Family Law Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

New York Expands the Definition of Parent for Unmarried Couples


On August 30, 2016, the New York Court of Appeals issued a landmark decision in In the Matter of Brooke S.B. v. Elizabeth A.C.C. As a result, New York now recognizes that children may have a second parent not related to them by blood, adoption, or marriage.  

The Brooke S.B. case involved Brooke and Elizabeth—unmarried partners in a lesbian couple—who were engaged to be married in 2007. In 2008, Elizabeth became pregnant through artificial insemination and gave birth to a baby boy. Brooke had no legal or biological ties to the child, but she maintained a close, parental relationship with him for years, which included giving him her last name and raising him jointly with Elizabeth.

The couple separated in 2010, and in 2013, Elizabeth began restricting Brooke’s contact with the child, so Brooke filed for custody.

Read more here.

October 12, 2016 in Adoption, Alternative Reproduction, Cohabitation (live-ins), Custody (parenting plans), Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

In Lebanon, a Tangle of Religious Laws Govern Life and Love

From The Atlantic:

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- When May Omari, now 45, tied the knot at age 23, she married a secular man in a secular marriage in New York City. As a formality, and to appease their Lebanese families, they later held a brief religious ceremony in Beirut. A Sunni Muslim mufti, or religious leader, came to her house, the couple signed a few papers, and she put them in a drawer.

After 18 years of married life and a move back to Lebanon, they decided to divorce. At that point, her religious marriage came back to haunt her. Although her husband had never shown a hint of piety in the past, she says, the prevailing interpretation of sharia family law in Lebanon granted him custody of the couple's two sons. And when he took them -- along with all the furniture -- there was nothing she could do.

Read more here.

October 11, 2016 in Custody (parenting plans), Divorce (grounds), International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Court of Appeals finds parents unfit, affirms termination of parental rights

From The Indiana Lawyer:

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed Monday a decision to terminate parental rights after both parents failed to show evidence that allowing them to maintain their rights would be in the best interest of the children.

T.B. was born to the mother and father in 2009, then the mother gave birth to a second child, R.K., who had a different father who is now deceased, in 2010. After being convicted of multiple drug charges, the mother was incarcerated in 2013 and has not seen the children since. T.B. and R.K. were placed in the father’s care shortly thereafter.

After father reached out to the Department of Child Services for help in 2014, the department filed a children in need of services petition on behalf of T.B. and R.K. — as well as the father’s two older children — and the court found that the children could remain in the father’s care as long as a safety plan was developed.

A well-child check in May 2014 found R.K. with second-degree burns on his feet, which prompted his and T.B.’s removal from the home and placement in foster care. The children were subsequently adjudicated CHINS, and the father was ordered to participate in visitation, Fatherhood Engagement and individual therapy.

However, father was often vocal about his distrust of DCS and refused to participate in the department’s services. The mother was limited in her ability to participate in DCS services due to her incarceration.

In February 2016, the Tippecanoe Superior Court entered an order terminating the mother’ s parental rights to T.B. and R.K. and the father’s parental rights to T.B., prompting both parents to appeal.

Read more here.

October 1, 2016 in Child Abuse, Custody (parenting plans), Termination of Parental Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 30, 2016

Local father desperate after son is reportedly taken to Russia

From ABC News 10:

QUEENSBURY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A Queensbury man is raising awareness to a growing global issue of International Child Abduction. It happens when a child is wrongfully taken and held in another country by a parent.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon.

Corey McKeighan shares custody of his son Xavier with his mother who is from Russia.

What was supposed to be a mother and son three week trip to her country, has McKeighan worried he will never get his son back.

Xavier is bright and full of energy. He just turned 4 on Monday.

“He was the best kid in the world. He was happy, he was funny.”

His ex-wife agreed to return on September 16th.

“The day before they were supposed to return, she had called me and said, ‘We’re not coming back and you’ll never see us again.'”

In a panic, McKeighan contacted the U.S. State Department, FBI, and congressional leaders. They are working with the foreign government to resolve this case that they say is international child abduction.

Read more here.

