Family Law Prof Blog

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

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Unhappily Married

The New York Times recently had an article about couples who remain perpetually separated, but do not divorce.  Read it here.


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

Friday, August 13, 2010

"Friendly Divorce"?

From USA Today:

When John Jarvis visits his 13-year-old daughter, he stays in the guest room of his ex-wife's house.

Bob Murphy of Chandler, Ariz., offered his ex-wife a key to his house when they divorced earlier this year after 26 years of marriage.

Some of today's divorcing couples, who may have witnessed some wretched family separations, are vowing to do it differently. Even if their own parents didn't divorce, many kids saw how hard it was on their friends.

So more couples are opting for a friendly divorce, whether through mediation, collaboration or even do-it-yourself kits. And the majority of couples choosing friendly divorces are those with children.

However they do it, they want the process to be more amicable. In the end, they save time, money and increase the odds that they might actually still be friends. And the kids are the biggest beneficiaries.

This new kind of divorced mom and dad might attend parent-teacher conferences together, work jointly to get one kid to Little League and the other to piano lessons — even if it's not technically their visitation day — and share calendars electronically so Dad can arrange to take the kids when mom's out of town on business.

"It just seems much more humane and friendly," says Jarvis, 54, who admits that his staying at his ex-wife's Chandler house when he visits his daughter, Hannah, does raise some eyebrows. Many divorced couples can't stand to be in the same room together, let alone spend days together and face each other every morning over coffee.

Jarvis lives in Massachusetts, and staying with his former wife not only means he gets more time with Hannah, but it saves money on hotels and rental cars, so he can afford to come more often.

Traditional vs. friendly

Most divorce cases still are handled in the traditional way, with lawyers on each side trying to get the best deal for their client, often through nasty disagreements over custody, child support, property settlements and finances. Divorcing couples typically aren't feeling friendly toward each other anyway, and contentious experiences in court can make those feelings even worse.

"It makes it almost impossible to have a civil relationship going forward. You don't forget what it's like to be cross-examined by your spouse's lawyer," says family law attorney John Zarzynski, who co-founded Agreement House. "It sets them up for years and years of not being able to communicate well."

Mediation is one kind of a friendly divorce. Collaboration is another, in which both parties retain their own attorneys but also use experts and work together for a solution for everyone. Couples don't set foot in court in either instance. Proponents say it reduces the emotional costs on everyone; both children and adults start their new lives on relatively stable ground.

No one keeps statistics on the number of mediated and collaborative divorces. But Zarzynski, during 31 years of practice, has seen the trend firsthand. When he started, mediated cases were rare. Ten years ago, he mediated about a dozen a year; last year, that number was 75.

A typical traditional divorce can stretch out for months — even years — and cost both parties $15,000 to $25,000.

Zarzynski says a mediated divorce, on average, costs $1,000 and takes 70 days, including the state's mandatory cooling-off period of 60 days.

A collaborative divorce involves more people — it may add a financial adviser, psychologist or divorce coach to the mix — so it costs a bit more than a mediated divorce. A 2004 study in Texas shows that instead of a typical 18-month, $14,000 process through litigation, a collaborative divorce took an average of 18 weeks and $9,000 to complete.

Read the full story here.


August 13, 2010 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Call for Papers--The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth

The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth invites submissions of papers dealing with issues concerning children and youth both in the United States and around the globe. This interdisciplinary journal publishes materials relating to both historical and contemporary issues affecting children and young people.


JHCY was established in 2006 and has quickly become a leading publication in the field of children’s history, providing important links between historians and other scholars

of childhood and youth, especially in the humanities, law and social sciences.


If you are interested in submitting an article to JHCY, please contact Alice Hearst,, or simply login to ScholarOne at, where you will be provided with  instructions for uploading a manuscript.  

JHCY is published on behalf of the Society for the History of Children and Youth by Johns Hopkins University Press. For more information, including the table of contents for

 recent issues, please see the website at  



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

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Stay Denied in Prop 8 Case

The federal judge in California who recently ruled Proposition 8 unconsitutional in Perry v. Schwarzenegger has just denied a motion to stay his judgment pending appeal to the Ninth Circuit, meaning that same-sex couples can begin marrying after August 18 in California.  Read the order here.


