Family Law Prof Blog

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

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Civil Unions in RI

From the NYT:

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Less than a week after same-sex marriage was legalized in New York, the Rhode Island State Senate on Wednesday evening approved a bill allowing not marriage, but civil unions for gay couples, despite fierce opposition from gay rights advocates who called the legislation discriminatory.

Read more here.


July 2, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Yakusheva: "In High School and Pregnant: The Importance of Educational and Fertility Expectations for Subsequent Outcomes"

Olga Yakusheva has posted "In High School and Pregnant: The Importance of Educational and Fertility Expectations for Subsequent Outcomes" (49 Economic Inquiry 810 (2011)) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

School and Beyond data (1980–1992) to examine the importance of educational and fertility expectations in explaining the achievement gap of adolescent mothers for over 5,500 young women from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Using a non‐parametric local propensity score regression, the study finds that the economic disadvantage associated with having a child in high school is particularly large in poor socioeconomic environments; however, this disadvantage is a result of preexisting differences in the educational and fertility expectations and is not because of a diminished capacity of the socioeconomic environment to mediate the effect of an unplanned childbirth. The findings suggest that childcare assistance and other policies designed to alleviate the burden of child rearing for young mothers of low means may not produce the desired improvement in their subsequent educational and labor market outcomes. A much earlier policy intervention with a focus on fostering young women's outlook for the future is needed.


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

Tarasen: "Untangling the Knot: Finding a Forum for Same-Sex Divorces in the State of Celebration"

Nick Tarasen has posted "Untangling the Knot: Finding a Forum for Same-Sex Divorces in the State of Celebration" (forthcoming Univ. of Chicago L. Rev.) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Same-sex couples with marriages or civil unions living in states hostile to their relationships may lack access to any court procedures to declare them divorced, leaving them indefinite legal limbo. This comment proposes and defends a new solution to provide these couples with access to divorce: divorces in the state of celebration of the marriage or civil union.

The difficulties that same-sex couples face in accessing divorce results from two factors. First, “hostile,” states such as Texas refuse to recognize same-sex marriages, even for the limited purpose of dissolving them. Second, Supreme Court precedents suggest that domicile is a constitutional prerequisite for personal jurisdiction over a divorce action (the so-called, "domicile rule"), thus largely preventing same-sex couples from traveling outside of their home states to obtain divorce decrees.

The existing literature on this topic has focused entirely on encouraging hostile states to recognize same-sex relationships, at least for the limited purpose of dissolving them. This comment contends that such a strategy is unlikely to provide a remedy in the foreseeable future. Instead, this comment suggests that each friendly state can allow same-sex couples who can obtain marriages there (the, “state of celebration”) to return to obtain a divorce, even if neither spouse still resides there. This solution has already been legislatively adopted in civil union/domestic partnership statutes in California, Delaware, Illinois, and Oregon.

However, the domicile rule may cast serious doubt on the validity any dissolutions granted under these statutes, because jurisdiction over these dissolutions would not be founded on domicile. This comment suggests that a limited exception to the domicile rule, for divorces performed in the state of celebration, is consistent with constitutional constraints on personal jurisdiction when the couple’s domicile refuses to recognize their marriage. It argues that while states may once have had an interest in regulating the divorces of their citizens (interests which originally undergirded the domicile rule), such interests are not offended by these divorces. In particular, it argues that states flatly refusing to recognize same-sex marriages cannot simultaneously assert any interest in preventing same-sex couples from being divorced elsewhere, nor in applying their own substantive law to govern such actions.


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

Supreme Court on Violent Video Games: Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association

Professor Catherine J. Ross (GW Law) recently wrote an interesting editorial for the Washington Post:

Parents may wonder how the Supreme Court could overturn a California law that made it a crime to sell or rent violent video games to minors. But the court got it right Monday in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association. The justices rejected a radical challenge to free speech — in the process protecting all of us, not just children.

Read more here.



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

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Chlidren's Voices in English Family Law

From BBC:

A new guide, drawn up by the children's rights director specifically for young people, tells them how to give opinions on how they should be treated.

The comments will be fed into the government's current review of the family justice system.

The review's chairman, David Norgrove, said it was vital children had a voice.

"The publication of the Young Person's Guide gives them this opportunity and the panel will carefully consider what they say," he said.

Read more here.


June 30, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

RI Legislature Passes Civil Unions Bill

From CNN:

Less than a week after New York became the nation's sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage, Rhode Island state lawmakers on Wednesday voted in favor of a bill that permits civil unions between gay and lesbian couples.

The measure, which passed the state Senate by a count of 21-16, is widely seen as a compromise intended to provide same-same couples with added rights and benefits, while also preventing an expanded legal definition of marriage.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an independent, is expected to sign the bill into law, according to his spokesman, Michael Trainor.

If signed, the law would take effect on July 1, making Rhode Island the fifth state in the union to allow civil unions between same-sex couples.

Such unions are currently permitted in New Jersey and Illinois, and will be allowed in Delaware and Hawaii beginning January 1, 2012.

Three West Coast states -- California, Oregon and Washington -- plus Nevada, also allow for "comprehensive domestic partnerships," largely considered an equivalent to their civil union counterparts.

Read the full article here.


June 29, 2011 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Top Female Scientists

Top female scientists discuss their work and families in the NYT.  Read it here.


