Family Law Prof Blog

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

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Call for Unified EU Family Law

The EU must streamline family law across member states' borders, United Kingdom constitutional affairs minister Harriet Harman has said. Speaking in Brussels, Ms Harman said closer co-operation between the EU's legal systems is vital. Almost one in five divorces in Europe now involves couples who come from different countries. Ms Harman urged the EU Commission to propose rules which could work despite differences in countries' legal codes. She said it was important "not just for couples living in separate countries, but above all for their children".

Ms Harman wants see the system streamlined to ease the trauma of divorce for all those involved.

Read the BBC's Report on her recommendations. (last visited January 24, 2007 bgf)

January 25, 2007 in International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Regulations to Implement Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions Considered

The United States is in the final stages of implementing new, federal-level standards in light of the anticipated U.S. ratification of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions.  The Convention was discussed at a November 14 hearing before the House International Relations Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations.  The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption is a formal international agreement designed to ensure transparency in adoptions to prevent trafficking, kidnapping, smuggling and baby-selling.  The United States has signed the convention and is moving toward formal ratification in 2007. The Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (IAA) is the implementing mechanism established to carry out the functions required under the convention.  The IAA was enacted into law on October 6, 2000. A regulatory framework currently is being put in place to comply with the provisions of both the convention and the IAA to move the United States toward formal ratification.

Read the Department of State press release on the testimony before the committee or check out the State Department's website on the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions  (last visited November 15, 2006 bgf)

November 15, 2006 in Adoption, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 3, 2006

Case Law Development: UCCJEA Prohibits Court From Altering Custody of Foreign Decrees, Even in Relocation Cases

A second move-away case from the California Court of Appeals this past week involved the application fo the UCCJEA to enforcement of a French custody decree.   The French decree gave custody of the child to mother, visitation rights to father, and enjoined mother from moving away with the child.  However, mother did move with the couple's 14-year-old child from Fance to California, resulting in this action by father, requesting return of the child.  The trial court ordered that the child be returned to France or else the father would obtain sole legal and physical custody.  The court of appeals reversed, holding that  as it violated the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act by changing custody, and by ordering that the mother not move away with the child.

The court of appeals reversed, holding:

We agree that the trial court violated the UCCJEA by changing custody. We also
agree that the UCCJEA required limited enforcement of the visitation schedule but
prohibited the trial court from enforcing the other aspects of the visitation award,
including the order that [Mother] not move away with [Child]. This not only follows from
the language of the UCCJEA, but also avoids any conflict between enforcing custody and
enforcing visitation. Thus, we accord comity to the French decree to the extent -- but
only to the extent -- that the UCCJEA requires.... The trial court ... had no jurisdiction to enforce any visitation provisions other than the visitation schedule. If [Father] came to California, the trial court could have required [Child] to visit him according
to the schedule. It erred, however, by requiring that [Child] be returned to France.

Marriage of Paillier, (October 31, 2006)
Opinion on the web (last visited November 3, 2006 bgf)

November 3, 2006 in Custody (parenting plans), International, Jurisdiction | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 30, 2006

Case Law Development: Reckless Domestic Violence Assault not a Categorical Crime of Violence for Purposes of Immigration Law

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had to decide whether a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction under Arizona statutes constituted a "crime of domestic violence" under federal law subjecting a legally admitted resident alien to removal under 8 U.S.C.S. § 1227(a)(2)(E)(i). The court noted a recent inconsistency in its precedents regarding whether crimes of recklessness constituted categorical crimes of violence under immigration law.  The court reviewed its own decisions and determined that it should join the other circuits that have restricted the category of crimes for which removal applies to crimes of violence involving specific intent.  In this case, since the Arizona statute allowed conviction upon proof of reckless assault, the conviction was not a categorical crime of violence.

