Family Law Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Call for Student Papers

If/When/How, in collaboration with the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice at Berkeley Law School, is currently accepting submissions for the twelfth annual Sarah Weddington Writing Prize for New Student Scholarship in Reproductive Rights. 
This year's suggested theme is "Balancing Burdens and Benefits after Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt." However, submissions on other topics will also be accepted. For more information, please download the Call for Submissions
The deadline for submission is Monday, February 27, 2017. 
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 casebook Cases on Reproductive Rights and Justice, by Melissa Murray and Kristin Luker. The first place winner will also have a chance at publication with the NYU Review of Law and Social Change

February 22, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Woman had to leave Mississippi to divorce husband

From 10 News: 

In 2001, Elizabeth Freels knew her marriage of seven years was over, and she wanted a divorce.

But her husband, David, felt otherwise. He didn't want one. Elizabeth said he told her, "I will not give you a divorce until the day you die. If I can't have you, no one else will."

And in Mississippi, one of only two states without a true "no-fault divorce" law, if one spouse doesn't want a divorce, he or she can often stave one off for a long time. In the Freels' case, it was more than a decade, according to a story in the Clarion-Ledger.

There's an effort in the Legislature to make some small reforms to Mississippi divorce law. But such efforts have failed in the past, and a measure to create a "no-fault" divorce based on length of separation has already been watered down early in the legislative process this session.

Read more here.

February 21, 2017 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Washington's top court rules against Christian florist who wouldn't provide flowers for gay wedding:

From The ABA Journal:

A Christian florist did not have a First Amendment right to refuse to provide flowers for a gay wedding, the Washington Supreme Court has ruled.

The court on Thursday affirmed a fine and citation imposed against Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers, for her violation of state laws barring discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation. How Appealing linked to the decision (PDF); the New York Times and the Washington Post have stories.

Stutzman refused to provide the flowers because she had a religious belief that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. Providing flowers, she maintained, is tantamount to endorsing marriage equality for same-sex couples. She also alleged that the sale of floral arrangements is expressive conduct that amounts to speech. She claimed violations of her federal and state constitutional rights to free speech.

The state supreme court found no constitutional violation. Stutzman’s floral arrangements are not expressive conduct eligible for constitutional protections, the court said. Nor does the law infringe her right to free exercise of religion, the court concluded.

Read more here.

February 20, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 19, 2017

D.C. mayor does not sign — or veto — family-leave law, leaving critics on both sides

From The Washington Post:

In the first real test of her power in the face of a new left-leaning D.C. Council, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser dodged a showdown over the city’s paid-family-leave bill.

Bowser was opposed to the legislation, among the most generous paid-leave policies in the country, for several reasons. She was concerned about the $250 million annual tax it would impose on employers. She worried that it would benefit city workers who lived in Maryland and Virginia more than her own constituents. And she felt it was imprudent to expand government when the city may face cutbacks under the Trump administration.

The business community, even more opposed to the law, was counting on Bowser to block it.

But Bowser didn’t veto it. And she didn’t sign it, either. She let the bill become law without her signature and then sent a letter to the D.C. Council, maintaining that she had “grave concerns” about it.

The move left business leaders, who had spent weeks lobbying council members to back up a mayoral veto, scratching their heads, and the liberal lawmakers who passed the measure newly emboldened.

Bowser’s inaction drew criticism from both sides.

“She’s out there by herself — completely alone right now — and that’s not a good place to be,” said Jim Dinegar, head of the Greater Washington Board of Trade.

Dinegar, along with the heads of every major business group and associations representing D.C. restaurants, colleges and hospitals, had urged Bowser to veto the “deeply flawed and unnecessarily expensive” bill.

Aides to the mayor said she ran out of time to build consensus around an alternative plan that could get enough votes to sustain a veto.

“To put a veto on it, the mayor knows that doesn’t mean anything unless you have the votes to sustain it,” said a high-ranking aide to the mayor who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss Bowser’s decision.

But by not using her veto power, Dineger said the mayor lost the force of argument that she was doing everything she could in the city’s best interests. Dineger was also critical of the business community, saying it should have done more to help Bowser find the votes needed to sustain a veto, since without it “she can’t claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility.”

Bowser (D) also couldn’t win praise from progressives in her own party who have been pushing for family-leave benefits nationwide.


Read more here.

