Family Law Prof Blog

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

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Arkansas bans second-trimester abortion procedure; ACLU calls ban unconstitutional

From USA Today:

Arkansas' governor on Thursday approved a ban on a commonly used second-trimester abortion procedure — restrictions that are expected to face a legal challenge.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed into law a measure banning the procedure known as dilation and evacuation, which abortion-rights supporters contend is the safest and most common procedure used in second-trimester abortions. Hutchinson signed the bill hours after it was approved by the majority-GOP Senate on a 25-6 vote. It won't take effect until later this year.

Hutchinson, who had promised abortion opponents earlier this week he would sign the ban into law, didn't issue a statement after approving the measure. Arkansas Right to Life has called the prohibition its top legislative priority in Arkansas, and the group's president has called the procedure "barbaric."

"I think this is a humane bill. ... I think it does move us to a more compassionate society," Republican Sen. David Sanders, who co-sponsored the measure, told lawmakers before the vote.

Read more here.

February 4, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Prince's divorce records unsealed

From CBS local:

Newly public divorce documents give a deeper look into the personal life of Prince.

A Minnesota judge unsealed records Friday relating to the star’s second marriage to Manuela Testolini, which lasted from 2001 to 2007.

The Star Tribune asked to have the records unsealed because they might shed light on what led to Prince’s use of the painkiller fentanyl.

The musician died from an overdose at his Paisley Park compound last April.

These documents only appear to show a very wealthy couple arguing about who gets what.

The back and forth over money between the late musician and his second wife speaks volumes about the lifestyle of a man who often said very little, publicly.

Read more here.


February 3, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Unsealing divorce records in politics

From the Hill:

A government watchdog group has asked a federal court to unseal the divorce records of Labor Secretary nominee Andy Puzder.

The Campaign for Accountability (CfA) said information regarding the fast-food CEO’s background and prior acts — including his marriage and divorce proceedings — are of high interest to the Senate committee that will be considering the nomination.

The group charged that court filings and recent reports indicate the records include allegations of domestic violence.

Read more here.

February 3, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

3-person IVF approved by HFEA – what does this mean?

From LexisNexis:

On 15 December 2016, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) approved the use of a new medical technique, known as mitochondrial donation, at UK fertility clinics.

This means people at high risk of conceiving a baby with certain life-threatening genetic conditions can have the chance to conceive a healthy, genetically related child. This technique is encompassed in a range of techniques often referred to as 3-Person IVF.  UK licensed fertility clinics can now apply to the HFEA for permission to offer this on a case-by-case basis to fertility patients.

How does the new 3-Person IVF technique work?

This new technique works by transferring the nucleus of an affected woman's egg (or nucleus of a fertilised embryo) into the shell of another woman's egg or embryo (having first removed the nucleus). This technique creates an embryo from the genetic material of three people.

Read more here.

February 3, 2017 in Alternative Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Transgender woman denied contact with her ultra-Orthodox Jewish children

From The Guardian:

A transgender woman has been denied direct contact with her five children on the basis they would be shunned by their ultra-Orthodox Jewish community if she were allowed to meet them.

The woman will be allowed only to send letters to her children, after a judge concluded there was a real chance of “the children and their mother being marginalised or excluded by the ultra-Orthodox community” if face-to-face contact were permitted.

Mr. Justice Peter Jackson stated that he had reached the conclusion with “real regret, knowing the pain that it must cause”. The transgender woman – identified only as J – had brought the case seeking to have contact with the children.

As a result of the ruling, her contact with each child will be limited to letters four times a year, with the suggestion that these could be sent to mark three Jewish religious holidays – Pesach, Sukkot and Hanukkah – and the children’s birthdays.

The judge noted his concerns over the clash between the ultra-Orthodox faith and transgender rights, saying: “It is painful to find these vulnerable groups in conflict.”

In his judgment, Jackson wrote: “These children are caught between two apparently incompatible ways of living, led by tiny minorities within society at large. Both minorities enjoy the protection of the law: on the one hand the right of religious freedom, and on the other the right to equal treatment.”

He added: “Despite its antiquity, Jewish law is no more than 3,500 years old, while gender dysphoria will doubtless have existed throughout the 120,000 years that homo sapiens have been on earth. Both sides of the question must therefore receive careful attention.”

According to the court judgment, the woman had fought for contact with her children since leaving the home in 2015, asking that she “should be sensitively reintroduced to the children, who should be helped to understand her new way of life”.

Read more here.

