Family Law Prof Blog

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

Saturday, October 24, 2015

A Better Marriage is Better for Your Health

From TIME: 

Studies have pretty consistently shown that being married and staying married is better for your health. The married population lives longer and gets less sick. But a new study out of Utah suggests that it’s only really happily married people who get the full benefit.

People often think of marriages as happy or unhappy, but they are rarely so easy to classify. Couples in what the researchers called “ambivalent marriages,” unions that are not bad enough to leave but still have distinctly negative attributes (and no, this is not all marriages—just about 75% of them, says the study), do not get many of the advantages of those whose marriages are very fulfilling, the researchers found.

The study, conducted by Brigham Young University psychology professor Wendy Birmingham, and published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, asked 94 couples about their spouse’s behavior and what the study romantically called their “interpersonal-functioning.” A quarter of the couples were genuinely happy and had no complaints. But three quarters of the marriages fell into the ambivalent category: mostly their spouses were great, but there was some areas in which they were unsupportive or overly negative.

“There was a high level of positivity in the marriage, but there was also negativity,” says Birmingham, who cites the example of a wife who’s a great partner but not happy with her man’s career, or a husband who’s a wonderful dad and lover but very critical. “These are people who are committed to the marriage. There’s just a lot of negativity, which is negating the positive physiological benefits.”

Read more here.

October 24, 2015 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Emancipation of Children for the Purposes of Child Support Obligations

From The National Law Review:

Emancipation is the process by which a minor is legally freed from control by their parents or guardians, and the parents or guardians are legally freed from any and all responsibility toward the child. In family law, emancipation most often occurs in the context of child support obligations. A child who is emancipated does not receive child support. Therefore, a supporting spouse (the one making the child support payments) is likely to seek emancipation of a child, while a dependent spouse (the one receiving the child support payments) will likely oppose emancipation. Typically, emancipation is sought when the child reaches the age of majority, but it can also occur before or after this date.

As established by numerous court opinions in New Jersey, emancipation can occur upon the child’s marriage, the child’s introduction into military service, by a court order based on the child’s best interests or by the attainment of an appropriate age. Regarding what is the “appropriate age,” emancipation does not automatically occur upon a minor reaching the age of majority. In Alford v. Somerset County Welfare Board, a New Jersey Appellate Court stated that, “while the age of majority has been established in New Jersey by law, there is no age fixed in law when a child becomes emancipated.” Subsequent cases affirmed this idea. Furthermore, in Newburgh v. Arrigo and Filippone v. Lee, it was determined that reaching the age of majority establishes only a prima facie case but not conclusive proof of emancipation, and can be rebuttable based upon the circumstances of each case.

Newburgh and Filippone are the leading cases in New Jersey regarding emancipation. They not only state that reaching the age of majority simply establishes a prima facie case for emancipation that can be rebutted, but also elaborate on what factors can be used to rebut this presumption. Together, they affirm the fact that the issue of whether a child is emancipated at age eighteen, with correlative termination of the right to parental support, if fact-intensive, and can easily vary based upon the specific circumstances of each case. Together, they also establish the fundamental question asked when determining if a child should be emancipated or not – has the child moved beyond the “sphere of influence” exercised by the parent and obtained an independent status of his or her own?

Read more here.

October 23, 2015 in Child Support Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

For Men in Prison, Child Support Becomes a Crushing Debt

From The Washington Post:

Earl L. Harris did not owe child support when he was sent to prison in 1997 for selling marijuana. He now concedes that dealing drugs may have been a stupid move for a new father.

But Harris, then 19, had grown up poor and dropped out of school, and the only legitimate work available to young, black men like him, he says, was a temp job without benefits.

“Nobody was hiring,” he said. “I got into hustling because I wanted to support my baby.”

The state of Missouri sent Harris to the penitentiary in Boonville, 250 miles from his home and baby daughter. His girlfriend moved on, later marrying someone else. After just two months in prison, Harris started getting the letters.

Child support. You owe: $168.

They came once a month, piling up debt.

Child support. You owe: $168. Arrears: $336. Arrears: $504. Arrears: $672. Plus interest and other fees.

Of the 2.2 million people incarcerated in the United States, about half are parents, and at least 1 in 5 has a child support obligation. For most, the debt will keep piling up throughout their imprisonment: By law or by practice, child support agencies in much of the country consider incarceration a form of “voluntary impoverishment.” Parents like Harris, the logic goes, have only themselves to blame for not earning a living.

Read more here. 