February 19, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 18, 2017

New York Family Law Firm Eiges & Orgel, PLLC Moves to New Office on Broadway

From Yahoo! News:

Eiges & Orgel, PLLC has moved its main office location to a new building in Manhattan. The firm will continue to provide the award-winning representation in divorce and family law matters it has become known for from the following office location:

The Woolworth Building
233 Broadway
Suite 2205
New York, NY 10007-3757

The Woolworth Building is a well-known National Historic Landmark and New York City Landmark centrally located on Broadway in Manhattan, New York City. The new office location offers more convenience to local residents of Manhattan and surrounding areas who wish to meet personally with the firm's attorneys, Ken Eiges and Scott I. Orgel, during initial consultations and regular meetings to discuss the progress of their cases. Additionally, the firm is positioned closely to the New York City Family Court in Lower Manhattan, allowing the attorneys to easily attend court appearances beside and on behalf of clients.

The firm is pleased to offer a conveniently located office that has the room and resources needed to tackle even the most complex family law cases, including contested divorce matters, child support and custody issues, alimony, high net worth, and more. As a testament to the firm's commitment to client satisfaction and convenience, Eiges & Orgel, PLLC also serves local residents throughout New York from office locations in Brooklyn and Queens. The firm is open on Saturdays and is available to provide consultations to new clients via telephone.


Read more here.

February 18, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 17, 2017

Oklahoma lawyer and the woman he represented in a divorce are shot and killed

From The ABA Journal:

A lawyer in Norman, Oklahoma, and his divorce client were shot and killed, apparently by the woman’s estranged husband, authorities said on Wednesday.

The victims are lawyer Bryan Young, 47, and his client, Cayann Patterson, 49, report the Norman Transcript and the Oklahoman. Young was an associate at Ward Glass in Norman and was previously a high school principal, according to other stories by the Norman Transcript and the Oklahoman.

The suspect was Patterson’s estranged husband, Timothy Michael Deffner. Police say he shot Young and Patterson multiple times after going to their homes and kicking in the doors. Deffner shot himself early Wednesday after he was surrounded by authorities in a field.

Young’s wife, Lisa, said she went downstairs to investigate after hearing several loud bangs. She went outside and saw the suspect, who told her she should get back in the house, according to Pottawatomie County Undersheriff J.T. Palmer, the Oklahoman reported.

Patterson had previously received a protective order against Deffner.

Read more here.

February 17, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Employee alleges hospital violated family leave law

From The Pennsylvania Record:

An employee is suing a York hospital, alleging violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act and wrongful termination.

Christine M. Buckley filed a lawsuit Jan. 25 in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania against York Hospital, doing business as Wellspan York Hospital, alleging the hospital called the plaintiff at home in an attempt to harass her.

According to the complaint, Buckley, a registered nurse, suffered monetary damages from being terminated from her employment for exercising her rights to FMLA. The plaintiff alleges Wellspan York interfered with her FMLA leave by terminating her employment in February 2016, despite having sufficient medical records to support her claim of having medical conditions.

Buckley seeks trial by jury, damages, back wages and benefits, compensatory damages, unpaid wages, benefits and wage supplements, statutory interest, court costs, liquidated damages, and all further relief the court grants. She is represented by attorney Jeremy Donham of Donham Law in Dellslow, West Virginia.

Read more here.

February 16, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Texas fathers fight for equal custody law at legislature

From ABC 12 News:

A renewed effort is underway by fathers in this state to get a law passed allowing equal custody for both parents during a divorce.

"When you go through a divorce you split everything down the middle, why is it when you have a child you can split custody and time with that child,” asked Noel Geren, 37.

He and his infant daughter are inseparable but Geren said he does not get to see his 10-year-old son from his first marriage as often as he'd like.

"I've been seeking more time with my son for the last four years and I've spent upwards of $80,000," he explained.

Geren is now among the vocal supporters of Texas House Bill 453, authored by State Rep. James White, R-Woodville, which would give mothers and fathers equal custody during a divorce.

"If this bill passes you're going in there at an equal advantage with the other person," added Geren. "It doesn't touch on any child support. It doesn't touch on anything that would be detrimental to the child. It's still left in the courts hands on what they want to do."

If parents reach a custody agreement before arriving in a family court, judges simply approve it. But more often, mothers win custody which leaves fathers only with visitation. House Bill 453 could change the starting point in family courts giving both parents equal custody from the beginning.

At least five states already have similar laws. But since custody cases are often messy and each one is unique, a former family law judge says the legislature should not mandate what to do with children.

Read more here.

February 15, 2017 in Child Support Enforcement, Divorce (grounds), Property Division, Resources - Child Custody | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Texas bills proposed to make divorce more difficult

From ABC 13 News:

A Texas lawmaker is hoping to get two bills passed that will make it more difficult for couples to divorce.

State Representative Matt Krause (R) filed SB 93 and HB 65. SB 93 aims to strike out no foul or insupportability divorce filings.

