Family Law Prof Blog

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

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Something old, something blue, and something new--like a face?

Unbelievable…From the Hollywood Reporter:

In one of the most shocking reality TV ideas yet, E! has ordered a new series that crosses a wedding competition with extreme plastic surgery.

The network is set to announce “Bridalplasty,” where brides-to-be compete in wedding-themed challenges to win extensive surgical procedures.

Each week, a group of women go head-to-head in such challenges as writing wedding vows and planning honeymoons. The winner receives the chance to choose a plastic surgery procedure from her “wish list.” She’s given the procedure immediately, and results are shown at the start of the following week’s episode.

One by one, the women are voted out by their rivals and, according to the show’s description, face “possibly walking away with nothing and losing [their] chance to be the perfect bride.”

The last bride standing will receive a “dream wedding,” where she will reveal her new appearance to friends, family and the groom. “Viewers will witness his emotional and possibly shocked reaction as they stand at the altar and he lifts her veil to see her for the first time following her extreme plastic surgery,” E! said.

Read more here.



October 2, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Vow Renewals as the New Marriage Trend

From the New York Times:

Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon did it earlier this year at their Beverly Hills Estate. This was the second vow renewal for the couple in as many years of marriage. To mark the occasion, he presented her with a diamond-and-sapphire-encrusted Ring Pop-shaped ring. Heidi Klum and Seal, who wed five years ago, give a vow-renewal celebration each year of their marriage; the events have become a kind of springtime version of the Ms. Klum’s yearly Halloween parties. Last year, she had a “white trash” theme. Guests, dressed in their trailer park finest, gathered while a cornrowed Ms. Klum and a mullet-wearing Seal were joined in matrimony again. An Elvis impersonator officiated. This year the vow renewal was done in Mexico and had a wedding theme: all the guests wore tuxedos and white dresses.

Jennifer Lopez and her husband, Marc Anthony, renewed theirs this year as well. This was a second vow-renewal ceremony for Mr. Anthony. His first one was to the former Miss Universe Dayanara Torres in 2002. The two separated the next year.

It seems that restating vows is not a panacea for the evils of divorce, and may even bring into question the sturdiness of the original utterances. The first time, you mean it, but if there’s the chance that down the line you’ll really really mean it, then does that change the way you might have felt the first time?

Then again, perhaps the desire to reaffirm commitment is a healthy reaction to the changing state of marriage.

The path to divorce is increasingly well trod and holds less stigma than it did a generation ago. What’s more, we live longer than many of our married ancestors, which can mean more years and opportunity for failure. The result is, arguably, an increasingly delicate kind of union that perhaps needs a certain degree of coddling.

“It’s an institution that might now need renewing,” said W. Bradford Wilcox of the National Marriage Project. “People have these blowout weddings, but that doesn’t necessarily correlate with having a long marriage and maintaining it. A vow renewal can be a signifier to oneself and to the larger community that something has endured and that there is a commitment to keep it going.”

Indeed, modern marriage also requires more communication than in unions dictated by gender roles. “What keeps a marriage going today is so different than in the past,” said Stephanie Coontz, author of “Marriage: A History” and the director of research and public education for the Council on Contemporary Families. “In other times, couples didn’t need to renew their vows unless they were quite exceptional in the way they saw their relationship.

“Women were dependent on men,” she continued. “He had economic leverage, and she had to keep the marriage working by either changing her husband or changing herself. Today, we come to marriage expecting it to be truly fair and even and to negotiate in a way that didn’t happen before.”

And what better reason to have a party.

Read the full article here.


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

German Case on HIV Infection

From MyWay:

DARMSTADT, Germany (AP) - A German court has found a girl-band singer guilty of causing bodily harm to an ex-boyfriend by having unprotected sex with him despite knowing she was infected with HIV but she won't spend any time in prison.

News agency ddp reported the Darmstadt administrative court on Thursday handed 28-year-old Nadja Benaissa a two-year suspended sentence after finding the No Angels bandmember guilty.

Benaissa helped her case during the nearly two-week trial by acknowledging she had unprotected sex despite knowing she was HIV-positive and saying it was a big mistake.

Read more here.


