January 8, 2011
Top 10 Divorce Issues of Last Decade
One divorce attorney has created a list of the top 10 divorce issues of the last decade. Read it in the Huffington Post here.
January 7, 2011
Two Adoption Bills Signed Into Law
The Adoption Simplification Act does more than simplify the process for families. It helps ensure the safety of adopted children. Previously, the U.S. required all children adopted from Hague Convention countries – including China, Thailand, the Philippines and India – to receive all their vaccinations before entering the U.S. Delivered all at once, these immunizations can be unsafe to young children. “It’s good public health,” Susan Cox, Holt director of public policy and external affairs, says of ensuring everyone receives routine vaccinations against infectious diseases. “But not for babies.”
With the passage of this act, all children 10 or younger – adopted from any country – may wait to get their shots until after they enter the U.S. Delaying immunizations has one additional effect on the adoption process – an effect important to every parent and every child eager to be united as a family. “It means the children won’t have to wait so long (to enter the U.S.),” says Cox.
The Adoption Simplification Act includes one additional provision. Families who’ve adopted from Hague signatories may now adopt their child’s siblings, up to 18-years-old. Previously, the cut-off age was 16. For the siblings who will now be able to reunite in an adoptive family, this news is monumental – as well as a major step forward in protecting the rights of orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children.
Another breakthrough for adoptive families occurred December 9th. . . Obama signed into law the Help HAITI Act, ensuring citizenship for every child brought to the U.S. from Haiti on humanitarian parole visas.
Following the earthquake, the U.S. issued these visas to approximately 100 children already matched with adoptive families. Unlike children adopted through the usual process – who are automatically naturalized – these children faced years of waiting for the legal protections entitled to U.S. citizens.
Read more here.
January 6, 2011
Spot the Issues!
Heart-Wrenching Adoption Case Before the MO Supreme Court
His biological mother calls him Carlitos, but he's Jamison to the couple that adopted him.
The two sides are locked in a heart-wrenching legal fight over custody of the 4-year-old boy. He's caught between federal immigration law and state adoption law -- and between two families. But the Missouri Supreme Court will soon decide his fate.
The court could keep him with his adoptive parents, Seth and Melinda Moser, a couple from Carthage, Missouri who have raised the boy since shortly before his second birthday. The Mosers say they played by the rules in adopting the boy and provide him with a loving, stable home.
Or the court could return the boy to his biological mother, a native of Guatemala who says she never agreed to her son's adoption. She was separated from her son when he was about six months old, after federal agents imprisoned her as an illegal immigrant who used a stolen Social Security number to work at a poultry processing plant.
Seth Moser says he and his wife are the only parents the boy has ever known. They heard him speak his first words, watched him take his first steps.
"It's almost like preparing for someone in your family to die," he says. "How do you explain to your 4-year-old that there's an issue and that he has to go with this other person he doesn't even know?"
The boy speaks English, like the Mosers. His biological mother, Encarnacion Bail Romero, speaks Spanish.
She didn't see her son during her nearly two years behind bars, but the boy is her flesh and blood, she argues. She says her child was taken away without her consent. How can a court not allow her to get her child back, she asks?
"I was very worried about my son, and today I'm still desperate," she says in Spanish. "I want to be with my son."
The federal government plans to deport Bail Romero to Guatemala, where her two other children live, but authorities have put that on hold until the courts resolve the question of her son's custody.
Lurking behind the immediate issue of where the boy will live is the larger question of what happens to children when their parents are detained as illegal immigrants.
There may be hundreds or thousands of cases in the United States where immigrant children are taken from their biological parents, says Marcia Zug, a University of South Carolina law professor who has researched the topic.
Because records of many such cases are sealed, and because many immigrants can't afford to hire lawyers, Zug estimates that she has found only a small fraction of such cases.
"I have 20 documented cases, but I think that's just the tip of the iceberg," she says.
The Missouri Supreme Court could rule any day on the legality of the boy's adoption; a lower court already has ruled that the adoption was invalid.
Read the full article here.
Divorce as a New Year's Resolution
WASHINGTON - While "lose weight" is probably on many people's lists of New Year's resolutions, some are vowing to shed more than a hundred pounds -- not in a gym, but in a divorce courtroom.
"A lot of people want to begin the New Year anew," says family law attorney Kathryn Dickerson of Vienna, Va.-based SmolenPlevy.
Unhappy couples often try to endure the Christmas holiday.
"They've resolved to themselves they're not going to spend the holidays next year as they did this year," Dickerson says.
Men are more likely than women to begin divorce proceedings early in 2011, Dickerson says.