February 3, 2017 in Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

'Biased’ Changes To Egypt’s Divorce Laws Over Custody Prompt Outcry

From The Huffington Post:

An amendment that would give custody of children to their father if their mother remarries has sparked outrage among Egyptian women and their advocates, who claim it highlights systemic gender biases in family laws.

Hanna’s husband put her through years of psychological and physical abuse before she managed to divorce him. The Egyptian single mother, now 27, was living with her family in the U.S. when her husband Amir raped her. She pressed charges and he spent a month in prison, but he was then released when her family convinced her to drop the charges. After she returned to Egypt to file for a divorce, Amir followed her back to the country and abducted their only son Kareem, then three years old, and kept him hidden in a beach town in Sinai for three months. When Hanna got her son back and continued to push for the divorce, Amir put a knife to her throat.

Eventually, in 2014, a judge granted Hanna a divorce, but said that because Amir hadn’t given his consent for the divorce, she had to give up all of her financial rights. Hanna decided she could live with those terms because, even if they had to struggle for money, she and her son could finally feel safe.

But a new bill proposed by Egypt’s parliament threatens to take even that sense of security away from her and thousands of other divorced mothers. In December 2016, a group of parliamentarians called for an amendment to the country’s Personal Status Laws, or family laws, which would grant divorced fathers more time with their children and also change custody rights if a woman remarries. The move has provoked an outcry from citizens and activists who say it further punishes Egyptian women, who many claim already hold second-class status.

“Being a woman in Egypt is a disaster,” says Hanna.

Read more here.

February 2, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

NJ Atty Censured For Handling Judge's Family Law Case

From Law 360:

The New Jersey Supreme Court has censured an attorney for privately advising a state judge regarding her own matrimonial issue while he had pending matters before her, failing to disclose that relationship to his adversaries in those cases and forging another lawyer's signature in a letter to the judge's ex-husband.
In an order filed Wednesday, the state's highest court accepted the September recommendation of its Disciplinary Review Board to censure Frank A. Louis for ethical violations in the assistance he provided to former Superior Court Judge Melanie D. Appleby in 2012.

The state's Office of Attorney Ethics had requested a three-month suspension, but the board found that Louis deserved "mercy," saying he has practiced law for more than 40 years without any prior disciplinary issues and that he has already suffered professionally as a result of his misconduct.

"Respondent's misconduct was egregious, but aberrational. Its consequences, for him, were devastating," according to the board's decision. "Although, given the totality of his misconduct, a three-month suspension is justified, the adverse impact that has befallen him calls for tempering justice with mercy."

Read more here.

February 1, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Court Approved: Family Law Mediators Can Draft Settlement Documents

From The State Bar of Wisconsin:

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has approved a petition that will allow lawyer-mediators to draft and file settlement documents in family law cases. Currently, parties must obtain different legal counsel to perform those legal tasks after mediation.

More frequently, parties attempt to navigate the legal system with no legal help at all. Another layer to limited scope representation rules that took effect two years ago, the new rule will give parties a more affordable solution to resolve family law disputes.

The Director of State Courts filed petition 16-04 on the recommendation of the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s Planning and Policy Advisory Committee (PPAC).

After a public hearing on the petition last week, a 6-1 majority approved the petition as presented. Justice Shirley Abrahamson did not oppose the petition but did not join the majority. She had moved, unsuccessfully, for amendments to clarify minor points that will likely be addressed in a separate writing on the final order.

The new rule will particularly impact cases involving divorces. The expected effective date of the new rule is July 1, 2017, but the court has not yet issued a final order.

Read more here.

January 31, 2017 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 30, 2017

Dating Market Doesn't Overlap With Job Market

From Fortune:

What helps single women in the job market can hurt them in the marriage market—and they know that all too well.

According to a new study from researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research, young female professionals tend to play down their ambitions around men—but only if they're not in serious relationships.

The researchers fielded two experiments in an elite U.S. MBA program in which they asked 355 first-year business school students about their desired compensation, work hours, and travel preferences after graduation. Some students were told that their answers were to be shared only with the school's career center, while others were told that the responses would be shared with classmates. Among single and non-single men and women, only the answers of female students not in a relationship differed depending on the confidentiality of their responses.

Read more here.

January 30, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Texas Attempts to Revoke Some Gay-Marriage Rights

From Bloomberg:

The Texas Supreme Court has agreed to reconsider a case about whether married gay city employees must be given spousal benefits. That’s a terrible sign. The briefs openly urge the court to resist the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark gay marriage decision by reading it narrowly to say that gay people have a fundamental right to marry but no right to equal benefits. It’s a legally deceptive argument, which the current justices in Washington would summarily reject. But it’s dangerous all the same, because it shows that Donald Trump’s election is spurring outright resistance to federal law and precedent. And the Texas justices, who are elected, have no excuse for agreeing to reconsider the case.