June 29, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

DiFonzo & Stern: "The Children of Baby M"

J. Herbie DiFonzo & Ruth Stern have posted "The Children of Baby M" (39 Capital Univ. L. Rev. 345 (2011)) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Never the closest of bedfellows, law and technology mix uneasily within the realm of alternative reproductive practices. More than twenty years ago, the drama of Baby M provoked a fierce debate about the legal and biological contours of parenthood. In pondering the issue, the New Jersey Supreme Court attempted to erect a barrier between a natural mother’s right and what it saw as a dangerous and exploitive new mechanism for producing and marketing human life. Since that time, the practice of surrogacy and the use of alternative reproductive technologies have taken firm hold in our culture, creating families where, previously, none might have been possible.

This article examines the social and legal complexities involved in the apportioning of rights and responsibilities within these novel family forms. Biology was once determinative of parentage. Today, desire, intent, and the borrowing of another person’s reproductive capacities to create a child have forcefully intruded upon traditional notions of family. Baby M.’s children have been born into a world where law and technology must come to a rational, peaceable resolution in defining and preserving the bonds of parenthood.


June 28, 2011 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wild Facebook Use by Divorcing Couple

From the Globe and Mail:

In the latest example of two people losing all sense of reason while they part ways, Angela Voelkert, of Indiana, decided to go digital dirt-digging on her ex-husband, David. She created a fake profile on Facebook of a teenager named Jessica Studebaker (complete with a cute picture) and became friends with him.

“Jessica” quickly became a confidante, as The New York Post reports, and everything was going to plan. But then Mr. Voelkert began to spill details of a plot to bump off Angela. In e-mail messages, he apparently explained how he had attached a GPS to his ex’s car so he could find her when the time came, and even allegedly asked “Jessica” whether she knew someone who might do the job for him.

Ms. Voelkert went to the authorities, who promptly charged Mr. Voelkert last week with illegally installing a GPS, with warnings of more charges to come. In court, the Post story says, his e-mails were widely quoted, including his asking Jessica to run away with him when the deed was done. “Let me know, Baby!” (Signed with a smiley face.)

Except, on Tuesday, all charges were dropped suddenly. It appears Mr. Voelkert had been running a scam of his own. According to The Smoking Gun, he produced a notarized affidavit – signed six days before he first mentioned any sinister plans – that made clear he’d suspected all along that Jessica was really Angela. His affidavit stated that he had “no plans” to harm anyone. “I am lying to this person,” the affidavit states, “to gain positive proof that it is indeed my ex-wife trying to again tamper in my life.”

Read more here.


June 28, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 27, 2011

New York Prepares for Same-Sex Marriage Onslaught

From the New York Times:

From City Hall in Manhattan to rural hamlets upstate, New York officials began to prepare on Saturday for a surge in gay couples expected to flood clerks’ offices next month seeking to marry.

The state’s same-sex marriage law, which was signed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo just before midnight on Friday, will go into effect in 30 days, meaning that gay couples can marry here beginning on July 24.

Gay couples from out of state will also be allowed to apply for wedding licenses and hold nuptials in New York.

Roughly 45,000 gay couples live in New York State, according to census estimates. No exact projection is available for how many will marry here, but officials are readying for thousands, especially in the first week.

“We are training our staff to be prepared for a very large number of people on the first day,” said Michael McSweeney, the New York City clerk, who oversees the marriage bureau. “We are going to be part of history.”

The city has struck an agreement to increase the number of state judges available to perform same-sex marriages. Their workload could swell; John Feinblatt, a top adviser to the mayor, said judges could be bombarded by requests to circumvent the 24-hour waiting period.

Read the full article here.


June 27, 2011 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Unmarried but Divorced


If one person in a relationship believes the couple is married and the other says they're not, what does the law say?

A Maplewood woman divorcing her husband of 18 years argued she should be treated as a spouse because she had a "good-faith belief" that they were legally married.

Initially wed in the Hmong tradition, Su Xiong and Choa Yang Xiong described themselves as husband and wife, obtained a marriage license and filed taxes and bought houses and insurance together as a married couple.

They did not, however, get a marriage certificate. The husband, Su Xiong, argued in court that this meant they were not legally married.

But the state Court of Appeals agreed with a Ramsey County district judge this week that the woman was a "putative spouse" under Minnesota law, with all the benefits that implies.

Read more here.



June 27, 2011 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Appell: "The Myth of Separation"

Annette Ruth Appell (Wash. Univ. St. Louis) has posted "The Myth of Separation" (6 Northwestern J. Law & Social Policy 291 (2011)) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

On the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern University Law School, a center that holds among its core values that children are human beings and that all children matter, this short commentary reflects on lessons juvenile courts teach us about family values and the disconnection between our expectations of and aspirations for rich and poor families and their children. This dichotomy of expectations undergirds the myth of separation: that children can be fully and existentially separated from their parents; and that we must excise children from parents to improve children’s lives. The separation myth works to the detriment of all children, but particularly to children under the jurisdiction of juvenile courts who are more vulnerable to family disruption in a system that devalues kinship and ignores socioeconomic solutions. Against the kin-suspicious culture of juvenile courts, this commentary juxtaposes research in adoption that illustrates the importance of birth kin to children and their adoptive parents.


June 26, 2011 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)