September 30, 2016 in Custody (parenting plans), International, Resources - Child Custody | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 1, 2016

Co-Parenting Tips Before School Starts

From The Huffington Post:

I watched producer, Garry Marshall’s, Mother's Day last night with my stepdaughter, and learned this morning of his unfortunate passing yesterday. Thanks to Mr. Marshall, for two, fun-filled hours we sat back and giggled as we watched superstars like Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson and Julia Roberts stumble over the normal issues that arise with most blended families. Garry Marshall tackled it all: interfaith marriage, divorce, remarriage, gay marriage, step parenting and adoption. The movie was epic, and a hilarious reminder of where our blended family has traveled over the past several years. It gave us a chance to look at the behaviors of others on a screen, while considering our own real-life behaviors. As they say, we’ve come a long way, baby.

But, this post isn’t a movie review. It is a reminder that though blended families are just like any other family (dare I say, maybe better??!!), we do have to work just a tad bit harder to make sure that our children are raised in supportive, loving environments.

Read more here.

August 1, 2016 in Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Carolyn Hax: A separated couple is struggling to find a way to reconcile

From the Washington Post:

Dear Carolyn: I’ve been separated from my wife of 19 years and three kids for a few months. The separation stemmed from my infidelity — a mistake I made to run from my marital problems instead of to communicate, try to work through them and take a stand for my happiness. It was cowardly, and I regret it deeply.

We are in couples counseling and both want to find a way to reconcile, but we are struggling to get there. She can’t forgive me, and I am unable to convince her I am sorry enough without completely submitting and denying my authenticity.

I miss my kids terribly and this is hard on them. The truth is, though, that I want to reconcile only to unify the family. For all our sakes, personally and financially. Spending time alone with my wife is something I dread, as she is angry, judgmental and constantly telling me all the things I’m doing wrong. This describes our marriage previous to the infidelity.

When is it time to give up and move on? I’m living half a life.


Read more here.

July 22, 2016 in Custody (parenting plans), Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Programme aims to help people affected by 'parental alienation'

From The Guardian:

Parental alienation – a phenomenon where one parent poisons their child against the other parent – has become such a feature of the most difficult family breakdowns that Cafcass, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, is to offer targeted support for those affected following a government-funded intensive therapeutic pilot programme.

Distinct from the all-too-common acrimony between divorcing parents, the syndrome is an internationally recognised phenomenon. In America and Canada, “parenting coordinators” are ordered and supervised by the courts to help restore relationships between parents and children identified as “alienated”. In Mexico and Brazil, alienating a child from a parent is a criminal act.

Psychiatrist Richard Gardner developed the concept 20 years ago, defining it as “a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child’s campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent’s indoctrinations and the child’s own contributions to the vilification of the target parent.”

Read more here.

July 20, 2016 in Custody (parenting plans), Divorce (grounds), Resources - Child Custody, Resources - Child Support, Resources - Children & the Law, Resources - Divorce, Visitation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 12, 2016

California foster parents continue fight for Indian girl

Foster Parents Continued Fight for Custody of Indian Daughter

From Fox News:

The scene was wrenching: A sobbing 6-year-old girl, clutching a stuffed bear as her foster father carries her away from the only home she has known for most of her life.

But Lexi's story didn't end in March when she was removed from a Santa Clarita home near Los Angeles. Her story isn't one of simple emotions but rather complex issues of ethnicity, government, and history.

Lexi, who is 1/64th Choctaw, was placed with distant relatives in Utah under a decades-old federal law designed to keep Native American families together, and under California's Juvenile Dependency Law.

Her foster parents, Rusty and Summer Page, have fought a yearslong battle to keep her.

Read more here.

June 12, 2016 in Adoption, Custody (parenting plans), Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 27, 2016

Father bugs daughter's clothes in court battle over who she lives with

Listening Devices on Little Kids

From The Guardian:

A young girl had listening devices sewn into her school blazer and raincoat so that her father could eavesdrop on her private meetings with a social worker, a court has been told.

The discovery of the bugs during a residence dispute emerged in a judgment by Mr Justice Peter Jackson in the family division of the high court in London.

The girl, said to be in the “later stages of primary school”, was not aware she had been monitored. None of those involved have been identified.

Read more here.

