Family Law Prof Blog

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

Saturday, December 11, 2010

'Tis the Season for...

...breakups?!  Or so say facebook data.

From CNN:

In the talk, McCandless said he and a colleague scraped 10,000 Facebook status updates for the phrases "breakup" and "broken up."

They found two big spikes on the calendar for breakups. The first was after Valentine's Day -- that holiday has a way of defining relationships, for better or worse -- and in the weeks leading up to spring break. Maybe spring fever makes people restless, or maybe college students just don't want to be tied down when they're partying in Cancun.

And let's hear it for cheapskates. The other big romantically treacherous time, according to the graph, is about two weeks before Christmas -- presumably as people begin pricing gifts for their significant others.

Read more here.


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

Friday, December 10, 2010

Dishion & Tipsord: "Peer Contagion in Child and Adolescent Social and Emotional Development"

Thomas Dishion & Jessica Tipsord (University of Oregon) have posted "Peer Contagion in Child and Adolescent Social and Emotional Development" (62 Annual Review of Psychology 189) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

In this article, we examine the construct of peer contagion in childhood and adolescence and review studies of child and adolescent development that have identified peer contagion influences. Evidence suggests that children's interactions with peers are tied to increases in aggression in early and middle childhood and amplification of problem behaviors such as drug use, delinquency, and violence in early to late adolescence. Deviancy training is one mechanism that accounts for peer contagion effects on problem behaviors from age 5 through adolescence. In addition, we discuss peer contagion relevant to depression in adolescence, and corumination as an interactive process that may account for these effects. Social network analyses suggest that peer contagion underlies the influence of friendship on obesity, unhealthy body images, and expectations. Literature is reviewed that suggests how peer contagion effects can undermine the goals of public education from elementary school through college and impair the goals of juvenile corrections systems. In particular, programs that "select" adolescents at risk for aggregated preventive interventions are particularly vulnerable to peer contagion effects. It appears that a history of peer rejection is a vulnerability factor for influence by peers, and adult monitoring, supervision, positive parenting, structure, and self-regulation serve as protective factors.


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

Babies' e-Footprints

This is not surprising to me at all, especially during the holiday season:

From CNN:

Thanks to the ubiquity of photo-sharing websites like Facebook, 82 percent of children in 10 Western countries have a digital footprint before the age of 2, according to a study by internet security firm AVG.

The U.S. led, with 92 percent of American children under 2 appearing in online pictures, the report said.

New Zealand was a close second with 91 percent, followed by Canada and Australia with 84 percent. The study also covered the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy. Japan was the only country where less than half of 2-year-olds had an online presence.

AVG's report indicates that it's not necessarily a child's mother who is doing the uploading.

Only 33 percent of the 2,200 moms studied said they've uploaded pictures of their newborn or toddler to the internet. Other family members and friends often take the liberty of sharing baby pictures on the Web, making deleting them trickier for concerned parents.

Everyone likes to look at snapshots of cute babies -- or at least the babies' parents think so. But disclosing a lot of personal info, such as birth dates, middle names and mothers' maiden names -- which can be carelessly inserted into photo captions -- can aid identity thieves.

Read more here.


December 10, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Family Law Sees Its First "Lawsuit Lenders"

From the NY Times:

Michelle Pont and her husband amassed millions of dollars in properties and investments from a freight-hauling business that they started with a single stake-bed truck in 1991. They bought a four-bedroom home, then a second home, a vacation home, a motor home and half a dozen cars.

But when Ms. Pont decided to seek a divorce last year, she quickly ran out of money. She had no job. Her husband controlled the family’s investments. A few months of legal bills maxed out her credit cards and drained her retirement account.

She wrestled with accepting a smaller settlement than she considered fair. Then a lawyer referred her to Balance Point Divorce Funding, a new Beverly Hills lender that offers to cover the cost of breaking up — paying a lawyer, searching for hidden assets, maintaining a lifestyle — in exchange for a share of the winnings.

In October, Balance Point agreed to invest more than $200,000 in Ms. Pont’s case.

