Family Law Prof Blog

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

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Saturday, May 9, 2015

20-Year-Old Divorce Claim in England

From BBC News:

A woman has won a landmark Supreme Court bid to claim cash from her millionaire ex-husband, 20 years after they divorced.

Kathleen Wyatt, 55, first took legal action against Dale Vince, 53, founder of wind-power firm Ecotricity, in 2011.

Mr Vince had previously appealed against his ex-wife on the basis she had lodged the claim too late. But five Supreme Court justices unanimously ruled Ms Wyatt's case should go before the family court.

Delivering the ruling, Lord Wilson said the court must have regard "to the contribution of each party to the welfare of the family, including by looking after the home or caring for the family".

Read more here.

May 9, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 8, 2015

Stępień-Sporek & Ryznar: "The Consequences of Non-Marriages"

Anna Stępień-Sporek & Margaret Ryznar have posted The Consequences of Non-Marriages, University of San Francisco Law Review (forthcoming) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

In several British surveys, the majority of people thought that cohabitants had the same legal status as married couples. However, this could not be farther from the truth—the law treats them as nothing more than strangers, albeit often with contractual capabilities to protect themselves in the event their cohabitation ends. A minority of American states, however, have refused even contract rights to cohabitants, with Illinois leading this contingent. In late 2014, however, an Illinois appellate court dramatically diverged from the state’s well-established precedent, determining that a recent change in public policy required recognizing property consequences of cohabitation. The legal framework on cohabitation is even more dynamic in Europe, ranging from no protection to equal protection that is provided in marriage, depending on the country. This Article therefore takes a comparative approach to examining the appropriate regulation of cohabitation and whether protections should be offered to cohabitants as their number continues to grow on both sides of the ocean.

May 8, 2015 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Adoption Records in IN


A proposal that would have expanded Indiana adoptees' access to more than 50 years of sealed records appears to be dead this session, to the disappointment of some advocates.

The records of children in Indiana who were adopted between 1941 and 1994 are currently sealed, preventing hundreds of thousands of adoptees from finding their biological parents.

"It's like starting a book on chapter two," said Pam Kroskie, president of Hoosiers for Equal Access to Records, one of the organizations behind the effort. "You're missing that piece of the puzzle."

The measure would have made accessing birth records easier for those born during that time period. In 1994, state law changed to require biological parents to sign an official form, indicating whether or not the state can disclose their information. Lawmakers agreed at the time to seal records for the preceding decades to protect those who did not expect their information to be readily available.

Read more here.

May 8, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 7, 2015


From Margaret Ryznar, writing for the Huffington Post:

At the end of April, the United States Supreme Court heard the third case on same-sex marriage in a period of two years. The Court previously avoided deciding whether same-sex marriage is protected by the U.S. Constitution, instead deciding that one party had no standing in the case, and in the other case, that section 3 of DOMA was unconstitutional as it did not recognize valid same-sex marriages for federal benefits and obligations.

The legal question in the current consolidated cases before the Court is whether the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees due process and equal protection of the laws, prohibits states from banning same-sex marriage. If so, states can no longer ban same-sex marriages. The federal appeals court in this case had held there was no such prohibition on the states--and so they could continue to ban same-sex marriage--but other similar courts held there was indeed such a prohibition.

Read more here.

May 7, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

On Child Support

From Wendy Paris, writing for QUARTZ:

Walter Scott wasn’t just a black man in America shot by a police officer; he also was a divorced father. While debate rages about excessive use of police force, his death points to another troubling practice—the incarceration of poor parents for failing to pay child-support.

For the most part, these are not “deadbeat dads”; they’re dead broke dads. Seventy percent of unpaid child support debt is owed by parents with no or low reported earnings, according to the Office of Child Support Enforcement. Their ex-wives often are poor, too. For these families, our punitive child support policies function like a de facto debtor’s prison for fathers. This, at a time when divorce, more broadly, has dramatically improved for many. While family scholars and journalists voice concern about a growing “marriage divide”—the way that marriage has become almost a luxury good attained by the “haves” and eschewed or effectively denied to the poor—a similar sorting is happening with divorce and co-parenting.

