Family Law Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Mississippi Supreme Court Narrowly Grants Same-Sex Divorce

From ABC News:

The Mississippi Supreme Court voted to allow a lesbian couple to seek a divorce, even as two justices questioned the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage and suggested that landmark ruling has no constitutional basis.

The decision Thursday came after DeSoto County Chancery Judge Mitchell Lundy Jr. ruled in 2013 that the Mississippi Constitution and state law prevented him from granting a divorce to Lauren Czekala-Chatham and Dana Ann Melancon because the state didn't recognize same-sex marriage.

Czekala-Chatham appealed, and it was initially opposed by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat. However, Hood asked the court to allow the divorce after the June 26 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Friday, same-sex couples will be in federal court seeking to overturn Mississippi's last-in-the-nation ban on adoption by gay couples.

In the Mississippi court's divorce ruling, five of nine justices said in a two-page order that because Hood had reversed his position, "we find no contested issues remain" and sent the case back to DeSoto County for further action.

Justices Leslie King and James Kitchens agreed with the outcome, but dissented, calling for the court to issue a full opinion. King and Kitchens called for Mississippi to overturn its ban on same-sex marriage and grant the divorce in February.

Czekala-Chatham and Melancon were married in San Francisco in 2008 and bought a house in Mississippi before separating in 2010. Czekala-Chatham said she hopes to soon be divorced from her wife, who now lives in Arkansas.

Read more here.

November 11, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Divorce Rate Doesn't Go Up As Families of Children with Disabilities Grow

From University of Wisconsin-Madison:

Couples raising a child with developmental disabilities do not face a higher risk of divorce if they have larger families, according to a new study by researchers from the Waisman Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The study, published in the American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, also compares divorce rates of couples who have at least one child with a developmental disability to that of their peers who have typically developing children.

Researchers found that among couples with children without any disabilities, the risk of divorce was lowest for couples with one child and increased with each successive child. In contrast, the risk of divorce for parents of children with developmental disabilities remained unchanged with increasing family size.

Parenting a child with a developmental disability involves challenges and rewards that are unique to each family and prior research has shown that parents of a child with a developmental disability tend to experience greater marital stress compared to peers raising typically developing children.

As a result, there has been "a conception that, in general, parents of children with disabilities are more likely to experience divorce, and we wanted to test that assumption," says Eun Ha Namkung, first author of the paper and a graduate student in social work at the Waisman Center's Lifespan Family Research Program, led by study co-authors Jan Greenberg and Marsha Mailick. Previous research has proven inconclusive.

Read more here.

November 4, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

After Full Lives Together, More Older Couples Are Divorcing

From The New York Times:

Hilary Stephens was 57 when she decided she had had enough — enough of her job, of caretaking, of her marriage of 28 years. So she did something many people fantasize about: She walked away from it all.

“Sometimes it’s the only solution,” said Ms. Stephens, now 58 and the mother of two adult children. She moved from Washington to the Philadelphia area, where she is now vice president for development at Woods Services, a nonprofit.

Late life divorce (also called “silver” or “gray” divorce) is becoming more common, and more acceptable. In 2014, people age 50 and above were twice as likely to go through a divorce than in 1990, according to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. For those over 65, the increase was even higher.

At the same time, divorce rates have plateaued or dropped among other age groups.

One explanation is that many older people are in second marriages; the divorce rate is about two and a half times larger for those who have remarried and are often grappling with blended families or greater financial challenges.

Life expectancy also plays a role. In the past, “people died earlier,” said Pepper Schwartz, a professor of sociology at the University of Washington in Seattle, and the love, sex and relationship ambassador for AARP. “Now, let’s say you’re 50 or 60. You could go 30 more years. A lot of marriages are not horrible, but they’re no longer satisfying or loving. They may not be ugly, but you say, ‘Do I really want 30 more years of this?’”

Read more here.

November 3, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 2, 2015

Divorce and the Shared Mortgage

From The New York Times:

Deciding what to do with the house can be a major quandary for couples getting a divorce, particularly when they share a mortgage.

