Family Law Prof Blog

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

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Missing Nottingham mother poses 'risk of harm' to sons, court says

From The Guardian:

A woman suspected of abducting her two young sons poses a risk of harm to them, a family court has said.

Nottingham family court said it had ordered that Dylan Madge, six, and Louis Madge, nine, should be removed from the care of their mother, Samantha Baldwin, on Monday.

The 42-year-old was last seen near Nottingham city centre that day, although a missing persons appeal was launched on Tuesday after she vanished with her sons. On Wednesday, police announced the investigation had become an abduction inquiry.

In a statement Nottingham family court said: “It is assumed that she has abducted Louis and Dylan. The children have now been made wards of court. Miss Baldwin is considered to pose a risk of harm to the children.”

On Friday, Nottinghamshire police’s Supt Rich Fretwell said officers were growing increasingly concerned for the children’s welfare and safety.

Read more here.

April 6, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Dozens of families remain at lead-tainted Indiana complex

From The Washington Post:

Dozens of families remained at a lead-contaminated public housing complex in northwest Indiana, despite a Friday target date to move them out so the city can tear down the buildings.

More than 270 families have left East Chicago’s West Calumet Housing Complex, and officials hope to have the remaining 50 or so families out next week. But the delay points up several problems with the evacuation effort such as limited rental options in the largely industrial area, landlords who won’t accept government housing vouchers and some residents’ resistance to being forced from the city.

Lifelong East Chicago resident Tara Adams said she has been seeking a new home for herself, her 19-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter since last summer and has had belongings packed up for months. The temporary housing she has been offered is about 25 miles away, in what she worries is a perilous neighborhood across the state line on Chicago’s South Side.

“I for sure don’t want to move my 19-year-old son into an area where there’s a greater chance for him to get shot,” Adams said. “I don’t want to do that.”

Officials last summer began clearing out the 45-year-old complex of three-story apartment buildings after detailed soil testing found some yards with lead levels more than 70 times the federal safety standard.

Read more here.

April 5, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

What is it with judges and women?

From The Guardian:

Following the proliferation of sharia councils, and with them, disturbing reports of systematic discrimination against women by all-male tribunals, the government finally set up an inquiry.

A deeply compromised inquiry, admittedly; one with feeble terms of reference and presided over by interested theological parties, but still, a public acknowledgement that some sharia councils may be working, as the government said in a “discriminatory and unacceptable” way.

Maybe, ultimately, the inquiry could also serve as a warning to other courts whose judges routinely treat women like children or chattels, and subject them to moral lectures; who put them in danger of further domestic violence and deter others from seeking help; who find preposterous excuses for male brutality towards women, and who force wives to stay in miserable marriages.

Read more here.

April 4, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Chicago-Kent Law Review Family Law Symposium

Chicago-Kent Law Review has recently published a fantastic family law symposium issue, consisting of the following papers:



Chicago-Kent Law Review 2017 92 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 3

By Jeffrey A. Parness (Symposium Editor)



Chicago-Kent Law Review 2017 92 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 177

By Jeffrey A. Parness & David A. Saxe



Chicago-Kent Law Review 2017 92 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 55

By Leslie Joan Harris



Chicago-Kent Law Review 2017 92 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 9

By June Carbone & Naomi Cahn



Chicago-Kent Law Review 2017 92 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 87

By Seema Mohapatra



Chicago-Kent Law Review 2017 92 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 105

By Solangel Maldonado



Chicago-Kent Law Review 2017 92 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 135

Katharine K. Baker

April 4, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 3, 2017

Despite kinks in program, nonlawyers successfully providing some legal services in Washington state

From The ABA Journal:

Limited license legal technicians in the state of Washington are succeeding at helping clients who can’t afford a lawyer while staying within their limits as practitioners, a new study has found.