Read more here.


May 7, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Italy & Hague Convention

From Breitbart News:

The Italian Senate has ratified the Hague Convention for the protection of foreign minors but rejected the application of its Sharia adoption provisions, which envision the application of Islamic law regarding guardianship of minors.

With a vote of 164-50 and 2 abstentions, the Senate approved the Convention of October 19, 1996, and with certain slight amendments sent it back to the House.

Sharia law does not recognize “adoption” as such, but only “kafala,” or Islamic adoptional jurisprudence. To keep children without parents from remaining entirely without protection, Islamic law provides for kafala, which recognizes custody for orphaned or abandoned children.

Read more here.


May 7, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Same-Sex Divorce

From afterellen:

Hopeless and hopeful romantics alike can agree that with legal marriage rights, civil unions, and domestic partnerships comes the reality that some couples must face divorce. Now that nearly a decade has passed since Massachusetts first legalized same-sex marriages, the same-sex divorce rate is seeing a boom. When compared with the comprehensive equality debates in regards to gay marriage, there has been a complete lack of discussion surrounding divorce, recently coming to a head when a lesbian couple, The Richmonds, were denied a divorce in Alabama because the state doesn’t recognize their marriage.

Read more here.

May 6, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Adoption Law Proposed Changes in FL

From CBS Miami:

After an impassioned debate, the Florida Senate...approved a bill that would restore a popular adoption-subsidies program — while repealing a 38-year-old law that banned gay adoption.

By a vote of 27-11, senators passed the measure (HB 7013), which would provide cash incentives to state workers who adopt children in Florida’s foster-care system, especially children with special needs.

Restoring adoption subsidies — which were dropped in 2009, during the economic downturn — was part of the “Work Plan 2015” jointly announced in January by Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli. The bill would provide $5,000 payments to government workers who adopt foster children, with the payments increasing to $10,000 for the adoption of children with special needs.

Read more here.

May 5, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 4, 2015

DNA Testing in Child Support Cases in GA

From Northwest Georgia News:

Rep. Katie Dempsey said...that requiring DNA testing in new child support cases is a way to end wrongful paternity claims prior to legal action.

The Rome Republican authored House Bill 568, which would allow the Georgia Department of Human Services to order the tests in any case where the absolute paternity of a child or children has not been established.

Dempsey said the bill impacts cases where children are born out of wedlock without a clear biological father.

Read more here.

May 4, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Alimony Bill Fails to Pass in FL

From the Miami Herald:

An alimony overhaul that brought together people once bitterly divided on the issue has created an even deeper rift between two powerful Republican lawmakers who blame each other for a failure to get the bill passed this year.

After a year of wheeling-and-dealing by lawyers, lawmakers and others, the alimony proposal died when the Senate refused to take up the House’s version of the bill, which would have established a formula for alimony amounts based on the length of marriages and the amounts of money spouses earn.

The acrimony over the measure involved a provision, pushed by Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee, that would have established a “50-50” presumption regarding child sharing between divorcing spouses.

The House proposal (HB 943) didn’t go as far as Lee wanted, and the Senate did not consider the measure after the House adjourned and went home Tuesday.

Lee said language about child sharing in the House bill was “poorly drafted” and “designed to create confusion in the courts.”

But House Rules Chairman Ritch Workman, who sponsored an alimony overhaul vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott two years ago and who worked on a revamp for more than eight months with The Florida Bar and representatives of an organization seeking to change the state’s alimony laws, accused Lee of being a “bully” and “hijacking” the bill for his own reasons.

Read more here.

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May 2, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Marriage...Not for Everyone

From Law Professors June Carbone (Minnesota) and Naomi Cahn (George Washington), writing for aeon:

’re both happily married law professors who followed the same trajectory. We graduated from college, became established in our professions, got married, and had children. Our children and most of our friends have followed the same pattern. Our family experiences might be typical of the college-educated professionals around us – but not at all typical for large segments of the American public.

