Family Law Prof Blog

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

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Women in the Top 1%

From CNN Money:

So what is behind the income gains of the 1%? Let's start with the global and technological changes that pump up the salaries of superstars in a range of professions: Call it the Yo-Yo Ma effect. In 1600 a famous cellist would have reached his career peak by playing for the king. Now Ma can stage concerts all over the world, with commensurate earnings. Apply that same concept to the in-demand skills of star lawyers or bankers or doctors in the 1% club, or of hungry entrepreneurs plying new markets.

Women in high-paying professions are another factor. Researchers from Indiana University and the Treasury Department studied the top 1% of households and found that by 2005 the number of taxpayers (largely men) with working spouses rose to almost 40%, up from 25% in 1979. That spouse tends to be a wealthy professional as well.

Read more here.


May 19, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Comedic Take on Gendered Advertisements

May 18, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

On Sex and Reproductive Rights

Law Professor Beth Burkstrand-Reid (University of Nebraska College of Law) has recently published an editorial in the Huff Post:

Sure, the recent barrage of legal attacks on women's reproductive rights signifies a war on women. Women's ability to control their reproductive lives -- and therefore their lives more generally -- has never been subjected to more legal interference than it has in the first months of this year.

But what we are missing is that the latest attacks on reproductive rights are not just missiles launched in the war on women. This is also a war on consenting adults' right to have sex for nothing but sheer pleasure.

Read more here.


May 18, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Chemical-Endangerment Prosecutions of New Mothers

From the NYT:

There have been approximately 60 chemical-endangerment prosecutions of new mothers in Alabama since 2006, the year the statute was enacted. Originally created to protect children from potentially explosive meth labs, Alabama’s chemical-endangerment law prohibits a “responsible person” from “exposing a child to an environment in which he or she . . . knowingly, recklessly or intentionally causes or permits a child to be exposed to, to ingest or inhale, or to have contact with a controlled substance, chemical substance or drug paraphernalia.”

Criminal convictions of women for their newborns’ positive drug tests are rare in other states, lawyers familiar with these cases say. In most places, maternal drug use is considered a matter for child protective services, not for law enforcement. Advocates for Kimbrough insist that, in any case, Alabama’s chemical-endangerment law was never meant to apply to pregnant women’s drug use. “The words ‘womb,’ ‘uterus,’ ‘pregnant women’ don’t appear in the law,” Ketteringham says. “It was a law meant to protect children from meth labs.” One state legislator has filed an amicus brief, claiming the law was not intended to be used this way, and the Legislature has repeatedly rejected amendments to expand the law’s definition of “child” to explicitly mean “fetus.” But shortly after the law passed, Alabama prosecutors began extending the term “environment” to also mean the “womb,” and “child” to also mean “fetus.” In 2006, Tiffany Hitson was charged with chemical endangerment the day after she gave birth to a baby girl who tested positive for cocaine and marijuana but was otherwise healthy. When that prosecution was successful (Hitson was incarcerated for a year), other counties followed suit, making Alabama the national capital for prosecuting women on behalf of their newborn children.

Read more here.


May 18, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

AL Divorce Bill


HUNTSVILLE, AL - Over the past two decades, divorce rates around the country have skyrocketed. Alabama is no exception to the trend. In fact, the state ranks sixth in the nation for the highest rate of divorce. With more and more marriages falling apart, more and more children are struggling to cope.

Alabama lawmakers are working curtail the growing trend's negative effects on children with House Bill 482. Family law attorney Henri McDaniel says the bill is a good thing. In here more than thirty year career working with divorcing families, she says she's seen it all.


If passed, House Bill 482 will require a four hour marriage dissolution education course before any parent of a child under 18 could file for divorce. Portions of the program would focus on "increasing the parents sensitivity to childrens' needs" and at "giving parents skills to improve their own and their childrens' adjustment to the breakup of the family." Sponsors say its an effort to help the parents find ways to get along for the sake of the child.

Read more here.


May 17, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Genetic Scars from Child Mistreatment

From the Wall Street Journal:

Being maltreated as a child can perhaps affect you for life. It now seems the harm might reach into your very DNA. Two recently published studies found evidence of changes to the genetic material in people with experience of maltreatment. These are the tip of an iceberg of discoveries in the still largely mysterious field of "epigenetic" epidemiology—the alteration of gene expression in ways that affect later health.

Read more here.


Hat Tip: Naomi Cahn

May 16, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

On Marriage

The Huff Post recently ran an editorial on marriage by two law professors:

President Obama’s strong support for same-sex marriage is strong support for the institution of marriage itself. It's a vital step toward a revitalized institution better equipped to address the needs of today’s families.

Those who think and talk like Rush Limbaugh – who called the president’s statement a “war on traditional marriage” -- have championed the policies underlying the real war. Research on contemporary marriage such as Brad Wilcox's "When Marriage Disappears" shows that the ability to sustain a long-term, two-parent relationship (with any sex) is increasingly a function of class. Our research in Red Families v. Blue Families reveals that it is also the product of a conservative economic program that has wreaked havoc on the family lives of struggling Americans.

Read more here.


May 16, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Would-Be Grandparents Taking Matters Into Own Hands

From the NYT:

“I see these patients come in, and they’re with two elderly people, and I’m like, ‘What the hey?’ ” Dr. Schoolcraft said.