Women "are tired, they're let down, the stress is over, and they just want to breathe for a little bit," says Dickerson.
"For men, they've gotten through the holidays. They've maintained the image of a family for as long as they could, and they're ready to move forward."
The winter weather often exacerbates tension in a struggling relationship.
"People stay indoors. When people stay indoors they tend to wear on each other faster."
Dickerson says she believes the bad economy has likely resulted in couples staying together longer than they'd like to.
Read more here.
January 5, 2011
Refusal to Give a "Get" Sparks Outrage
From the NY Times:
Instead, Mr. Friedman, an Orthodox Jew, finds himself scrutinized in the Jewish press, condemned by important rabbis, and attacked in a YouTube video showing about 200 people protesting outside his Silver Spring, Md., apartment on Dec. 19. They were angered by Mr. Friedman’s refusal to give his wife, Tamar Epstein, 27, a Jewish decree of divorce, known as a get.
The Friedman case has become emblematic of a torturous issue in which only a husband can “give” a get. While Jewish communities have historically pressured obstinate husbands to give gets, this was a very rare case of seeking to shame the husband in the secular world.
Holding signs saying, “Do the right thing” and “Free your wife,” the crowd included religious women with their heads covered, men in skullcaps and a rabbi with a bullhorn who shouted, “Withholding a get is abusive.”
Another rabbi took the unusual step of writing to Mr. Friedman’s employer, asking that he lean on Mr. Friedman to grant the Jewish divorce.
Mr. Friedman and Ms. Epstein have been civilly divorced since April and share custody of their daughter, but they are still married according to Jewish law. And without a get neither he nor Ms. Epstein can remarry within the faith. She is considered an agunah, or chained woman.
Although the majority of men in Jewish divorces grant their wives a get with little fuss, the husbands who refuse — it is estimated there are several hundred agunot in the United States today — can provoke a clash between religious folkways and secular divorce law.
Usually these conflicts are resolved quietly, within the religious community. But Ms. Epstein’s frustrated supporters took to the streets.
All parties have said that Mr. Friedman is angry about the custody order, which grants him three weekends a month with his daughter, two of them in Philadelphia, beginning at 6 p.m. on Fridays. As a religious Jew, Mr. Friedman will not drive from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday — so he cannot see his daughter until Sunday.
Read the full article here.
New CA Divorce Laws
A new bout of California laws for the New Year includes changes to Caifornia divorce law:
The major change focuses on oral testimony in court.
"Previously, for most hearings before any trial, testimony is done in writing by declaration and submitted to the court," Fleischer said. "Starting on Jan. 1, all hearings require oral testimony unless both parties specifically waive that right or a judge finds good cause not to have oral testimony.
"The definition `good cause' is slated to come in another year. This will require everyone who previously signed declarations to testify, which can include the divorcing couple as well as all of the third party witnesses, which could be numerous."
Fleischer said the law is well-intentioned but will have unintended consequences.
"Sometimes people need to have their voices heard by the system, and their credibility during testimony needs to be observed and judged," Fleischer said. "But our courts are already bogged down and we cannot get hearings for months. Oral testimony takes time and this will only serve to cause more delays."
Fleischer said this will also make the use of attorneys more costly to the parties.
Read more here.
January 4, 2011
Starnes: "Victims, Breeders, Joy and Math: First Thoughts on Compensatory Spousal Payments Under the Principles"
Cynthia Starnes (Michigan State University College of Law) has posted "Victims, Breeders, Joy and Math: First Thoughts on Compensatory Spousal Payments Under the Principles" (8 Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy 137) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Current divorce statutes typically authorize courts to divide marital property and award alimony under a broad discretionary standard that suggests relevant factors, but ultimately defers to an individual judge's sense of fair play. Not the least of the dangers inherent in such a system is the possibility that an egalitarian-minded, well-intentioned judge will unrealistically assume spouses are equally opportuned at divorce. Such a judge may equally divide minimal marital property, and award little or no alimony. Each spouse then, theoretically at least, will enjoy a clean break and a fresh start, though on a decidedly different economic footing. The shield that once protected the married homemaker from her market opportunity costs is thus abruptly removed, and she is left alone to bear those costs, even as her husband is left alone to enjoy any gains resulting from his fuller market participation. If the law incorrectly assumes such husbands and wives are equally positioned at divorce, it effectively penalizes the wife whose human capital has deteriorated during marriage and rewards the husband whose human capital has increased. Such a scenario goes far in explaining the persistently troubling statistics on the disparate financial impact of divorce on men and women, and its possibility haunts every homemaker who negotiates a divorce settlement.