When there is equity in the home, each spouse typically wants to take a share as part of the settlement agreement. But if one person wants to remain in the home, rather than sell it and split any profit, then that spouse will likely have to qualify for a mortgage on his or her own.

Spouses who choose to stay may have to refinance their mortgages in order to cash out enough equity to pay off an ex. But even a spouse who has the financial resources for a buyout without drawing on home equity will still probably have to get a mortgage in his or her name.

“The person walking away wants their share of the equity, but also wants their name off the mortgage as soon as possible,” said Kathleen B. Connell, a family law lawyer and lecturer in Atlanta.

The mortgage obligation can tie up that person’s credit, and “if there’s a default,” Ms. Connell added, “the mortgage company is going to sue them both, regardless of what the divorce agreement says.”

Read more here.

November 2, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 12, 2015

Bitter Divorce Leaves Man Stranded in Front Yard of His Million-Dollar Home

From USA Today:

Neighbors in the upscale waterfront development of Taylor Lake Shores in Lakeview are asking authorities, and a reclusive doctor, to find a solution to a months-long dispute that has left a 69-year-old man camped out in the front yard of his million-dollar house after a dispute with his wife.

Sharafat Khan has reportedly been living outside his house, mostly on the front lawn, since his wife, Shahnaz Khan — a Friendswood-area doctor — kicked him out of the house in March and left him with only the clothes on his back.

“I’m really weak, but otherwise OK,” he said Tuesday, seated underneath the palm trees in his front yard on Ray Shell Court.

His wife has placed a sign on the front door asking people not to feed him.

“If you want to feed him, take him to your house. If you want to, you can keep him at your house. Thanks for your sympathy, but do not bring anything on this property,” the sign reads.

Neighbors continue to bring him food anyway.

“It just seems the man is elderly and it seems inhumane to leave him stranded out there,” said neighbor Laurel Stout.

It was an everyday argument that got him kicked out of the house, Khan said.

Lakeview Police report a series of arguments have brought them to the upscale home as many as 30 times in the last six months. Khan says his 61-year-old wife kicked him out, changed the locks and demanded police to remove him from her property.

Read more here.

October 12, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Study says Baby Before Marriage Doesn't Increase Divorce Risk

From USA Today:

In the past, having a baby before marriage may have spelled divorce if the couple later chose to get married, but times have changed, according to a new report.

Couples who tie the knot after their first baby, now stay together at the same rate as those who were married before their first child, according to research released today by the non-profit group, Council on Contemporary Families.

Researchers analyzed data on women who had their first child between 1985 and 1995 and compared it to those who had their first child between 1997 and 2010. Couples who had a baby first and married later in the earlier period were 60% more likely to divorce than couples who married before they had a child. But a decade later, the cocktail of a baby-first-then-marriage did not raise the couples' risk of divorce, according to thousands of surveys from the CDC's Survey of Family Growth.

The stigma around conceiving before marriage has diminished a lot in the last 25 years, says Pepper Schwartz, a professor of sociology at the University of Washington. Schwartz is not affiliated with the study.

Couples are no longer rushing into a shotgun wedding if they conceive, and instead taking things at their pace, she said.

Read more here.

October 6, 2015 in Divorce (grounds), Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 5, 2015

Tennessee County has Divorce Rate of Almost Ninety Percect

From WNCN:

There are four counties in Tennessee where the divorce rate is higher than the marriage rate.

Hartsville is the self-proclaimed heart of Tennessee, and at the local salon, Betsy Walker says she’s a pro at divorce — she’s done it four times.

“Just trade ‘em in, get a new model, like a car,” she said.

The stylist isn’t surprised by the data from the Tennessee Department of Health.

In 2013, the last year the data was available, more people filed for divorce than for marriage licenses in Trousdale County where Hartsville is.

“Everybody is in everybody’s business and everybody knows each other here. So probably a lot of people get caught,” said Walker.

The health department data shows about 50 percent of couples in Tennessee get divorced.

Read more here.

