Family Law Prof Blog

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

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Call for Student Papers

Law Students for Reproductive Justice, in collaboration with the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice at Berkeley Law School, is pleased to announce the Call for Submission for the eleventh annual Sarah Weddington Writing Prize for New Student Scholarship in Reproductive Rights. 
This year, the Sarah Weddington Writing Prize’s suggested theme is “Restoring Public Insurance Coverage for Abortion,” with a focus on the Hyde Amendment and Harris v. McRae (1980). However, submissions on other topics will also be accepted. For more information, please download the 2016 Call for Submissions: 
The deadline for submission is Monday, January 18, 2016. 
Winning authors will receive cash prizes: $750 (first place), $500 (second place), or $250 (third place).  Additionally, each winning author will receive a copy of the newly released casebook, Melissa Murray and Kristin Luker’s Cases on Reproductive Rights and Justice. The first place winner will also have a chance at publication with the NYU Review of Law and Social Change.

December 12, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 11, 2015

Home Is Where…the Shoes Are? How "Sex & the City" of Him!

From the Telegraph:

A Swiss tycoon with luxury residences all over the world is demanding that his high-stakes divorce battle be held in Monte Carlo – because that is where his estranged wife’s shoe collection is.

Maurice Amon will face Tracey Hejailan-Amon in Manhattan’s Supreme Court on Thursday, to argue that the divorce should be heard in the Monaco city because that is the site of their main home – as evidenced by her walk-in wardrobe full of shoes.

“One need only look at the number of pairs of shoes in her closet to conclude she lives there,” said Peter Bronstein, Mr Amon’s lawyer. As evidence he submitted photos of packed closets and rack upon rack of stilettos, slingbacks and wedges inside the $40 million (£26 million) home, completed in May.

Read more here.



December 11, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Marriage Market

From the Economist:

AS A high-powered media executive in New York city, Leah had been wary of marriage. After seeing other women get “mommy-tracked” at work, she was ambivalent about letting children compromise her career. But love has a way of making a hash of plans, and these days she and her husband manage two full-time jobs and the care of their 18-month-old daughter. Leah still works nearly 50 hours a week and earns a bit more than her husband, but she also handles most of the routine caregiving, cooking and cleaning at home. Juggling everything often leaves her feeling “inadequate,” she admits, but she chalks it up to the struggle of trying to have it all. “Rich world problems, right?” she says with a chuckle.

While fewer women are marching to the altar—the proportion of those married before the age of 30 has fallen from 50% in 1960 to around 20% today—the ones that do increasingly look like Leah. Highly educated, financially independent women were once among the least likely to get hitched. Now they are getting married at a faster rate than their lesser-educated peers, and often to highly educated men. These unions are not only the most common, but also the most harmonious. New data show that America’s divorce rate has continued its plunge from its 1981 peak—from 5.3 to 3.2 divorces per 1,000 people in 2014—but this decline is largely concentrated among the better-educated. Among college graduates who married in the early 2000s, only around 11% divorced within seven years, according to data from Justin Wolfers of the University of Michigan.

Read more here.

December 10, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Valuating Emotional Labor

From the Guardian:

We remember children’s allergies, we design the shopping list, we know where the spare set of keys is. We multi-task. We know when we’re almost out of Q-tips, and plan on buying more. We are just better at remembering birthdays. We love catering to loved ones, and we make note of what they like to eat. We notice people’s health, and force friends and family to go see the doctor.

We listen to our partner’s woes, forgive them the absences, the forgetfulness, the one-track mindedness while we’re busy organizing a playdate for the kids. We applaud success when it comes: the grant that was received, the promotion. It was their doing, and ours in the background. Besides, if we work hard enough, we can succeed too: all we need to do is learn to lean in.

But what if, much like childcare and house keeping, the sum of this ongoing emotional management is yet another form of unpaid labor?