"You've got to allege some type of fault, grounds such as abandonment, adultery, mental cruelty and the like," said family law attorney and president elect of the Texas Family Law Foundation Warren Cole.

Cole said repealing the no fault filing will also force couples to air out their dirty laundry. Most divorce filings cite "insupportability" as the reason, in part to maintain a level of privacy.

"To expose their children to that, especially fosters one parent who continues to hold a grudge against the other parent. It defeats effective coparenting, if you will," said Cole.

Krause said he decided to file the bill because the "insupportability" filing makes it just too easy for couples to give up and to divorce.

"I think this just reinforces the sanctity of marriage," said Krause. "I think when we went to no-fault divorce in the 1970s, it in some ways cheapened the institution of marriage."

Krause also filed HB 65, which pushes out the 60 day waiting period for a divorce to 180 days if a couple has children under the age of 18.

Read more here.

February 14, 2017 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 13, 2017

Wedding Costs Up Again

From CNN:

The average cost of a wedding climbed to a record high of $35,329 last year, according to The Knot's 2016 Real Weddings study. That's up 8% from the 2015 average.


Couples are also rolling out customizations like a dessert baristas or adding a special element, like a scotch or bourbon bar.

Technology is also playing a bigger role on the special day, which can increase the budget. Brides are hiding GoPro cameras in their bouquets to film their walk down the aisle, according to The Knot, and photographers are using drones to get overhead shots.

While weddings are getting more modern, who picks up the tab has remained pretty traditional: Only 10% of couples paid for the event themselves, the study found.

"Weddings are still very rooted in tradition," said Maxwell Cooper. "There are still parts of the wedding that are tough to break."

On average, the bride's parents covered 44% of the budget, while the couple paid 42% and the groom's parents picked up 13%. Nearly half of the couples surveyed reported they went over budget.

Read more here.

February 13, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Scourge of Child Marriage in Africa Continues

From Human Rights Watch:

“I’ve never experienced happiness in my marriage. I’ve never seen the benefit of being married,” Chimwemwe told me when I interviewed her in a small village in rural Malawi.

Chimwemwe was just 12-years-old when she married a 17-year-old boy to escape poverty at home. Like many girls I have interviewed in South Sudan, Tanzania, and Malawi about their marriages, she was hoping for a life of love and prosperity, but instead endured poverty and violence at the hands of her husband.

In sub-Saharan Africa, about one in four girls marry before age 18. Statistics show that African nations account for 17 of the 20 countries with the highest rates of child marriage globally. For example, according to new UNICEF data, 76 percent of girls in Niger and close to 70 percent of girls in Central African Republic and Chad marry before they turn 18. In Malawi, one in every two girls marry before age 18.

Read more here.

February 12, 2017 in International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Indiana appeals ruling on parental rights for same-sex couples

From The Indianapolis Star:

The state of Indiana is appealing a federal judge's ruling allowing female same-sex spouses to both be listed on their children's birth certificates.

In June, Judge Tanya Walton Pratt ruled state laws unconstitutional for requiring a same-sex spouse to adopt a child in order to gain parental rights. The state only recognized a birth mother, and not her wife, on a child’s birth certificate.

Pratt ordered Indiana to extend the same parental rights to married same-sex couples as it does for married opposite-sex couples, including listing both mothers on a birth certificate.

While the state's appeal of that ruling is pending, same-sex couples will have their parental rights recognized.

Read more here.

February 11, 2017 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 10, 2017

Oklahoma bill to do away with incompatibility as reason for divorce

From Enterprise-Examiner:

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, Oklahoma has the third highest divorce rate in the United States. Only Arkansas and Nevada have higher rates of couples ending their marriage.

Dunlap filed House Bill 1277 to address that, he said. The bill, titled the "Fairness in Fault Act," would eliminate the ability for couples in Oklahoma to file for divorce based on incompatibility if there are living minor children of the marriage; the parties have been married 10 years or longer; or if either party files a written objection to the granting of a divorce.

The proposed legislation also eliminates required educational programs for couples who file for incompatibility-based divorce to discuss the impact of divorce on children, since Dunlap's bill would not allow incompatibility divorce if there are minor children.


Read more here.

February 10, 2017 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Decriminalization of Domestic Violence in Russia

From USA Today:

Russia's parliament voted 380-3 on Friday to decriminalize domestic violence in cases where it does not cause "substantial bodily harm" and does not occur more than once a year.

The move, which eliminates criminal liability in such cases, makes a violation punishable by a fine of roughly $500, or a 15-day arrest, provided there is no repeat within 12 months.

The bill now goes to the rubber-stamp upper chamber, where no opposition is expected. It then must be signed by President Vladimir Putin, who has signaled his support.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told journalists that family conflicts do "not necessarily constitute domestic violence."