Conducted by the American Bar Foundation and the National Center for State Courts with support from the Public Welfare Foundation, the study (PDF) evaluates Washington’s LLLT program. The program permits nonlawyers who earn an LLLT credential to help clients with lower-level legal tasks without the supervision of a lawyer, as the ABA Journal reported in January of 2015.

Currently, Washington is the only state offering this kind of license, although Utah is working on a similar program for professionals called Paralegal Practitioners. Washington’s first LLLT class took the licensing exam two years ago. All of those LLLTs are licensed in family law; the state of Washington plans to expand training to other practice areas. LLLTs help fill out forms and explain legal procedures to clients. They may not represent their clients in court or in negotiations with opposing parties.

Read more here.

April 3, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Moral Outrage at Childless Couples

From IUPUI Newsroom:

INDIANAPOLIS -- Data representing individuals from across the United States indicates that U.S. adults are increasingly delaying the decision to have children or forgoing parenthood entirely. Yet evidence suggests that voluntarily child-free people are stigmatized for this decision, according to a study published in the March 2017 edition of Sex Roles: A Journal of Research.

Leslie Ashburn-Nardo, an associate professor of psychology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, recently investigated this bias against those who choose to not have children.

"What's remarkable about our findings is the moral outrage participants reported feeling toward a stranger who decided to not have children," Ashburn-Nardo said. "Our data suggests that not having children is seen not only as atypical, or surprising, but also as morally wrong."

The findings are consistent with other studies of backlash against people who violate social roles and other stereotypic expectations. When people violate their expected roles, they suffer social sanctions. Given that more and more people in the U.S. are choosing to not have children, this work has far-reaching implications.

Ashburn-Nardo believes these findings offer the first known empirical evidence that parenthood is seen as a moral imperative.

Read more here.

April 2, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Adoption or Surrogacy for Gay Parents?

From Slate:

When my husband David and I became new parents, we thought it would be fun and perhaps even affirming to get involved with a gay dads group. As far as I could tell, the only regular event was a brunch that took place every few months. That sounded promising, a throwback to idle Sundays before the babies made it all about them. The food was always great—these are gay men, after all. But as it turned out, the event was neither fun nor affirming.

The gatherings mostly took place in wealthy suburban redoubts and were marked by a weird social division between two teams: Surrogacy Dads and Adoptive Dads. Some of this division was to be expected. Each group had war stories to share, and it was natural to break the ice with those who had lived through similar experiences. But after one or two brunches, I came to see that this kind of informal division reflected something much deeper: a philosophical debate about how we should form our families. The annoyingly named “gayby boom” has created a knot of moral questions that are impossible to avoid.

Should is a weird word to use in this context, of course. For gay men especially, bringing children into the family is difficult and challenging no matter which route one chooses. Our first instinct should be support for all families, regardless of what route each of us took to realize our dreams. Both surrogacy and adoption present daunting legal obstacles—even now that marriage equality has been achieved.

As I learned when researching a book I co-authored, surrogacy is a state-by-state legal minefield. Some states won’t recognize these contracts at all, while the law in other states is unsettled. And there is the ever-present danger that the woman carrying the child will try to renege on her commitment. Adoption is hardly more secure. The countries offering this choice to gay men are constantly changing. Domestic adoption can be fraught as well either because birth mothers change their minds, or as in our case of adoption through the child welfare system, because the process has no certain outcome.

Read more here.

April 1, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 31, 2017

Obergefell Applied Retroactively

From the ABA Journal:

A same-sex couple who split up after about 30 years together had a common-law marriage, a South Carolina family law court judge recently ruled.

It might be the first time in a family law court trial that a judge determined Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court opinion that validated same-sex marriage, applies retroactively, lawyer David Martin told the The Herald.

Read more here.

March 31, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Pet Custody Disputes

From the New York Times:

When couples get divorced, children are not the only ones who can get caught in custody disputes. Fights over other members of the family — beloved pets — can be equally acrimonious.

Courts have traditionally treated pets as personal property in such cases, but that is starting to shift as some state lawmakers and advocacy groups promote the notion that the legal system should act in the best interests of the animals.

