Family Law Prof Blog

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

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Home-wrecking Oscar?

From ABC:

It's easy to name stars who won the Oscar for Best Actress and went on to see their relationships go belly up.

Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Halle Berry, Hilary Swank, Reese Witherspoon, Kate Winslet and, of course last year's winner, Sandra Bullock, make it seem like some sort of Oscar Curse is going on

Scientists from the University of Toronto wanted to see if was scientifically legit or just paranoia. After crunching the numbers, they found that of the 265 married women who have been nominated for Best Actress from the beginning of the modern Oscars in 1936 to the present, 159 of them got divorced. That's a whopping 60 percent.

They compared the divorce rate of women who were nominated for Best Actress but didn't win against those who did take home the gold, and found that the winners were 1.68 times more likely to head to divorce court and have a 63 percent chance of having a shorter marriage than their fellow nominees.

And while they didn't have the data to compare, it's anecdotely much, much higher than the divorce rate at large.

Also interesting, the scientists compared the divorce rate for Best Actor winners and Best Actor nominees and they found there was virtually no difference there. In other words, the same effect isn't happening for men.

Watch a related clip and read more here.



February 19, 2011 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 18, 2011

MS Bill on Abuse as Divorce Ground Fails

From the AP:

The Mississippi House has defeated a bill that would have given a spouse grounds for divorce if they have been away from an abusive situation for five years or longer.

The Commercial Appeal reports that the bill was defeated Thursday on a vote of 81-39. The bill had earlier passed the Senate.

Backers say the bill would have made it easier for spouses, usually wives, to file for divorce when that spouse leaves home to avoid abuse and the other spouse will not agree to filing for divorce.

State law already allows a spouse who is abandoned to file for divorce, but existing law does not address when one party leaves home and the other will not give them a divorce.

Read more here.


February 18, 2011 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Affordable Divorces?

From The Los Angeles Times:

It may seem unromantic, but just about the only people who are busier than florists this time of year are divorce attorneys.

Whether it's because Valentine's Day forces couples to face romantic disappointments or because many people put off cutting marital ties until after the holidays, February tends to kick off high season for divorce.

And nothing could be worse for your finances than a contentious marital split, said Mark Baer, a family law attorney in Pasadena. Baer has compiled data to prove it. Married couples have significantly more assets than similarly situated singles until they divorce, he says. Then the economic advantage is more than wiped out. Call it the cost of acrimony.

"Couples let their emotions take control and they spend it all on attorneys," Baer said. "They're now worse off financially than if they'd never been married — just because they refused to act like mature adults."

To be sure, the cards are stacked against you if you hope to make divorce affordable.

Read more here.



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

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Varona: "Taking Initatives: Reconciling Race, Religion, Media and Democracy in the Quest for Marriage Equality"

Anthona Varona (American University Washington College of Law) has posted "Taking Initiatives: Reconciling Race, Religion, Media and Democracy in the Quest for Marriage Equality" (19 Columb. J. Gender & Law 805 (2010)) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Election Days 2008 and 2009 were disappointing ones for advocates of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans, especially supporters of marriage equality. In this comprehensive article, I identity and examine five interrelated tactical lessons the LGBT movement can glean from these recent defeats. Following is the roadmap I provide at the end of the Introduction to the article, describing the five subsections devoted to these individual lessons:

Section I, following the Introduction, provides an overview of what occurred in the various statewide ballot initiative battles in 2008 and 2009 and then describes the preliminary analyses of the reasons for the gay community’s defeats. Section II presents five interrelated lessons that the movement should glean from these ballot initiative losses, which, if used to inform pro-gay campaign strategies going forward, should result in better outcomes at the polls. First, I discuss how and why the LGBT rights movement must remedy its failures by incorporating diversity – especially racial, ethnic and class diversity – in its institutional leadership. Second, I propose that the LGBT rights movement engage religious arguments and communities much more substantively and authentically, instead of ceding religious arguments and circumventing faith communities in favor of what may appear to be a more hospitable, putatively secular ground. Third, I examine the need for more LGBT people of color (POC) to share our identities and family lives with other members of our respective POC communities. Fourth, I discuss the need for better and more proactive movement strategies to contend with the new atomized digital media environment, which poses difficult challenges in countering political misinformation, responding to anti-gay defamation and promoting public education. In the fifth part of this Section, I attempt to show that although the gay community’s travails in the recent ballot initiative battles illustrate both the dangers of and constitutional infirmity inherent in direct democracy, more strategic and proactive engagement by the LGBT rights movement in direct democratic lawmaking may actually accelerate progress towards marriage equality, both by building favorable support for plebiscitary campaigns and by catalyzing support for legislative and judicial advances. Finally, Section III concludes by discussing the importance of patience and perspective in the movement for LGBT equality.