October 22, 2015 in Child Support Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Couples Sue Over Tribal Adoption Hurdles

From The Wall Street Journal:

For nearly four decades, couples wishing to adopt American Indian children out of troubled situations have faced several hurdles, including giving the child’s tribe a chance to find suitable tribal parents first.

Now some prospective adoptive parents, Indian birthparents and members of the adoption industry are challenging the laws and regulations involved.

“The laws once served a purpose, but these days they’re doing more harm than good to children,” said Kate Wicar of Erie, Colo. She and her husband were blocked last year by the Osage tribe from adopting a 3-year-old Oklahoma girl who is part Osage. The Osage Nation didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 to end what was then a common practice by state and private adoption agencies of pulling Indian children from their homes and placing them in state-run boarding schools or homes of non-Indian parents where they were thought to be better off. The law was aimed at giving tribes more say over the fate of Indian children, and keeping more families intact. It allows tribes to intervene in some child-welfare cases and requires a state that has temporarily moved an Indian child from its home to make “active efforts” to help the family retain custody.

People who identify as fully American Indian or Alaska Native make up 1.2% of the U.S. population, and children from those groups are about 1.7 times as likely to be adopted as other children, according to census data.

Read more here.

October 21, 2015 in Adoption | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

"Abortion Bus" Will Tour Ireland Selling Dangerous Abortion Drug

From Life News:

The Life Institute has said that it is ‘deeply shocking’ to see that abortion activists who plan to make access to illegal abortion pills available on a bus touring the country appear to be playing ‘fast and loose’ with women’s lives.

Today, Ruth Coppinger TD said that the abortion bus would ensure that women in Ireland could avail of the abortion pill by meeting the bus – but she admitted that no doctor would be present on the bus, and was dismissive of warnings from senior medical experts who warned that unsupervised use of the abortion pill could result in the death of the woman.

Dr. Sam Coulter Smith, Master of the Rotunda Maternity Hospital, in an interview with RTÉ’s Prime Time said that incorrect administration of the drug could lead to perforation of the uterus, and warned that this had caused women to die.

Spokeswoman Niamh Uí Bhriain said that the ‘abortion bus’ was a cheap publicity stunt but that it was deeply shocking that a TD would take part in an initiative that could lead to a woman to lose her life.

“Ruth Coppinger was interviewed by Morning Ireland today and it was put to her that medical experts said  it was dangerous for women to take the abortion pill unsupervised. Dr Sam Coulter Smith said that women had lost their lives because of unsupervised use of the abortion pill. But Ms Coppinger refused to call a halt to the abortion pill campaign.”

Read more here.

October 20, 2015 in Abortion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 19, 2015

Millennial Parents

From Time:

Until now, members of the millennial generation—those 20- and 30-somethings born from the late ’70s to the late ’90s—have mostly been busy following themselves. Helicopter-parented, trophy-saturated and abundantly friended, they’ve been hailed by loved ones as “special snowflakes” and cast as the self-centered children of the cosseting boomers who raised them. Now millennials have a new challenge that has shifted their focus: raising kids of their own.

Source: TIME-SurveyMonkey poll. See results here. Source: TIME-SurveyMonkey poll. See results here.

Millennial parents number more than 22 million in the U.S., with about 9,000 babies born to them each day. This growing cohort of parents is digitally native, ethnically diverse, late-marrying and less bound by traditional gender roles than any generation before it. Millennials, many of whom entered the job market during one of the worst economic downturns in U.S. history, have helped shape a culture where everyone is expected to be on all the time—for their bosses, co-workers, family and friends. With a smartphone and a social network always at hand, they’re charting a course through parenthood that opens moms and dads to more public criticism—as well as affirmation—than anything previous generations have ever experienced.

At the same time, these young adults, having been raised to count individuality and self-expression as the highest values, are attempting to run their families as mini-democracies, seeking consensus from spouses, kids and extended friend circles on even the smallest decisions. They’re backing away from the overscheduled days of their youth, preferring a more responsive, less directorial approach to activities. And they’re teaching their kids to be themselves and try new things—often unwittingly conditioning their tiny progeny to see experiences as things to be documented and shared with the world.

Read more here.

October 19, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Report Details Economic Hardships for Inmate Families

From New York Times:

A survey of families that have a member in jail or prison has found that nearly two-thirds struggle to meet their basic needs, including 50 percent that are unable to afford sufficient food and adequate housing.

