Family Law Prof Blog

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

Saturday, November 20, 2010

All Female Species That Clones Itself

Warning: This CNN story is not for the faint-hearted:

Researchers have identified a previously undocumented species of all-female lizard in the Mekong River delta that can reproduce itself by cloning, and the story of how it was discovered is almost as exotic as the animal itself.

Read it here.


November 20, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Royal Engagement

Let's add to the media frenzy surrounding Kate & William's engagement by pointing out that it has brought much attention to the English premarital agreement, which is entering a new era of enforceability in the UK.

From Business & Law:

Britain's Prince William and his long-time girlfriend Kate Middleton ended speculations about their future by announcing their engagement on Tuesday but triggered a new speculation over whether the couple will opt for a prenuptial agreement.

To date, no member of the British royal family has signed a prenuptial agreement but William and Kate could set a royal precedence.

According to divorce and family law experts, a prenuptial agreement would make William and Kate be seen as a modern couple and would help avoid a lot of unnecessary headache and heartache later.


Last month, the U.K. Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling, swept away hundreds of years of legal precedent that a married couple should be together for life and their property should be shared, by saying that prenuptial agreements are enforceable under British divorce law.

The court had ruled against Nicolas Granatino, a former investment banker who had challenged a prenuptial agreement he signed with German heiress Katrin Radmacher.

Court President Lord Phillips said that the law cannot prevent a couple deciding how to arrange their affairs should they come to live apart. The court said that all English courts should follow its precedence and after its ruling "it will be natural to infer that parties entering into agreements will intend that effect be given to them."

However, Lord Phillips also said that prenuptials will not be legally binding in all circumstances and the courts would still have the discretion to waive any pre- or postnuptial agreement, especially when it was unfair to any children of the marriage.

UK is known as the "divorce capital of Europe."

Read more here.



November 19, 2010 in Property Division | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

"Birth or Not" Website

The internet has been buzzing with the following story, with many suggesting it cannot possibly be true:

From Star Tribune:

A suburban Twin Cities couple touched off an Internet frenzy Thursday with their "birth or not" website -- an online poll on asking whether the woman, who is 17 weeks pregnant, should have an abortion.

"We wanted to give people a chance to voice their opinions in a real situation where it makes a difference," said Alisha Arnold, 30, of Apple Valley.

She and her husband, Peter Arnold, began the online vote because she was still healing emotionally from the most recent of three miscarriages, she said. They weren't sure whether she was ready for a baby.

Read more here.


November 19, 2010 in Abortion | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Show Me the Money...

Wrong movie, right sentiment: Above the Law recently published an interesting post about the efforts of Michael Douglas's ex-wife to collect money off his Wall Street 2 movie.  Read about it here.


November 19, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

20-Year-Old Frozen Embryo Yields Baby

From My Fox New York:

NewsCore - A healthy baby boy was born from an embryo frozen for almost 20 years in what was hailed Sunday as scientific breakthrough that could allow women to start families much later in life.

The infant's mother, who is 42, underwent infertility treatment for 10 years before she was given the embryo last year. She gave birth to a baby boy in May this year.

News of the birth, reported in the medical journal Fertility and Sterility, comes as British lawmakers extend the period that embryos can be stored for up to 55 years.

The baby boy was born from a batch of five embryos frozen in 1990 in the U.S. by a couple who no longer needed them after they conceived their own child through IVF treatment.

Read more here.


November 18, 2010 in Alternative Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Call for Papers: Midwest Family Law Consortium




THURSDAY, JUNE 16, 2011 - FRIDAY, JUNE 17, 2011




            The first decade of the 21st century has been an exciting time for family law scholars, teachers and practitioners.  Family law is more dynamic than ever, with changing social definitions of family and greater use of science and technology to create families.  Themes that have emerged in the first decade of the century will likely inform family law reforms in the coming decades.   The Midwest Family Law Consortium seeks papers that explore these issues and other hot topics for the 4th annual conference, June 16-17, 2011, at Michigan State University College of Law.

            While papers that address cutting edge themes in family law are encouraged, all paper and panel proposals are welcomed.  In addition, professors who wish to discuss techniques and insights concerning family law education are welcome to submit proposals for a teaching panel or panels.

