Family Law Prof Blog

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

Monday, December 12, 2016

Litigious Embryos

From Professor Naomi Cahn (GW), writing for Concurring Opinions:

The newest twist in the long-running dispute between Sofia Vergara and her former fiancé, Nick Loeb ,over their frozen embryos is not actually between Vergara and Loeb.   Instead, out of the blue, James Charbonnet, claiming to be the trustee of the frozen embryos, has sued Vergara in Louisiana.

Many couples have gone to court to fight about their frozen embryos. But, in addition to the fact that this case involves Vergara, there are a lot of strange things about this lawsuit. I’ll unpack just a few.

Read more here.

December 12, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Divorce & Remarriage

From Naomi Cahn (GW),writing for Splitopia:

While a divorce ends the marriage, it doesn’t end the legal entanglements—nor does remarriage necessarily grant all the rights you might assume.  As a law professor who teaches family law and estate planning, I remind my students that during both the challenges of divorce and the joys of remarriage, people need to keep track of some pretty nonromantic realities.   

There are many (admittedly boring) legal actions that you should think about adding to your to-do list, in divorce and in remarriage.  Will you cancel all joint accounts in divorce, or maintain them?  Merge accounts in remarriage?  In the stress of divorce and the gauzy joy of remarrying, these kinds of details can seem irrelevant at best, annoying at worst. 

Read more here.

December 11, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Divorce Numbers Down

From Time:

The U.S. divorce rate dropped for the third year in a row, reaching its lowest point in nearly 40 years, according to data released Thursday.

Marriage rates, on the other hand, increased last year. In 2015, there were 32.2 marriages for every 1,000 unmarried women age 15 or older, according to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University. This represents a jump from 31.9 in 2014 and is the highest number of marriages since 2009, which suggests that marriage rates may be stabilizing after decades of decline.

On the divorce side, the 2015 rate was 16.9 divorces per 1,000 married women age 15 or older, which is down from 17.6 in 2014 and a peak of almost 23 divorces in 1980.

Read more here.

December 10, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 9, 2016

On Child Custody and Accusations of Abuse

From 100Reporters:

Judge Bowles, who trains his fellow jurists in domestic and family violence matters, said that it’s common for courts to believe that mothers press for no contact with their ex-spouses for reasons other than safety. He ties this misconception to lack of training and understanding among jurists about violence in families.

A pilot study by Joan Meier, a professor of clinical law at George Washington University Law School, supports Bowles’ observations. In analyzing 240 published rulings in an electronic search for cases involving custody and alienation, she found that more often than not, accusations of abuse did not block access to children in family court settings. In some 36 cases where a mother accused the father of abusing their children, the court nevertheless ruled in the father’s favor 69 percent of the time. The tendency to discount the mother’s accusation was even more pronounced where sexual abuse was alleged: In the 32 such cases Meier identified, the father prevailed 81 percent of the time. She is now working on an expanded study examining the same issues – including intimate partner violence – in some 5,000 cases with a grant from the National Institute of Justice.

Read more here.

December 9, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Paid Sick Leave

From the Washington Post:

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) will propose legislation requiring companies with at least 50 employees to provide five days a year of paid sick leave, triggering a likely standoff with Democratic lawmakers who tried to pass a more expansive law this year.

Hogan, who owned a real estate company before taking office, described his bill as a “common-sense” approach that would cover “nearly all working Marylanders without placing an unmanageable burden on job creators.”

Businesses with fewer than 50 employees would be eligible for a tax break if they offer paid sick leave.

Hogan’s proposal would make Maryland just the eighth state, along with the District of Columbia, to require paid sick leave for a significant proportion of employees. Connecticut, California, Massachusetts and Oregon have implemented such rules; Arizona, Vermont and Washington passed mandates this year. Montgomery County, Maryland’s largest jurisdiction, enacted its own sick-leave requirement this year.

Read more here.

