Family Law Prof Blog

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

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)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Pope Francis Opens Divisive Vatican Meeting of Bishops on Family Issues

From USA Today:

Pope Francis on Sunday opened a three-week meeting of world bishops divided over divorce, homosexuality and cohabitation by re-affirming marriage as a sacred bond between a man and woman, while also gently saying the church should "seek out and care for hurting couples."

Following on the heals of the pope's 10-day trip to Cuba and the United States, Francis is overseeing this annual session of 270 bishops, known as a synod, which could play an instrumental role in the future of his reform-minded papacy and the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.

Crucial topics include divorced couples and those who have remarried in a civil service and whether they will be allowed to receive Communion.

Francis told the bishops meeting in Vatican City that when marriages fail, the church "should be a 'field hospital' with doors wide open to whoever knocks in search of help and support."

But he also reaffirmed that the church remain steadfast in "defending the unity and indissolubility of the conjugal bond," adding that it should "not be changed by passing fads or popular opinions."

Read more here.

October 7, 2015 in Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Cunningham-Parmeter: "Marriage Equality, Workplace Inequality: The Next Gay Rights Battle"

Keith Cunningham-Parmeter has posted Marriage Equality, Workplace Inequality: The Next Gay Rights Battle, 67 Florida Law Review__ (2015) to SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Same-sex marriage is not the only civil rights issue impacting the gay community. Although the Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges represented a momentous victory on same-sex marriage, workplace protections affect far more people and remain a high priority for many lesbians and gay men. Today, even though the Supreme Court has invalidated state marriage restrictions across the country, federal law still makes it perfectly permissible to fire a gay man for telling a coworker about his sexuality or to discharge a woman for displaying her wife's picture at work.

This Article critically evaluates the relationship between same-sex marriage and workplace rights. Focused narrowly on case-by-case tactics, proponents of same-sex marriage won in court by selectively choosing gay couples who appeared “safe” and “ordinary” to judges. The decision to prioritize marriage over other gay civil rights-while utilizing reductive depictions of gay relationships in the process-raises distinct challenges for lawyers attempting to extend victories on the marriage front to other important legal realms such as employment protections.

Outlining a model for thinking about gay rights beyond marriage, this Article calls for renewed attention to the argument that sexual orientation discrimination constitutes a form of sex discrimination. The cultural imperative requiring individuals to desire only partners of the opposite sex constitutes American society's most enduring gender stereotype. Employers and states that punish sexual minorities for violating this norm engage in both sexual orientation discrimination and sex discrimination. By combating discrimination in employment, housing, and other civil rights areas, this refocused approach to gay rights applies to numerous legal contexts outside of marriage, thereby addressing the legal needs of a much larger segment of the gay community.

October 6, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Study says Baby Before Marriage Doesn't Increase Divorce Risk

From USA Today:

In the past, having a baby before marriage may have spelled divorce if the couple later chose to get married, but times have changed, according to a new report.

Couples who tie the knot after their first baby, now stay together at the same rate as those who were married before their first child, according to research released today by the non-profit group, Council on Contemporary Families.

Researchers analyzed data on women who had their first child between 1985 and 1995 and compared it to those who had their first child between 1997 and 2010. Couples who had a baby first and married later in the earlier period were 60% more likely to divorce than couples who married before they had a child. But a decade later, the cocktail of a baby-first-then-marriage did not raise the couples' risk of divorce, according to thousands of surveys from the CDC's Survey of Family Growth.

The stigma around conceiving before marriage has diminished a lot in the last 25 years, says Pepper Schwartz, a professor of sociology at the University of Washington. Schwartz is not affiliated with the study.

Couples are no longer rushing into a shotgun wedding if they conceive, and instead taking things at their pace, she said.

Read more here.

October 6, 2015 in Divorce (grounds), Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 5, 2015

Tennessee County has Divorce Rate of Almost Ninety Percect

From WNCN:

There are four counties in Tennessee where the divorce rate is higher than the marriage rate.

Hartsville is the self-proclaimed heart of Tennessee, and at the local salon, Betsy Walker says she’s a pro at divorce — she’s done it four times.

“Just trade ‘em in, get a new model, like a car,” she said.

The stylist isn’t surprised by the data from the Tennessee Department of Health.

In 2013, the last year the data was available, more people filed for divorce than for marriage licenses in Trousdale County where Hartsville is.

“Everybody is in everybody’s business and everybody knows each other here. So probably a lot of people get caught,” said Walker.

The health department data shows about 50 percent of couples in Tennessee get divorced.

Read more here.