If you think this is pushing it, you would be wrong. The concept of emotional work and emotional labor – as repeated, taxing and under-acknowledged acts of gendered performance – has been a field of serious inquiry in the social sciences for decades.

Read more here.

December 9, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Tait: "Divorce Equality"

Allison Anna Tait (University of Richmond -- School of Law) has posted Divorce Equality, Washington Law Review, Vol. 90, 2015 (forthcoming).  Here is the abstract:

The battle for marriage equality has been spectacularly successful, producing great optimism about the transformation of marriage. The struggle to revolutionize the institution of marriage is, however, far from over. Next is the battle for divorce equality. With the initial wave of same-sex divorces starting to appear on court dockets, this Article addresses the distinctive property division problems that have begun to arise with same-sex divorce and that threaten, in the absence of rule reform, to both amplify and reinscribe problems with the conventional marital framework. Courts have failed to realize the cornerstone concept of equitable distribution—marriage as an economic partnership—in the context of different-sex marriage. Because same-sex divorce highlights this failing, this Article uses same-sex divorce as a lens through which to reexamine the untapped potential of equitable distribution statutes.

Two questions drive the analysis. One question is how to decide which assets count as marital property and how to value one spouse’s contributions to the other spouse’s career success. I propose that courts characterize enhanced earning capacity as marital property and count indirect spousal contributions toward the growth in value of business assets. Without these changes, courts fail to capture the nature of marital partnership and properly compensate contributions made by non-earning spouses. Another question, made salient by same-sex “hybrid” cases in which the spouses have been long-term cohabiting partners but short-term marital partners, is how to determine when an economic partnership begins. I propose that courts use the category of “pre-marital” property in order to count assets and income acquired outside of the marriage itself.

Addressing these questions is critical to the reformation of marriage because property rules impact how spouses bargain with one another, how diverse roles get valued in marital bargains, and how we assign and perform gender within marriage. Moreover, proper compensation for spousal contributions rewards individuals for making choices that benefit the couple rather than the individual, which is normatively positive behavior. These proposals for rule reform provide guidance for courts, both those encountering an increasing number of same-sex divorces as well those deliberating over how best to assess spousal contributions in different-sex marriages. Furthermore, the proposals in this Article provide a blueprint for advocates who seek to continue the work of marriage equality in the hopes of further unwinding the power of gender within marriage.

December 8, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 7, 2015

Breadwinning Women are Driving Alimony Reform

From TIME:


When alimony reform comes to Florida, it may be too late for Tarie MacMillan, a 65-year-old who runs a jewelry business near Tampa.

MacMillan was ordered to pay her ex-husband $7,000 a month 15 years ago. Even so, she has joined the crusade to lobby state legislators to change the legal obligation to provide financial support to a spouse before or after marital separation or divorce.

Some states have already put curbs on judgments, particularly for marriages of less than 20 years, but most, like Florida, are still in progress or are constantly evolving.

“I thought I was my own island of misery that I had to go through this, but once I got involved I was very impressed. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.

Alimony, otherwise known as spousal support or maintenance, is an ongoing payment by the higher-earning spouse to the lower-earning one. It has changed and shifted over the 40 years since the Supreme Court ruled that it had to be applied equally to both genders.

Yet it is still heavily weighted toward men paying women. Only 3% of around 400,000 alimony recipients are male, according to the 2010 census, up 0.5% since 2000. Recipients claimed $9.2 million in payments in 2013 on their tax returns.

Unlike child support, which is common when divorcing couple has kids, alimony awards have always been very rare, going from about 25% of cases in the 1960s to about 10% today, said Judith McMullen, a professor of law at Marquette University. In one study of Wisconsin cases, she found it was only 8.6%.

Now that women are paying alimony more often, they are getting involved in advocating for change.

Read more here.