“It’s given me hope,” Ms. Pont said. “I don’t view it as a loan; I view it as an investment in my future. They are helping me to get what is rightfully mine.”

With some in the financial world willing to bet on almost anything, it should be no surprise that a few would see the potential to profit from the often contentious and emotional process of ending a marriage.

So far, the number of companies investing in divorce is small — Balance Point is one of the few that do it exclusively. But other businesses are gearing up. A New York start-up, Churchill Divorce Finance, also is planning to enter the business. The company’s chief executive previously co-founded a publicly traded Australian company, ASK Funding, that has invested tens of millions in divorce cases there.

While this business is in its infancy, Balance Point is part of a bigger trend — the growing industry that invests in other people’s lawsuits, arming plaintiffs with money to help them win more money from defendants. Banks, hedge funds and boutique firms like Balance Point now have a total of $1 billion invested in lawsuits at any given time, industry participants estimate.

Lawsuit lenders initially focused on personal injury cases, but over time they have sought new frontiers, including securities fraud cases brought by disgruntled investors, whistleblower claims against corporations and property development disputes.

Stacey Napp, a lawyer by training who has spent her career in finance, founded Balance Point last year with money from her own divorce. Since then, she has provided more than $2 million to 10 women seeking divorces. She says she is helping to ensure both sides can defend their interests.

Divorce cases may be a promising niche for lenders because costs can mount quickly — some top lawyers in Los Angeles charge more than $500 an hour — and because state laws uniformly require plaintiffs to pay lawyers upfront, rather than promising them a contingency fee, or a share of any winnings, as is common in other civil cases.

Read the full article here.


December 9, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


An interesting article from The New York Times:

Courtesy of the state, French women seem to have it all: multiple children, a job and, often, a figure to die for.

What they don’t have is equality: France ranks 46th in the World Economic Forum’s 2010 gender equality report, trailing the United States, most of Europe, but also Kazakhstan and Jamaica. Eighty-two percent of French women aged 25-49 work, many of them full-time, but 82 percent of parliamentary seats are occupied by men. French women earn 26 percent less than men but spend twice as much time on domestic tasks. They have the most babies in Europe, but are also the biggest consumers of anti-depressants.

A recent 22-country survey by the Pew Research Center summed it up: three in four French people believe men have a better life than women, by far the highest share in any country polled.

“French women are exhausted,” said Valérie Toranian, editor-in-chief of Elle magazine in France. “We have the right to do what men do — as long as we also take care of the children, cook a delicious dinner and look immaculate. We have to be superwoman.”

Read more here.


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

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

To Blend or Not to Blend?

Interesting piece from the NY Times on blending, or choosing not to blend, families:

BEGIN with one formerly married couple and an amicable divorce. (Don’t snort, it happens.) Add children, maybe two or three. Give each former spouse a new partner. Perhaps the new partners have children, too. Add them. Oh, and the new partners’ exes. Factor in an equitable (say, nearly 50-50) physical custody arrangement for all the parties.

What do you have? For many couples, it’s a complex data set in search of an equally complex algorithm to tame it. Do they move in together, mixing developing teenagers like snarling cats in a bag? Or are they risk-averse, maintaining separate households and seeing one another on the odd weekend?

Or perhaps they are fortunate enough to establish some sort of contiguous living arrangement, like the members of the Curtis-Hetfield-Petrini household, who have as irresistible a scenario as anyone could devise.

It is a post-divorce living arrangement — you might call it the unblended or partly blended family — that some couples are pursuing to promote the well-being (and sanity) of children and adults.

The old, Brady Bunch stepfamily model — the so-called “blended family” — has long been out of favor. Indeed, the term is almost universally loathed by family therapists for the unrealistic expectations it promotes of previously unrelated children blending harmoniously with one another and a new adult, and the disjunction between that rosy vision and the more prickly reality that is stepfamily life.