October 5, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

When the Wealthy Divorce, They Regularly Engage Forensic Accountants

From Forbes:

Worldwide, the use of forensic accountants by the wealthy – especially the ultra-wealthy – is increasing. This is a trend that is likely to only accelerate. There are a number of different reasons the wealthy engage forensic accountants. Often, when the wealthy bring in a forensic accountant, it’s to address business concerns. The questionable practices of business partners might very well prompt the hiring of a forensic accountant.

Relatively speaking, a burgeoning need by the wealthy for forensic accountants is driven by them divorcing. According to James DiGabriele, professor of accounting at Montclair State University, one of the foremost forensic accounting programs in the country, “It’s impossible to appropriately divide marital assets if everyone doesn’t know just what those assets are and what they’re worth. High-net-worth couples generally have a number of types of assets such as investment portfolios, businesses, collectables, partnerships, and the list goes on. Divorce lawyers are not the professionals that are going to be able to determine the value of all the different assets. That’s the job of the forensic accountant.”

“When assets are held in trusts or partnerships, or located in different jurisdictions, getting a valuation can be complicated. Also, the valuation of retirement plans, deferred compensation arrangements, and life insurance programs all require the expertise of a qualified accountant,” explains Ellen Rabasca, partner at Geltrude & Company, directing their divorce practice. “What’s even more of an issue is when a spouse chooses to play dirty and tries to divorce plan by hiding marital assets. This can get very complicated when we’re dealing with privately owned businesses. For example, business owners have been known to use dummy or shell corporations to conceal assets from divorcing spouses.”

Read more here.

September 29, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 28, 2015

New Website Promises to Handle Your Divorce and Filing Costs for $99

From TIME:

A new website aims to take much of the heartache and cost out of getting a divorce by conducting the whole process online.

Presented at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco on Tuesday,, founded by Sandro Tuzzo and Larry Maloney, aims to distill legal jargon into plain language and reduce legal fees from tens of thousands of dollars to base price of around $1,500. Initial filing costs just $99.

“Today, connecting is easy. There’s tons of software applications out there for that,” Tuzzo said onstage at the event. “But what if you need to end a relationship, where are the tools for that?”

After working as a divorce attorney for the past 15 years, Tuzzo said he knows too well just how arduous the process can be. aims to simplify the procedure by letting users complete, file and serve divorce papers online.

Read more here.

September 28, 2015 in Divorce (grounds), International, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Viral Rise of Divorce Selfies and The Death of Traditional Marriage

From The Washington Post:

In late August, Shannon Neuman and her husband Chris went to the municipal court in Calgary, Alberta, to get a divorce. They had already filled out the forms and taken the requisite seminars. They navigated the 24-story Courts Centre and dropped their papers off.

Then, on their way out, Chris and Shannon — no longer the Neumans — paused in front of a courthouse sign. They snapped a selfie, both smiling.

“Here’s Chris Neuman and I yesterday after filing for divorce!” Shannon wrote in a Facebook post that was shared 11,000 times within its first hours online. (Wrote Chris, in the comments: “I couldn’t have hand-picked a better ex-wife if I tried.”)

Er … what is going on here? This isn’t at all the type of dialogue we expect around divorce, particularly since we’ve been taught that marriage is the only viable type of adult relationship or family structure. But in the era of platonic parenting and conscious uncoupling, these sorts of friendly, even triumphant #divorceselfies have become increasingly common. If you search the hashtag on Instagram, in fact, you’ll find over a hundred of them.

There were Keith Hinson and Michelle Knight, the Florida couple who split with a grinning selfie after three years. Jessica Hrivnak, the violin teacher who captioned hers "welcome to coparenting!" Amber Ortega and ex-husband Mike, who gives a thumbs-up to the phone.

Read more here.

September 7, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Tennessee Judge Refuses to Grant Straight Couple Divorce Because...Gay Marriage

From The Washington Post:

It was the judicial equivalent of a high school student tearing up his term paper because he got a bad grade. Or, more accurately, throwing it back at his teacher and telling her to revise it herself.

Last week, a Tenn. judge refused to grant a straight couple a divorce because the U.S. Supreme Court allowed gay marriage.

Many readers may be scratching their heads right now, wondering how the legalization of gay marriage could possibly disrupt straight divorce proceedings.