In the middle of the 20th century, during a period of more widely shared prosperity, almost everyone in the United States married. There were some differences. African-American women were a bit more likely to marry and at younger ages than white women, and college graduates were a bit less likely to marry than high-school graduates. But the similarities across class lines were striking. The age of marriage dropped in the generation after the Second World War, across the spectrum. For all Americans, divorce rates and non-marital birth rates were low, children overwhelmingly grew up in two-parent families, and white- and blue-collar couples alike wanted three to four children.

Read more here.

May 1, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Owing Child Support

From the New York Times:

By his own telling, the first time Walter L. Scott went to jail for failure to pay child support, it sent his life into a tailspin.

He lost what he called “the best job I ever had" when he spent two weeks in jail. Some years he paid. More recently, he had not. Two years ago, when his debt reached nearly $8,000 and he missed a court date, a warrant was issued for his arrest. By last month, the amount had more than doubled, to just over $18,000.

Read more here.

Hat Tip: Naomi Cahn


April 30, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Eyer: "Brown, Not Loving: Obergefell and the Unfinished Business of Formal Equality"

 Katie R. Eyer (Rutgers School of Law -- Camden) has posted  Brown, Not Loving: Obergefell and the Unfinished Business of Formal Equality125 Yale L. J. F. 1 (2015), on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

There are numerous parallels between this Term’s same-sex marriage case of Obergefell v. Hodges and 1967’s Loving v. Virginia. In both instances, the Court’s taking up of marriage has followed decades of organizing and social movement evolution vis-à-vis a broader underlying civil rights project. In both instances, marriage has had special symbolic significance as an area of marked, sometimes visceral, opposition among the social movement’s opponents. 

But this Essay contends that—although the parallels between Obergefell and Loving are substantial—there is at least one key distinction between the two: their position vis-à-vis the institutionalization of a formal equality regime. Thus, while Loving arguably marked the end-point of the institutionalization of a regime of formal equality vis-à-vis race, Obergefell stands much closer to its beginning. Indeed, despite the accumulation of impressive legal and social gains, the L/G/B rights movement arguably remains far closer to Brown (and its unsettled posture vis-à-vis formal equality) than it is to Loving. 

This Essay argues that this lack of explicit formal equality guarantees matters. Most obviously, there are important arenas of L/G/B equality where L/G/B plaintiffs continue—due to the lack of a formal equality backdrop—to regularly lose their claims. More fundamentally, the absence of the type of moral messaging and coercive capacity that an explicit anti-discrimination regime provides poses substantial questions about whether the contemporary L/G/B legal regime can effectuate the important deterrence and culture change objectives of anti-discrimination law.


April 30, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Same-Sex Marriage Case: Obergefell

From NPR:

The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court seemed closely divided Tuesday over the question of gay marriage, with Justice Anthony Kennedy likely holding the deciding vote.

Kennedy, who over the past two decades has written the court's three decisions recognizing and expanding gay rights, seemed conflicted on the question of marriage.

He was tough on gay-marriage advocates, declaring that the definition of marriage as between as man and a woman "has been with us for millennia, and it's very difficult for the court to say, oh well, we know better."

But when the lawyers defending state bans on gay marriage argued that there is no "dignitary" value in marriage, Kennedy bristled.

"I thought that was the whole purpose of marriage," he said. "It bestows dignity on both man and woman in a traditional marriage ... and these parties say they want to have that same ennoblement."

As the argument unfolded Tuesday morning, justices on both the liberal and conservative sides wrestled with the question of individual rights, the right to marry, and the traditional definition of marriage.

Read more here.


April 29, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 27, 2015

MN Family Law Changes Proposed

From StarTribune:

A package of proposals to reform family law in Minnesota are the result of more than a decade of negotiations capped with difficult but successful compromise, a group of bipartisan lawmakers said Thursday.