December 7, 2015 in Maintenance (alimony) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Divorce Rate Drops Due to Cohabitation, Study Finds

From Parent Herald:

According to the latest statistics published on Nov. 23, the number of couples divorcing has dramatically decreased by 2.9 percent. Experts are saying that cohabitation may have greatly affected how people think of marriage.

Most couples nowadays decide to live together first before getting married and it plays a major role in the divorce rate study since the statistics does not involve cohabitation separation, The Telegraph reported.

In a report by the DailyMail, the increase in numbers of couple living together could be the reason why many choose not to marry. They also want to avoid the headaches they will have to go through in case the marriage fails.

The amount of money involved in a divorce proceeding could be too much for many people, not to mention the difficult process of splitting up assets.

The news outlet added that most couples have to spend £20,000 for their wedding but study shows that marriage usually lasts for over 11 years, and half of marriages result to divorce. There are 118, 140 divorce cases in England and Wales in 2012 compared to the numbers in 2013 when it dramatically drops to 114, 720. The official record also explained why couples consider cohabitating instead of getting married.

"The latest data from the Office of National Statistics shows that the divorce rate has dropped. There are many possible reasons for this - the lack of availability of family legal aid may mean that people simply aren't getting the support they need to bring their relationship to a formal conclusion," The chairman of Resolution, Jo Edwards, said. "The rise in cohabiting couples, the fastest growing type of household in Britain, may also play a role - cohabitation separation is not included in these statistics."

Read more here.

December 6, 2015 in Cohabitation (live-ins) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 5, 2015

New Law in Child Abuse Cases Addresses Washington County Concerns

From Glen Falls Post-Star:

A new law lobbied for by the Washington County Attorney’s Office and signed last week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo will close a loophole in Family Court laws that was noted in recent years during the prosecution of local child abusers.

The law, which was based on bills co-sponsored in the state Assembly by local Assembly members Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake, and Steve McLaughlin, R-Melrose, toughens penalties in Family Court for those who commit serious child abuse.

State law has long allowed for abusers to only be found to have committed “abuse” against children who were not their biological children, even in cases of homicide or sexual abuse, instead of the higher finding of “severe abuse.”

For example, Dan Martindale, Washington County’s deputy county attorney who was among those who lobbied for the law change, said he prosecuted a Family Court case in which a man was found to have committed “abuse” by sexually abusing a stepchild, but was found to have committed “severe abuse” of a biological child who wasn’t physically assaulted but may have witnessed some of the abuse.

“The rationale was that ‘severe abuse’ was defined in the Social Services Law as a ground for terminating parental rights, and since there were no parental rights to terminate, the child could not be severely abused,” he said.

While the finding may seem trivial when compared to sentences in criminal court for the companion cases, Martindale said the differences can determine what custody rights the accused has. A finding of severe abuse can result in termination of parental rights, while a simple abuse finding cannot.

Read more here.

December 5, 2015 in Child Abuse | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 4, 2015

Bill Makes Physical, Sexual Violence Ground for Annulment in Philippines


Pasig Representative Roman Romulo has filed a bill seeking to include physical and sexual violence among the grounds for annulling a marriage.

"Despite legislation aimed at eliminating violence against women and children, incidents of battery and sexual abuse seem to be increasing, many of these reportedly found inside the family home," said the explanatory note to House Bill 6297, which Romulo filed Tuesday.

He noted that the Family Code currently recognizes physical violence as a ground for legal separation, “nothing more than bed-and-board separation of the spouses entitling the spouses to live separately from one another."

Romulo, who is running for senator, noted that even Pope Francis has acknowledged that annulment may be "morally necessary" to protect “the weaker spouse or young children from the more serious wounds caused by intimidation and violence, humiliation and exploitation."

He added that victims of abusive marriages “should be given another opportunity to remarry in order to recover and actually experience for themselves the sanctity and inviolability of marriage and family life as contemplated not only by the State, but also our faith.”

Read more here.