Courts have awarded shared custody, visitation and even alimony payments to pet owners, and starting about 15 years ago, more states began allowing people to leave estates or trusts to care for their pets.

One case in San Diego that gained national headlines featured a pointer-greyhound mix named Gigi, who was the focus of a contentious divorce between Dr. Stanley and Linda Perkins.

Read more here.

March 30, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

End of Diamond Engagement Rings

From the Economist:

PEACOCKS strut; bowerbirds build lovenests; spiders gift-wrap flies in silk. Such courtship rituals play an important role in what Charles Darwin called sexual selection: when the female of a species bears most of the costs of reproduction, males use extravagant displays and to demonstrate their "reproductive fitness" and females choose between them. For human males, shards of a crystalline form of carbon often feature. 

Read more here.

March 29, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Gender Budgeting

From the Economist:

IT IS easy to be cynical about government--and rarely does such cynicism go unrewarded. Take, for instance, policy towards women. Some politicians declare that they value women's unique role, which can be shorthand for keeping married women at home looking after the kids. Others create whole ministries devoted to policies for women, which can be a device for parking women's issues on the periphery of policy where they cannot do any harm. Still others, who may actually mean what they say, pass laws giving women equal opportunities to men. Yet decreeing an end to discrimination is very different from bringing it about.

Amid this tangle of evasion, half-promises and wishful thinking, some policymakers have embraced a technique called gender budgeting. It not only promises to do a lot of good for women, but carries a lesson for advocates of any cause: the way to a government's heart is through its pocket.

Read more here.

March 28, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 27, 2017

Saudi Arabian Women

From the Economist:

CAN Saudi Arabia keep its women? Last month’s appointment of women to head two big banks and Tadawul, the kingdom’s stock exchange, offers hope that the path to a fulfilling career is not completely blocked. But the restrictions of Saudi life remain so irksome that covertly, silently, many women are finding ways out.

On family trips abroad, some jump ship. Some, having been sent to Western universities at the government’s expense, postpone their return indefinitely. Others avail themselves of clandestine online services offering marriages of convenience to men willing to whisk them abroad. Iman, an administrator at a private hospital in Riyadh, has found a package deal for $4,000 offering an Australian honeymoon during which she plans to scarper.

Read more here.

March 27, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Same-sex legal groundbreaker case in South Carolina

From The Herald: 

Debra Parks wanted to be treated the same as anybody else by the courts. At 62, she’s disabled, and split from her partner of almost four decades. She filed a lawsuit because she wanted her relationship, which ended last year, to be considered a common law marriage under South Carolina law.

Parks is gay. But until 2015, same-sex marriage was illegal.

“I was in a same-sex relationship for all those years,” Parks said. “We owned a house together. We were a family, even when society didn’t accept it.”

Now, in what legal experts and Parks’ lawyers say is a groundbreaking case for South Carolina, and possibly for other states with common law marriage, a Family Court judge in York County has ruled that Parks and her former partner had a common law marriage under state law. And the state must recognize that their common law marriage has been legal for almost 30 years, the judge ruled.

Read more here.

March 26, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Judges Issues Tri-Custody Agreement

From CNN:

An unconventional family produced a child before becoming tangled in a lengthy custody battle that ended last week when a New York judge awarded shared custody of the boy to his dad and two mothers.

The boy in the case is the biological child of a man and one of his neighbors. Both the man and his wife had a longstanding, intimate relationship with the birth mother, according to court documents.
The father, identified as Michael M., and his wife, Dawn M., had struggled to become pregnant. Dawn M. had suffered a miscarriage before the couple met the neighbor, identified as Audria. The three later began to "engage in intimate relations," the records state.

Read more here.

March 25, 2017 in Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 24, 2017

Duterte Opposes Gay Marriage in Philippines, Reversing Campaign Pledge

From The New York Times:

The Philippines will not legalize same-sex marriage anytime soon, President Rodrigo Duterte has said, reversing a campaign promise in which he pledged to support legislation to allow gay unions.