October 5, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

How Cohabitation Shapes Young African Americans' Marriage Attitudes

From Family Studies:

A study just out suggests that cohabitation may serve to “reposition” African-American young adults toward more positive attitudes about marriage. Ashley Barr, Ronald Simons, and Leslie Gordon Simons examined changes over time in marital attitudes in a sample of African American youth who were followed from fifth grade to when they were in their early to mid-twenties. While their methods did not allow for assessing actual transitions into marriage and marital outcomes, the authors were able to track relationships, relationship quality, transitions into cohabitation, and attitudes about marriage. Their working assumption was that cohabitation changes people regarding marriage in a number of ways, and that some of those changes might be positive. Indeed, they found that early cohabiting experiences generally led to more positive attitudes about marriage among these young African Americans.

This study is well-conceived and written, and has very strong methods. Of course, a lot of what’s important for understanding the conclusions lies in the details, so let’s dig deeper.

As Barr and colleagues note, various scholars have argued that cohabitation has become an alternative to marriage for many, perhaps especially so among African Americans. But what if, they wondered, it also changed attitudes about marriage in a positive direction for young African Americans? They worked from two theories about how cohabitation may impact marrying behavior. First, they drew on the work of Sandra McGinnis showing that cohabitation reduces both the perceived costs and benefits of marrying, but in a way that ultimately made marriage more likely. Second, they drew on the theory our team at the University of Denver has put forth: that cohabiting increases the costs of breaking up (compared to dating), making it more likely that some people marry a particular person out of “inertia,” even if relationship quality is not so great. Either theory suggests that cohabitation “repositions” people with regard to marriage. I believe this is true, yet very complicated.

Read more here.

October 4, 2015 in Cohabitation (live-ins) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Florida Supreme Court Strengthens Waiver Rule in Prenuptials

From Daily Business Review:

The Florida Supreme Court got a collective cheer from divorce lawyers who represent the wealthier spouses in fights over prenuptial agreements.

Resolving a dispute among the districts, the high court made it easier for divorcing spouses to claim individual assets through a prenup. The justices said if the document shows one spouse's intent to waive all interest in the other spouse's assets, when the marriage ends the disadvantaged spouse can't break the prenup and share them.

The unanimous Sept. 10 ruling in the case of a Palm Beach County couple means ex-wife Diane Hahamovitch walks away with the $1.9 million the prenup promised her. Ex-husband Harry Hahamovitch, a mortgage broker and financial planner, gets to keep everything he acquired during the couple's 22-year marriage.

The ex-wife argued their 1986 agreement didn't specifically refer to the enhanced value of the husband's property due to marital labor or funds. Also, it didn't state the husband's earnings would be considered his separate property.

But the justices agreed with the Fourth District Court of Appeal that the phrasing was so broad, a few missing magic words didn't matter.

Read more here.

October 3, 2015 in Antenuptial (postnuptial) Contracts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 2, 2015

Preserving the Fertility of Young Chemo Patients

From WVXU:

Six year old Mylah Bryant has a blood disease (aplastic anemia) that required chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Not only did doctors discuss making her well they asked her parents if they wanted to preserve tissue so she could reproduce years later without the damaging effects of chemotherapy.

It was a lot to think about, according to Mylah's dad Matthew, but because his daughter jokingly said "she wanted 1,000 children," he knew being a mother was important to her. This decision was on top of other decisions he and his wife needed to make.

“A lot of paperwork signing. You do the consents and somebody says-hey what do you think about taking out your daughter’s ovary? Um, ok, and so we kind of left it at that. There’s a lot of information, a lot of it is a blur.”

It was Children’s Fertility Navigator Olivia Frias who introduced the idea to the Bryants and explained the specifics. She sees about seven to ten new patients a week. She says, " Of course there’s so many emotions, a malignancy or maybe they have found some type of blood disorder that’s going to warrant them a BMT. (bone marrow transplant) But at the end of the day parents are very enlightened when they hear about this information and they are thankful about hearing about this.”

 Read more here.

October 2, 2015 in Alternative Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Scientists in France Claim Creation of In Vitro Human Sperm

From The Japan Times:

A French startup working with a top government lab said it has developed in vitro human sperm, claiming a breakthrough in infertility treatment sought for more than a decade.

Researchers with Kallistem had announced the discovery previously, but they and French government lab CNRS described how it works for the first time on Sept. 17 after taking out a patent on the process.

They have developed sperm from immature cells known as spermatogonial cells, which are present in all males, including pre-pubescent boys, and under normal conditions develop into sperm cells once puberty starts. The technology must now be clinically tested, a process that is particularly painstaking for any treatment involving reproduction.