December 4, 2015 in Annulment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Utah Couple to Stop Adoption, Returns Baby to Biological Mother

From KUTV News:

A Utah couple has decided not to go through with an adoption after the baby's biological father alleged the adoption was happening against his will.

But this fight is far from over.

Colby Nielsen, 20, of Lewiston, Utah, told 2News last week he was forced to hand over his two-week-old child, Kaylee, to prospective adoptive parents despite the fact that he wanted to raise the girl himself.

"I'd do anything I could for her," Nielsen told 2News Friday, adding that his family hired an attorney to get the baby returned.

Now, the adoptive couple says they will return the baby to the biological mother and relinquish any custodial rights.

"We believe the couple, if unfettered by legality and other pressures, will be able to decide what is best for Kaylee," said the couple, who asked not to be named due to the amount of backlash they have received from this situation. "This is how the situation should have always been resolved.

"Nielsen alleged the 19-year old mother - his former girlfriend - began the adoption process with little or no notice to him.  But the former adoptive parents, who also live in northern Utah, told 2News that is not true.

Read more here.

December 3, 2015 in Adoption | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

$300,000 Allocated to House Panel Investigating Abortion Providers

From USA Today:

A special congressional investigation into how abortion providers handle fetal tissue will start off with a $300,000 budget that Republicans are diverting from a $1 million reserve fund.

The Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, chaired by Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, was created in October after an uproar over Planned Parenthood’s role in providing researchers with tissue from aborted fetuses.

Republicans have named eight members to the panel, a new House Energy and Commerce subcommittee. Democrats, who oppose the investigation, appointed six members.

A staff director for the investigation was recently hired, indicating the probe will require additional resources not already allocated to the full committee.

The House Administration Committee last week moved $300,000 to Energy and Commerce to cover expenses for the special investigation through Jan. 2. The money came from a House Administration Committee reserve fund that pays for unanticipated expenses during the 2015-16 term of the 114th Congress.

Democrats opposed the transfer because there was no public debate and because they believe taxpayer money should not be used for the investigation.

Read more here.

December 2, 2015 in Abortion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Legal Aid Residence Test Ruled Lawful in UK

From The Law Society Gazette:

Government plans to introduce a residence test for civil legal aid eligibility are lawful, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

The lord chancellor appealed the High Court’s decision last year that the legislation he proposed to introduce was unlawful on the grounds it was ultra vires and unjustifiably discriminatory.

To satisfy the residence test, an individual would need to be lawfully resident in the UK, the Channel Islands, Isle of Man or a British overseas territory on the day of the application for civil legal aid. Unless they were under 12 months old or a particular kind of asylum claimant, or involved with the UK armed forces, applicants would have had to be lawfully resident for a 12-month period.

In Public Law Project v The Lord Chancellor, Lord Justice Laws (pictured) said James Eadie, representing the lord chancellor, was right to submit that ‘to read the statutory purpose narrowly, as the divisional court did, places severe constraints on the government’s ability to control the legal aid budget by means of rational decisions as to which cases can legitimately be accorded the highest priority, whether on the grounds of need or otherwise’.

He said place of residence was not a characteristic, such as sex or race, ‘which is specially protected by the law on the footing I have described’.

Read more here.

December 1, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 30, 2015

Father Loses Custody of Boys After Refusing to Stop Trying to Cure Their Autism through Homeopathy

From National Post:

An Ontario father has lost custody of his children in part because he refused to stop trying to cure their autism through homeopathy.

“Not only were these treatments not effective, but they had negative effects,” reads a court decision granting sole custody to the children’s mother.

The father, a 48-year-old computer programmer in the Greater Toronto Area, will now see the children three weekends a month, with shared access during holidays.

The two boys, aged nine and 10, suffer from “severe and profound” autism spectrum disorder. They do not speak, are not toilet-trained or able to dress or feed themselves.