Mr. Duterte stressed that the country was Asia’s bastion of Roman Catholicism, which steadfastly opposes same-sex marriage.

He pointed to a recent issue of a Time magazine that tackled gender issues, featuring a transgender woman on its cover.

“That is their culture,” he said, referring to other countries where the American magazine circulates. “That’s for them. That can’t apply to us, because we are Catholics,” Mr. Duterte said in a lengthy speech on Sunday to the small Filipino community in Myanmar, where he arrived as part of a visit to bolster regional ties. He was scheduled to leave for Thailand on Monday.

Read more here

March 24, 2017 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 23, 2017

2nd Children Now More Common in China

From the National Health and Family Planning Commission of the PRC: 

The universal second-child policy implemented early last year was a major factor in raising the number of births in China to 17.86 million last year, an increase of 7.9 percent and the highest annual number since since 2000, according to the top health authority.

The number of newborns has increased by 1.31 million compared with 2015.

The portion of the births to couples who already had at least one child rose quickly to at least 45 percent last year, Yang Wenzhuang, a division director of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, said at a news conference on Sunday. The proportion was around 30 percent before 2013.

"It demonstrates that the universal second-child policy came in time and worked effectively," Yang said.

"Some regions, mostly large cities in eastern areas, began recording second children as comprising more than half of local newborns," he added.

Read more here.

March 23, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Paralegals May Be Able To Provide Family Law Services in Ontario, Canada

From CBC News:

A report on reforms to the Ontario family law system recommends allowing paralegals to provide more family law services without supervision from lawyers.

The province says that in 2014-15 more than 57 per cent of people in family court did not have legal representation.

The report from former Ontario court chief justice Annemarie Bonkalo, released Monday, recommends a special family law licence and training for paralegals among the 21 proposals to help people access the kind of service they need. 

The provincial government and the Law Society of Upper Canada, which regulates the legal profession, commissioned the report.

Read more here.

March 22, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Many Forced Marriage Cases in the United Kingdom in 2016

From Family Law Week:

The Forced Marriage Unit has published information on the number of cases reported to the Unit via its public helpline and email inbox from 1 January to 31 December 2016.

In 2016, the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) gave advice or support related to a possible forced marriage in 1,428 cases (the highest annual figure since 2012). These figures include contact that has been made to the FMU through the public helpline or by email in relation to a new case.

Of the cases that FMU provided support to:

371 cases (26%) involved victims below 18 years of age; and 

497 cases (34%) involved victims aged 18-25.

Read more here.

March 21, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, March 20, 2017

Living With Extended Family

From the Chicago Tribune:

Jessica Fromm and her mother-in-law used to have a great relationship.

It ended as soon as her mother-in-law moved into their small brick house in Chicago four years ago.

"Rules don't apply to her," Fromm said of her mother-in-law. "We don't want her living with us anymore."

It's the little things. When Fromm throws her clothing into the washing machine, she'll return to find it tossed on the floor. And when she has friends over, Fromm notices that her mother-in-law is eavesdropping on her conversations.

Read more here.

March 20, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Upcoming U.S. Supreme Court Oral Arguments

From SCOTUS blog:

Next week the justices will hear oral argument inHowell v. Howell, a dispute between a divorced couple over the wife’s share of the husband’s military retirement pay. The former spouses, John and Sandra Howell, divorced in 1991. As part of the divorce, John – who served in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years – and Sandra agreed that she would receive half of John’s military retirement pay, which began the following year. In 2005, John opted to waive part of his retirement pay in favor of disability benefits – a common choice when it is available because, unlike retirement pay, disability benefits are not taxable. However, that decision also reduced, by approximately $125 per month, the amount of money that went to Sandra as her share of John’s retirement pay; by contrast, John received both the additional money that would otherwise have gone to Sandra and the savings from his disability benefits being tax-free.

Read more here.


March 19, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)