Family Law Prof Blog

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

Saturday, August 7, 2010

20% of U.K. Divorces Relate to Facebook

We already knew that Facebook killed many marriages, but new numbers show how many divorces are linked to facebook in the United Kingdom: 20%!  Read more here.


August 7, 2010 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Update on Transgendered Widow Benefits Story

We blogged last week about a transgendered Texas widow fighting over her alleged husband's death benefits with his family (see here).  Now that widow is releasing emails she says support her claim that her husband knew of her gender identity at birth.

For weeks Araguz has been telling the world she and her husband had an honest marriage.
Now she's offering what she calls proof her husband knew she was born a man soon after they met in church in 2007.

It's a supposed email exchange between the couple on the day Nikki had her sex change operation in Colorado.

Thomas Araguz purportedly writes, "What can i say to make you feel better? The only thing I known (sic) is 'I LOVE YOU.' Trevor and Tyler miss you dearly, they love you with all their little heats. (sic) Today has been a hell of day, would you agree? After taking (sic) to you, I called my mother and law (sic) to let her known (sic) the good news, about your opt. An (sic) you know she spead (sick) the good news all the world. HEY I TO GO I A HOUSE FIRE. ILU"
Nikki Araguz puportedly writes, "My sweet husband, I LOVE YOU. It has been a day heck and also God answered prayers. I love you so much. We can now move on with the rest of our livrs (sic)...I just got this thing to work somehow and the pain lady came in and gave me I am fading fast. You are my best friend, and Praise God fro (sic) you...this is wild that little thing is gone...I think I am supposed to see it for the first timr (sic) tomorrow....Imiss my boys too...Have a great day at school tomorrow...Love you sweet wife, Mrs. Nikki Araguz"
Earlier this year, family attorneys presented Thomas Araguz with a copy of his wife's birth certificate.

They say Araguz stated under oath he didn't know his wife was born a man.
Araguz says she had the sex change operation on October 7, 2008, two months after the couple married.

Read more from here.


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

Kane, Spizman, Rodgers, & Gaskins: “The Effect of the Loss of a Parent on the Future Earnings of a Minor Child”

John C. Kane, Lawrence M. Spizman, James D. Rodgers, and Rick R. Gaskins have posted The Effect of the Loss of a Parent on the Future Earnings of a Minor Child 36 Eastern Economic Journal 370 (2010) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

We quantify the effect of a parent's absence on a child's future earnings. A parent's absence because of separation or divorce reduces a child's lifetime earnings between 3 and 12 percent. Lifetime educational attainment is adversely affected by between 2 and 4 percent if a parent of the same gender as the child dies (a smaller impact than if absence is because of separation or divorce). No such adverse effect is found if a girl's father or a boy's mother dies. We conclude that it is sensible that lifetime earnings loss to children not be estimated in a parent's wrongful death case.


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

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Ryznar & Park: "The Proper Guardians of Foster Children's Educational Interests"

Margaret Ryznar & Chai Park have posted The Proper Guardians of Foster Children’s Educational Interests, Loyola University Chicago Law Journal (forthcoming) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract: 

The United States Supreme Court has enumerated a constitutionally protected parental right to control the upbringing of one’s child that includes the right to direct the child’s education. The states, meanwhile, have differed in their interpretation and application of this principle when foster children’s educational interests conflict with their biological parents’ wishes. Specifically, although some states permit the judicial limitation of parental rights over children’s education during foster care placement, others do not. This Article is among the first to consider the benefits and consequences of each approach in the context of parents’ rights and children’s best interests.


August 5, 2010 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Jaros: “Unfettered Discretion: Criminal Orders of Protection and Their Impact on Parent Defendants”

David Michael Jaros (University of Baltimore School of Law) has posted Unfettered Discretion: Criminal Orders of Protection and Their Impact on Parent Defendants, Indiana Law Journal (forthcoming) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

The last two decades have witnessed an astonishing increase in the use of the criminal justice system to police neglectful parents. Recasting traditional allegations of neglect as criminal charges of endangering the welfare of a child, prosecutors and the police have involved criminal courts in the regulation of aspects of the parent child relationship that were once the sole province of family courts. This Article explores the legal implications of vesting judges in these cases with the unfettered discretion to issue protective orders that criminalize contact between a parent and her child. I argue that procedures for issuing protective orders that were once justified by the challenges of fighting domestic violence cannot constitutionally be applied to parents charged with criminal neglect. Instead, criminal courts and legislatures should look to family court, the forum traditionally empowered to police neglectful parents, for guidance on how to properly intervene on behalf of neglected children.