May 27, 2016 in Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Australian Mother Released on Bail in Lebanon After Being Caught in Child Custody Battle

From Fox News:

An Australian mother and TV crew caught up in a high-profile child custody battle and detained in Beirut amid a botched attempt to take the woman's two children from their Lebanese father were released on bail on Wednesday.

Ali al-Amin, the father of the two children, ages 3 and 5, said he dropped attempted kidnapping charges against his estranged Australian wife Sally Faulkner and the Channel 9 TV crew, because he "didn't want the kids to think I was keeping their mother in jail."

Faulkner and the four-person TV crew, led by prominent Australian TV journalist Tara Brown, hugged each other outside a jail in Baabda, a Beirut suburb, before they were driven off in a white minivan. They were escorted by an Australian Embassy vehicle.

The release of the five was a climax in a family drama — complete with the involvement of a prominent television crew — that has gripped headlines both in Australia and the Middle East.

The five Australians are implicated in the operation to seize the two children from Al-Amin two weeks ago. Two Britons and two Lebanese have also been charged in the case but they remain in jail.

Faulkner surrendered any custody claims to the two children in Lebanon as part of a deal struck with al-Amin in front of a judge Wednesday, her lawyer said.

"She will accept that the children will stay with their father," said the attorney, Ghassan Moughabhab, who acknowledged that al-Amin had received a judgment earlier in his favor from a Lebanese religious court. "Taking into consideration the Lebanese law, he's in the right."

Read more here.

April 27, 2016 in Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Appeal Filed in Native American Child Custody Case

From CBS News:

A California family appealed Tuesday to the state's highest court in their fight to keep a six-year-old foster child who was removed from their home after a lower court said her slight Native American heritage requires that she live with relatives in Utah.

The family's lawyer, Lori Alvino McGill, filed the request for the California Supreme Court to hear the appeal. McGill also requested that custody of the child named Lexi be returned to Rusty and Summer Page until the appeal is decided.

The Pages have fought efforts under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act to place Lexi with relatives of her father, who is Native American. The Pages argued that Lexi has lived with them since the age of two and knows no other life.

However, a court found that the Page family had not proven the child would suffer emotional harm by the transfer.

The Pages have three children and want to adopt Lexi, who is 1/64th Choctaw on her birth father's side.

Lexi was 17 months old when she was removed from the custody of her birth parents. Her mother had substance abuse problems, and her father had a criminal history, according to court records.

The child cried and clutched a stuffed bear as Rusty Page carried her out of his home near Los Angeles on Monday and Los Angeles County social workers whisked her away in a waiting car.

Distraught and weeping, Page shared his foster daughter's parting words with CBS Los Angeles: "Don't let them take me. I'm scared. I'm scared. Don't let me go."

Read more here.

April 2, 2016 in Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Missouri Child Custody Bill Promotes Equal Sharing

From KCUR:

A bill being heard this week by a Missouri legislative committee promotes shared parenting – a flexible arrangement in which children spend as close to equal time as possible with each parent after separation or divorce.

The legislation proposes adding language to the state’s child custody law to emphasize that the best interest of the child is equal access to both parents – a change that would encourage judges to pay more attention to research on the best interest of children.

Dr. Ned Holstein, president of the National Parents Organization, says numerous studies have shown in recent years that children do not fare as well in “sole custody” or “primary custody” arrangements and that shared custody needs to be emphasized whenever it is possible.

The best custody arrangements, says Holstein, are those in which parents rotate responsibilities, typically on alternate weeks.

But he says nationally the typical custody arrangement is to place the children with one parent about 80 to 85 percent of the time with the other parent only spending time with the children a few days a month.

Holstein also says setting a standard shared custody model will reduce the number of nasty custody battles.

“Many of the parents who are warring,” he says, “are warring precisely because what the courts set up is a fight, where they say one parent will win and the other parent will lose."

Read more here.