Into the breach pour all manner of scenarios: stepfamilies whose children move in and out of the home following various custody decisions; the nesters, whose children remain in the family home, while the parents move in and out on a schedule; the partial-blenders, like Ms. Curtis and Mr. Petrini; and the Living Apart Togethers, or L.A.T.’s, to use the term for couples who maintain entirely separate residences.

“Children are a disincentive to marry or cohabit,” Dr. Stewart said. “It’s why fewer women marry after divorce than men.”

But what’s really driving the practice of committed couples with children living in separate abodes, Dr. Stewart continued, “is that middle- and upper-income women have their own money and independence. They are working, and can live on their own.”

“We know that kids with two married parents do better,” she said. “A lot of that can be explained by other factors like income or residential stability. For example, there is very little difference in the well-being of children from single-mother households and a household with a mother and a stepfather. But it’s one more layer of complexity.”

And couples who remarry have a 60 percent chance of divorcing; some demographers put that figure closer to 70 percent when one or both of the spouses have children from a prior relationship.

“Not cohabiting is a way of having a relationship when there’s a lot of obstacles,” Dr. Stewart said. “Not all women can do this, of course. It makes more economic sense to share resources. If I didn’t have enough money to live on my own, Chris wouldn’t be the best partner for me.”

Yet the economy is one factor freezing some new couples in place and apart.

Family therapists like to think of the state of maintaining separate residences as a temporary one, a transition toward moving in together, except in extreme situations.

On the other hand, cautioned Ms. Friedman, who has a Ph.D. in social work: “Looking at this from family systems therapy, which emphasizes working through family dynamics to a resolution, a couple can’t completely unify when the dividing line is literally at the front door. While it’s beautiful to put your children’s emotional and physical needs paramount, by denying a bonded relationship with a new partner or spouse, you are sending a clear message to the children that they don’t have to adjust to new, possibly difficult scenarios and that the parent will defer to the child through sacrifice and martyrdom.”

Read the full article here.


December 8, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bix: “Private Ordering and Family Law”

Brian Bix (University of Minnesota Law School) has posted Private Ordering and Family Law, Journal of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (forthcoming 2010) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Until recently in American family law (and the family law of most countries), private arrangements to alter the legal rules surrounding family status were rarely enforced. There was, of course, “private ordering” of a basic sort: e.g., one chose whether to marry or not, and whom to marry, but once one married, the legally enforceable rules of marriage, the ability to exit through divorce or annulment, the financial obligations upon divorce, and so on, were all set by the state, which might also limit the power of the parties to distribute their own property upon death, as with a spouse’s “statutory share.” Similarly with parenthood: one could choose whether to have (and whether to adopt) children, but once one was a parent, one’s obligations and rights were set by the state, which would also determine the limited circumstances and set terms under which one could surrender parental rights to a child.

Much has changed in recent decades, with American states increasingly allowing different types of private ordering in a range of different family law areas. One can speak of premarital agreements, marital agreements, separation agreements, open adoption agreements, co-parenting agreements, agreements on the disposition of frozen embryos, and agreements to arbitrate disputes arising out of any of the above agreements. This article offers an overview of the changes and limits to private ordering in American family law, while considering the extent to which these changes have been a positive development.



December 8, 2010 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

We Still Believe

From CNN on the role education plays in attitudes about marriage:

The 2010 edition of "The State of Our Unions" -- a report on attitudes toward marriage -- indicates highly educated Americans are "embracing a pro-marriage mindset" even as middle Americans lose faith in the institution. That shift resembles trends normally seen in the poor, where marriage is "fragile and weak," according to the report, issued Monday

The findings show moderately educated women, or those with a high school diploma and some post-secondary education but no four-year degree, are choosing the single life more often these days, especially when it comes to becoming a mother.

According to the report, "in the early '80s, 13% of babies of moderately educated mothers and 33% of babies of least-educated mothers were born outside of marriage, while 2% were born to highly educated mothers.''

In recent years, the numbers soared to 44% for moderately educated mothers and 54% for the least educated mothers. For mothers with a four-year college degree, births outside of marriage increased to only 6%.

