Family Law Prof Blog

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

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Broken Promises To Marry

These cases have made news in Illinois recently.  Now, no longer is it expensive only to divorce, but to break an engagement.

From OnPoint:

In a complaint filed last week, Serafin is not only suing Leighton under an Illinois law that allows claims for breach of a promise to marry but limits a plaintiff's recovery to wedding expenses. She is also going after him for intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED), which entitles her to compensatory and punitive damages.


The lawsuit is the second of its kind to be filed in Chicago in the past three months. Dominique B...— yet another lawyer — sued her ex-fiancé Dec. 10, alleging he broke his promise to marry her and acted outrageously by, among other things, “receiving lap dances and other physical contact” from strippers at his bachelor party.

Read more here.


March 19, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Carbone: "Neuroscience and Ideology: Why Science Can Never Supply a Complete Answer for Adolescent Immaturity"

June Carbone (UMKC School of Law) has posted "Neuroscience and Ideology: Why Science Can Never Supply a Complete Answer for Adolescent Immaturity" (LAW & NEUROSCIENCE, CURRENT LEGAL ISSUES, Chapter 13, Michael Freeman ed., Oxford University Press, 2010).  Here is the abstract:

This paper argues that to resolve the issues about the role of neuroscience, we need to question the framework in which it arises. The increasing complexity of scientific determinations raises issues of institutional capacity. Recognizing innovations in the science of adolescent development may change not so much our view of adolescence as the calculus underlying institutional functions.

Consider the issue of the juvenile death penalty or a life sentence for a crime committed by a fifteen-year-old. The fact that adolescent reasoning has not yet matured may or may not make the sentence cruel. But the ability to determine whether a particular fifteen-year old is capable of reasoned deliberation may be a more difficult task than judging whether fifteen-year-olds as a group have such capacity. Abolishing the juvenile death penalty may be the right answer not so much because adolescent decision-making is necessarily flawed, but because deciding whether it is in individual cases is impossible. At the same time, such a decision should not be resolved, in any absolute sense, on the basis of neuroscience findings. Instead, they can be at best a strand in a complex decision that situates the idea of justice, rather than cognitive capacity, in an appropriate societal framework.

To consider the appropriate construction of such frameworks, this paper describes the promise and limitations of neuroscientific advances, comparing legal decision-making capacity in individual cases versus broader matters of constitutional doctrine or public policy, analyzing recent US Supreme Court decisions on the juvenile death penalty, and assessing the role of neuroscience in the different possible outcomes of that case. The paper concludes that Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion gave the appropriate weight to the sense; it is an element supporting, but not dictating, a conclusion the court reached on broader grounds.


March 18, 2011 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Blackberries Guilt Trip Mothers More Than Fathers

From CNN:

( -- Thanks to our Blackberries, iPhones, and iPads, the line between work and family time is getting blurrier. But a new study suggests that women feel 40% more distress than men when family life is frequently interrupted by these electronic devices or other types of contact, despite being under the same amount of work pressure.

In fact, when co-workers contacted them at home, women felt guilty about it twice as often as men, even if the communications didn't actually interfere with family life. The survey, which included more than 1,000 U.S. workers, was published this week in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Read more here.



March 18, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fines: "Criminal Activities and Ethical Responsibilities"

Barbara Glesner Fines (UMKC School of Law) has posted "Criminal Activities and Ethical Responsibilities" (33 Family Advocate 4 (2011)) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

This article addresses the question of a lawyers professional responsibility when a seemingly simple domestic relations case begins to turn into a major criminal catastrophe. Starting with ABA Model Rule 1.2(d) that an attorney “shall not counsel or assist in criminal or fraudulent conduct but may discuss the legal consequences of proposed conduct…”it analyzes the attorney’s responsibilities in the context of a hypothetical case involving hidden assets and misrepresented financial statements. Options to withdraw under Model Rule 1.16(b) are discussed along with the questions raised therefrom and the lawyer’s Model Rule 4.1(b) obligation not to knowingly fail to disclose material facts. From there the nightmare turns criminal as the hypothetical client is indicted raising issues ranging from emergency lawyering under Model Rule 1.1 to the lawyers own fees being subject to forfeiture. In conclusion it is nearly impossible to screen out every client who may bring criminal activities into family law representation. However, with careful research, clear communication, and documentation, a lawyer will be able to find a route out of the nightmare without being caught up in the criminal activity itself.