But spare a moment to hear out Jeffrey M. Atherton, if for no other reason than that the judge’s argument is an increasingly common one as conservatives across the country claim the Supreme Court overreached with its June 26 watershed ruling.

Read more here. 

September 6, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 29, 2015

You Need To Tell Your Child's Teacher About Your Divorce

From LA Times:

The school year is just beginning, but grades are already in on parent-teacher communication: needs improvement.

There’s a crucial disconnect between parents and teachers, both vital players in a child's growth and development, according to the results of a new survey. VitalSmarts, a corporate training and leadership development company, surveyed 689 parents and 174 teachers from its national database of subscribers.  

The results: Teachers feel parents aren’t telling them about the major changes in the home that affect the students in their classroom. Parents feel teachers don’t share revealing details about their child’s behavior at school.  

But why would, say, an English teacher need to know that a student’s parents are divorcing?

"Teachers just sort of expect that they’re going to be told" about life-altering events in their students’ lives, said David Maxfield, vice president of research and one of the study's co-authors. "The teacher wants to get updated on that kind of information because that has such a profound impact" on the child."

Read more here.

August 29, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 28, 2015

New Study Shines Light on What Dooms Marriages

From CBS News:

A new study shines a light on how romantic relationships end.

Columbia University professor Heidi Grant Halvorson said for decades, researchers knew on average, women are more likely to initiate divorce, but data presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association shows that in very committed, non-married relationships, men and women are about just as likely to call it quits.

Halvorson said that has to do with differences between how men and women share responsibilities in the two types of relationships.

"In nutshell, there's even data that shows simply the division of chores is a major source of happiness and unhappiness in marriages and those predominantly go to women even when women work as long as men do," she said Monday on "CBS This Morning."

Sixty-nine percent of women in married relationships initiate divorce, according to the study's author Michael Rosenfeld. And according to the U.S. Department of Labor, nearly half of all women in marriages perform daily housework, compared to 20 percent of men, according to the Department of Labor.

Read more here.

August 28, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

How Your Spouse's Ashley Madison Account Can Impact Your Divorce

From Forbes:

Now that hackers leaked the email addresses of 37 million users of Ashley Madison, the dating service for married people in search of an affair, New York City divorce lawyer Morghan Richardson’s “phone lit up like a Christmas tree,” she says.

“People are struggling to deal with how this information may impact their divorce and their life — if at all,” says Richardson.

Here is how catching a cheating spouse can affect your split:

    1. Power. “I often hear from the wronged spouse: ‘I knew he was cheating! Now that I have proof I can get the house, the kids, the …’” says Richardson. The reality is that most states have no-fault divorce laws. That means that a judge doesn’t care why you are splitting up. Their job is to make sure that the money is split fairly and custody and visitation are in the best interest of the kids. In cases of infidelity, the “wronged” spouse is so hurt and angry, they assume that a judge will take that into consideration. They won’t.  On the other hand, it is common that the cheating spouse will feel so guilty, or won’t want the divorce, or be afraid of losing face to friends and family that they concede to their husband or wife’s demands.  Guilt is a powerful negotiating tool in divorce.

Read more here.

August 27, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Uganda Bride Price: One Woman's Battle for Equal Rights

From CNN:

Florence Musidika was a primary school teacher in an unhappy and violent marriage. In 2002 she asked her husband for a divorce. In response, as she bent over one morning to light a fire to make breakfast for her three children, a grenade planted by her husband in the charcoal exploded in her face.

Miraculously, the then 27-year-old from Mbale in eastern Uganda survived the blast, but was soon confronted by a new injustice: under customary law her marriage to her abusive husband could not be dissolved until her family had refunded the bride price he had paid by in exchange for her hand.

Musidika is just one of many women whose families knew of her suffering but, unable to return the payment -- often made in livestock -- they sent her back to her abuser, imploring her to "try and be a good wife," explains Atuki Turner, the founder of women's rights organization Mifumi.

Read more here.