When a state statute of conviction does not define a categorical crime of violence, the court goes on ot apply a "modified categorical approach" in which it considers "whether any of a limited, specified set of documents--including "the state charging document, a signed plea agreement, jury instructions, guilty pleas, transcripts of a plea proceeding and the judgment" (sometimes termed "documents of conviction")--show the petitioner's conviction entailed an admission to, or proof of, the necessary elements of a crime of violence." In this case,

none of the documents ... demonstrated that [the alien's] conviction was based upon an admission, or any other proof, that he used force "intentionally" or "knowingly," as opposed to "recklessly." Accordingly, on the record now before us, we cannot conclude under the modified categorical approach that Fernandez-Ruiz committed a crime of violence or, by extension, a crime of domestic violence as defined by federal law.

The dissent took issue strongly with the rejection of recklessness as falling within the standards of categorical crimes of violence, arguing that:

Men do not beat their wives by accident. Blind to this truth, the majority ignores the realities of domestic violence and disregards congressional intent to hold that an Arizona domestic violence conviction is not a "crime of domestic violence" for purposes of a federal immigration law.  The majority's hypertechnical analysis stretches the Taylor v. United States, 495 U.S. 575, 110 S. Ct. 2143, 109 L. Ed. 2d 607 (1990), categorical approach to absurdity and misreads Leocal v. Ashcroft, 543 U.S. 1, 125 S. Ct. 377, 160 L. Ed. 2d 271 (2004), as barring all crimes involving the reckless use of force from qualifying as "crimes of violence" under 18 U.S.C. § 16.

Fernandez-Ruiz v. Gonzales, 2006 U.S. App. LEXIS 26668  (9th Cir. October 26, 2006)
Opinion on web (last visited October 30, 2006 bgf)

October 30, 2006 in Domestic Violence, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Case Law Development: Meaning of "Legal Separation" under Immigration Law

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals was called upon to determine what constitutes a "legal separation" in a case involving deportation of a resident alien.  The petitioner was subject to removal because he had been convicted of aggravated felonies.  He sought to evade deportation by claiming that he automatically became a citizen as a consequence of his mother's naturalization when he was a minor. He had come to the United States from Ethiopia with his parents when he was 10 years old.  His father had returned to Ethiopia later that same year, but his mother had remained in the United States and was naturalized in 1994 when the petitioner turned 17. 

At the time of mother's naturalization, federal law provided that a child also becomes a citizen as a consequence of the naturalization of the parent having legal custody of the child when there has been a legal separation of the parents.  8 U.S.C. § 1432(a) (1999) (repealed 2000)   The act did not define "legal separation."  Here, the parents had apparently negotiated and signed a separation agreement at the time Husband returned to Ethiopia, though there were no witnesses to the agreement and it was not incorporated into a judicial decree until the couple's 2003 divorce. 

The court of appeals affirmed the BIA interpretation that only judicially recognized marital separations are considered "legal" for the purposes of section 1432(a).  Petitioner argued that because Maryland courts will enforce voluntary separation agreements as a species of contract, the BIA was required to recognize his parents as "legally separated" as of the purported date of their agreement.  The court of appeals, over one dissent, held that federal law controlled the issue however.  After reviewing federal law on the question, the court held that the BIA interpretation was not unreasonable and affirmed.

Afeta v. Gonzales, 2006 U.S. App. LEXIS (October 26, 2006)
Opinion on web (last visited October 28, 2006 bgf)

October 27, 2006 in International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Law Regulating Overseas Brides Slowing Process of International Marriages

The New York Times reports on the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act.  Imbra is intended to give foreign women and the American government more information about the men who seek so-called mail-order brides. According to the Times, "Reports of violence in international marriages, some of them Internet matches, have increased in recent years. In 1998, fewer than 2,500 foreign women applied to become permanent residents under the Violence Against Women Act, which allows abused wives to apply for residence without the support of their husbands. In the fiscal year that ended in September, 9,500 applied.  The new law has angered many men, who argue that there is no definitive evidence that violence is more likely to take place in an international marriage arranged over the Internet than in a domestic one. Unwilling or unable to find a spouse in the United States, some worry that the law could make it more difficult to find a wife abroad."

Read the entire article (last visited October 18, 2006 bgf)

October 18, 2006 in International, Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Case Law Development: Costs for Recovering Abducted Child from Another Country as Child Support or Attorneys Fees

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals addressed a case that I'm inclined to assign to students at the end of the semester with the instructions, "Here, read this case about all the topics we barely touched upon in the course and don't ever let me hear you say -- 'if I can't find a job, I can always do some family law!'"   

