Family Law Prof Blog

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

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Divorcing Clients Following a Divorce

The Washington Post recently published an interesting article about how a divorce lawyer’s approach changed following her own divorce.  Read it here.


July 17, 2010 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Russian Spies, American Children

From BBC News on the fate of the American-born children of Russian agents recently arrested and deported:

The ten agents who admitted gathering intelligence for Russia have arrived back in Moscow after being deported from the US, but what is the fate of their American-born children?

Coming home from a slumber party to discover that your parents are at the heart of an international spying scandal sounds like a plot of a summer action film.

But for one 11-year-old girl, last week it was real life.

The girl is one of six children, under the age of 18, born to the 10 Russian spies who were swiftly deported from the US yesterday, just hours after pleading guilty in court.

The youngest child is just one year old. There are also two adult children, aged 20 and 38.

Authorities remained tight-lipped on the fate of these American-born children, except to say they will be free to come and go from the US as they see fit.

The Boston Globe reported that the children of the Russians posing as Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley - the couple who lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts - had left for Russia earlier this week.

Tim Foley, 20, is a student at George Washington University in Washington DC. His brother, 16, is at school at Boston and is still a minor under US law.

The two boys were seen in a Boston court when their parents were arraigned, but they refrained from speaking to reporters.

The spies posing as Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills were raising a one and three-year old in their home in the Virginia suburb of Arlington, just outside of DC.

The children were initially placed in the care of social services because the FBI did not have sufficient time to conduct background checks on family friends.

The couple have since contacted friends in the US, who have arranged with relatives in Russia for the children to return there.

It's not yet clear what will happen to the 11-year-old daughter of "Richard and Cynthia Murphy", real names Vladimir and Lydia Guryev, and her seven-year-old sister.

But it's certain that their suburban American lives have been forever interrupted.

Read more here.


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

Mance & Brandrup: “Changes in Household Expenditure Associated with the Arrival of Newborn Children”

Paula Mance & Jason D. Brandrup have posted Changes in Household Expenditure Associated with the Arrival of Newborn Children, Australian Social Policy Journal (2010).  Here is the abstract:

An understanding of the changed financial circumstances of families with newborn children is important to a range of current policy debates, including those surrounding the provision of family assistance, women’s attachment to the labour force and paid parental leave. Although there is a body of Australian research on the costs of raising children, in most cases this has been undertaken to enable the calculation of child support entitlement or to evaluate the effects of policy designed to reverse the effects of an aging demographic. These studies do not report specifically on expenses associated with the arrival of newborn children.

To address this gap in the evidence base, the current study investigates changes in household expenditure associated with the arrival of newborn children for three groups of families – those experiencing the arrival of their first, second, or third and subsequent-born children. Household spending items in Waves 6 and 7 (2006 and 2007) of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey are used to estimate whether different categories of expenditure typically increase or decrease for couple families with the arrival of newborn children. This study shows that a range of expenditure categories are influenced by the arrival of a new baby. Parents of first-born children increase expenditure on health care and clothing. Parents of second-born children increase expenditure on health care, and on meals eaten out and takeaway; however, they decrease expenditure on child care. Parents of third and subsequent-born children increase expenditure on health care.


July 16, 2010 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Brinig & Allen: "Child Support Guidelines and Divorce Rates"

Margaret F. Brinig (Notre Dame Law School) and Douglas W. Allen (Simon Fraser University) have posted "Child Support Guidelines and Divorce Rates" on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

A child support guideline is a formula used to calculate support payments based on a few family characteristics. Guidelines began replacing court awarded support payments in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and were later mandated by the federal government in 1988. Two fundamentally different types of guidelines are used: percentage of obligor income, and income shares models. This paper explores the incentives to divorce under the two schemes, and uses the NLSY data set to test the key predictions. We find that percentage of obligor income models are destabilizing for families with high incomes. This may explain why several states have converted from obligor to income share models, and it provides a subtle lesson to the no-fault divorce debate.


July 15, 2010 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

The $35+ Million Divorce

Read about Australia's most expensive divorce case, and what on earth could possibly rack up such legal fees, here.


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

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Couple Awarded Joint Custody of Dog

A Maryland court has ordered a divorcing couple to share joint custody of their Lhasa Apso:

As they headed toward divorce, Gayle and Craig Myers had only one bone of contention: Who would have the right to keep Lucky, their 16-pound gray-black Lhasa apso.

Under Maryland law, family pets — unlike, say, children — are treated as jointly owned marital property and sold if the divorcing couple cannot agree on who gets to keep them. The parties then split the proceeds of the sale.

But the standard resolution did not seem right to retired Prince George’s County Circuit Judge Graydon S. McKee III.

The judge, presiding over the limited-divorce proceeding by special assignment, decided on his own last month that Gayle and Craig, who have no children, would split custody of Lucky. The dog will alternate spending six months with each party; Gayle’s turn began on July 1.