Read more here.

February 9, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Proposed legislation to bar foreign laws in Arkansas courts; debate focuses on sharia law

From ArkansasOnline:

Proposed legislation clarifying that foreign laws would be barred from admission in Arkansas courts -- a case which has never happened, according to the bill's sponsor -- passed through a House committee Thursday.

Both Democrats and Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee said that if enacted, House Bill 1041 would in essence have no effect. But for nearly two hours, debate focused on a subject not mentioned once in the text of the bill: sharia, or Islamic law.

After hearing objections from a Little Rock imam -- as well as other religious, business and community leaders -- the committee voiced its favor of the bill by Rep. Brandt Smith, R-Jonesboro, moving it to consideration of the full House.

"I didn't want a hearing on sharia law," Smith told reporters after the successful vote in committee. The second-term lawmaker sponsored similar legislation in 2015, when it died in the Senate. He promised to run the bill again during his re-election campaign last fall.

Read more here.

February 8, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Virginia House Passes 'Solemnization of Marriage' Bill

From the Washington Post:

The House of Delegates on Thursday approved a bill aimed at protecting religious organizations that decline to perform same-sex marriages.

The measure passed on a largely party-line vote of 57 to 37, with four Republicans joining all Democrats in voting against it. Some supporters, including the bill’s sponsor, expressed concern about taking a position that has been widely criticized as endangering the rights of LGBT people.

Describing the bill as “something that has weighed a great deal on me,” the sponsor, Del. Nicholas Freitas (R-Culpeper), said he would prefer to “get the government out of the definition of marriage.”

Read more here.

February 7, 2017 in Marriage (impediments), Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 6, 2017

National Adoption Agency Unexpectedly Closes

From CBS Sacramento:

A nationwide adoption agency abruptly closes their doors and files for bankruptcy leaving hundreds of employees without jobs and nearly 2,000 families with questions.

Independent Adoption Center sent a note to clients and employees announcing the bankruptcy due to a “changing adoption climate.”

Jim Jensen and his wife Candy spent a decade trying to make a family.

Jim says it was like Christmas morning when they adopted two day old Alex six years ago.

They used Independent Adoption Center and had success. Everything was smooth. They were currently on the list for the last three years waiting to give Alex a sibling.

“There are so many kids out there who need a family. We have a lot of love to give,” said Candy, “we just want to complete our family.”

Read more here.

February 6, 2017 in Adoption | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Signs Of Depression And Anxiety Can Be Seen In Newborns

From The Huffington Post:

Depression and anxiety can take root as early as the very first moments of life. 

Certain patterns of brain connectivity seen in newborn babies can predict the baby’s likelihood of showing early symptoms of mental illness ― including sadness, excessive shyness, nervousness and separation anxiety, according to findings published in the February 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. These early symptoms, in turn, are strongly linked with clinical depression and anxiety in older children and adults.

“[Brain connectivity patterns] may indicate that for some children their brains are developing along a trajectory that increases their risk for mental health symptoms as they develop,” Dr. Cynthia Rogers, a child psychiatrist at Washington University in St. Louis and lead study author, told The Huffington Post.

“It’s important to note, however, that the experiences and environment that they are exposed to as they grow may alter these connectivity patterns making it more or less likely for these symptoms to develop.”

The initial aim of the study was to investigate functional connectivity differences between babies born prematurely and those born at full-term. Previous studies had suggested that pre-term babies are at a greater risk of developing psychiatric issues later in life, and the researchers wanted to know whether differences in brain connectivity played a role. 

First, the researchers conducted MRI scans on 65 full-term newborns and 57 pre-term babies. The premature newborns were born at least 10 weeks early, but the brain scans were conducted either on or around their original due date. Then, two years later, the researchers assessed the children for early symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

When analyzing the brain scans, the researchers focused on how the amygdala ― the brain’s fear center ― interacted with other brain regions. 

In contrast to what Rogers expected, the results did not show major differences between the pre-term and full-term babies. They found that both healthy full-term babies and pre-term babies had similar amygdala connectivity patterns to adults, although the strength of these connections was slightly reduced in the premature newborns. 

In both premies and full-term babies, stronger connections between the amygdala and the insula (involved in consciousness and emotion) and the medial prefrontal cortex (involved in planning and decision-making) were associated with a higher risk of early signs of anxiety and depression at age two. 

This means that there are certain brain patterns already present at birth ― whether the baby is born early or on-time ― that can predict later risk of mental illness.

Read more here.

February 5, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 4, 2017

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

From USA Today:

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

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

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

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

Read more here.

February 4, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Prince's divorce records unsealed

From CBS local:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more here.


February 3, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)