August 12, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Utah Supreme Court Overturns Jeffs Conviction

From CNN:

The Utah Supreme Court has reversed Warren Steed Jeffs' two convictions on charges of rape as an accomplice and ordered a new trial, saying that instructions given to jurors were erroneous.

Jeffs, the "prophet" of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or FLDS, was sentenced to two consecutive terms of five years to life after he was convicted in September 2007. He was accused of using his religious influence over his followers to coerce a 14-year-old girl into marrying her 19-year-old cousin.

In Jeffs' trial, Elissa Wall testified that she repeatedly told him at the time that she did not want to be married and was uncomfortable with sexual advances from her husband, Allen Steed. She said Jeffs advised her to pray and submit to her husband, learn to love him and bear his children, or risk losing her "eternal salvation."

Prosecutors relied on three separate portions of the law defining the circumstances under which sex is non-consensual, the opinion said. Under those portions, the victim must express a lack of consent through words or conduct, the victim must be younger than 18 years, and "the actor" must be in a position of special trust in relation to the victim.

"Jeffs argues that the instruction erroneously focused the jury on Jeffs' actions and position of special trust, rather than on Steed's, for the purpose of determining whether Wall consented," the opinion said.

The justices agreed, saying the jurors should have been asked to consider whether Steed was in a position of special trust and whether Steed lured or induced Wall into having sex.

"The state interprets the term 'actor' to mean the 'defendant,' " the opinion said. "We conclude that the state's interpretation is erroneous."

"We're thrilled," said Jeffs' defense attorney, Wally Bugden. "We're overjoyed. We're ecstatic that the Supreme Court agreed with us. ... The state just had the wrong legal theory."

Assistant Utah Attorney General Laura Dupaix told CNN affiliate KSTU that the opinion is "going to make it difficult, I think, for us to do future prosecutions in cases where some of these men in positions of power -- almost complete power, like Warren Jeffs is -- to prosecute them for forcing young girls into these marriages. I think that's really the part of this opinion that is most disappointing for us."

The justices sent the case back to the lower court for a new trial.

Read more news coverage here or the Utah Supreme Court opinion here.


August 12, 2010 in Child Abuse, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)


From AP:

TRENTON, N.J. — A New Jersey couple who gave their children Nazi-inspired names should not regain custody of them, a state appeals court ruled Thursday, citing the parents' own disabilities and the risk of serious injury to their children.

The state removed Heath and Deborah Campbell's three small children from their home in January 2009.

A month earlier, the family drew attention when a supermarket refused to decorate a birthday cake for their son, Adolf Hitler Campbell. He and siblings JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell have been in foster care.

A family court had earlier determined that there was insufficient evidence that the parents had abused or neglected the children. That decision was stayed until the appeals court could review it. On Thursday, the three-judge appeals panel determined there was enough evidence and that the children should not be returned.

The panel sent the case back to family court for further monitoring.

However, the names of the kids did not seem to play a role in the court's decision.  Read more here


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

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wisconsin Appellate Court Allows Suit Over Death of Fetus

From the Chicago Tribune:

A Wisconsin man can sue a former girlfriend's insurer for the wrongful death of a fetus, which was stillborn after the woman was in a car accident.

Shannon Tesar, the father of the fetus, says the woman's negligent driving was partly to blame for the accident in Wisconsin Rapids and he wants damages for the death of the fetus.

A Wood County judge had ruled that a woman has no legal duty to a fetus, and dismissed the lawsuit.

The District 4 Court of Appeals overturned the decision, ruling Tesar can continue his lawsuit against American Family Mutual Insurance Co.

American Family warned that allowing the case would let fathers sue mothers for other acts that harm fetuses during pregnancy, like eating poorly. The court disagreed.

Read more news coverage here and the Wisconsin appellate court opinion here.