            Interested persons should submit a one-page proposal with the name, title, and institutional affiliation of the presenter(s) and a brief summary of the proposed presentation to Cynthia Lee Starnes, Professor of Law, MSU College of Law at .  Proposals submitted before January 15 will be given priority consideration.

            The conference will begin Thursday, June 16, 2011, with an opening reception and dinner. Conference sessions will be held on Friday, June 17th and conclude by 5:00 p.m.

            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.

For further information contact:

            Melanie B. Jacobs                                                       Cynthia Lee Starnes

            Associate Professor of Law                                        Professor of Law

            MSU College of Law                                                 MSU College of Law

            441 Law College Building                                          411 Law College Building

            East Lansing, MI 48824                                             East Lansing, MI 48824        

            (517)432-6944                                                                        (517)432-6899                                     


November 17, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Canadian Surrogacy Case Sparks Intense Debate

A recent case making its way through the Canadian appellate process is renewing the legal and moral debate about surrogacy arrangements:

The deal was signed; the sperm was collected; the baby was conceived. All the usual steps in the surrogate motherhood cycle were successfully completed. Then something went wrong. The dream baby the young, wealthy British Columbia couple had planted in the womb of a young, poor single mother turned out to have Down syndrome.

The prospective parents pulled out and called for an abortion post haste. They didn’t want damaged goods. But the surrogate mother refused. She would raise the child, she said, if only they would help her with expenses. That was not part of the deal, they responded. It would be totally her responsibility. As a single mother with two children of her own, and a contract that gave her no leverage, she reluctantly had the abortion.

When the case was raised — with no names attached — at a recent fertility conference in Canada, it created headlines and debate nationwide — and set antennae atwitter in the U.S. too. No surrogacy contracts have ever been contested in Canada, but ethicists warned that it was bound to happen, and when it did, those contracts might not, and should not, stand.

Similar issues will arise increasingly in the U.S., ethicists warn, where only a handful of states specifically back surrogacy contracts.

Guichon hopes that someone will challenge a surrogacy agreement in a Canadian family court. There, she says, it doesn’t matter what the parents agreed to before a baby was conceived or born through natural means; it just matters who was biologically responsible for the conception.

Guichon believes that under family law the court would put a financial onus on the commissioning parents regardless of the pre-existing contract. After all, she notes, “all three people came together to create a child.”

In the U.S., says Parks, “there is a patchwork of laws from state to state.” Some have no laws; others have outlawed surrogacy, regarding it as tantamount to baby selling. According to the Human Rights Campaign website, six states explicitly accept surrogacy contracts: Arkansas, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Washington.

On the other hand, at least 19 states ban them, another 13 won’t enforce contracts, and 10 ban a third party — such as a lawyer — from profiting from such contract agreements.

Read more here.


November 17, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

U.S. Supreme Court Grants Cert in Child Support Contempt Case

Rick Brundrett of The Nerve just published an excellent story about the U.S. Supreme Court's grant of cert in a child support contempt case.  He writes:

The nation’s top court will hear the appeal of an indigent Upstate father who contends his rights were violated because he wasn’t provided an attorney before being jailed for failing to pay child support.

The U.S. Supreme Court this month announced it accepted the case of Michael D. Turner v. Rebecca Price and the S.C. Department of Social Services. Oral arguments could be heard as early as March, with a ruling by the nine-member court likely by the end of June, based on the court's past practice, Greenville lawyer Derek Enderlin, one of Turner’s appellate attorneys, told The Nerve on Monday.

Having an appeal accepted by the top court is a rare legal feat: Out of about 10,000 petitions the justices receive annually, only about 100 are heard during a term, which started last month.

The Nerve previously profiled Turner’s case in April and August.

The S.C. Supreme Court unanimously ruled on March 29 that indigent parents didn't have the right to an attorney in civil contempt hearings.  Turner appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

South Carolina is one of only five states in the nation – along with Georgia, Florida, Maine and Ohio – that don’t guarantee indigent parents who owe child support the right to an attorney in civil contempt hearings that can result in jail time, according to Turner’s U.S. Supreme Court petition.

That situation creates modern-day debtors’ prisons, as judges are more likely to jail indigent parents without attorneys for contempt, Turner and his supporters say in court papers.