August 5, 2010 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Proposition 8 Unconstitutional, Holds Federal District Court

A federal district court decision is expected later today in Perry et al v. Schwarzenegger.  Reportedly, the decision finds California’s Proposition 8 unconstitutional as a violation of due process and equal protection.  Read early media coverage here and here.

UPDATE:  The 136-page opinion is now available here. 

It is very likely that this holding will be appealed to the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeal, and after that, to the Supreme Court.  Read more news coverage here and here.   


August 4, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Massachusetts Supreme Court Holds Postnups Signed Before Divorce May Be Enforced

The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled last week that postnuptial agreements dividing property on the eve of divorce are permissible, ending years of uncertainty about the enforceablity of such contracts in Massachusetts.

Addressing a matter that has long sown doubt among Massachusetts family law specialists, the Supreme Judicial Court said postnuptial agreements that divide financial assets must be scrutinized to make sure they were not negotiated fraudulently or coerced by a spouse with threats of divorce. But if the agreements meet stringent standards, they should be enforced.

“Marital contracts are not the product of classic arm’s-length bargaining, but that does not make them necessarily coercive,’’ Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall wrote on behalf of the seven-member court. “Such contracts may inhibit the dissolution of a marriage or may protect the interests of third parties such as children from a prior relationship.’’

Several states, including Alabama, Louisiana, and Wisconsin, have laws authorizing such agreements, the court said. At least one state, Ohio, forbids them. But many states have not addressed the issue.

Such contracts are uncommon in Massachusetts compared with prenuptial agreements, said divorce lawyers, but that may be partly attributable to uncertainty over whether they would be upheld.

Given the confusion, couples marrying in Massachusetts had only two options if they wanted to sign a binding contract dealing with their assets: a prenuptial agreement before their wedding or a separation agreement if their marriage crumbled.

The SJC’s ruling carves out a third option. Thomas J. Barbar, a Boston family law specialist, said postnuptial agreements are a particularly good choice for more affluent couples who want to address financial issues when their marriages are strong, rather than wrestle with them through costly and painful litigation during a divorce.

The high court spelled out a five-step review that judges must conduct before approving such contracts, a process that must include making sure there was no fraud or coercion.

David H. Lee, the Boston lawyer who represented Ansin, said he was pleased that the court upheld the contract and finally addressed such agreements. Lee said he has negotiated fewer than 10 postnuptial agreements in his 37 years practicing family law, compared with more than 100 prenuptial agreements, because of concerns about whether they could be enforced.

Such agreements, he said, can benefit couples with marital woes who want to settle financial matters so they can focus on rebuilding their relationships. Postnuptial agreements are also signed by couples as part of estate planning or to address issues over inheritance that arise in second marriages.

Read the opinion here or more news coverage of the case here.


August 4, 2010 in Property Division | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Buying Mini Afflecks and Carells

From NBC LA:

Choosing a sperm donor can be overwhelming for many couples and even more challenging to those who are trying to go it alone. There is a ton of information one has to sift through: donor's blood type, favorite color and even high school G.P.A. However, what the donor looks like is one aspect expecting mothers won't be able to see.

A local sperm bank is looking for a way around that issue by using some familiar faces. The California Cryobank is using celebrities to categorize what the donor looks like. But don't expect to walk in and ask for a "George Clooney" or "Brad Pitt" because the bank won't put any donor in that category for fear there would be such a run on the vials. Guess you'll just have to settle for the "Steve Carell," " Ben Affleck" or "Bill Gates."

Read more here.


August 4, 2010 in Paternity | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mika: "One Way to Be Born? Legislative Inaction and the Posthumous Child"

Karin Mika (Cleveland State University - Cleveland-Marshall College of Law) has posted "One Way to Be Born? Legislative Inaction and the Posthumous Child" on SSRN.  Here is the abstract: 

This article argues that the posthumous child and the rights and responsibilities relating to such a child are directly related to the fundamental right to procreate. It argues that legislation must necessarily incorporate that right in sorting out issues related to the posthumous child and deviate from the standard principles of contract laws which have been applied in the past. This article examines the history, case law, federal decisions, and current legislation pertaining to artificial insemination. It argues that such legislation is inadequate and that legislatures must act promptly to address the realities of the posthumous child.