March 17, 2011 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Ice Cream Fit for a Newborn

Human breast milk is no longer reserved for the mother-child relationship--it is now available in ice cream. Read more here.


March 17, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Baker: "Homogenous Rules for Heterogeneous Families: The Standardization of Family Law When There is No Standard Family"

Katharine Baker (IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law) has posted "Homogenous Rules for Heterogeneous Families:  The Standardization of Family Law When There is No Standard Family" on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

The article explores the ironies involved in the contemporary enforcement of family obligations. As forms of intimate partnership and parenthood become ever more varied, the law of family obligation - child support, property division and alimony - has become increasingly routine and formulaic. As scholars increasingly call for more attention to the varied ways in which different individuals and communities structure their care networks and their intimate lives, the law of family obligation has become less, not more attentive to context. This piece explains how the law’s rejection of context is an understandable reaction to the growing diversity of family forms. By unpacking contemporary family law rules, one see that the baselines and value judgments informing the law of family obligation are usually contested or arbitrary or both. They are accepted not because they represent consensus on what obligation should be but because they clearly demarcate who is obligated and for how much. Predictability emerges as more important than context for almost everyone. Social acceptance of so many different family forms makes judicial attention to context extraordinarily invasive and expensive. In an area of law where very few of the parties have the resources or desire to debate the normative underpinnings of family obligation and where both the parties and the state have strong interests in minimizing contested issues, there are compelling reasons to establish a very rule and status based law of obligation, even if that system is rooted in a normative vision of family that, for most people, has ceased to exist. The article thus argues that despite the profoundly limited way in which the current law identifies families, some reliance on restricted legal definitions of family will be necessary for any meaningful system of family obligation to operate. In doing so, the article challenges much contemporary family law scholarship and suggests that we may have to accept the law’s privileging of certain family forms if we are to expect an enforceable system of family obligation. AC

March 16, 2011 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Fostering Beliefs vs. Fostering Children

From BBC News:

Mr and Mrs Johns said they could not tell a child homosexuality was an acceptable lifestyle

A Christian couple opposed to homosexuality have lost a battle over their right to become foster carers.

Eunice and Owen Johns, 62 and 65, from Derby, said the city council did not want them to look after children because of their traditional views.

The pair, who are Pentecostal Christians, say they were "doomed not to be approved".

The High Court ruled that laws protecting people from sexual discrimination should take precedence.

Read more here.



March 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Fines: "Effectively Using Paralegals in a Family Law Practice"

Barbara Glesner Fines (UMKC School of Law) has posted "Effectively Using Paralegals in a Family Law Practice" (25 Am. J. of Family Law 1 (2011)) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Non-lawyer assistants are critical to a family law practice: whether secretaries, document managers, investigators, or bookkeepers, attorneys who structure their practice to include extensive use of these non-lawyer assistants must remember three basic rules: keep control; set clear policies; and educate both your assistants and your clients about limits. Finally, train the assistant and revisit that training regularly. Having these policies and asking assistants to read them is not adequate training. Regular training is necessary to maintain competence. This training should be grounded in the discrete problems that arise in your office. A medical model of “grand rounds” would be an effective training mechanism for insuring that policies are understood and kept current. With the demands of efficiency required of today’s attorney, proper use of non-lawyer assistants is, for most attorneys, a necessity of practice. With proper attention to supervision, clear policies, and regular training, these assistants can make an attorney’s practice more efficient and of a higher quality overall.