The case, Pidgeon v. Turner, arose from a lawsuit trying to block the benefits that the city of Houston affords to the same-sex spouses of city employees. The case had no legal chance of success once the U.S. Supreme Court decided Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015. That decision held both that marriage is a fundamental right and that the equal protection guarantee of the U.S. Constitution requires that it be extended equally to gay and straight couples.

The Texas lower courts rejected the attack on the Houston benefits and, in September, the Texas Supreme Court refused to hear the case by a vote of 8-1. Only one justice, John Devine, dissented. The essence of his position was: Marriage is a fundamental right. Spousal benefits are not. Thus, the two issues are distinct.

Read more here.


January 29, 2017 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Pets Will Be Treated Similarly to Children in Alaska Divorce Courts

From The Washington Post:

Divorces can be messy. Leaving aside the very raw emotions involved, there is the matter of splitting property.

Who gets the house? Who gets the couch? Who gets the dog?

If one of those items seems different to you, that’s probably because you, like many Americans, consider pets to be more like family members than furniture. But courts do not. In the eyes of the law, animals are property. So although pet custody battles are often passionate and sometimes truly wacky, courts think of them more prosaically: as part of the “property distribution” in a divorce.

That’s why an amendment to Alaska’s divorce statutes, which took effect last week, is making waves in the world of animal law. It makes Alaska the first state in the country to require courts to take “into consideration the well-being of the animal” and to explicitly empower judges to assign joint custody of pets. In a blog post, the Animal Legal Defense Fund called the well-being provision “groundbreaking and unique.”

“It is significant,” said David Favre, a Michigan State University law professor who specializes in animal law. “For the first time, a state has specifically said that a companion animal has visibility in a divorce proceeding beyond that of property — that the court may award custody on the basis of what is best for the dog, not the human owners.”

Read more here.


January 28, 2017 in Custody (parenting plans), Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 27, 2017

Adoption App Sparks Controversy

From The Observer:

There’s a new app that’s supposed to make adopting kids quick and easy. Like most startups, it’s targeting millennials. The tagline: “Parenthood is just a swipe away.”

As its motto reveals, the app, Adoptly, is just like Tinder. You filter by your preferences (ethnicity, age, gender and distance), swipe left and right and then chat directly with children you match with. But to be clear, it’s not the company who’s dubbed it “Tinder for Adoption”—they denied it was molded after the pioneer swiping app, but the idea of swiping left on kids has the public and especially those in the adoption industry (but more on that later) feeling uneasy.

So it wasn’t a huge surprise when Kickstarter shut down the Adoptly campaign after just a few days. But now the company has relaunched on Indiegogo, and with a smaller goal. This time the team is seeking $100,000 rather than $150,000, and they told the Observer it’s because they’re in the process of closing a deal for VC.

“We feel it’s really unfair that Kickstarter would take down a legitimate idea, like Adoptly, just because some media outlets were debating its validity or felt uncomfortable with such an innovative and disruptive idea. Furthermore, we are really disappointed in Kickstarter for not reaching out to us beforehand,” co-founder Alex Nawrocki told the Observer, adding that Kickstarter suspended the campaign without an explanation or due process.

Read more here.

January 27, 2017 in Adoption | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Private Judges in Divorce

From Vanity Fair:

For the past four months, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s divorce has been plagued by the kind of accusations that make a celebrity split resemble more of a soap-opera circus than a marital dissolution. But on Monday, the movie-star couple reached a major turning point by deciding to put any behind-the-scenes pot-stirring behind them—good-bye rumors of substance and child abuse, P.R. manipulation (Jolie’s camp has denied any such manipulation), etc.—by issuing a joint statement saying that they have turned to the celebrity-divorce secret weapon: a private judge.

Interestingly enough, Pitt used this same secret weapon in 2005, while divorcing Jennifer Aniston. The two hired Jill Robbinswho practiced family law for 14 years and is one of many California judges to trade the exhausting, public sector for the lucrative, private alternative in the past 25 years. In 2006, Robbins was reportedly charging her clients $600/hour to expertly, efficiently, and neutrally decide domestic and civil cases. With an hourly rate that steep, it is no wonder why judges leapt to the private sector. But why do celebrities—the most public faces on the planet—veer outside the public justice system to reach a divorce solution when it is faster, cheaper, and, above all, more private? Ahead, everything you need to know about celebrity’s divorce secret weapon.