At any given time in South Carolina, there are about 1,500 people in jail for non-payment of child support, the vast majority of who were sentenced for civil contempt, according to research in 2005 and 2009 by Elizabeth “Libba” Patterson, a University of South Carolina law professor and former director of the S.C. Department of Social Services.

“The system just isn’t working that well,” Enderlin, who represented Turner for free before the S.C. Supreme Court, told The Nerve. “We’re putting people in jail, and by the time they get out, they’re twice as much in debt.”

Enderlin said he plans to attend the oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court. The lead appellate attorney, who also is representing Turner at no cost, is Seth Waxman of Washington, D.C., a former U.S. solicitor general appointed by President Bill Clinton.

Read more here.


November 17, 2010 in Child Support Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

UK Scrutinizes Child Benefit Payments

From Yahoo! Finance:

LONDON (AP) -- Britain will cap payments to jobless families and scrap child benefits for high earners in a sweeping overhaul of the country's welfare system, Treasury chief George Osborne said Monday.

Osborne, who is seeking to save about 86 billion pounds ($135 billion) in government spending over the next five years, said the cost of welfare payments was out of control -- and rewarding some people for staying out of work.

At an annual rally of his Conservative Party, Osborne said Britain's coalition government would introduce a new welfare cap to make sure families in which both parents are unemployed do not receive more in benefits than an average family earn in wages.

Osborne also announced parents who earn more than 44,000 pounds ($70,000) per year will lose child benefit payments from 2013. Currently, all families are paid 20 pounds ($32) a week for their eldest child and about 13 pounds ($20) for other children. The benefits continue until the children are 19, if they stay in full-time education.

Read more here.


November 16, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Straight Couple Sues Seeking Civil Union

From the AP:

Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle are in love and want to tie the knot — but they don't want to get married.

The 26-year-old Londoners think they should be allowed to have a civil partnership, a form of legal union available in Britain only to same-sex couples.

On Tuesday, after having their application to form a civil partnership rejected by officials at their local town hall in Islington, north London, they said they will go to court to win the right. They are being backed by gay rights activists, who hope a ruling that allows straight couples the right to a civil partnership would mean, in turn, that gay couples have the right to wed.

Some legal experts think there is a strong case, because discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation infringes Britain's human rights law.

"How can the government justify this, when the legal rights attached to each legal institution are identical?" said law professor Robert Wintemute, who is advising the campaign. "For most purposes, the two institutions are identical — except for the name."

Britain introduced civil partnerships in 2005, giving gay couples the same legal protection, adoption and inheritance rights as heterosexual married partners — but not the label of marriage.

Read the full story here.


November 15, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Can You Pass Me the "Divorce Section" of the Paper?

From strollerderby:

The Huffington Post has reported that it is developing a “divorce vertical,” dedicated to the topic of life after marriage. The premise, as the founding editor Nora Ephron puts it, “is that marriage is for some time but divorce is forever.”

“If you want to know about planning a wedding or things like that, there are so many places for people to go, but there isn’t one go-to place around divorce,” says Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington.

The section will be dedicated to topics like dating and raising children after divorce. And given that half of U.S. marriages doesn’t last, it makes sense that articles and input from contributors on the subject would be helpful and popular.

Huffington says part of her inspiration for the section was the feedback she got after writing a blog post on vacationing with her ex-husband.

Read more here.


November 15, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Boudin: "Children of Incarcerated Parents: The Child’s Constitutional Right to the Family Relationship"

Chesa Boudin has posted "Children of Incarcerated Parents: The Child’s Constitutional Right to the Family Relationship" (forthcoming Journal of Criminal Law and Crimonology) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

This Article describes the vast population of children with incarcerated parents. The central argument reframes sentencing law and prison visitation policy through the lens of children’s rights, rather than the traditional frame of prisoners’ rights. It then suggests as a possible legal basis for children's right to a relationship with their convicted parents the First Amendment freedom of association and a due process liberty interest. The argument is developed through comparative analysis of current sentencing law and visitation policy in New York State and the federal system, as well as First Amendment doctrinal analysis. International law and practice illustrate that the status quo in the United States need not be the only approach.


November 14, 2010 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)