Animal-law attorney Jan Berlage said McKee recognized that dogs and other pets are “family members” and not mere property.

“The judge seems to be taking into account that the common law is changing,” said Berlage, who chairs the Maryland State Bar Association’s Animal Law Section. “Pets have a different role in our lives than farm animals that are fungible and can be replaced.”

“This judge understood the role of pets, and particularly dogs, in the fabric of the American family,” said attorney James S. Maxwell. “The judge appropriately elevated the status of a dog to a member of a family.”

But Maxwell added that only a similar ruling by Maryland’s top court or a change in Maryland law will ensure that McKee’s decision to treat dogs as more than marital property takes root in Maryland.

Carmean voiced doubt that the judge’s order marks the start of a trend toward pet-custody rulings.

“We have a court system that deals with a lot of child-custody cases,” said Carmean, of Lamson, LeBlanc & Carmean LLC in Prince Frederick.

Treating pets in a similar fashion “would take up a lot of judicial time and energy,” he added. “I will leave it to family-law scholars to determine if you can have a visitation schedule for an animal.”

Read more here.


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

Helicopter Parents

An interesting Washington Post article by a sociologist suggests that helicopter parenting (i.e., very hands-on parenting) is bad for children and for the middle-class parents doing it:

American parenting styles are starkly divided by class. Compared with professional, middle-class parents, parents of lower educational and professional status are more likely to impose nonnegotiable limits on their children's behavior. Rather than sitting down and watching television with their children, for example, they simply block certain channels. Rather than looking over a child's shoulder while he or she is using the computer, they rely on a software filter that prevents access to certain Internet sites.

Helicopter parenting is, to put it mildly, more time-consuming and more emotionally demanding than other parenting styles. And much of its work falls (as the work of parenting always has) on women. Since 1965, the amount of time mothers spend on all child-care activities has risen, even though the majority of mothers are now in the labor force; the increase has been particularly sharp among highly educated mothers.

Read more here.


July 14, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Landmark Ruling from Abu Dhabi Court on the Economic Consequences of Abuse

A landmark ruling in Abu Dhabi requires abusive spouses to pay half the marital dowry:

A landmark ruling by the Federal Supreme Court has held that a husband divorced by his wife must pay her half the marriage dowry if there is evidence of abuse.

The ruling sets a precedent that will probably also affect continuing efforts to reform the family law system.

It is designed, experts say, to prevent a husband from abusing or harassing his wife with the intent of forcing her to divorce him – a situation that previously meant the wife usually forfeited the so-called “deferred dowry”.

The previous rule encouraged husbands to coerce their wives into seeking a divorce. Husbands would desert a wife for years and refuse to pay for her daily needs. “This happens all the time, in hundreds of cases,” said Nashwa al Qubaisi, a lawyer who deals with marriage and divorce disputes.

“This kind of ruling would definitely help prevent husbands from taking advantage of the family law. Sometimes a wife would even pay in order to get the husband to divorce her.”

Experts say the decision closes a gap in family law that, if the law does not address a specific situation, defers to an interpretation of Sharia law.

Read more here.


July 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Have No Children, or More Children?

From the WSJ:

It's…true that modern parents are less happy than their childless counterparts. But happiness researchers rarely emphasize how small the happiness gap is. Suppose you take the National Opinion Research Center's canonical General Social Survey, and compare Americans with the same age, marital status and church attendance. (These controls are vital, because older, married and church-going people have more happiness and more kids). Then every additional child makes parents just 1.3 percentage points less likely to be "very happy." In contrast, the estimated happiness boost of marriage is about 18 percentage points; couples probably have fewer highs after they wed, but the security and companionship more than compensate. In the data, the people to pity are singles, not parents.

A closer look at the General Social Survey also reveals that child No. 1 does almost all the damage. Otherwise identical people with one child instead of none are 5.6 percentage points less likely to be very happy. Beyond that, additional children are almost a happiness free lunch. Each child after the first reduces your probability of being very happy by a mere .6 percentage points.

Read more here.


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

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fame and Filiation

CNN reports the story of a man claiming to be the father of recent Miami signee Lebron James:

A Washington lawyer has filed a lawsuit in federal court, claiming he is the father of basketball star LeBron James.

Leicester Stovell alleges that the athlete and his family have been involved in a cover-up to deny paternity by committing fraud and misrepresentation. He told HLN's "Prime News" on Thursday that he wants "a carefully structured and secure DNA test" to prove he's the NBA all-star's father.

Stovell says he has been trying for three years to establish paternity and is seeking $4 million in damages. An earlier test ruled out the possibility, but he said the test could have been tampered with -- "and there are indications that there was a motivation."