August 11, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Meers & Strober: “Getting to 50/50: How Working Couples Can Have It All by Sharing It All”

For working couples balancing parenthood, there is a new book by Sharon Meers & Joanna Strober: Getting to 50/50: How Working Couples Can Have It All by Sharing It All.  An editorial by one of the authors notes:

The Project for Attorney Retention at UC Hastings Law School last week released a report that shows the expense of allowing different norms for men and women to persist.

Researchers at UC Hastings have long collected data on the "Maternal Wall," the dramatic drop in career success when women (even those working full time) become mothers across all job types. But this new survey looks at women at the top: 700 female law partners, a highly talented and hard-working cohort. Guess what? On average, they earn 22% less than their male partners. Why?

The new report points to a host of "soft" social expectations with hard consequences.

Read more here.


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

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Osterbacka, Merz & Zick: "Human Capital Investments in Children: A Comparative Analysis of the Role of Parent-Child Shared Time in Selected Countries"

Eva Osterbacka (Abo Akademi University), Joachim Merz (Leuphana University) and Cathleen Zick (University of Utah) have posted "Human Capital Investments in Children: A Comparative Analysis of the Role of Parent-Child Shared Time in Selected Countries" on SSRN.  Here is the abstract: 
Parents invest in their children's human capital in several ways. We investigate the extent to which the levels and composition of parent-child time varies across countries with different welfare regimes: Finland, Germany and the United States. We test the hypothesis of parent-child time as a form of human capital investment in children using a propensity score treatment effects approach that accounts for the possible endogenous nature of time use and human capital investment. Result: There is considerable evidence of welfare regime effects on parent-child shared time. Our results provide mixed support for the hypothesis that non-care related parent-child time is human capital enriching. The strongest support is found in the case of leisure time and eating time.


August 10, 2010 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Call for Participation

The Journal of Civil Rights and Economic Development and The Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights and Economic Development present:

Legal, Secular, and Religious Perspectives on
Marriage Equality/Marriage Protection/Same - Sex Marriage

Friday, November 12, 2010
St. John's School of Law
8000 Utopia Parkway 
Queens, NY 11439

Call for Participation
For this symposium, we invite a broad range of participants-including scholars, practitioners, elected officials, activists, community leaders and students - to share a variety of perspectives on this complex issue in American society. We are especially interested in the constitutional, religious, political and other unique legal issues relating to marriage legalization for same - sex couples.

To learn more about the symposium and call for participation, visit our web site. If you would like to participate as a speaker or panelist, you can submit an abstract of up to 250 words online.

For additional information, please contact Brendan Lantry, Research and Symposium Editor for the Journal of Civil Rights and Economic Development, at or call (718) 990-6074.

The deadline for submission is August 25, 2010.


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

Monday, August 9, 2010

Wife Learns of Husband's Other Marriage on Facebook

From the AP:

Dread of the unknown hung in the air as Lynn France typed two words into the search box on Facebook: the name of the woman with whom she believed her husband was having an affair.

Click. And there it was, the stuff of nightmares for any spouse, cuckolded or not. Wedding photos. At Walt Disney World, no less, featuring her husband literally dressed as Prince Charming. His new wife, a pretty blonde, was a glowing Sleeping Beauty, surrounded by footmen.

"I was numb with shock, to tell you the truth," says France, an occupational therapist from Westlake, a Cleveland suburb. "There was like an album of 200 pictures on there. Their whole wedding."

The husband claimed Thursday that his marriage to Lynn France was never valid. He said she knew earlier about the other marriage and was making the Facebook claim as a publicity ploy.

But Aftab doesn't recommend snooping around online. That can backfire in court if used inappropriately — such as when spouses log onto each other's Facebook pages without permission. If your spouse isn't trustworthy, she says, get a divorce and save yourself the trouble.

Lynn's husband, John France, does not deny that he has remarried. Rather, he simply is insisting that he was never married to Lynn in the first place.

"I don't think I was cheating," France said in an interview aired Thursday on NBC's "Today" show. "If you have a marriage that's not right from the beginning, it's not right at the end."

France said Lynn France's claim of finding out about the second wedding on Facebook was "absurd" and said she knew long before. He claimed she was "losing the court battle" for custody of their two sons and was using the Facebook story for attention.