California is one of a handful of states (including Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska) that allows a private judge—often a retired judge—to hear cases that are mostly of the domestic-relationship, breach-of-contract, and civil variety. Private judges have “full jurisdiction over the case,” explained University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law professor Richard Reuben to NPR, “and his or her decision is as binding as any other court’s. The big difference is that it happens in private.”

Read more here.

January 26, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

QDRO fee

From Bloomberg:

A profit center. A silent fee. One more kick in the pants.

Those are a few of the ways divorce lawyers describe the fee that many 401(k) plan participants have to pay when they need to divide a retirement account in a divorce. As more wealth accumulates in defined-contribution plans and divorcing baby boomers move to split it up, more retirement savers are getting to know a little abbreviation that packs a big punch in frustration and exasperation.


The fee is for processing a qualified domestic relations order to transfer assets in a defined-contribution account. Some employers don't charge separately for the QDRO—the fee may be built into the plan's costs and, ultimately, spread across all your colleagues.

But when a third party such as Fidelity Investments or Vanguard Group handles the administrative and record-keeping details of a 401(k) plan, the QDRO fee charged to participants can start around $300, jump quickly to about $700, and stretch to $1,200 and beyond. That's on top of what you're paying the lawyer who prepared the form for the plan to approve and process. 

Read more here.

January 25, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

UK judges change court rules on child contact for violent fathers

From The Guardian:

Senior judges are taking steps to end the presumption that a father must have contact with a child where there is evidence of domestic abuse that would put the child or mother at risk.

The reforms are to be introduced in the family courts after campaigning by the charity Women’s Aid, which identified that 19 children have been killed in the last 10 years by their violent fathers after being given contact with them by judges.

The changes include a demand from one of the most senior family court judges for all the judiciary to have further training on domestic violence and to act to ensure women and children are protected.

Mr Justice Cobb announced the changes on Friday after talks with Women’s Aid, and following concerns raised in a Guardian Investigation.

Cobb said: “It is indeed most disturbing to note that for at least 12 children [in seven families], of the 19 children killed … contact with the perpetrator [the father] was arranged through the family courts.

“For six families, this contact was arranged in family court hearings [two of these were interim orders], and for one family, contact was decided as part of the arrangements for a non-molestation order and occupational order.”

Since its report on the child murders last year, Women’s Aid has identified another case in which a child was murdered by a father after being given contact via the family court. The charity is presenting their updated report to the prime minister in Downing Street on Monday.

Read more here.

January 24, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 23, 2017

You participated in the Women's March. Now what?

From CNN:

In the wake of historic demonstrations this weekend, Women's March organizers and participants say their message is unequivocal: We're just getting started.

More than a million people worldwide took to the streets the day after the inauguration of US President Donald Trump, in defense of women's rights and gender equity. That's not including figures from the main march, in Washington.
How do participants plan to take the moment into movement beyond social media posts and likes? Here's what some groups say they are doing to keep up the fight:
Volunteer for a group you care about
The scope of the Women's March made it attractive to some and dubious to others. Though it claimed to represent all women, some felt left out while skeptics complained it lacked focus beyond being anti-Trump.
That said, a  broad coalition of human rights and social justice groups partnered with the main organizing entity to publicize the march in Washington and coordinate local events. Those groups are seizing the moment to draw attention and volunteers to their causes, and turn social media slacktivism into political activism.
They want marchers to find a group that speaks to their conscience and let the groups help prioritize efforts.
"This is an opportunity for people to invigorate our democracy and speak to their elected officials," said Andrea Mercado, co-chairwoman of "We Belong Together," which supports immigrants' rights. "This is a moment where no contribution is too small."
Read more here.

January 23, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Organizers Hope Women's March On Washington Inspires, Evolves

From NPR:

The day after President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration, Jan. 20, 2017, a march is slated to take place on the National Mall.

It's being called the Women's March on Washington. (It was being referred to, somewhat controversially, as the "Million Woman March" before it was re-branded.) At this point, thousands of women and allies plan to rally here for the Women's March on Washington. The march aims to "send a bold message to our new administration on their first day in office, and to the world that women's rights are human rights," according to the event's official website.

"We want to ensure that this country knows women are not happy," co-founder Tamika Mallory said. "And when we get angry, change happens. We make things happen."

Catalyzed by a polarizing presidential race, the march aims to be a message to the new administration that there's a coalition planning to press the issue of women's rights in potentially high-profile ways over the next four years.

"This effort is not anti-Trump," Mallory said. "This is pro-women. This is a continuation of a struggle women have been dealing with for a very long time. In this moment, we are connecting and being as loud as possible."