At an October hearing, the children’s mother sought a court order barring her former husband from administering homeopathic treatments, arguing he was pointlessly “looking for a ‘cure’ for autism rather than trying to find a method of managing autism.”

Homeopathy, developed in Germany in the early 19th century, is an alternative therapy that holds that diseases can be cured by giving patients remedies that cause the same symptoms as the original illness. Some homeopaths will intensely dilute their medicines to the point where a dose may only contain one or two molecules of the “active” ingredient.

Before the Ontario Court of Justice, the mother argued that a homeopathic remedy intended to reduce one  boy’s spasms instead made him “very aggressive.”

Read more here.

November 30, 2015 in Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Some States Are Cutting Poor Dads A Deal on Unpaid Child Support

From NPR:

When the state of Maryland wanted to reach dads who were behind on their child support payments, it started in the boarded-up blocks of West Baltimore, in neighborhoods marked by drugs, violence and unemployment.

In just four zip code areas, the state identified 4,642 people who owed more than $30 million in back child support. Most of that was "state-owed," meaning that rather than going to the child through the custodial parent, it's supposed to reimburse taxpayers for welfare paid to the child's mother.

This is a source of great resentment for many men, who say they want their money to go to their children. But most who owe it can't pay anyway, as they earn less than $10,000 a year.


"So even if we use taxpayer dollars to chase 'em down, and we catch 'em, right, and we go into their pockets, there's nothing in there," says Joe Jones of Baltimore's Center for Urban Families.

Are they deadbeat? Joseph DiPrimio, head of Maryland's child support enforcement office, doesn't like that expression. "I think that's vulgar. I don't use it," he says. DiPrimio prefers "dead broke." 

"We're talking about individuals that are economically challenged, they're underemployed, but they want to do the right thing," he says.

Read more here.


November 29, 2015 in Child Support Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Researchers Study Willingness to Adopt Children with Special Needs

From Phys.Org:

Queen's University researchers Philip Burge and Dianne Groll (Psychiatry) and two co-authors have just published a study regarding the attitudes and preferences of prospective adoptive parents. The study found that those who were most open to considering children with special needs had been formally seeking to adopt for some time and had completed government-required SAFE assessments and training.

The report entitled, Making Choices: Adoption seekers' preferences and available children with special needs, explores the willingness of prospective adoptive parents in Ontario to adopt children with abuse experiences and various degrees of behavioral disorders, learning and /or physical disabilities among other factors.

"Finding adoptive parents for child wards with special needs has long been a challenge. Notwithstanding some recent minor improvements in government policy, serious challenges still remain in placing thousands of child wards with special needs in permanent adoptive homes or guardianship arrangements," says Dr. Burge.

The study examined the preferences and attitudes of 5,830 AdoptOntario online registrants between May 2009 and February 2012. The registrants were classified as "public users," "prospective adoptive parents," or "adoption ready," based on their stage in the adoption application process, and were asked a number of questions to determine their preferences in child characteristics for adoption. The categories included questions on adopting older children, sibling groups, or children with any of the 20 most common special needs referred by child welfare agencies.

Read more here.

November 28, 2015 in Adoption | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 27, 2015

Abortion Rates in the U.S. Continue to Decline

From CBS News:

U.S. abortions continue to fall, according to a new federal report released on Wednesday.

Federal statistics show abortions have been in a general decline for about 25 years.

The number of reported abortions dropped four percent in 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. About 699,000 abortions were reported to the federal government that year. That's about 31,000 fewer than the year before.

Experts offer various reasons for the recent drop: Better use of birth control and the lingering effects of the economic recession. Others argue there's been a cultural shift and more women opt to continue their pregnancy.

In 2012, the abortion rate fell five percent to 13 abortions per 1,000 women of child-bearing age. That's about half what it was in 1974, the year after the landmark Supreme Court decision that established a nationwide right to abortion.

Read more here.