The report found that costs associated with incarceration, like traveling for prison visits, had pushed more than one-third of the families into debt. The research was conducted by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, Calif.; Forward Together; and more than a dozen community and civil rights organization that work with incarcerated people.

The focus on the economic hardships endured by families after an arrest is an often overlooked element of the nation’s criminal justice system, where 2.4 million people are in prison or jail — many of them fathers or mothers who were their family’s primary income earners, according to the report.

After an inmate’s release, a criminal conviction often means a family loses its ability to live in government-subsidized housing. And former inmates are barred from competing for various federal student grants and loans and have difficulty finding even menial work.

Twenty-six percent of the more than 700 former inmates surveyed for the study remained unemployed five years after their release, and the vast majority of others had found only part-time or temporary jobs, the report said.

 Read more here.

October 18, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

New Movement Aims to Share the Reality of Marriage

From The Washington Times:

A new group called the Marriage Reality Movement aims to help Catholics and others renew the vision of marriage in society.

“It is about formation for the evangelization of culture starting around the family dinner table,” Bill May, president of the California-based group Catholics for the Common Good Institute, told CNA Oct. 6.

“We start by helping people reintroduce marriage to the culture in non-religious language that precisely reflects the teachings of the Church.”

The Marriage Reality Movement launched on Sept. 30 in Philadelphia during the World Meeting of Families. It has a website at

The organization, which is sponsored by the Catholics for the Common Good Institute, aims to build a coalition and promote effective educational materials about marriage.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, the chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, gave the keynote speech at the movement’s launch.

The archbishop said people should look for why marriage exists in nature: “to bring new children into the world and unite the man and woman to each other and to those children they bring into the world.”

Read more here.

October 17, 2015 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Alabama Judge Asks State's Supreme Court for a Way Out of Issuing Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

From ABC News:

An Alabama probate judge is asking the state's Supreme Court for a way out of issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Elmore County Probate Judge John Enslen filed a petition Monday that says the federal government, not state offices, should issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The federal government is responsible for upholding and enforcing other laws created at the federal level and already issues licenses through numerous agencies, Enslen said in the petition.

The petition asks the court to order judges statewide not to issue same-sex marriage licenses or recognize licenses that Enslen says have been issued in contradiction to the Alabama Constitution.

"Born solely from a strained interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, the new same-sex marriage license is a child of the federal government, not the State of Alabama," Enslen wrote in the petition.

Enslen also asks that the Alabama Supreme Court declare it will only recognize same-sex marriage licenses if they have been issued by the federal government or by states that have their own gay marriage laws.

The petition is the second of its kind to be filed with the state's high court, said ACLU-Alabama Executive Director Susan Watson.

Read more here.

October 16, 2015 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Ovarian Tissue Transplants Help Women Have Children After Cancer, Study Shows

From TIME:

An experimental procedure in which women who survive cancer receive transplants of their own ovarian tissue has helped some women have babies, a new study shows. The study is the largest to be done on this procedure so far.

The Denmark study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, focused on women who had one ovary removed and frozen when they found out that they had cancer. After receiving treatment and recovering from cancer, doctors transplanted the preserved ovarian tissue onto the women’s remaining ovary, the Associated Press reports.

The study looked at 41 women with cancer who had the procedure between 2003 and 2014. The results showed that among the 32 women who wanted to get pregnant, 10 did conceive and gave birth. The findings suggest the procedure could help 1 in 3 women successfully have a baby.

According to the AP, over 36 babies have been born after ovarian transplants including 14 in Denmark.

Read more here.

October 15, 2015 in Alternative Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Reproductive Justice Fellowship Program

2016-2017 Reproductive Justice Fellowship Program Applications Now Available! Pilot RJ State Program Introduced!

Are you a current 3L or recent law school graduate?
Fired up about social justice issues like immigration, LGBTQ rights, and racial justice, and how they intersect with reproductive rights and justice? 
Want to get hands-on training in federal or state law and policy and rub elbows with and learn from leading advocates in the field?
Then consider submitting an application for the 2016-17 Reproductive Justice Fellowship Program (RJFP). The program runs from the end of August 2016 through August 2017.
RJ Federal Fellows will be placed at nonprofit organizations in Washington, D.C. to help advance reproductive justice through law and policy. Fellows in our pilot RJ State Program will be matched with one of two joint placements: New Voices Pittsburgh & Women's Law Project, in Pittsburgh, PA or Legal Voice & Surge NW, in Seattle, WA.
The application deadline is 5:00 PST on TUESDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2015. You can find the online form here (organization applications not yet available). 
For more information about the RJFP, including bios of current and past Fellows and a list of Placement Organizations, please visit the RJFP homepage.
Questions? Email

October 14, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Republicans Target Abortion, Not Planned Parenthood

From Washington Examiner:

If it wasn't obvious, it is now: Republicans are making the congressional hearings on Planned Parenthood more about abortion itself than the organization.