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

Millionaire Divorces Skew UK Law

From Bloomberg Businessweek:

Jan. 28 (Bloomberg) -- A British millionaire was ordered to increase his ex-wife’s payout to 8 million pounds ($12.7 million) from 5 million pounds in a case where a judge said divorces involving rich couples are having an “unfortunate” effect on U.K. family law.

Gareth Jones, 58, was told to pay the money to his former wife Victoria Jones, 44, by the Court of Appeal in London today. The three-judge panel ruled that a lower-court judge had miscalculated the value of the assets accrued during the couple’s 10-year marriage.

Family law is becoming “dictated by cases which bear no resemblance to the ordinary lives of most divorcing couples,” said Nicholas Wall, one of the judges.

Read more here.



February 17, 2011 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

South Dakota Surrogacy Legislation Fails

From the Associated Press:

A measure that would have outlawed surrogacy birth arrangements in South Dakota was defeated Monday by a state House panel.  The Judiciary Committee voted 9-3 to reject the measure after even its main sponsor said the issue needs more study before state law is changed.

Hunt said Monday's hearing demonstrated that South Dakota must eventually adopt laws to regulate surrogacy, particularly cases involving commercial arrangements that pay a lot of money to women who carry other people's babies.

"It's coming. This is going to be a big business. We're going to have to deal with the situation where it's for money," Hunt said.

The bill would have made any surrogacy arrangement or contract unenforceable. It would have kept parental rights with the woman who gives birth to a child, even if she was not the genetic mother.

People involved in such surrogacy agreements could have faced civil penalties and criminal charges.

However, Tom Barnett, director of the South Dakota State Bar, said the measure would likely have prevented all surrogacy births. He said the State Bar, doctors and others could work on a model law that would regulate surrogacy arrangements but not prevent them.

"Surrogacy arrangements are a legitimate method for a loving couple to have their own child. What can be wrong with that?" Barnett said.

Harold Cassid,y of Shrewsbury, N.J., a lawyer who has worked on surrogacy disputes, said surrogate mothers often develop deep ties with a fetus. Surrogacy contracts determine child custody without any consideration of a child's best interests, he said.

Brokers are now inducing women to be surrogate mothers in exchange for money, Cassidy said.

"It calls for a breeding class of women who are to be discarded," Cassidy said.

Read more here.


February 16, 2011 in Alternative Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Higdon: "Fatherhood by Conscription: Nonconsensual Insemination and the Duty of Child Support:

Michael Higdon (Univ. of Tennessee College of Law) has posted "Fatherhood by Conscription: Nonconsensual Insemination and the Duty of Child Support" on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Nathaniel, was a California teenager who became a father in 1995. The mother of Nathaniel’s child was named Ricci, and at the time of conception, she was thirty-four years old. Nathaniel, however, was merely fifteen. Although Nathaniel admitted to having sex with Ricci voluntarily about five times, the fact that he was under sixteen years of age at the time made it legally impossible for him to consent to sexual intercourse. In other words, under California law, Nathaniel was not only a new father, but was also a victim of statutory rape. Nonetheless, in a subsequent action for child support, the court held that Nathaniel was liable for the support of the child who was born as a result of his rape. According to the court, "Victims have rights. Here, the victim also has responsibilities."

Much of the law relating to child support is based on the fact that it is typically in a child’s best interest to receive financial support from mothers as well as fathers. So strong is this precept that courts will hold a father liable for child support even in the face of wrongful conduct by the mother. Thus, child support is essentially a form of strict liability with the justification being that the child is an innocent party, and, therefore, it is the child’s interests and welfare that the court must look to in adjudicating support. At first glance, such a standard seems eminently reasonable. Few would argue with the proposition that, if a man voluntarily has sex with a woman and a child results, then he should be liable for child support. The problem with the court’s current approach, however, is that the standard is so strict that even those men who never consented to the sexual act that caused the pregnancy are nonetheless liable for the support of the resulting child. These men include males who became fathers as a result of statutory rape and also adult males who became fathers either as a result of sexual assault or having their sperm stolen and used by a woman for purposes of self-insemination. In all such cases, these "fathers" have been held liable for child support.

The purpose then of this article is, first, to underscore the criticisms that other commentators have raised on how the strict liability approach poses a grave injustice not only to the men who are pressed into the obligations of fatherhood but also to society, which has an interest in protecting all citizens from sexual assault. More importantly, however, I also offer a new objection and, on that basis, a proposed solution. Specifically, the courts' justification that all children are entitled to support from both biological parents has been seriously undermined by the laws regulating artificial insemination. In that context, a man (regardless of whether he is the sperm donor or the non-donor husband of the inseminated female) only becomes the legal father of an artificially inseminated child if he affirmatively consents. I argue that it is incongruous to allow exceptions for formal sperm donors yet wholesale deny similar protections for those who, although not in the setting of a sperm bank, never consented to the use of their sperm. Accordingly, I propose a solution whereby courts adopt an approach similar (albeit narrower) to that used in artificial insemination cases to adjudicate child support claims against those men who were forced into fatherhood as a result of nonconsensual insemination.