November 27, 2015 in Abortion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Same-Sex Adoption in AL

Margaret Ryznar, an associate professor of Law at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, and Robin Fretwell Wilson, a Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law, discuss an Alabama woman’s request that the United States Supreme Court review an Alabama Supreme Court decision refusing to recognize her adoption of her same-sex partner’s 3 children in Georgia.  Listen to the Bloomberg Law podcast here.

November 23, 2015 in Adoption | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Central Indiana Domestic Violence Shelters Turn Away 1,743

From The Indianapolis Star:

More than 1,700 people who sought shelter to escape from domestic violence in Central Indiana didn't receive it, according to a report released Thursday.

The State of Domestic Violence in Central Indiana report, produced by the Domestic Violence Network, shows 1,743 people were denied shelter from July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014, because the agencies were over capacity and didn't have available beds. That is nearly triple the number of people who were denied temporary housing the year before.

"Housing continues to be our No. 1 obstacle," said Kelly McBride, executive director of Domestic Violence Network.

McBride said domestic violence agencies' resources are strained — with funding cuts, fewer staff members and victims who are staying longer in shelters because affordable housing isn't available elsewhere.

But Catherine O'Connor, president and CEO of the Julian Center, said people seeking help should not be discouraged by shelter limitations.

"We triage," she said. "If someone is in immediate danger, we’ll find a place for that person to be."

Read more here.

November 22, 2015 in Domestic Violence | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Nature of Embryos

From BuzzFeed News:

The technology to freeze embryos has been around since the 1980s. The recent surge in these cases — such as the highly publicized dispute between actress Sofia Vergara and her ex-fiance Nick Loeb — is because couples who opted to use the technology are now facing crumbling relationships.

“The people who happily froze their embryos once the new technologies arrived, those are the ones that are now getting divorced,” Nicolas Terry, a professor of law at Indiana University, told BuzzFeed News. “Now the issues are maturing.”

In some states, such as Colorado and Texas, the male partner has no say in what happens to the embryos, and he is not responsible for any costs of raising a potential child, Terry said. Louisiana is the only state that designates the biological material as “juridical persons” that cannot be destroyed.

But as the hodgepodge of state rulings reveal, no one is quite sure of how to categorize biological material that has the potential to become a human life.

“The courts have struggled with whether or not to deal with embryos as property or as something akin to a person,” Naomi Cahn, a professor of law at George Washington University who specializes in reproductive technologies, told BuzzFeed News.

“We’re dealing here with potential children, we’re dealing with parentage, and when these cases get to court, we’re dealing with couples who are in conflict,” Cahn added. “It’s very human emotions that judges need to be dealing with here.”

Read more here.

November 21, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Cohabitation Continues to be Fastest Growing Relationship in UK

From Family Law:

Figures released today (5 November 2015) show that the cohabiting couple family continues to be the fastest growing family type in the UK in 2015.

The latest statistical bulletin, Households and Families, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), shows that cohabiting couple families in the UK have reached 3.2 million in 2015. This represents an increase of 29.7% between 2005 and 2015.

There were 3.1 million opposite sex cohabiting couple families and 90,000 same sex cohabiting couple families in the UK in 2015. Together, cohabiting couple families account for 17% of all families in the UK.

For opposite sex cohabiting couple families, there has been a statistically significant increase from 14% of all families in 2005 to 17% in 2015. Same sex cohabiting couple families as a percentage of all families also saw an increase over the same time period (0.3% to 0.5%).

According to Resolution, cohabiting couples currently have little legal protection when they separate. Lawyer Graeme Fraser, Resolution’s spokesman on cohabitation law, explains:

'Under current cohabitation law it’s possible to live with someone for decades and even to have children together and then simply walk away without taking any responsibility for a former partner when the relationship breaks down. This can have a huge impact on women and children, particularly in cases where a mother has given up or reduced her work to raise a family.'

Read more here.

November 21, 2015 in Cohabitation (live-ins) | Permalink | Comments (0)