Philippe Durand, the chief Kallistem researcher, said the genesis of the research was indications that male fertility was declining, which he said could be attributed to environmental factors.

Read more here.

October 1, 2015 in Alternative Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Planned Parenthood Fights to Regain Initiative

From The New York Times:

The undercover videos were made over more than two years, yet Planned Parenthood was taken by surprise when the first one was posted online in July. Now one of the biggest crises in the 99-year history of the organization, the nation’s largest provider of women’s reproductive health care, could reach a climax this week as conservatives want to shut down the government rather than help fund the group.

Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood's executive vice president, recalled that after an aide alerted her to the initial video by the little-known Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group, she thought: “This is not new” — Planned Parenthood had faced such tactics before — “but it’s a new low. And it is going to have reach.”

Immediately the organization was caught in a storm of internal confusion and defensiveness. There was disquiet among Democratic allies as Republicans, who control Congress and many state capitols, charged that the nonprofit organization was criminally “profiteering in baby parts.” A new video surfaced almost every Tuesday.

But Planned Parenthood has fought back and managed to put some opponents on the defensive after gathering information from its affiliates; hiring lawyers, crisis managers and video experts to document deceptive edits; and working to solidify support among donors, Democrats and, according to polls, a majority of Americans.

Read more here.

September 30, 2015 in Abortion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

When the Wealthy Divorce, They Regularly Engage Forensic Accountants

From Forbes:

Worldwide, the use of forensic accountants by the wealthy – especially the ultra-wealthy – is increasing. This is a trend that is likely to only accelerate. There are a number of different reasons the wealthy engage forensic accountants. Often, when the wealthy bring in a forensic accountant, it’s to address business concerns. The questionable practices of business partners might very well prompt the hiring of a forensic accountant.

Relatively speaking, a burgeoning need by the wealthy for forensic accountants is driven by them divorcing. According to James DiGabriele, professor of accounting at Montclair State University, one of the foremost forensic accounting programs in the country, “It’s impossible to appropriately divide marital assets if everyone doesn’t know just what those assets are and what they’re worth. High-net-worth couples generally have a number of types of assets such as investment portfolios, businesses, collectables, partnerships, and the list goes on. Divorce lawyers are not the professionals that are going to be able to determine the value of all the different assets. That’s the job of the forensic accountant.”

“When assets are held in trusts or partnerships, or located in different jurisdictions, getting a valuation can be complicated. Also, the valuation of retirement plans, deferred compensation arrangements, and life insurance programs all require the expertise of a qualified accountant,” explains Ellen Rabasca, partner at Geltrude & Company, directing their divorce practice. “What’s even more of an issue is when a spouse chooses to play dirty and tries to divorce plan by hiding marital assets. This can get very complicated when we’re dealing with privately owned businesses. For example, business owners have been known to use dummy or shell corporations to conceal assets from divorcing spouses.”

Read more here.

September 29, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 28, 2015

New Website Promises to Handle Your Divorce and Filing Costs for $99

From TIME:

A new website aims to take much of the heartache and cost out of getting a divorce by conducting the whole process online.

Presented at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco on Tuesday,, founded by Sandro Tuzzo and Larry Maloney, aims to distill legal jargon into plain language and reduce legal fees from tens of thousands of dollars to base price of around $1,500. Initial filing costs just $99.

“Today, connecting is easy. There’s tons of software applications out there for that,” Tuzzo said onstage at the event. “But what if you need to end a relationship, where are the tools for that?”

After working as a divorce attorney for the past 15 years, Tuzzo said he knows too well just how arduous the process can be. aims to simplify the procedure by letting users complete, file and serve divorce papers online.

Read more here.

September 28, 2015 in Divorce (grounds), International, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Utah Supreme Court Sets High Bar for Grandparent Visitation Orders

From The Salt Lake Tribune:

In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a "mere disagreement" over a child's best interests cannot override the presumption in favor of a fit parent's decision regarding grandparent visitation.

This week, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that grandparents seeking to override parents must present proof that a visitation order is narrowly tailored to advance a compelling governmental interest — such as protecting children against substantial harm.

In Ellie and Tracy Jones Sr.'s dispute with their former daughter-in-law over visitation with their granddaughter, the couple argued that they had acted in a parent-like role as caregivers. But the state Supreme Court said there was insufficient evidence of such a relationship and upheld a Utah Court of Appeals decision that invalidated a visitation order issued against the wishes of the mother.