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

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Kapai: "Minority Women: A Struggle for Equal Protection Against Domestic Violence"

Puja Kapai (Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong) has posted "Minority Women: A Struggle for Equal Protection Against Domestic Violence" (forthcoming Cambridge University Press) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Feminist legal scholars, long distraught over the failure of the law and its institutions to account for their impact on the realities that women experience, have fought hard against the masculinity and patriarchal representations of the law given its detrimental and discriminatory effects on women. As a result, society’s norms, systems, culture and practices have come under strict scrutiny to address the inequalities perpetuated through these systems.

With the feminist movement having gained pace over the last century, the world has united in condemning discrimination against, and the subjugation of, women, particularly as manifested in its most debilitating form, violence against women. Although family violence has been recognized as a growing social problem, domestic violence has been recognized as a distinct form of violence affecting women as a class. Given that violence against women has been noted as the single most pervasive form of human rights violation in addition to being the most costly to society, at least eighty--nine state parties have introduced legislation to address domestic violence against women in furtherance of their international obligations.

In some jurisdictions, the call for a more comprehensive system of protection has led to the development of specialized domestic violence courts and batterer-intervention programs to rehabilitate perpetrators of violence. Whilst these global and local efforts are commendable, there is much debate over their adequacy and effectiveness in light of increasing rates of violence against women, particularly in the domestic sphere, due to poor implementation, under-reporting, inadequacy of the laws or lack thereof. Given these failings, governments are required to reexamine their law and policy pertaining to domestic violence to provide an environment to enhance women’s safety, autonomy and participation in their public and private lives and to root out violence in all its manifestations, cultural, religious, political and otherwise.

Presently, there is a critical failure at the implementation level due to a lack of resources or commitment. Law enforcement officers, clinicians, psychologists, judges, lawyers and activists have also struggled to reconcile the notion of a victimized woman continuing to live with or love the batterer, often concluding that the victim must be fabricating the abuse, its prevalence, or seriousness. Work done by feminist and other scholars reveals the impact of social and judicial perceptions about women who fail to leave their batterers despite the assistance rendered on the likelihood of victimized women successfully obtaining justice. These problems are compounded by the lack of a holistic approach despite the existence of legislation and institutional provisions.

Aside from the deficit in implementation of such measures, a more critical discussion has emerged regarding the viability of the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. Research has revealed that women experience and respond to domestic violence differently depending on various factors. The reasons for this differential response are multifold. Research findings show that general laws fail to adequately protect the interests of all groups of women. Women belonging to minority groups are singled out as most unlikely to use existing systems of protection. Most domestic violence response measures depend on user-capacity, the willingness to report, and cultural response systems. In light of the recognition that minority, ethnic, indigenous, refugee, and migrant women are especially vulnerable to violence and discriminatory practices , the assumptions inherent in the laws and institutional mechanisms to assist victims in fact perpetuate power--dynamics in a patriarchal society. The measures are racialized and class- and culture-specific. Despite this fact, no equality-based challenge has been brought with respect to domestic violence laws and their inadequacies vis-à-vis minority women.

Intersectionality has gained extensive prominence in the writings of feminist scholars working in numerous fields because of its contribution towards a more comprehensive feminist discourse which seeks to locate knowledge within realities of women whose experiences are not singularly shaped by their gender, but rather, by a multiplicity of factors such as race, class, sexuality, identities, and other phenomena. These experiences help us better define our capacities for dominance or to be dominated as a woman (or man). This theory delineates sites of oppression horizontally as opposed to the paradigmatic depiction of oppression as hierarchical. Intersections analysis implores us to view multiple layers of experience as informative of an overall pattern of domination which requires deconstruction as a whole. It is argued that this deconstruction is all the more important in order to further the project of substantive equality to protect all women against domestic violence.

Crenshaw has argued that in order for dominant systems to be challenged, those resisting dominance are forced to categorize their demands in terms of the logic of the dominant system itself. Inability to do so results in exclusion from the discourse for change. It is here, she argues, that intersections analysis can prove groundbreaking in addressing the needs of the marginalized woman who is neither accommodated within the feminist discourse, nor within that of antiracism completely. Third World feminists have similarly posited that intersections analysis offers a new site for the production of knowledge arguing that “difference” constitutes a resource through which feminist knowledge can be reorganized.

Failure to integrate user--specific information into models of intervention and to account for culture--based beliefs and systems of information and worldviews will necessarily limit and undermine the effectiveness of the legal and social frameworks combating violence in the domestic sphere. Furthermore, they will remain inept at recognizing high--risk groups, providing appropriate intervention services, and meeting the needs of marginalized groups experiencing domestic violence.