March 15, 2011 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Maldonado: "Illegitimate Harm: Law, Stigma, and Discrimination against Nonmarital Children"

Solangel Maldonado (Seton Hall Univ. School of Law) has posted "Illegitimate Harm: Law, Stigma, and Discrimination against Nonmarital Children" (63 Fl. L. Rev. 345 (2011)) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

No one would dispute that for most of U.S. history, nonmarital children suffered significant legal and societal discrimination. Although many individuals believe that the legal disadvantages attached to "illegitimate" status has disappeared in the last forty years, this Article demonstrates that the law continues to discriminate against nonmarital children in a number of areas, including intestate succession, citizenship, and child support. Societal biases against nonmarital children also remain. A majority of Americans believe that the increase in nonmarital births is a significant societal problem and almost 50% believe that unmarried women should not have children. Some courts are aware of societal biases against nonmarital children and have tried to protect children from the "stigma of illegitimacy." However, legislative and executive efforts to promote marriage and reduce nonmarital births, along with some courts' rejection of same-sex marriage on the ground that the state's goal in creating civil marriage is to discourage nonmarital childbearing, have signaled that nonmarital families are deviant. These messages may serve to strengthen existing societal disapproval of nonmarital families and their children.

The state has an interest in supporting family forms that further children's well-being, such as stable marriages. The state also has a duty to protect children from the economic, social, and psychic harms caused by legal discrimination. This Article proposes a model statute that would eliminate remaining legal discrimination against nonmarital children. It also suggests ways lawmakers can alter their messages suggesting that nonmarital families are inherently inferior. The reforms suggested in this Article may reduce societal biases against nonmarital children while allowing the state to support all children without regard to birth status.


March 15, 2011 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Resource on Mortgages for Same-Sex Couples

Dating Dynamics

From the AtlanticWire: is not the likeliest forum for a debate about dating. But when the financial news site does broach the topic, it's probably the only place that discusses courtship in terms of "call options" and "unmet arbitrage opportunities."

Here's how it all started. Jennifer Wright at recently asked CNBC financial reporter John Carney, and nine other "smart men," why so many studies indicate that men prefer dating women who are less intelligent than they are. Carney chalked the phenomenon up to today's "knowledge economy." Less intelligent women have more leisure time because they aren't financially rewarded for staying in school or working long hours, Carney reasoned, and they seek out a smart partner as a means of "economic advancement." As Carney put it, "dumb chicks have both greater opportunities and greater incentives to try harder to date smart men than smart women do."

Read more here.



March 15, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Baby Gender Selection in the UK

From MailOnline:

A leading NHS fertility doctor is making money by sending couples abroad to choose the sex of their unborn baby – a procedure that is illegal in Britain.

Gynaecologist Charles Kingsland, clinical director of Britain’s largest NHS fertility unit and a former inspector for the fertility watchdog, refers at least one woman a week to a clinic in Northern Cyprus to be implanted with a selected embryo.

Read more here.



March 14, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bill on Equal Time Presumption Dies in SD Senate

SD Senate kills joint custody bill:

The South Dakota Senate rejected a measure Tuesday to encourage more divorced parents to equally share custody of their children, despite months of campaigning by a political action group established to get such a law passed.

The bill would have required judges in a custody dispute to presume that both parents should get equal time with their children, unless one parent waives joint custody or proves the other parent shouldn't have the same amount of time.

Supporters said it would protect the rights of fathers and ensure that children have access to both parents after a divorce. "The bill helps ensure both parents are equal in the eyes of the court," said Sen. Dan Lederman, R-Dakota Dunes.

But others argued the bill would restrict the ability of judges to decide custody disputes and would cause more strife between parents. Sen. Joni Cutler, R-Sioux Falls, said Tuesday that the bill would unfairly treat children as "property to be equally divided."

The Senate voted 20-13 to reject the bill. The South Dakota House had already passed it.

Major bill supporters included two lobbyists from a new group, the Children Need Parents PAC, founded to advocate a change to state custody laws.

Cutler argued Tuesday that the bill would set South Dakota's custody laws apart from other states with joint custody.

"Why would we want a standard less than the best interests of the children of South Dakota?" she said. "There's a reason no other state has done this, and we shouldn't either.

Senators made at least three references to the actor Charlie Sheen — an example, they said, of parents who don't deserve joint custody. "Under this bill, Charlie Sheen has immediate physical custody half of the time of his children," Cutler said.

Read more here.


March 13, 2011 in Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)