February 17, 2016 in Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Custody Issues for Parents of Special-Needs Children

From The Indiana Lawyer:

Each year, millions of married couples with children file for divorce. While divorce can be trying on everyone involved, there are particular challenges for parents who have children with disabilities. Overall, most researchers have found that parents of children with disabilities are much likelier to divorce. A child with a disability has multiple needs that often require parents to learn about and deal with multiple third-party providers, including but not limited to schools, specialists, doctors and therapists. These parents are often faced with significant expenses that parents of typical children never have to consider. Therefore, when deciding child custody in a situation involving a child with special needs, it is important for the courts, parents and attorneys to consider how these situations differ from families that do not have children with disabilities. 

Child custody issues for parents of special-needs children require careful consideration. Indiana law bestows different legal rights to parents depending on whether they have physical or legal custody of their child.

In Indiana, the parent with legal custody has the authority to make decisions in three main categories: major medical decisions, educational decisions and decisions regarding the child’s religion. Parents can have joint legal custody, or one parent can have sole legal custody. Legal custody becomes even more significant when a child has a disability, as there are a multitude of medical and educational decisions that will need to be made by the child’s legal custodian, sometimes on short notice.

When determining legal custody for a child with special needs, it is important to consider the frequency in the selection of doctors, specialists or evaluators as well as the frequency of required medical care and expenses – and each parent’s availability to facilitate the same. Additional considerations for the legal custodian include the potential placement of the child into specialized programs or the need for special education services in the child’s school.

Read more here.

January 20, 2016 in Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 30, 2015

Father Loses Custody of Boys After Refusing to Stop Trying to Cure Their Autism through Homeopathy

From National Post:

An Ontario father has lost custody of his children in part because he refused to stop trying to cure their autism through homeopathy.

“Not only were these treatments not effective, but they had negative effects,” reads a court decision granting sole custody to the children’s mother.

The father, a 48-year-old computer programmer in the Greater Toronto Area, will now see the children three weekends a month, with shared access during holidays.

The two boys, aged nine and 10, suffer from “severe and profound” autism spectrum disorder. They do not speak, are not toilet-trained or able to dress or feed themselves.

At an October hearing, the children’s mother sought a court order barring her former husband from administering homeopathic treatments, arguing he was pointlessly “looking for a ‘cure’ for autism rather than trying to find a method of managing autism.”

Homeopathy, developed in Germany in the early 19th century, is an alternative therapy that holds that diseases can be cured by giving patients remedies that cause the same symptoms as the original illness. Some homeopaths will intensely dilute their medicines to the point where a dose may only contain one or two molecules of the “active” ingredient.

Before the Ontario Court of Justice, the mother argued that a homeopathic remedy intended to reduce one  boy’s spasms instead made him “very aggressive.”

Read more here.

November 30, 2015 in Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Court Refuses to Recognize Saudi Custody Decree Due to Inconsistencies with American Public Policy

From The Washington Post:

Westlaw just posted this very interesting decision in H.L.K. v. F.A.A.; it was handed down by a Pennsylvania family court on Oct. 22, 2014, but wasn’t made available on Westlaw until yesterday. Note that the appellate court affirmed the family court’s holding, but it didn’t reach the public policy analysis: “Because we conclude that the family court did not abuse its discretion in declining to register the foreign custody order pursuant to Section 5445(d)(1), we need not decide whether the Saudi court’s order is contrary to public policy.”

The U.S. courts should indeed sometimes accept as given the judgments of foreign family courts, including judgments that are based on rules that we view as improperly discriminatory. If two Saudis (call them Hamid and Wafa) get divorced in Saudi Arabia, and one of them (Hamid) comes to the United States some years later, U.S. courts ought to accept the Saudi divorce decree, and (generally speaking) the Saudi child custody decree.

Read more here.

November 1, 2015 in Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Facebook Profile is Fair Game in Custody Battles

From New York Post:

A Westchester judge has allowed a dad to use his wife’s Facebook profile as a weapon in their custody battle, a groundbreaking ruling that could alter the way New York couples fight it out in court.

Anthony DiMartino, 54, claims a review of his estranged wife’s Facebook page will prove she was frequently out of state while he was raising their now-4-year-old son.

“The data will show that it is he, and not she, who has spent the majority of time with the child during the past four years,” DiMartino’s legal papers argue in the fight for physical custody of the boy.

The social worker “has been the primary caregiver,” his lawyer, Gordon Burrows, told The Post.