August 3, 2010 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Birthing Project USA

From CNN:

(CNN) -- When she was a public health administrator for the state of California, Kathryn Hall-Trujillo found that her greatest challenge was paying for babies who were born sick.

"The figure we were working with at that time was about $300,000 ... to stabilize a baby for the first 90 days," said Hall-Trujillo, who worked for the state from 1976-1991.

At the same time, she said, it cost just $2,000 to ensure pregnant mothers received all the care they needed for a healthy pregnancy and proper delivery.

The staggering disparity, along with troubling rates of infant mortality in America, compelled Hall-Trujillo, 62, to find a solution.

What Hall-Trujillo came up with was Birthing Project USA. Since 1988, the nonprofit organization has been battling high infant-mortality rates by pairing soon-to-be moms with volunteer "sister friends" who provide guidance and support through the pregnancy and first year of the baby's life.

Of every 1,000 babies born in the United States, at least six (6.14) do not survive their first year of life, according to the CIA World Factbook. That gives the United States only the 45th best infant mortality rate in the world, trailing top-ranked Monaco (1.78 deaths per thousand births) and countries such as Japan (2.79) and the United Kingdom (4.78).

Read more here.



August 3, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Ziegler: "The Terms of the Debate: Litigation, Argumentative Strategies, and Coalitions in the Same-Sex Marriage Debate, 1993-2008"

Mary Ziegler (St. Louis University School of Law) has posted "The Terms of the Debate: Litigation, Argumentative Strategies, and Coalitions in the Same-Sex Marriage Debate, 1993-2008" on SSRN.  Here is the abstract: 

Leading scholarship on same-sex marriage litigation has been powerfully critical, focusing on its negative electoral and legislative effects. However, these studies have missed important effects that judicial decisions have had on the rhetorical strategies and coalitions that define debate. Partly because of Baker v. State, a Vermont opinion, and Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, a Massachusetts decision, national gay rights groups like the Freedom to Marry Coalition and the Human Rights Campaign began stressing equality-based claims. Socially conservative organizations like the Family Research Council increasingly emphasized religious freedoms or parental rights. At the same time, because of the decisions, alliances shifted. Labor and libertarian groups played a less central role, while civil-rights groups began shaping the alliances on either side.

Because they miss these developments, some leading studies are fundamentally incomplete. At this point, it is difficult to assess whether the changes studied here benefited either side. However, without studying all the effects of same-sex marriage litigation, current conclusions about its value are premature and potentially seriously flawed. Baker and Goodridge did not simply increase opposition to same-sex marriage. Both decisions also fundamentally changed the terms and players in the debate.


August 2, 2010 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Forget the Freshman 15….

…and welcome marriage weight gain. 

From the New York Times:

A 2008 study in the Journal of Economics and Human Biology examined data from 12,000 men and women ages 18 to mid-40s. Compared with when they were single, the body mass index (or B.M.I., a height-to-weight ratio) of married men increased by 1.5 percent above and beyond what they would normally gain as they aged, and that of women shot up 2 percent.

Read more here.


August 2, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Yablon-Zug: "Separation, Deportation, Termination"

Marcia Yablon-Zug (University of South Carolina School of Law) has posted "Separation, Deportation, Termination" on SSRN.  Here is the abstract: 
Parents have a constitutional right to the care and control of their children but this right is coming into mounting conflict with concerns about the best interests of children and the fitness of their immigrant, particularly undocumented immigrant, parents. Increasingly, states are removing the children of undocumented immigrant parents and then terminating their parental rights. Such terminations represent a significant, but largely unnoticed, change in the law. There is no Supreme Court case or Congressional Act heralding this development. This is an unofficial change that comes directly from the child welfare agencies and family courts and their shifting conception of what justifies the termination of parental rights.

Under established case law, courts may not terminate the rights of fit parents. However, this formerly settled law is being replaced with a new set of rules. In the context of undocumented immigrant families, fitness is no longer an obstacle to the termination of parental rights. Increasingly, when courts and agencies believe that termination is in a child’s best interest, they will find that a parent’s undocumented status alone is sufficient to demonstrate unfitness. Then, having essentially eliminated the fitness requirement, courts and agencies are able to base termination of parental rights solely upon a best interest of the child analysis.

This article explores this increasing phenomenon and explains why it is occurring and why no one has noticed.

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