August 21, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Is Divorce a Sin? Even in Cases of Adultery, Most Americans Say No

From International Business Times:

Breaking up is hard to do, but is it a slight against God? It turns out, a lot of people don’t think so. According to a new survey by LifeWay Research, most Americans believe divorce is not a sin if it is the result of adultery, abuse, pornography use or abandonment.

In a telephone survey of 1,000 Americans conducted last fall, 39 percent of respondents said divorce is a sin when an individual’s spouse commits adultery; 38 percent when the couple no longer loves one another; 38 percent when a spouse abandons the other; 37 percent when a spouse is abused and 35 percent when a spouse is addicted to pornography.

Another 37 percent of Americans said that none of the reasons listed above warranted the “sin label” in cases of divorce.

Read more here.

August 16, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Judge Strikes Down Divorce Order - Wife's Partying Not Mental Cruelty

From The Times of India:

The Bombay high court has in a marital dispute case ruled that a family court was wrong in granting divorce to a Navi Mumbai resident who had claimed that his wife used to party a lot and misbehave, which constituted cruelty. Justice M L Tahaliyani pointed to the fact that social mores and traditional roles were changing and upheld an appellate court's order overturning the divorce verdict. 

Rajesh Chawla, (42), a mariner, claimed that his wife Seema, with whom he has two children, frequently attended late-night parties, misbehaved with him on many occasions, had outbursts on small issues and made his life miserable. 

"Socializing to some extent in the present society is permissible," said Justice Tahaliyani, adding, "But there is no evidence to come to the conclusion that on a particular date Seema was drunk or had excess liquor and had come to the house at a particular time." 

Read more here.

August 4, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 24, 2015

Social Media Fueling Rise in China's Divorce Rate

From Forbes:

China’s opening up in the post-Mao era has been one of the most important trends in the global economy in the past 30 years. Yet with prosperity has come social problems. The divorce rate in the world’s most populous nation has risen along with the country’s new wealth. The government reported last month that China’s divorce rate climbed by 3.9% to 3.6 million cases in 2014. That was the 12th consecutive annual increase, according to a report in the Beijing Youth Daily. For every four couples that married in China last year, there was one divorce. Embodying the trend, sports hero Liu Xiang said last month he would divorce his wife of only nine months, Ge Tian.

What is it about modern life that’s driving the increase? To learn more, I exchanged with Liu Lin, a divorce lawyer at Beijing Shuangli Law Firm.  One big factor, he said, is the growing use of social media such as Alibaba-backed Weibo and Tencent’s WeChat. “Social media is a catalyst for divorce,” Liu said. A deeper underlying cause for the increase, however, is that Chinese couples often don’t communicate well with each other.

Read more here.

July 24, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 13, 2015

Iran Makes Divorce By Mutual Consent Harder to Obtain

From Times of Oman:

Iran has changed a law to make divorce by mutual consent invalid unless couples have first undergone state-run counseling, the country's latest move to tackle a rise in broken marriages.

The measures, reported by media at the weekend, are contained in a new family law that a top official said would be implemented by Iran's judiciary.

"A decree of divorce by mutual consent, without counseling, is forbidden," Parnian Ghavam, head of the judiciary's social work and counseling office, was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency.

All Iranians filing for divorce would be obliged to go to a counsellor, she said. "From now on, without this it will not be possible to register divorces of mutual consent."

Read more here.

July 13, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Collaborative Divorce Saves Time and Money


While many associate the word divorce with painful and messy, a new emphasis on conflict resolution has led to a specialty known as "collaborative divorce." Gaining traction in Pennsylvania as well as being part of an international movement, collaborative divorce is saving clients time, heartache, and often thousands of dollars.

Under collaborative law, both parties retain separate, specially trained lawyers whose only job is to help them settle the dispute. All parties agree to work in good faith, combining legal representation with the strength of mediation. 

In January, a draft of the Pennsylvania Uniform Collaborative Law Act (UCLA) gained unanimous approval of the Family Law Section of the Pennsylvania Bar Association. Last month, a resolution supporting the proposal was approved by the full board and the House of Delegates of the Pennsylvania Bar Association. A bill is expected to be introduced in the legislature later this year.

Read more here.

July 7, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)