His attorney, Gary Williams, issued a statement Tuesday saying his client is asking a family law court to declare that his marriage to Lynn was "void since its inception."

"While it appears that John and Lynda France were both under the impression, once upon a time, that they were married, the fact of the matter is that their marriage was never legally proper," Williams wrote, "and, therefore, it does not actually exist."

Lynn and John France were married in July 2005 in a seaside wedding on Italy's Amalfi Coast, having organized the event through Regency San Marino, which coordinates weddings for couples looking to get hitched in Italy. On the company's website, Lynn is still the first radiant bride whose portrait appears in a gauzy veil, the brilliant blue sea behind her.

If that wedding was a fraud, it was news to Lynn.

"If that were true, then he's lied to the IRS," Zashin says. "He's lied to insurance companies. Banks."

In June 2009, against the advice of her attorneys, Lynn France dropped divorce proceedings when her husband came home and persuaded her to reconcile.

Read the full story here.


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

Czapanskiy: “Chalimony: Seeking Equity between Parents of Children with Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses”

Karen Czapanskiy recently posted Chalimony: Seeking Equity between Parents of Children with Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses, 34 New York University Review of Law & Social Change 253 (2010) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Many thousands of children experience serious disabling conditions such as autism and debilitating chronic illnesses such as asthma. Caring for these children is often so demanding that caregiving parents cannot remain employed outside the home. Parental resources available to these children are also limited because an unusually high percentage of them live with only one parent. Nonetheless, surprisingly few cases involving families with a disabled or chronically ill child appear in the family law case law or scholarly literature. Even where child support and alimony are concerned, these families are seen only at the margins.

In my recent article, I propose addressing some of the resource problems of families with disabled and chronically ill children through the creation of a new inter-parental financial remedy which I call chalimony. The remedy would highlight the interdependent reality of disabled and chronically ill children with the caregivers whose market activity is limited because of their unusual caregiving responsibilities. Caregivers would be entitled to the remedy if three conditions are met. First, meeting the child’s reasonable caregiving needs would have to be incompatible with full market participation by the caregiving parent. Second, the child’s other parent would not be meeting enough of the child’s caregiving needs to permit the primary caregiving parent to engage fully in the market. And, third, the economic resources of the paying parent would have to sufficient to provide chalimony in addition to child support and alimony.

In the article, I distinguish chalimony from child support and alimony on both theoretical and practical grounds. Then I justify chalimony on the grounds of economic fairness to the payor parent, gender fairness to the caregiving parent, and the value of chalimony to the child, especially in terms of the child’s access to additional parental time and economic resources.


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

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Call for Papers: Science, Family, and Law

Call for Papers: Science, Family, and Law

Program sponsored by the AALS Section on Family & Juvenile Law
and Co-Sponsored by the AALS Section on Law, Medicine, and Health Care
2011 AALS Annual Meeting
San Francisco, California

The Section on Family & Juvenile Law solicits papers to be presented at the Section's program at the 2011 AALS Annual Meeting--Science, Family, and Law.  Submissions should relate to the influence of scientific advances on family formation, family life, and/or family law.  The author of the paper selected will join panelists Prof. Emily Buss (University of Chicago), Prof. Radhika Rao (University of California-Hastings), and Mr. Shannon Price Minter (National Center for Lesbian Rights).
Full-time faculty of AALS member and fee-paid schools are eligible to submit papers.  The deadline for submissions in Monday, September 6, 2010.  The Selection Committee (comprising members of the Section's Exec. Comm.) will review papers anonymously and make its decision by Monday, September 27, 2010.  Please submit your paper--with no identifying information on the manuscript itself--to Administrative Assistant Felicia Burton at  Papers published prior to September 6, 2010 are ineligible; papers that have been accepted for publication but not yet published are eligible.
Please contact Vivian Hamilton, 2011 Program Chair, with any questions.
Vivian E. Hamilton
Associate Professor of Law
William and Mary School of Law
613 South Henry St.
Williamsburg, VA 23185


August 8, 2010 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)