here.


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

Appell: “Controlling for Kin: Ghosts in the Postmodern Family”

Annette Ruth Appell (Washington University School of Law in St. Louis) has posted Controlling for Kin: Ghosts in the Postmodern Family, 25 Wisconsin Women's Law Journal__(2010) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

 This Article illustrates a paradox in the regulation of families. On the one hand, jurisprudence sanctions biological connection to promote liberty and the private production of value and culture, including the protection of the freedom of non-normative parents to parent. At the same time, however, this regulation serves as a restrictive paradigm for family composition, rigidly adhering to a biologically-evocative two parent maximum that fails to reflect the intricacies of private ordering or political constructions of biological connection. The legal and social disruption of these connections exposes their structural and subjective materiality to individual and group identity and challenges conventional notions of the two-parent family that continue to dominate postmodern family doctrine and theory.

 The Article deploys the gendered and racial history and development of adoption law and the lived experience of adoption’s constituents to illustrate the perils and promise of the new postmodern families. Although this critique commends the new regulatory schemes for legitimating lesbian and gay family formation, assisted reproduction, and stepparent-child relationships, it problematizes the exclusive bionormativity of this regulation and suggests that the law should recognize and even legitimate the porousness of these new families. The article proposes a unique and perhaps controversial approach to kinship that pushes against current regulatory trends that privilege social relations at the expense of biological connections.


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

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Polikoff: "A Mother Should Not Have to Adopt Her Own Child: Parentage Laws for Children of Lesbian Couples in the Twenty-First Century"

Nancy Polikoff (American University Washington College of Law) has posted "A Mother Should Not Have to Adopt Her Own Child: Parentage Laws for Children of Lesbian Couples in the Twenty-First Century" (Stanford Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

When lesbian couples plan for a child together, the resulting child has two mothers. For more than 20 years, lesbians in states that allow second-parent adoption have considered themselves fortunate to have that option for establishing the legal relationship between the child and his/her biological mother. But the partner of the birth mother should not have to adopt that child, just as the husband of a child who gives birth through donor insemination does not have to adopt the resulting child; the law makes him the child’s legal parent. This article proposes statutory reform that creates parentage for both mothers without requiring an adoption. The article demonstrates that establishing a child’s legal parents has always been a question of law, not biology; defining when the female partner of a woman who gives birth is a parent is an ordinary evolution of, not a radical departure from, the law of parentage. The article then reviews existing state statutes, laws in other countries, and model laws that result in parentage for both of a child’s mothers. It then describes in detail the parentage statute enacted in 2009 in the District of Columbia. That statute creates parentage for a person who consents to a woman’s insemination with the intent to parent and provides for issuance of a birth certificate with the names of both mothers. It also establishes a parentage presumption when a child is born to a woman who is married or in a registered domestic partnership; identifies when that presumption can be rebutted; and provides courts with a standard for determining parentage when there are there are competing presumptions. Finally, the article addresses concerns about portability of parentage status and acknowledges that either a court order of parentage or an adoption decree is still necessary to guarantee that other states will accord the parent-child relationship Full Faith and Credit.


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

Beautiful Women Unhealthy for Men?

A new study suggests that men get stressed around beautiful women because of a perceived courtship opportunity.  The increased levels of cortisol—the body’s stress hormone—just after 5 minutes of being around a beautiful woman can worsen medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and impotency.  Read more here.


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

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sandra Bullock and Transracial Adoption

I really enjoyed this CNN discussion of transracial adoption.  I was particularly interested by the comment that people over 40 are more likely to have concerns about this type of family.  It rings true for me, but I wonder how others feel about it.  Comment below!


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

Carroll: “Re-Regulating the Baby Market: A Call for a Ban on Payment of Birth Mother Living Expenses”

Andrea Beauchamp Carroll (Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge) has posted Re-Regulating the Baby Market: A Call for a Ban on Payment of Birth Mother Living Expenses, Kansas Law Review (forthcoming) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

More than fifty years ago, state law on domestic infant adoption changed to uniformly prohibit the practice of baby selling, a development that eliminated the “black market” for babies that many argued previously existed. Nonetheless, one need not look far to find that the United States’ domestic adoption system is broken even today, and the cost structure of the domestic adoption scheme is the greatest offender. A domestic adoption currently costs in the neighborhood of $40,0000, with the vast majority of the associated expenses coming not from the payment of any professional fees, but rather from the payment of living expenses to the expectant birth mother. Adoptive parents typically front these monies, under the sanction of state law authorizing such expenditures.