The ALI's answer to this scenario is a detailed set of presumptive alimony rules designed to ensure a more equitable allocation of loss. Even as we applaud the Principles' frank realism and bold effort to restructure the law of alimony, however, we critics must begin the process of questioning them. Especially deserving of first blush scrutiny is the Principles' choice of a victimizatlon model rather than one based on equal partnership, its breeder/non-breeder dichotomy, its remarriage penalty, and its quantification methodology. Such scrutiny hopefully will guide reform rather than deter it, and so ultimately facilitate the Principles' laudable goal of a more equitable sharing of the economic
risks of marriage.
A Roast in a Family Court Decision
For an amusing view of a family law case from the perspective of a Canadian family court judge with a sense of humor, see here.
January 3, 2011
Baumle & Compton: "Legislating the Family: The Effect of State Family Laws on the Presence of Children in Same?Sex Households"
Amanda Baumle & D'Lane Compton have posted "Legislating the Family: The Effect of State Family Laws on the Presence of Children in Same?Sex Households" (33 Law & Policy 82) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Faced with legal animus or outright legal prohibitions on adoption, fostering, or surrogacy, gay men and lesbians could be deterred from family formation. In this article, we use 2000 U.S. Census data to assess the validity of this assumption by examining the effect of positive and negative family laws on the presence of children in the households of same?sex unmarried partners. In doing so, we seek to assess whether formal law plays a central role in family formation outcomes for gay men and lesbians. Employing a multilevel analysis, we find that formal law, particularly negative formal law, appears to play little role in outcomes involving family formation. Formal law might, however, play a greater role when defining property or other legal rights, such as through second parent adoption. These findings are compatible with the notion that individuals are less likely to consult formal law in their everyday livesparticularly with regard to family mattersbut are more likely to do so with regard to family issues concerning wills and estates, transfers of property, or other business? matters.
Pregnant? There's an App to Tell You
From PR NewsWire:
WASHINGTON, HAARLEM, Netherlands, SHENZHEN, China and HUIZHOU, China, Dec. 15, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- GENTAG, Inc. and its partners have just demonstrated a new disposable wireless diagnostic test platform for consumer cell phones. The technology, based on immunoassays, can test for pregnancy, fertility, pathogens, AIDS, drugs, allergens and even certain types of cancers.
"This technology breakthrough will enable much more rapid diagnoses for diseases and make diagnostics more accessible and affordable for more people worldwide," announced Dr. John Peeters, the founder of GENTAG.
GENTAG started with well-established immunoassay technology and made it wireless and compatible with Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, which enables consumers to use their cell phones as diagnostic tools to instantly test for pathogens, allergens or common medical conditions at any time, no matter where they are.
This new technology is expected to broadly impact major women's health markets, including ovulation, fertility, and PROM (labor); the men's health market, including a urine-based prostate cancer test (PCADM-1); and tests for common food allergens.
Read more here.
January 2, 2011
Family Law Fellowship Opportunity
Clinical Fellow Family Law Clinic.
The University of Baltimore School of Law invites
applications for a Fellowship to start on or about July 1, 2011. This public interest fellowship
program offers practicing attorneys experience and training in law school clinical teaching.
The Fellow’s duties include direct supervision of clinic students’ client, case, legislative
advocacy and community education work, co-teaching a weekly clinic seminar, and engaging in
course planning and preparation with the other faculty members in the Family Law Clinic.
Fellows also have the opportunity to pursue other professional goals, including scholarship,
during the Fellowship. Fellows are responsible for case coverage during school vacations. This
position is a contractual appointment for up to two years with the possibility of a one-year
Qualifications include excellent oral and written communication skills; at least two years of
experience as a practicing lawyer, preferably (but not necessarily) in the area of family law; a
strong academic record and/or other indicia of high performance ability; a strong interest in
teaching; and a commitment to work with low income clients. Fellows must be members of the
Maryland bar to supervise law practice by students; if not barred in Maryland, successful
applicants will be expected to take the earliest Bar possible.
Salary: $50,000 year 1; $53,000 year 2. The position includes full benefits, including retirement
annuities, research support and travel allowance.
Applicants should submit a letter of interest and curriculum vitae by November 30, 2010 to:
Professor Leigh Goodmark, Director, Family Law Clinic, University of Baltimore, School of
Law, 5 West Chase St., Baltimore, MD 21201, Phone: (410) 837-5706, fax: (410) 837-5737;
The University of Baltimore is an equal opportunity employer and minority candidates are
encouraged to apply.