The case involves a factually and legally complicated story of Mother and Father who had a son (while Mother was married to another man).  When the son was 2 1/2 years old, and while a custody action between the parents was pending in Maryland, Father abducted him and took him to Turkey.  The court chronicles Mother's efforts to recover her son, which required 2 1/2 years, 11 trips to Turkey, multiple court hearings in both Maryland and Turkey, and over $350,000 in legal and private investigation fees and expenses.  Simply reading the story of what happened in this case to the point of the child's return is like a short course in international child custody litigation.

However, the case before the Maryland court required even more, as Mother was awarded some of her expenses in securing her son's return to the United States, which Father challenged in this appeal and sought to avoid through a separate bankruptcy proceeding.  The trial court had granted Mother $200,000 in costs in one proceeding and then $252,930 in a second hearing, which it treated as an award of counsel fees and costs.  Mother sought to have the first award characterized  as a contempt sanction and argued that the trial court had erred in overruling her motion to have the second award made as child support. 

The court commented on the parties' motivation for this characterization dispute: "The only reason the parties are arguing over whether the court could sua sponte treat Mother's motion as one for counsel fees and costs, and whether the $ 252,930 judgment is for child support, is that they believe the answers to those questions will determine ... whether that judgment was entered in violation of the automatic stay in bankruptcy.... [T]hat issue is to be decided under federal law, not Maryland law; and federal law about what obligations are child support, or "in the nature of child support," differs from Maryland law on that subject. Therefore, our answers to these two questions do not have the significance the parties believe they do."  Indeed, the court went on to explain that, while under state law "counsel fees and costs incurred by a parent in a custody case are not child support, even when they are for the benefit of the child", under federal law, these same expenses are "in the nature of child support" and thus non-dischargeable.

Regarding the characterization of the first award, the court found that the trial court had erred in characterizing that award as one for contempt, as there were no purge conditions in the first award. Rather, the court found that the trial court had retroactively re-characterized the first award in the hearing on the second award.  That error required reversal and remand.

While Father prevailed in this round of the litigation, the court was not without commentary on his approach to the litigation. The court addressed Father's argument that he should not be required to pay Mother for the expenses incurred in recoverying the child because Mother's husband -- not Mother -- had actually paid those expenses. In rejecting this argument, the court noted "If nothing else, this argument is notable as a fine example of chutzpah" with a footnote that explored the definition of the term and its use by the courts.

So, read and enjoy, and save the opinion in case you have trouble convincing your curriculum committee that there is sufficient content to justify offering an advanced child custody class.

Corapcioglu v. Roosevelt, 2006 Md. App. LEXIS 219 (September 20, 2006)
Opinion on web (last visited September 22, 2006 bgf)

September 27, 2006 in Bankruptcy, Child Support Enforcement, Contempt, Custody (parenting plans), International | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Resource for Updates on UK Family Law

Our readers may find Family Law Week a particularly valuable resource for keeping in touch with developments in family law in the UK in particular and EU in general.  All content is provided free of charge and one can subscribe to an email update service without charge as well.

The most recent article presents a summary and analysis of the effect of recent key public law children cases, especially those relating to emergency protection order applications. Read Alex Verdan's article.  In another recent article, Lord Justice Thorpe reviews his first 15 months as the UK's Head of International Family Law in the UK publication Family Law Week.  He reviews the developments in family law that lead to the creation of his post and describes some of the issues he has addressed in the past year. Read Justice Thorpe's article.   

(last visited May 22, 2006 bgf)

May 23, 2006 in International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

China Won’t Relax One-Child Policy

China has indicated that there are no plans to relax its coercive population control policies.  Its “one child" policy was introduced in the 1970s with the government pressuring couples to have only one child. Exceptions are made in some cases: of ethnic minorities or rural inhabitants, who may have a second child if their firstborn is a girl. The policy provides financial incentives and punitive fines for those who follow, or fail to follow it.   The United States government claims that the policy also has been enforced by forced abortion and sterilization. Source.  To read the complete story, please click here (last visited May 3, 2006, reo).