"Grandparent visitation orders must be limited to the exceptional case where the failure to override the parent's wishes would cause substantial harm to the child," Associate Chief Justice Thomas Lee wrote for the court in Wednesday's unanimous decision.

The exceptional case identified by state statute is where the grandparent has filled a role similar to that of a parent, Lee said, adding, "No such proof was presented here." Anthony Kaye, an attorney who represents the mother, said Friday that the ruling will subject grandparent visitation orders to strict scrutiny and limit interference in parental decisions regarding visitation.

Read more here.

September 27, 2015 in Visitation | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Weiner: "A Parent-Partner Status for American Family Law"

Professor Merle H. Weiner (University of Oregon School of Law) has published A Parent-Partner Status for American Family Law (Cambridge University Press):

Despite the fact that becoming a parent is a pivotal event, the birth or adoption of a child has little significance for parents' legal relationship to each other. Instead, the law relies upon marriage, domestic partnerships, contracts, and some equitable remedies to set the parameters of the legal obligations between parents. With high rates of nonmarital childbirth and divorce, the current approach to regulating the legal relationship of parents is outdated. A new legal and social structure is needed to encourage parents to act as supportive partners and to deter uncommitted couples from having children. This book is the first of its kind to propose a new "parent-partner" status for American family law. Included are a detailed discussion of the benefits of the status as well as specific recommendations for legal obligations.

Download Weiner's book flyer here.

September 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Facebook Profile is Fair Game in Custody Battles

From New York Post:

A Westchester judge has allowed a dad to use his wife’s Facebook profile as a weapon in their custody battle, a groundbreaking ruling that could alter the way New York couples fight it out in court.

Anthony DiMartino, 54, claims a review of his estranged wife’s Facebook page will prove she was frequently out of state while he was raising their now-4-year-old son.

“The data will show that it is he, and not she, who has spent the majority of time with the child during the past four years,” DiMartino’s legal papers argue in the fight for physical custody of the boy.

The social worker “has been the primary caregiver,” his lawyer, Gordon Burrows, told The Post.

But mom Christina Antoine, a psychiatrist who works with multiple state agencies, tried to block the move, arguing that her profile is private and that she “unfriended” her hubby when they split.

Antoine, 47, assumed she would prevail, Burrows said, because there were no previous rulings granting access to Facebook pages in New York state custody cases.

Read more here.

September 26, 2015 in Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 25, 2015

Senate fails to advance Bill that would cut Planned Parenthood funding

From Los Angeles Times:

With a federal shutdown days away, Senate Republicans tried -- and failed -- on Thursday to advance legislation that would eliminate money for Planned Parenthood but keep government offices and services open.

Democrats blocked the bill with a filibuster, refusing to cut funds for the large family planning organization after secretly recorded videos disclosed officials discussing the practice of providing fetal tissue from abortions for research. The debate has become a national conversation on abortion.

The vote, coming hours after Pope Francis' historic address to Congress, was 47-52.

One Democrat joined Republicans to advance the bill, but more telling for the internal GOP divide was that eight Republican senators joined Democrats to filibuster.

Now, with the government set to run out of funds Wednesday, the end of the fiscal year, Republican leaders are struggling for a new plan.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could try to have the Senate approve a straightforward spending bill, without the limits on Planned Parenthood. But that would require him -- and eventually Speaker John A. Boehner -- to leave their conservative flank behind and compromise with Democrats.

Read more here.

September 25, 2015 in Abortion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Gupta-Kagan: "Stanley v. Illinois' Untold Story"

Josh Gupta-Kagan (University of South Carolina School of Law) has posted Stanley v. Illinois' Untold Story, Josh Gupta-Kagan, Stanley v. Illinois' Untold Story, 24 Wm. & Mary Bill of Rts. J.___ (2016 Forthcoming) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Stanley v. Illinois is one of the Supreme Court’s more curious landmark cases. The holding is well known: the Due Process Clause prohibits the state from removing children from unwed fathers simply because they are not married and requires the state to provide all parents with a hearing on their fitness. By recognizing strong due process protections for parents’ rights, Stanley reaffirmed Lochner-era cases that had been in doubt, and formed the foundation of modern constitutional family law. But Peter Stanley never raised due process arguments, so it has long been unclear how the Court reached this decision.

This Article tells Stanley’s untold story for the first time, using original research of state court and Supreme Court records. Those records show that the state was concerned about Stanley’s parental fitness, and did not remove his children simply because he was unmarried, as is frequently assumed. But the state refused to prove Stanley unfit and relied instead on his marital status to justify depriving him of custody. That choice, and Stanley’s avoidance of a due process argument, created a complicated Supreme Court decision-making environment.