Lawmakers used a range of props including diapers, surgical instruments and videos at a Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday afternoon to illustrate what they view as a gruesome procedure. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., held up a tiny diaper designed for a premature baby, noting that some fetuses aborted midway through pregnancy could fit into it. Anthony Levatino, a doctor who used to conduct abortions, held up a catheter and a clamp used during the dilation and evaculation procedure.

"You use this instrument again and again to tear out the spine, the intestines, the heart and lungs," Levatino told the committee. "Sometimes a little face comes out and stares at you."

It was the fourth congressional hearing prompted by a series of undercover videos highlighting Planned Parenthood's participation in supplying aborted fetal tissue, which sparked widespread Republican outrage against the group and led lawmakers to create a new committee on Wednesday specifically charged with investigating the group.

Prior hearings had disappointed many on the Right, who criticized Republicans for appearing uncoordinated, unprepared and ineffective. But as Republicans kicked off their latest hearing, they made clear they intend to keep the focus almost exclusively on the procedure of abortion itself, rather than on questions of whether Planned Parenthood illegally profited from providing the tissue to human tissue companies.

Read more here.

October 14, 2015 in Abortion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Fixing the Marriage Penalty

From Margaret Ryznar (IU McKinney), writing for the Huffington Post:

What if there is a problem that Washington agrees on, but no one is fixing it?

Secondary income earners--often women due to their lower income in the marriage--are currently disincentivized from earning a salary, and many people are disincentivized from marrying in the first place. This has impacted even more couples with the recognition of same-sex marriage in Obergefell, which expands the number of two-income marriages and renews interest in eliminating these disincentives.

The problem is that the federal income tax brackets for married people are larger than for single people to accommodate two incomes, but not double. As a result, two-income households are pushed into higher tax brackets more quickly than if they had remained single. Meanwhile, one-income households benefit from marriage because their lone income gets the larger brackets intended for two incomes. This creates the so-called marriage penalty or marriage bonus for many married couples, depending on whether the secondary income earner stays in the workforce after marriage.

For example, say a woman earns $75,000 in 2015. Her marginal taxation rate is 25%. Once she marries a man earning $80,000 and becomes the secondary income earner in the marriage, her marginal taxation rate jumps to 28% by virtue of the marriage alone, even if both of their incomes stay the same.

Read more here.

October 13, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Judge Jails Domestic Violence Victim for Failing to Testify

From Orlando Sentinel:

A Seminole County judge's decision to scold and sentence a domestic-violence victim to three days in jail for failing to testify against her attacker is raising questions about whether the case was handled appropriately.

The scene unfolded in Jerri Collins' courtroom in July as a sobbing woman tried to explain why she didn't attend the trial for the father of her 1-year-old son — even though a subpoena required her presence and the judge seated a jury.

"Your Honor, I'm very sorry for not attending …," said the woman. "I've been dealing with depression and a lot of personal anxiety since this happened …"

A video of the proceeding shows Collins, a former prosecutor who took the bench in 2006, retorting: "You think you're going to have anxiety now? You haven't even seen anxiety."

"You disobeyed a court order knowing that this was not going to turn out well for the state," she said.

As deputies placed the woman in handcuffs, she begged Collins for a different outcome. But the judge closed her binder and told the woman to "turn around." The Orlando Sentinel is not identifying her because it does not name victims of domestic abuse.

Read more here.

October 13, 2015 in Domestic Violence | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 12, 2015

DC's Paid Leave Proposal

From the Washington Post:

The District would become the most generous place in the country for a worker to take time off after giving birth or to care for a dying parent under a measure supported by a majority of the D.C. Council.

Under the legislation that will be introduced Tuesday, almost every part-time and full-time employee in the nation’s capital would be entitled to 16 weeks of paid family leave to bond with an infant or an adopted child, recover from an illness, recuperate from a military deployment or tend to an ill family member.

Read more here.


Hat Tip: SH

October 12, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

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)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Rise of 'Virgin' Moms as More Single Women Pursue IVF

From ABC News:

A U.K. clinic is drawing attention to the rise of single women using in-vitro fertilization, with some pursuing motherhood even before they've had a romantic relationship.