May 3, 2006 in International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, April 8, 2006

Swiss Court Says HIV-Positive Woman Must Give Authorities Names of Any Future Sex Partners – Receives Suspended Jail Sentence

A Swiss court imposed a three year jail sentence and then suspended it for one year on an HIV-positive woman. The woman was found to have had consensual unprotected sex, although none of her partners apparently became infected with HIV, and she informed the men of her HIV infection before having sex. The court also ordered her to notify the authorities of the names of her future sexual partners – even if she uses condoms with them. Source.  Michael Carter, For the complete story, please click here (last visited April 8, 2006, reo).

April 8, 2006 in International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Case Law Development: Visitation Disputes under the International Child Abduction Remedies Act

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed a trial court's dismissal of visitation claims in a suit under the International Child Abduction Remedies Act.  The court held that the Act provides remedies only for violations of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.  Since the treaty does not address visitation or access issues outside the context of wrongful removal or retention of a child, the federal courts have no jurisdiction under the act.  Rather, parties seeking to enforce visitation right should file suit in state courts.

A dissenting judge would have interpreted the act to cover these issues.

Cantor v. Cohen, 2006 U.S. App. LEXIS 6915 (4th Cir. March 21, 2006)
Opinion on the web (last visited March 26, 2006 bgf)

March 28, 2006 in Custody (parenting plans), International, Jurisdiction, Visitation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 24, 2006

Case Law Development: Recognition of Custody Orders of Foreign Countries Required

The Massachusetts Supreme Court holds that a trial court must respect the custody determination of a foreign state so long as that judgment is procedurally comparable to a domestic judgment.  The  child in this action was born in Trinidad, West Indies and was residing in Boston with Mother.  Father, who lives in Trinidad, filed a petition in the Massachusetts court to enforce a Trinidad consent decree that awarded the mother physical custody of the son, but prohibited either parent from taking the son out of Trinidad, except by agreement of the other parent or by court order. The Massachusetts Supreme Court affirmed the trial judge's order for enforcement of the Trinidad consent decree.

The court concluded that both under Massachusetts statutes regarding enforcement of foreign custody orders and under principles of comity, the court was required to respect the foreign order because it was in "substantial conformity" with Massachusetts law.  The "substantial conformity" test, requires proof that the foreign court had jurisdiction over the parties and over the subject matter; applied procedural and substantive law reasonably comparable to Massachusetts law; and was based on a determination of the best interests of the child.  Finding that the Trinidad court met these requirements, the court could not look further to examine the substance of the underlying order.

Khan v. Saminni, 2006 Mass. LEXIS 33  (February 15, 2006)
Opinion on the web (last visited February 23, 2006 bgf)

February 24, 2006 in Custody (parenting plans), International, Jurisdiction | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Case Law Development: Standard of Proof in International Child Abduction Cases

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed a trial court's dismissal of a petition under the International Child Abduction Remedies Act because the trial court had applied the wrong standard of proof.  Father had sued Mother under the act, seeking the return of his children to the United Kingdom. He alleged that Mother had violated the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of Child Abduction by taking the couple’s children to live in the United States. The district court concluded that Father had failed to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the children were "habitually resident" in the United Kingdom at the time of their removal.  The court of appeals reversed and remanded for additional proceedings, holding that the court need only establish the children’s habitual residence by a preponderance of the evidence.

Humphrey v. Humphrey, 2006 U.S. App. LEXIS 522 (January 10, 2006)
Opinion available on the web at (last visited January 13, 2006 bgf)

January 17, 2006 in International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 24, 2005

Child Refugees

"Each year, some 6,000 to 7,000 children from foreign countries enter the United States without any parents or guardians to look after them, many seeking protection from repressive regimes, exploitation, abusive family situations or other traumatic circumstances. A bipartisan bill now percolating in the Senate would help improve the way these vulnerable children are treated while in federal custody. The bill, called the Unaccompanied Alien Child Protection Act, would not alter current immigration standards or expand rights to asylum. . . .the legislation would set minimum standards for custody, expand foster care programs and allow for the hiring of child welfare professionals to serve as temporary guardians. Perhaps most important, the measure would begin to create a nationwide system of pro bono legal representation for such unaccompanied children, most of whom speak little or no English." Editorial by The New York Times Link to Editorial (last visited 10-23-05 NVS)