But mom Christina Antoine, a psychiatrist who works with multiple state agencies, tried to block the move, arguing that her profile is private and that she “unfriended” her hubby when they split.

Antoine, 47, assumed she would prevail, Burrows said, because there were no previous rulings granting access to Facebook pages in New York state custody cases.

Read more here.

September 26, 2015 in Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 3, 2015

New York's Craziest Custody Case: Four Parents, One Child

From New York Post:

She’s seen paternity battles, struggles for alimony, vicious tugs-of-war over children, but veteran family attorney Susan Bender had never handled a custody fight quite like this.

A gay male couple donated sperm from one of the men to a lesbian couple, resulting in a baby. Each couple bought identical New York apartments and decorated them exactly the same. The intention was to split the year into four quarters and rotate the primary parenting duties amongst themselves.

The complex plan was intended “so that they could all parent the child or children in some meaningful way,” the attorney said. “They were good people and they loved this child, but within nine months the experiment collapsed.”

Bender represented one of the women.

“We walked into the courtroom, and the judge was reading the petition. I’ll never forget the look on the judge’s face,” Bender says. “She looked up and looked at the parties, and she looked at me and said: ‘Counsel, explain.’ ”

Read more here.

September 3, 2015 in Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 6, 2015

In Massachusetts and Elsewhere, A Push For Custody Reform

From The Boston Globe:

The State House hearing room seemed an unlikely place for grown men to bare their souls.

But as father after father took a seat in a committee room, urging lawmakers to support proposed legislation to revamp Massachusetts’ child-custody statute, they laid out the particulars of their divorces and personal lives in blunt detail.

Battles over custody and child support are as old as divorce itself. But as parenting norms have shifted in the past half-century — the “Leave It To Beaver” setup giving way to one in which 71 percent of women work outside the home and more fathers are engaged in child care — lawmakers seem increasingly willing to consider that long-standing child custody statutes might warrant review.

Read more here.

August 6, 2015 in Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Child Custody Reforms Push for Equal Time with Both Parents

From Herald Times Online:

Nearly two dozen states have been considering shared parenting after divorce or separation as part of a reform of current child custody laws, which could mean more shared time for noncustodial parents with their children.

According to a press release from the National Parents Organization (which advocates for shared parenting in divorce situations), those states currently considering parental reform legislation could "provide children what they most want and need — equal time with both parents in instances of divorce or separation."

The NPO hopes people have taken time during this part of the year when fathers are celebrated to consider "the gender inequality that presently exists in the family courts," and to advocate for change as a gift to fathers everywhere, who want equal time with children.

The Wall Street Journal reported on the issue in April. "Prompted partly by fathers concerned that men for too long have gotten short shrift in custody decisions, about 20 states are considering measures that would change the laws governing which parent gets legal and physical control of a child after a divorce or separation."

Most of the proposals of reform are simply urging that judges implement custody schedules maximizing time for both parents. Some proposals would require equal time for both parents unless there is evidence that the arrangement would not meet the child's best interests, the WSJ wrote.

Read more here.

July 12, 2015 in Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Child Custody Laws in India

From Hindustan Times:

The urgent need to resolve child custody cases have prompted the law commission to recommend a root-and-branch change in the way courts resolve child custody battles.

In its report ‘Reforms in Guardianship and Custody Laws in India’, which it submitted to the law ministry on May 23, the commission says that the child’s welfare must be paramount in any decision relating to custody. It also lays out a framework - unprecedented in India - for awarding joint custody of the child whenever it is possible.

As the present law lacks the concept of shared parenting, many cases are reduced to ugly fights for over the sole custody of the child or children. Cases generally conclude when the court names one of the parties as the primary guardian, leaving the other with weekly or fortnightly visitation rights.

And while sole custody is a necessity in many cases, the law presently offers no options for shared custody, even in cases where it is possible and desirable for the child’s best interests. Instead, the all-or-nothing fight for primary custody can often aggravate an already tangled set of circumstances. Experts HT spoke to said courts have had to intervene in many cases to stop estranged couples from using their children to browbeat each other.

Read more here.

June 15, 2015 in Custody (parenting plans), Visitation | Permalink | Comments (0)