To the extent that domestic violence legislation is in existence and implemented through a framework of multidisciplinary measures in a country, this chapter focuses on the extent to which such services are accessible to a routinely marginalized group of women who, despite advancements in the law relating to domestic violence, continue to fall through the gaps. By examining the assumptions underlying existing models of prevention and intervention against domestic violence, this chapter outlines the source of these gaps and investigates the reasons for the continued failure of domestic violence policies in some countries to safeguard the interests and rights of a neglected community of ethnic minority and immigrant women in countries where such laws and policies are relatively advanced in their development. Whilst ethnic groups have been residing in Western countries since the colonial era, migrant worker and sponsorship schemes have increasingly attracted such groups. Given the basic assumptions inherent in preventive and interventionist measures against domestic violence, this chapter seeks to critically examine these assumptions and question their validity, drawing on the cultural, racial and socio--economic attributes of these women to argue the need for a varied and systemic response to provide for ethnic and immigrant women specifically.

Immigrant and ethnic minority women both share certain common traits in their experience with law and social policies relating to domestic violence. The cultural and socio-economic attributes of ethnic minority and immigrant women make them less receptive to law and policy relating to domestic violence. Their capacities to play an active role in the preventive and legal mechanisms for protection are closely tied to their “cultural” equipment. This chapter highlights the different ways in which the “location” of ethnic minority and immigrant women within their cultural, racial, and socio--economic backgrounds affects their perceptions and actions particularly when recognizing and responding to domestic violence.

The Western liberal democratic society is selected as the context for analysis due to the rights-oriented framework of the law, which affords human rights and constitutional rights protection for all people. As such, it can be assumed that there is a degree of development of human rights and constitutional principles, such as equality and non-discrimination, which impose on a government the obligation to offer substantive and equal protection to all women.

The following sections of this chapter argue that ethnic minority and immigrant status are yet to be applied as relevant differentials in the context of developing effective strategies for addressing domestic violence within the ethnic minority community. Using intersections analysis, it is argued that ethnic minority and immigrant women face obstacles on various counts, including class, language, ethnicity, culture, and experiences.

This chapter argues first, that domestic violence response systems in many countries in the West are predicated upon basic assumptions about user-capacity and cultural attributes; second, these assumptions are flawed to the extent that they are based predominantly on the information and experience of the white woman; third, given the assumptions underlying such legislation and policy, their effectiveness in addressing domestic violence against minority women is questionable since a significant proportion of such women are excluded from equal protection against violence in the home; fourth and in conclusion, that equal protection demands standards exacted by the doctrine of substantive equality to apply here. In light of this, the lack of appropriate mechanisms to account for the impact that ethnicity and culture has on accessibility to law and social resources renders the law inept and discriminatory in that it fails to achieve substantive equality in its protection of all women against domestic violence. It is argued that new initiatives are required to ensure equal access to ethnic minority and immigrant women and a more holistic approach towards combating domestic violence through user--oriented, culturally informed legislative and policy measures designed to achieve substantive equality.


September 30, 2010 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A Modern Salem

CNN recently ran a sad story about child-witch hunting in modern times.  Read it here.


September 30, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Prenups on the Rise

From CNBC:

Prenups overall are on the rise: A whopping 73 percent of divorce attorneys say they’ve seen an increase in the pre-marital documents, according to a recent survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. What’s more, 52 percent of them said they’ve seen an increase in women initiating the requests.

"Prenuptial agreements are becoming more generally accepted as an effective way to protect assets.  Interestingly, these requests are no longer just limited to a specific gender or age group," said Marlene Eskind Moses, president of the AAML. 

Read more here.


September 29, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Charges for "Sister Wives" Stars?

An investigation of the television show "Sister Wives," which premiered Sunday on TLC, is underway:

The stars of TLC's new show "Sister Wives" are under police investigation in Utah for a possible charge of felony bigamy.

Police in Lehi, Utah, said Monday they began looking into salesman Kody Brown and his four wives before the show premiered Sunday.

"At the conclusion of the investigation, the evidence will be forwarded to the Utah County Attorney's Office for review and possible prosecution," says Lt. Darren Paul.