The changes, which range from altering child support and parenting time changes to clarifying penalties for parents who deny parenting time to another parent, are the work of lawmakers and family law attorneys.

Lawmakers have long debated the state’s laws governing custody and parenting time. Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed legislation in 2012, urging the more than 30 collaborators in the legislative and family law arenas to return to the table with more compromise.

Read more here.

April 27, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


From CNN:

Robert Boardwine's path to fatherhood was unconventional, but Virginia's appeals court said Tuesday he is legally entitled to be a part of his son's life.

Boardwine's friend, Joyce Bruce, had used his sperm and a turkey baster to get pregnant. She thought after she learned she was with child that they should just be friends.

She also thought that because they never had sex, she was entitled to be the boy's sole parent, according to court documents.

The Court of Appeals of Virginia decided differently in weighing the commonwealth's assisted conception statute and denying Bruce's appeal to deny Boardwine visitation.

Read more here.


April 22, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Fertility Agreements

From Daily News:

The legal battle actress Sofia Vergara is waging with ex-boyfriend Nick Loeb over frozen embryos is one that couples have fought since at least the early 1990s.

“It’s coming up more and more frequently,” said George Washington University Law School Professor Naomi Cahn.

“I recommend that at the time of undergoing fertility agreements people not only sign agreements but think about this really carefully . . . The options are: Do you want the embryos destroyed? Do you want to divide them? Do you want to donate them to research? It’s important to think about that during a time of relative harmony with your partner,” she said.

Read more here.



April 18, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Book Series on Families, Law, and Society

Families, Law, and Society is a fascinating book series from NYU Press, see the book line up here: Download Families, Law, and Society Book Series

General editor Nancy E. Dowd (University of Florida) notes:

"All of these wonderful volumes are part of a series on families and society that I serve as the series editor.  It is an ongoing series, so should you have an idea for a book, or proposal, or near final manuscript, please do not hesitate to get in touch."


April 14, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"A New Juvenile Justice System"

A New Juvenile Justice System is being published mid-May.  Download Juvenile Justice Flyer and discount form.

Edited by Nancy E. Dowd, Foreword by Charles J. Ogletree , Jr., A New Juvenile Justice System aims at nothing less than a complete reform of the existing system: not minor change or even significant overhaul, but the replacement of the existing system with a different vision. The authors in this volume—academics, activists, researchers, and those who serve in the existing system—all respond in this collection to the question of what the system should be. Uniformly, they agree that an ideal system should be centered around the principle of child well-being and the goal of helping kids to achieve productive lives as citizens and members of their communities.


April 14, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 10, 2015

"Destination Divorces"

From Quartz:

I was sipping wine on the balcony of my apartment in Santa Monica with my soon-to-be ex-husband, our son fast asleep in the next room. “It feels like the Caribbean out here,” my almost-ex said. “I figured out why. That huge palm tree is making rustling sounds like in the Caribbean.”

“You’re right,” I said looking up at the fat palm across the street, rising over the buildings, taller than our townhouse back in Hoboken, New Jersey. We’d recently moved to California together, apart—after splitting up—and both still found ourselves dazzled by the splendor of our new environment. We’d been separated for two years by that point, but hadn’t yet made it legal. “I think we should get divorced in the Dominican Republic,” my almost-ex continued perhaps recalling our past tropical idylls.“It has such a great history.”

I knew something of that history. My parents divorced in the Dominican Republic in 1973 rather than accuse each other of moral or legal turpitude in our home state of Ohio—the only way you could end a marriage in most states and many countries back then. The first comprehensive no-fault divorce law in the US had just gone into effect in California three years earlier, under then-governor Ronald Reagan, but Ohio had not yet followed suit. The exact details varied by state and by country, but in general, before no-fault, you could only sue for divorce if you could prove you had the grounds acceptable in your state—like having a spouse who had committed adultery or abandonment, abused you, been incarcerated, or in some cases, proved unable to have “intimate relations.”

Read more here.


Hat Tip: Naomi Cahn

April 10, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)