Stovell said he had sex with James' mother, Gloria James, after meeting at a Washington bar while she was visiting from Ohio in 1984. A few months later, she told him she was pregnant, but did not say whether he was the father.

Stovell said his only request was that the child, if a boy, play basketball. He said his memory of the encounter resurfaced more than 20 years later, "after being asked whether I had a son, and I then systematically explored all of my past for that possibility."

"I came across this set of recollections and in focusing on them, they amplified," he said.

In the complaint, filed June 23, Stovell says, "I recently have concluded that a comprehensive, sophisticated and well-funded effort might well have been underway for quite some time, perhaps beginning in its present form as early as when defendant LeBron James was in high school, to frustrate identification of his real father, and that there is a likelihood that the father in question is me."

He denied the timing had anything to do with the current LeBron mania.

James is scheduled to announce Thursday evening the team he has chosen to play for next season, a deal worth perhaps tens of millions of dollars or more. He currently plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Read the full story here.


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

AALS Call for Papers

Call for Papers Announcement


AALS Section on Children and the Law


Our Children – The World’s Children:

 The Effects of Globalization on Children


4:30 - 5:45 p.m. Friday, January 7, 2011


The AALS Section on Children and the Law will hold a program during the AALS 2011 Annual Meeting in San Francisco, California on transnational legal issues affecting children.  The program is co-sponsored by the Sections of Family and Juvenile Law, International Law, Immigration Law and International Human Rights.  The Section seeks three presenters for this program. It is hoped that the chosen presenters will shed light on the legal circumstances of children in the United States and abroad whose lives are increasingly impacted by the movement of people, goods and wealth around the globe.


The Section invites all interested faculty members of AALS member and fee-paid schools to submit papers dealing with any aspect of the foregoing topic.  A review committee consisting of members of the Executive Committee of the Section on Children and the Law will review submissions and select papers for inclusion in the program.  Papers will be selected on the basis of their quality, originality and engagement with the program theme.


If you are interested in presenting a paper, please submit an abstract of not more than 500 words by September 1, 2010.  In addition to an abstract, you may also submit a complete draft of your paper.  Please email your submission to  Please also include the phrase “Children and the Law Call for Papers” in the subject line of your email.  Authors of selected papers will be notified by October 1, 2010.


Papers that have already been selected for publication are eligible for consideration, provided that they will not have been published by the time of the annual meeting.  Papers posted on SSRN or similar prepublication resources before the annual meeting are eligible. Participating panelists are free to publish their papers wherever they choose.  For interested panelists, The Whittier Journal of Child and Family Advocacy has expressed a willingness to publish papers from the program.  Call for Papers participants will be responsible for their annual meeting registration fee and travel expenses.


Please direct questions and requests for additional information to:


Professor Joan M. Shaughnessy

Chair, AALS Section on Children and the Law

Washington and Lee School of Law

Sydney Lewis Hall

Lexington, VA 24450


July 12, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bio Dad Contests Adoption After an 18-Month Placement

The ongoing story of a child placed in a potential adoptive home for 18 months when her biological father took steps to contest the adoption:

A Southern California woman faces the prospect of relinquishing a little girl she has been trying to adopt for 18 months while an Ohio court considers the biological father's custody claim, according to a court decision Friday.

A teleconference between judges and lawyers in Orange County, Calif., and Montgomery County, Ohio, determined that Ohio has jurisdiction in the case, said Stacey Doss, 45, of Rancho Santa Margarita.

Doss, a public relations consultant, has raised 2-year-old Vanessa since just after the girl's birth and has been trying to adopt the toddler for the last 18 months.

An attorney for the case and Doss said they have begun the process of filing an appeal. If an appeal fails, the girl will be taken to Ohio on July 16 and placed in foster care.

A July 29 hearing will determine whether the child can then be placed with her paternal grandmother.

Doss, who is divorced, said Vanessa's birth mother contacted Doss' adoption agency in 2008 to give the child up for adoption. The women "clicked" and the child was due on Doss' father's birthday, which was another reason Doss thought they were a match.

The birth mother signed a document under penalty of perjury asserting that the biological father was out of the picture, Doss said. The mother said the child was the result of a one night stand.

On June 13, 2008, Vanessa was born and Doss flew out to meet her the next day. But the birth father filed a motion seeking custody of the newborn in Ohio before the adoption was completed.

In September, the father asked for a DNA test and the results came back positive. Since then, the issue was about jurisdiction, Doss said.

"A blood relative does not make a parent," Doss said. "Her mother gave her to me for a reason."

Doss said she hasn't seen any effort to parent from the child's biological father either. In June 2009, she flew him out to California to see Vanessa but said he was more concerned with sightseeing than spending time with his daughter.

"He said he'd never been to California and wanted to go the beach," she said. "I thought he would want to take Vanessa to the park."

Read the full story here.


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