Brown and his wives Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn have 13 children and three stepchildren. They say they will lead a lifestyle that they want, even if it means breaking away from tradition.

Read more here.


September 29, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Rasley “Bringing Progress to Paradise: What I Got from Giving to a Mountain Village in Nepal”

A new book, Bringing Progress to Paradise: What I Got from Giving to a Mountain Village in Nepal, by lawyer and adventurer Jeff Rasley looks into the meaning of philanthropy in far-away locales.  From the book’s description: “They had no running water, electricity, or anything that moves on wheels. Each family lived in a beautiful, hand-chiseled stone house with a flower garden. Beyond what they already had, it seemed all they wanted was education for the children. He helped them finish a school building already in progress, and then they asked for help getting electricity to their village.”  Check out the book here.


September 28, 2010 in Books | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

20 Books on Domestic Violence recently published a post entitled “20 Books to Help Women through Domestic Violence.”  Check it out here.


September 28, 2010 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Gregory: "Pet Custody: Distorting Language and the Law"

John DeWitt Gregory (Hofstra University School of Law) has posted "Pet Custody: Distorting Language and the Law" (Family Law Quarterly, Vol. 44, No. 1, p. 35, 2010) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Pets or companion animals are the property of those who own them. In this article, I shall show that pets that are the subject of disputes between divorcing spouses or separating unmarried couples should continue to be characterized as property under a rational legal system. Proposals in the law review literature and halting, early attempts by some courts to place pets in some category other than property, which flirted with a standard derived from the prevailing best-interest-of-the-child doctrine in conventional child custody and visitation cases, are, at best, vanity. Such proposals do violence to both the language and the law of child custody, create uncertainty in a well-established area of divorce law, and offer no discernible prospect of improving the welfare of companion animals.


September 27, 2010 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Technology & Family Law

A judge recently ordered a mom to arrange Skype visits between her children and their father as a condition of a long-distance move.  Read more here.


September 27, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Final Call for Papers

The final call for papers for the IV World Congress on Child and Adolescent Rights is this Sunday, October 3.  See for details.


September 26, 2010 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Why The Hague Convention Isn't Saving International Adoption

Nice article highlighting a few flaws of the Hague convention on inter-country adoption:

Two years ago this month, the US and Vietnam let lapse the three-year bilateral agreement that allowed Americans to adopt Vietnamese children. The US embassy in Hanoi had concluded that "the overwhelming majority" of infant adoptions from Vietnam involved fraud: at best, falsified official documents; and at worst, defrauded, coerced or paid-off birth families who had not consented to sending their children abroad for adoption. All told, 2,200 Vietnamese-born children were adopted to the US during that period, according to the state department; approximately another 2,000 were adopted to France, 950 to Italy, 475 to Ireland, and 250 to Sweden. 
The 2008 US-Vietnam closure was one in a long, stuttering series of crises in international adoption. In "Anatomy of an Adoption Crisis" in Foreign Policy Online, I analyse hundreds of pages of often shocking internal US state department documents (received under Freedom of Information Act requests) discussing that adoption crisis. These documents show how determined the US embassy in Hanoi was to block fraudulent or corrupt adoptions – and how little power it had to do so, both in Vietnam, and in other countries that have had similar crises, such as Cambodia, Guatemala, Nepal and Romania.
Why? Fifteen years after 66 countries negotiated the 1993 Hague convention on inter-country adoption, why couldn't the US state department screen out the "bad" adoptions and continue the "good" ones? The Hague adoption convention was supposed to streamline the adoption of children who legitimately needed new homes, and "prevent the abduction, the sale of, or traffic in children" for adoption by policing "improper financial gain".
But loopholes plague the Hague convention. The biggest one: technically, Hague protections need apply only to adoptions in which both countries have already ratified and implemented the convention. In the US, that means that adoption agencies must be screened and accredited by a national body before they may arrange adoptions from, or to, other Hague countries. But unaccredited agencies are still free to work in the "non-Hague" nations (presumably, the least prepared to police unsavoury practices). As a result, families adopting from such Hague signatories as China, Colombia or Thailand can rely on two different nations' governmental oversight. But that family has no such protections if it tries to adopt from such non-Hague countries as Ethiopia or Nepal, both rife with troubling allegations about their adoptions. 

Read the full article here for identification of additional loopholes and suggestsions on how they might be fixed.


September 26, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)