This scheme, under which substantial living expenses are paid to a prospective birth mother, who makes the ultimate choice to parent her child the vast majority of the time, is fraught with problems. Comparisons between baby selling and a scheme allowing for the payment of substantial sums for housing or other expenses of daily life are almost inescapable. Questions about the voluntariness of a birth mother’s surrender arise in connection with the payment of living expenses and are more weighty than the concerns present for any other type of adoption-related expense. Quality adoptive parents defect to international adoption or are unable to adopt altogether because of the flawed system. And when adoptions do take place, birth mothers often actually profit from the payment of their living expenses, necessarily raising the same concerns which have been used to justify a ban on baby selling. Perhaps worst is that because not all birth mothers are similarly valued, allowing prospective adoptive parents to pay birth mother living expenses serves to injure society as a whole by striating race and class divisions.

 This article describes the harms of state law allowing virtually unfettered payment of birth mother living expenses and calls for a shift away from prevalent models of regulation to an outright ban on the payment of living expenses. Time has demonstrated that less conservative reform will be ineffective at solving the problems plaguing domestic adoption. The need to eliminate “gray market” adoption activities, and to re-regulate the baby market which has emerged of late, is long overdue.


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

Monday, May 10, 2010

Register now for the ISFL Conference in June





JUNE 3-5, 2010




Around the world, family law is presenting some of the most personally critical, intellectually challenging, and politically controversial issues for legal resolution. Join your colleagues to explore new scholarship addressing these issues at the co-sponsored conference of The North American Regional Meeting of the International Society of Family Law and the Midwest Family Law Consortium on June 3-5, 2010 at the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Law. The conference will begin Thursday, June 3, 2010 with an opening reception. The conference presentations and workshops will be held Friday, June 4 and the morning of Saturday, June 5.  Conference attendees are invited to a Friday evening dinner at Lidia’s and a tour of the Arts District.

The Midwest Family Law Consortium is an organization of law schools whose members collaborate to advance family law scholarship and teaching. Founded by the family law faculty of the University of Missouri Kansas City, William Mitchell College of Law and Indiana University Indianapolis, with additional sponsoring members Michigan State and Washburn law schools, the consortium is open to any law school, but serves primarily the Midwest region.

May 10, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Playing Favorites

From MailOnline:

Grandparents can't help having favourites - they prefer the grandchildren with whom they share the most DNA, research suggests.

The phenomenon explains studies that have shown a paternal grandmother benefits her granddaughters' health more than grandsons.

This is because a woman passes around 31 per cent of her genes to her son's daughters but just 23 per cent to her son's sons - suggesting a protective effect for the grandchildren they are most closely related to.

The article also helpfully adds:

A woman always knows she is the mother of her child but a man has some uncertainty about his paternity because he might have been cuckolded.

Read more here.


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

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Cahn & Carbone: Family Classes: Rethinking Contraceptive Choice

Naomi Cahn (George Washington University Law School) & June Carbone (UMKC School of Law) have posted "Family Classes:  Rethinking Contraceptive Choice" (University of Florida Journal of Law and Public Policy) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

The political attention paid to moral values - in the context of the high profile fights over abortion, homosexuality, and abstinence education - has developed over the past quarter century in ideological terms as though race and class no longer existed. In fact, the changing understandings that attend family formation reflect a long term shift in the pathways to middle class life which has created a new technocratic elite - an elite that invests heavily in both men and women’s advanced degrees, and has remade family life to its advantage. The success of the new model, which we call the “blue family paradigm,” and the sexual revolution at its core undermines what had once been consensus support for traditional values (which we will call “the red family paradigm”), and for the structure of family life following from abstinence to courtship to marriage.

The result of the tensions between these family ideals has been a moral backlash. In this Article, we highlight the tensions between the two family models, focusing on contraception, and critique the class-based nature of the results. We argue that the politicization of family issues has produced its own “vicious cycle” of moral concern, draconian changes that disproportionately affect the poorest and most vulnerable Americans, and a new round of moral panic justifying further punitive measures, as the initial restrictions (such as closing abortion clinics and slashing family planning funds) make matters worse. We conclude that the “culture wars” are very much about class, and yet they are framed as a fight between two relatively privileged groups, in which class implications of the struggle disappear from sight. This Article argues that only by making these class implications visible - for low income, middle class, and wealthy individuals - can we design more effective interventions that can break the cycle.


May 9, 2010 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)