Highly educated women also are getting married more and staying in those relationships longer, according to the report, which suggests this is a "striking reversal of historic trends"

The report cites an adherence to a "marriage mindset," which means religious attendance and faith in marriage is now a way of life for the highly educated.

Three national surveys were used to compile the final report. They were the General Social Survey, which conducts basic scientific research on the structure and development of American society; the National Survey of Family Growth, which gathers information on family life, marriage and divorce, pregnancy, infertility, use of contraception, and men's and women's health; and the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a federally funded program at the University of North Carolina.

Read more here.


December 7, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Can it really be THAT bad out there?

...that you have to marry yourself?  That's what a Taiwanese woman did.  Read about it here.


December 7, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Choudhury: "Exporting Subjects: Globalizing Family Law Progress Through International Human Rights"

Cyra Akila Choudhury (Florida International University College of Law) has posted "Exporting Subjects: Globalizing Family Law Progress Through International Human Rights" (32 Michigan J. of Int'l Law) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

This article examines the global export of domestic U.S. legal projects and strategies in the realm of family law and gender justice to South Asia. While such projects have undoubtedly achieved substantial gains for women in the U.S., there have also been costs. At a remove of two decades, scholars have now begun to theorize those costs and argue that feminism needs to reconsider its commitments to particular projects that have been held central to women’s emancipation. Yet much of these critiques have not reached the transnational women’s movements that are led by U.S. feminist activists and scholars. Relying on Liberal notions of personhood or subjectivity and progress, U.S. transnational feminists continue to export those subjects and projects now being critiqued at home to the Global South. The primary means by which this export occurs is through the conflation of domestic family law with women’s rights as “human rights.” Indeed, international human rights provide a convenient discursive and structural vehicle to achieve this export. However, within local contexts, such Liberal projects are often met with resistance and reshaped in ways that may not make sense to women in the North. Moreover, women in the South have articulated a different set of priorities focused on economic distribution and development that are often ignored by women’s rights activists in the North. This has to do with a general discomfort with economic redistribution inherent in Liberal theory as it has evolved in the U.S., as well as with the more traditional focus on civil and political rights. The aim of the article is to highlight the difficulties of exporting notions of personhood and progress and to argue for a reorientation of transnational feminism in a manner that adopts the priorities of local women in the Global South and not just their elites.


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

Recession Increases Appreciation for Family

From Bloomberg Businessweek:

FRIDAY, Oct. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Recession-linked job insecurity has many Americans questioning the sacrifices they make for work, such as having less time for family, leisure and self-improvement activities, a new study suggests.

Florida State University researchers surveyed more than 1,100 full-time workers with a range of jobs and career stages. Nearly half (48 percent) said the recession had increased their appreciation of family, and 37 percent said the recession triggered thoughts that work isn't as important as it once was in the overall scheme of things.

Read more here.


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

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Skype Marriage Ceremony Invalid

A Texas couple's plans to use Skype to avoid Texas' same-sex marriage ban has proved unsuccessful:

A homosexual couple from Texas in the US thought they made history earlier this year by becoming the first gay couple to tie the knot online via the video communication site Skype.

However following a superior court investigation, the marriage of Dante and Mark Walkup has been declared invalid as they were not physically present where the ceremony was conducted.

The couple wanted to side-step the state law in Texas which doesn’t allow same sex couples to be legally joined together by having their ceremony in Texas, conducted by a registrar based in Washington DC were gay unions were legalised this year.

The Walkups wanted to get married in their home state of Texas surrounded by their family and friends, but because of the law, this wasn’t possible. When they came across the idea of a wedding conducted via a Skype by a registrar in a state which did recognise same sex unions, they thought they’d found a solution to their dilemma.

After visiting Washington DC and seeking expert advice, the couple were told it was possible to conduct a legal ceremony this way. The wedding went ahead and Mark and Dante hit the headlines for their landmark e-wedding.

Now that dream has been shattered after receiving an official letter from the Supreme Court advising them that their marriage is null and void. The court advises the couple to travel to Washington in person and have another ceremony in order to make their union official.

Read more here.


December 5, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)