Dr. Maha Ragunath, medical director for the Care Fertility Clinic, told ABC News she's seeing more and more single women pursue IVF treatment without a partner since they are no longer willing to put being a parent on hold. She said in three cases, she's worked with women who have said they never had any kind of intimate relationship.

"They understand that female fertility is finite and it doesn't go on forever and ever," Ragunath said of women pursuing IVF without a partner. "It's doing themselves a favor."

Single women now make up 6 percent of Ragunath's clientele, double the percentage from two years ago, she said, noting that everyone pursuing IVF is vetted by the staff before the clinic agrees to go through with the procedure.

"The women that are treated had never been in a relationship ever and that was a personal choice," Ragunath said of the women who said they had not had a relationship prior to coming for IVF treatment. "One was a career woman and was too busy and I don't think they've given themselves the opportunity to explore their sexuality. They were well balanced and mentally prepared" for parenthood.

All three were preparing for motherhood with the support and help of their parents, Ragunath said.

When asked whether the phenomenon of "virgin" mothers was also being seen in the United States, the National Infertility Association, also known as RESOLVE, said in a statement to ABC News that "this is not a trend that we have seen or could speak to."

Read more here.

October 11, 2015 in Alternative Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Australia to Deport American Anti-Abortion Activist

From Washington Times:

An American anti-abortion activist is expected to be deported from Australia, after the nation’s highest court ruled Friday that he posed a threat to public order amid concerns he could incite violence against women.

Troy Newman, president of the Kansas-based anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, was detained at Melbourne Airport on Thursday after trying to enter Australia even though officials had already canceled his visa.

The battle to prevent Newman from coming to Australia for a speaking tour began earlier this week, after a lawmaker sent a letter to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton saying Newman could pose a threat to community safety.

“I am most concerned that Mr. Newman’s call for abortionists to be executed could lead to threats or the commission of acts of violence against women and medical professionals,” wrote Terri Butler, a member of the opposition Labor Party.

Immigration officials then revoked Newman’s visa.

Newman, who co-authored a book that suggested doctors who perform abortions are committing a crime egregious enough to warrant the death penalty, denied that he posed a threat to anyone.

Read more here.

October 10, 2015 in Abortion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 9, 2015

Annulments in the Philippines

From Pacific Daily News:

The Philippines bears the dubious distinction of being the last country in the world outlawing divorce to the majority of its citizens. Unhappy married Catholic couples wishing to live apart from each other only have three options.

Last week we discussed the first two — legal separation and voiding a marriage. With a legal separation, the couple lives apart, divides their property and debts, and determines child custody. However, they remain legally married, preventing both from remarrying. On the other hand, if a marriage is voided, then, in the eyes of the law the marriage never existed. So, the couple may remarry. Today, we discuss the third option, annulment.

As is true in other countries, the Philippines has two different annulment procedures — one religious, the other civil. People often confuse them. In the Catholic faith, a marriage can only be dissolved through an ecclesiastical annulment. This is a declaration that a sacramental marriage was never truly created. In other words, the marriage was fatally flawed from the very beginning and therefore doesn’t exist in the eyes of the Church. If the annulment is granted, either party may then remarry in the Church.

The process is rather complex, often expensive, and can take up to a decade to conclude. On Sept. 8, Pope Francis stated that the Church should take steps to streamline the process and reduce the cost.

Read more here.

October 9, 2015 in Annulment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Half of Millennials Merge Finances Before Marriage

From CNBC:

Millennials don't feel the need to put a ring on it in order to open a joint checking account or start racking up points on a shared cash-back credit card.

For them, merging finances has become the norm in modern relationships, where couples are increasingly choosing to shack up sans an exchange of vows.

The share of both men and women ages 25 to 34 living with a partner has more than doubled from 20 years ago, according to Census data — for men it went from 6.9% in 1995 to 14.7% in 2014 and for women it went from 6% to 14.3% in the same time period. And that often means that unmarried couples are not only sharing the keys to an apartment, but discussing how to budget, creating a division of financial responsibilities and holding each other accountable for joint expenses.

In a recent survey by Credit Karma of both Millennials and Baby Boomers, half of married Millennials had either fully or partially merged their finances with their spouse before marriage, compared with a third of Boomers. And more than a third said they either relied entirely on joint credit cards or had at least one joint credit card along with individual cards, prior to marriage.

Read more here.

October 8, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)