Trump created firestorms when it came to women's issues during the campaign. Upset with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly bringing up in a debate his past crude remarks about women (calling some "pigs," for example), he responded that she had "blood coming out of her — wherever." Trump was also caught on tape bragging about grabbing women by the genitals. "[W]hen you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything," Trump said in the leaked 2005 video. Trump has a long history of making sexist remarks, and his candidacy happened to take place while running against a candidate who would have been the first female president.

Read more here.

January 22, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Bill Watch (Indiana): Current Legislation of Note

From IndyBar:

The IndyBar Legislative Committee is currently monitoring the following family law related legislation. IndyBar members can request that the Legislative Committee track specific legislation by contacting committee chair Lawren Mills at

HB1048    ADOPTION CRIMINAL HISTORY CHECK. (AYLESWORTH M) Removes a requirement that a criminal history check in an adoption or guardianship proceeding must include a request for information from a national registry of substantiated child abuse and neglect reports.

HB1163    MARRIAGE. (LUCAS J) Eliminates the requirements that: (1) individuals obtain a marriage license before being married; (2) a marriage be solemnized by an individual specified by state law; and (3) a marriage license be filed with a circuit court clerk and the state department of health. Provides for marriage by marriage contract by any two individuals who are competent to contract in Indiana or otherwise permitted to marry in Indiana.

HB1216    CHILD CUSTODY PETITIONS. (YOUNG J) Prohibits the department of child services, an agency or person authorized to act on behalf of the department of child services, or a similar agency or county office with similar responsibilities in another state from filing a petition seeking a determination of custody of a child.

HB1245    NOTICE OF ADOPTION TO GRANDPARENTS. (KARICKHOFF M) Provides that a grandparent of a child sought to be adopted is entitled to notice of pending adoption proceedings.

HB1290    FINGERPRINTING FEE FOR ADOPTION. (SUMMERS V) Provides that if a petitioner for adoption seeks to adopt a child who is under the care and supervision of the department of child services at the time of or any time after the filing of a petition for adoption, the department may pay the fees and other costs of the criminal history check required for the petitioner.

Read more here.

January 21, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 20, 2017

Court upholds $10K sanction for lawyer's alleged 'maelstrom of misconduct' in his divorce

From The ABA Journal:

A New York appeals court has upheld a $10,000 sanction for a former Mintz Levin associate for bad faith conduct in handling his own divorce.

The appeals court said the judge who sanctioned Anthony Zappin in September 2015 had explained his reasoning in a detailed decision that was “amply supported by the record,” the New York Law Journal (sub. req.) reports.

The Jan. 17 decision by the Appellate Division, First Department said Zappin “engaged in unprofessional, outrageous and malicious conduct on multiple occasions.”

The Manhattan judge who sanctioned Zappin, Matthew Cooper of the trial-level Manhattan Supreme Court, had asserted that Zappin engaged in a “maelstrom of misconduct” that continued despite repeated warnings to cease.

Zappin did “everything in his power to undermine the legal process and use his law license as a tool to threaten, bully and intimidate, seriously calling into question his fitness to practice law,” Cooper wrote in his September 2015 sanctions order.

Read more here.

January 20, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thurgood Marshall Center is a gem of a resource

From The Washington Post:

Thurgood Marshall made a career of tearing down racial barriers.

In 1935, he won a case in Maryland’s Court of Appeals ending segregation at the University of Maryland’s law school, which had rejected Marshall himself. In 1954, he won the landmark Supreme Court anti-segregation case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. In 1965, he became the first African American solicitor general. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Marshall’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage (1816 12th St. NW) is a 35,000-square-foot hub that tries daily to honor his legacy.

“The thought was to have this building dedicated to nonprofit organizations so they can receive below-market rent to better serve the community and to put that savings back into their organizations,” says Thomasina Yearwood, president of the Thurgood Marshall Center Trust, which owns and operates the center.

Many community groups rent space for meetings and workshops. Rooms are also available for special events. Currently, eight groups rent office space, including the National Newspaper Publishers Association and nonprofits focused on issues such as health and literacy.

“I love the fact that all of these programs touch children, youth and families,” Yearwood says.

The five-story building in Shaw opened as the Anthony Bowen YMCA in 1912. For decades, it was a center of African American activity in segregated Washington. In addition to meeting space, it provided a gymnasium and dorm rooms for black men — students, workers and soldiers. Langston Hughes’s tiny room is preserved on the second floor.

The Baltimore-born Marshall, a Howard law school grad, was also a resident, Yearwood notes. Myriad challenges led to the building closing in 1982. Concerned residents rallied to refurbish the facility, and it reopened in 2000.

Read more here.

January 19, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)