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

Lee & Solon: "The Fragility of Estimated Effects of Unilateral Divorce Laws on Divorce Rates"

Jin Young Lee & Gary Solon (Michigan State University; National Bureau of Economic Research) have posted "The Fragility of Estimated Effects of Unilateral Divorce Laws on Divorce Rates" on SSRN.  Here is the abstract?

Following an influential article by Friedberg (1998), Wolfers (2006) explored the sensitivity of Friedberg’s results to allowing for dynamics in the response of divorce rates to the adoption of unilateral divorce laws. We in turn explore the sensitivity of Wolfers’s results to variations in estimation method and functional form, and we find that the results are extremely fragile. We conclude first that the impact of unilateral divorce laws remains unclear. Second, extending Wolfers’s methodological insight about sensitivity of differences-in-differences estimation to allowance for dynamic response, we suggest that identification in differences-in-differences research becomes weaker in the presence of dynamics, especially in the presence of unit-specific time trends.


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

Newborn Genetic Testing in Kansas


A bill introduced in the Kansas House would require every newborn in the state to be genetically tested to identify the child’s father.

State Rep. Melody McCray Miller, a Democrat from Wichita, says the bill is intended to help men who have been named as a child’s father, or who want to know if they are the child’s father. The bill would also apply to married couples who have several children.

Read more here.



February 15, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Civil Union in Hawaii


HONOLULU, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- The Hawaii House voted 31-19 Friday to legalize civil unions for gay and heterosexual couples in the island state.


The House version incorporated changes recommended by the state attorney general's office, including clarification that certain provisions of the Internal Revenue Code that apply to husbands and wives in Hawaii would apply equally to partners in civil unions. Also, family court will have jurisdiction in matters of annulment, divorce and separation in civil unions, the same as with marriages.

Read more here.


Hat Tip: FS

February 15, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day...

...on what must be family law's favorite holiday, if it had one.

Read the background of this holiday, parts of which are far less than romantic, here.


February 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lebron: "Why to Abolish Civil Marriage?: Family-Normativity & the Reified Legal Regulation of Family"

Anibal Rosario Lebron (Hofstra Univ. School of Law) has posted "Why to Abolish Civil Marriage?: Family-Normativity & the Reified Legal Regulation of Family Arrangements" on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

The family has been defined socially, legally, politically and philosophically in a very diffuse manner, usually by making reference to marriage. This constant reference to marriage has created the dyad family/marriage. Failing to take this dyad as an analytical starting point has been a major setback in the transformation of the family and has hindered our comprehension of why such concept has not undergone any significant change. To overcome this, we need to posit the problem as one of shifting hegemonic discourses within the dyad. Some of the hegemonic discourses conflated in the dyad such as patriarchy and heteronormativity are well known. However, others, like family-normativity, have remained absent from political and scholarly discussion.

Family-normativity procures to dictate how family relationships should be lived and arranged as well as to signal which affectionate relations are of social importance and which are not. It encompasses the bureaucratization of family relations, the promotion of a sexuated and monogamous relations, and the establishment of child rearing as essential to the human families. Through this discourse, the State has secured the alienation and domination of certain minorities and has ultimately subverted political and social equality. Surprisingly, family-normativity has eluded the radar of critical analysts; mainly because, it has not been subjected to the process of hegemonic contestation.

Precluding this process is the unacknowledged phenomenon of the reification of the legal regulation of family arrangements. The latter has shielded family-normativity from the dialectal thinking required for hegemonic contestation to be initiated. Paradoxically, this shield is the by-product of the hegemonic contestation processes carried out against the other hegemonic discourses conflated in the family/marriage dyad. As the known hegemonic discourses conflated in the dyad began to be contested, the institution needed to be re-conceptualized to protect them against those attacks. The way in which it has been done has been to conceptualize the family as a non-political entity. By transforming the dyad into a non-political entity, the dominant groups were able by legal means to delimit more what constitutes a family, give more incentives and more protection from State intervention to the family arrangement that they deemed normative, and leave in the process other family arrangements in a more vulnerable socio-political position. This increase in legal regulation – by its privatization, constitutionalization and juridification – led to the unforeseen reification of the idea that family arrangements ought to be always regulated. This reification has become a barrier for the transformation of the hegemonic discourse of family-normativity.

Hence, if a transformation of the definition of the family is sought, the only way to achieve it is by unmasking the reified legal regulation of family arrangements as the social construct that it is. In order to do so, it is essential that we embark in dialectal thinking and refuse to reconcile our analysis with our culture, especially with our legal culture. This paper sustains that the best way to produce that dialectal thinking is to abolish civil marriage and avoid any legal regulation of family arrangements.


February 13, 2011 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)