This Article explores the Supreme Court’s decision-making in Stanley, and reveals new insights both about Stanley and the Court more broadly. Four justices changed their votes from conference to the final decision – an extreme amount of voting fluidity that shifted the case outcome. The justices’ varying and evolving views eventually led them to a strong due process holding, even though Stanley did not ask for one. This issue fluidity – when the Court issues a ruling based on arguments not raised by the parties – reflects a complex interaction between justices’ efforts to form a majority coalition and lawyers’ litigation choices. Finally, the justices’ papers reveal how Justice Harry Blackmun’s shift to the liberal wing of the Court – and to a staunch parents’ rights vote – began with his angst over Stanley, despite his vote for the state.

September 25, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis May Have Invalidated Marriage License Forms

From CNN:

A deputy for Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk of court who went to jail because she opposes same-sex marriage, is worried he's been issuing invalid marriage licenses, according to papers filed in federal court.

When Davis returned to work last Monday, she reiterated her opposition to gay marriage but said she wouldn't prevent her deputies from issuing licenses to such couples -- as long as those documents didn't carry her name or title.

Davis may have gone further than that, the lawyer for deputy Rowan County court clerk Brian Mason said in an update report Friday to a federal judge.

Davis replaced the old marriage license forms with forms that don't carry her name, the name of the county or any reference to a clerk or deputy clerk, said Mason's lawyer, Richard Hughes.

The new forms also require Mason to list his initials, instead of a signature, with a notarization beside the initials, Hughes said.

Read more here.

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

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Sperm Donation: Inside a Deeply Emotive World of Powerful Incentives, Polarized Views, and Heated Debates

From The Independent:

Since 2006, UK guidelines suggest that a maximum of 10 families should use sperm from the same donor. But there have already been six cases where donor sperm created more than 10 families, and the British Fertility Society is keen to “revaluate” the limit anyway. Moreover, sperm is regularly imported from abroad (notably America and Denmark, the so-called sperm capital of the world), meaning that many donor-conceived children are still growing up with an absurd numbers of siblings.

“Even under current UK guidelines, if one donor produces four children per family, that’s still a potential of 40 offspring per donor,” says Julia Feast, research and development consultant at the children’s charity Coram, BAAF, who has a special interest in people’s right to access to information about their genetic origins.

Welcome to the world of sperm donation, where this is just one of many issues that stir up deep emotions, trigger polarized views, cause heated debates and lead to everything from heartfelt campaigning to downright foolish decision making. Powerful incentives are at stake here – women desperate to have babies, the fertility industry seeking big profits and many donor-conceived offspring claiming their basic human rights are being violated.

Read more here.

September 23, 2015 in Alternative Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

'Orphan Hosting' Boosts Adoption Odds by Bringing Kids to U.S. to Visit Families

From Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Last month, Jennifer and Ross Franke were headed home from a family vacation on a lake up north when Jennifer asked Ross to make an unscheduled stop in Cottage Grove. There was a social gathering there that she saw posted on Facebook, at the home of a couple she only knew through a mutual friend. The couple were hosting a boy from a Chinese orphanage through a special monthlong program, and Jennifer wanted to meet him.

Today, 12-year-old Jacob is safely back in China while the Frankes of Waukesha have started what will likely be a yearlong process to adopt him.

"I feel like he's already part of our heart and family," Jennifer Franke said.

The program that brought them together is known as "orphan hosting," and it's a lesser known path to finding adoptive parents at a time when international children awaiting adoption are increasingly older or have complex medical or behavioral needs.

Advocates say such programs that arrange meetings in advance of the adoption process help families to consider adopting children they might not have otherwise considered. The Frankes had talked about adoption as a way to have a fourth child, but had been discouraged by their earlier research into the difficulty of being matched, and the expense of international adoption.

Critics of hosting programs favor domestic adoption programs within a child's own country. They question the emotional effect on children who are hosted, but ultimately never adopted. And while some families have great experiences adopting through hosting, others can feel like hosting was a honeymoon compared to the reality of parenting full time when the adoption is finalized.

Hosting has become more common in the past five to seven years in part because interest among Americans seeking international adoptions remains strong. But the number of children adopted internationally into the United States has continually declined since about 2004. A recent State Department report showed Americans adopted just 6,441 children from abroad in 2014, down from a peak of 22,884 a decade prior.

Read more here.

September 22, 2015 in Adoption | Permalink | Comments (0)