The gray-haired entourages, it turns out, are the parents, tagging along to lend support — emotional and often financial — as their daughters turn to the fledgling field of egg freezing to improve their chances of having children later on, when they are ready to start a family.

Read more here.


May 16, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Guest Post by Jennifer Smith: Dividing Up Debt

Dividing Up Debt

There is nothing simple or easy about divorce. In addition to coping the emotional distress associated with the end of a marriage, you also must contend with dividing up your marital assets as well as your marital debts. Most married couples do carry several different types of debts, including car loans, home loans, student loans, credit cards and more. Some of these debts may be your obligation to pay alone. Others may be divided up between you and your ex. 

Reduce and Divide Debts 

It is important to work with your attorney as well as an accountant regarding personal finance matters. Your attorney can help you to determine which debts you are legally responsible for and which debts you and your ex will need to divide up. You certainly do not want to take on more debt than is necessary, as it may take you several years to pay off significant debts. Keep in mind that as marital assets are sold, such as a home that you both shared, the profits from the sale can be used to reduce or eliminate some debts entirely. 

Hire Professional Assistance 

Divorce can be tricky, as there are numerous factors to consider that you may not be aware of. When you hire a lawyer and hire an accountant to help you through this process, you can more certainly make wise and informed decisions that are right for you. A lawyer as well as an accountant can work on your behalf to ensure that you only take on debts that you are legally obligated to. Further, an accountant can advise you about the most advantageous debts to take on when given a choice. 

Close Joint Accounts 

Many divorced adults have attempted to divide credit card debt by assigning one person to one account and another person to another. This is easily done, as you simply have to change the mailing address for the payment. However, ultimately, as long as a joint account is still open, you are still financially responsible for that payment. Some divorced adults have had the rather unpleasant surprise of finding out that their ex hasn't been making payments on that account they are both legally tied to. 

To avoid such an unpleasant surprise, it is best to close joint accounts. You can research the best credit cards to have and open a new account in your name. Then, you can transfer your portion of your debts onto this new account. Advise your ex to do the same, then close the joint accounts. This provides you with a fast route to a clean financial break from your ex. Because this debt can be expensive to manage on your single income, it is important to shop for the lowest interest rate and best credit card terms available. This can reduce the expense of your credit card payments on your budget. 

Personal finance during and after a divorce is not easy. You have to contend with establishing yourself as a separate entity from your spouse financially, and you also have to establish a budget that is affordable for you. This can take time and effort, but ultimately you will be better off by making this effort.


For more writing by Jenna you can check out

May 15, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Violence Against Women Act

From the New York Times, an editorial:

In an all-too-rare show of bipartisanship, 15 Senate Republicans joined with the Democratic majority last month to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, the landmark 1994 law that is key to efforts against domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.

Unfortunately, the lopsided 68-to-31 Senate vote halted G.O.P. opponents only temporarily. The House Judiciary Committee last week approved its version of the reauthorization bill, which not only omits improvements the Senate bill made to the law but also removes existing protections for immigrant women, putting them at greater risk of domestic and sexual abuse.

Read more here.  Law professors across the country had advocated for this Act here.


Hat Tip: Naomi Cahn

May 15, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Widiss: "Changing the Marriage Equation"

Deborah A. Widiss (Indiana University Maurer School of Law) has recently posted Changing the Marriage Equation, 89 Washington University Law Review 721 (2012) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract: 

This Article brings together legal, historical, and social science research to analyze how couples allocate income-producing and domestic responsibilities. It develops a framework — what I call the “marriage equation” — that shows how sex-based classifications, (non-sex-specific) substantive marriage law, and gender norms interrelate to shape these choices. The marriage equation has changed over time, both reflecting and engendering societal preferences regarding the optimal allocation of breadwinning and caretaking responsibilities. 

Until fifty years ago, sex-based classifications in family and employment law aligned with gender norms to enforce an ideology of separate spheres for men and women. The groundbreaking sex discrimination cases of the 1970s ended legal distinctions between the duties of husbands and wives but left largely in place both gender norms and substantive rights within marriage, tax, and benefits law that encourage specialization into breadwinning and caregiving roles. Thus, contrary to popular conception, the modern marriage equation does not actually promote equal sharing of these responsibilities. Rather, it still encourages specialization, although the law is now formally agnostic about which spouse plays which role. The vast majority of different-sex couples still follow to some extent traditional gender roles; a body of emerging social science research suggests that same-sex couples typically allocate these responsibilities more equally than different-sex couples. But claims that same-sex couples may therefore serve as a model for different-sex couples improperly ignore that the data sets in these studies predate legal marriage for same-sex couples. By permitting disaggregation of the marriage equation to gauge more accurately the relative significance of sex, gender norms, and substantive marriage law, the new reality of same-sex marriage can serve as a natural experiment that should inform both study design and policy reform.


May 15, 2012 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Modern Dads

From the WSJ:

Whether it is because today's men were raised amid the women's movement of the 1970s, or because they themselves experienced the costs of that era's absent fathers, there is little question that the age of dads as full partners in parenting has arrived.

"Fathers are no longer seen as just providers or occasional babysitters, but as actively engaged in their children's emotional and daily lives, down to their routine care," says Lauren Rinelli McClain, an assistant professor of sociology at Savannah State University. She is one of more than 30 researchers and policy makers who will present papers at a conference on "Fathers and Fathering in Contemporary Contexts" later this month at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

Read more here.


May 13, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Happy Mother's Day!