The text of the legislation can be viewed at GovTrack.US (last visited 10-23-05 NVS)

October 24, 2005 in International | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Pakistani girl loses nose, lips for seeking divorce

MULTAN, Pakistan - A Pakistani man cut off the nose and lips of his 19-year-old sister-in-law after she went to court for a divorce in a tribal area of the central province of Punjab, police said on Thursday. . . . Pakistan‘s attitudes to violence against women have come under an international spotlight since the Washington Post quoted President Pervez Musharraf saying this month that many of his compatriots believed that crying rape was a fast way to make money and get a visa for Canada. By: Asim Tanveer, New Brisbane News, here for complete story. (Last visited September 25, 2005, REO).

September 25, 2005 in Domestic Violence, International | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Japan concerned about declining birthrate

The Japanese are increasingly concerned about their nation's declining birthrate and want the government to take steps to reverse the trend, according to a government survey released yesterday. . . . As of 2004, Japanese women gave birth to an average of 1.29 children in their lifetimes - the lowest rate since the government began releasing the data in 1947, and one of the lowest in the world. . . . The trend threatens to leave Japan with a labour shortage, erode its tax base and strain the pension system as fewer taxpayers support an expanding elderly population. By: Christopher Clare, here for complete story. (Last visited September 25, 2005, REO).

September 25, 2005 in International, Paternity | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Anglican rift over gays deepens in Nigeria

Nigeria's Anglican church has deleted all references to its mother church from its constitution, deepening a rift over homosexuality but stopping short of a feared schism. A statement on the church's website on Tuesday said "all former references to 'communion with the see of Canterbury' were deleted" at a meeting last week. Instead, the constitution affirms its ties with all churches that maintain the "faith, doctrine, sacrament and discipline of the one holy, Catholic and apostolic church". With about 17,5-million Anglicans, Nigeria has a strong voice in the 77-million-member worldwide Anglican communion. Nigerian Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola has emerged as a leader of Anglican conservatives around the world, taking a key role through the Global South grouping of churches in Africa, Asia and Latin America in opposing any church acceptance of homosexuality. The Nigerian and Ugandan churches broke ties with the US Episcopal Church over its 2003 consecration of a gay bishop living with a partner. A dispute over same-sex marriages in England has deepened divisions. By:  Daniel Balint-Kurti, Mail & Guardian On line. (last visited September 21, 2005, REO).

September 21, 2005 in International, Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Vapostori sects ban polygamy

ZIMBABWE’S battle against Aids, which has so far claimed more than two million lives, received a major boost on Friday when more than 70 Apostolic and Zionist churches made a landmark resolution to abolish polygamy at the launch of an anti-HIV and Aids blueprint in the capital. Polygamy has been found to fuel the spread of HIV and Aids and is a deep-rooted practice in the sects. The 23-page policy document supports this landmark development with Scriptures from the Bible, and the abolition of polygamy will start with the leaders of the Apostolic and Zionist churches. By Sarah Tikiwa, The Sunday Mail,  (last visited September 18, 2005 , REO).

September 18, 2005 in International | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Cambodian legislature approves law to restrain domestic violence

PHNOM PENH. Cambodia's National Assembly approved unanimously on Friday a draft law on domestic violence aimed at protecting victims of domestic violence and preventing domestic violence. The draft law, initiated by the Ministry of Women's Affairs, was debated for three days and approved by 88 lawmakers at Friday's session. Lawmakers and activists welcomed the law, saying that the law will serve as an effective tool to help curb family violence in Cambodia. By: (last visited September 18, 2005, REO).

September 18, 2005 in Domestic Violence, International | Permalink | TrackBack (2)

Kalam okays Domestic Violence Act

NEW DELHI, India.  President APJ Abdul Kalam Friday gave his assent to the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. The Act aims to provide more effective protection to women who are victims of violence of any kind within the family and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. The Act will be applicable to all states and UTs except J&K. By: (last visited September 18, 2005, REO).

September 18, 2005 in Domestic Violence, International | Permalink | TrackBack (0)