December 9, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Grey divorces

From Financial Review:

Australians are getting divorced later in life, with the age at divorce hitting a record high of 45 years for men and 43 years for women in 2015, as both sexes delay marriage but stay married for longer.

This means both men and women at the time of divorce are now more than five years older on average than they were 20 years ago.

Read more here.

December 8, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Call for Papers



Children’s Legal Rights Journal


Submission Details. We invite you to submit articles that address any of the prominent and current issues that impact children. Articles should be received by January 15, 2017. Submissions should be previously unpublished pieces based on original work. All submissions should be between 15 and 60 pages (double­spaced) and in Bluebook format.


About the CLRJ. The Children’s Legal Rights Journal is a national journal sponsored by Loyola University Chicago School of Law in cooperation with the National Association of Counsel for Children. We publish articles on a variety of children’s legal issues and we are the only journal in the country specifically addressing legal needs of children.


Contact Information. All submissions and questions can be sent directly to CHILDLRJ@LUC.EDU. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions. You can also contact CLRJ via mail and facsimile:


Erika C. Weaver

Solicitations Editor

25 E. Pearson, 11th Floor

Chicago, IL 60611


Fax: 312.915.6485.


Stay tuned for future call outs! The CLRJ will publish one additional issue by the end of the academic year and we will be soliciting articles for that publication early next year.


We look forward to reading your submissions!


December 7, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Long life due to divorce

From pix11:

The oldest person in the world, Emma Morano of Italy, credits her longevity to a diet of raw eggs and ending her abusive marriage long before divorce was even legal.

Morano celebrated her 117th birthday on Tuesday and is now the only person alive to have lived through three centuries.

She was born Nov. 29, 1899, in the Piedmont region of Italy, back when King Umberto I reigned.

Read more here.

December 6, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 5, 2016

A Tale of Two Divorces

From the Chicago Tribune:

For better or for worse, when it comes to divorce "for richer or for poorer" helps determine how much one spouse pays the other.

In an ongoing divorce trial due to resume in mid-December, the multimillionaire founder of Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Richard Stephenson, and his ex-wife Alicia Stephenson are battling over whether she needs more than $400,000 a month to maintain her living expenses.

While the superrich duke it out over a standard of living most people will never experience, a shift in Illinois divorce law aims to reduce conflicts in dissolving marriages and establish better equity for former spouses with more modest incomes.

The policy changes are driven by attempts to correct past injustices that often left ex-wives with little money and no viable way to support themselves after years of raising children, divorce attorneys said. They mark the first major revamp of Illinois divorce law in almost 40 years.

Read more here.

December 5, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Children of divorce

From Live Science:

Divorce is often stressful for both parents and their children, and now a new report with some advice for parents encourages them to look to their children's pediatricians, therapists and others in their communities to help them manage this tough transition.

Research shows that children may experience a range of behavioral changes as a result of their parents' divorce, the authors of the report said. Children's reactions to their parents' separation may involve anxiety, self-blame for the divorce, or poor performance at school, depending on the children's age, circumstances of the divorce and parents' own psychological functioning, according to the new report, published today (Nov. 28) in the journal Pediatrics.

Read more here.

December 4, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 3, 2016

India & Hague Abduction Convention

From the Indian Express:

After much deliberation, the Union government has decided that India will not ratify the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (1980). Signing the multilateral treaty would have meant that the government will have to send back women, who have escaped bad marriages abroad and brought their child along with them to India, back to the country of the father’s residence.

The decision was taken by Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi and has been agreed to by the Ministry of External Affairs. The government’s view is contrary to the recommendations given by the Law Commission, which endorsed acceding to the Hague convention. It has even suggested a jail term of one year for a parent of foreign origin living in India who takes away the child without the consent of the other unless it is a case of domestic violence.

“We found that there are more cases of Indian women who return to the safety of their homes in India after escaping a bad marriage. Cases of women who are foreign citizens, married to Indian men, going away with their children are far fewer. Hence signing the Hague Convention would be to the disadvantage of Indian women. Also, a majority of such cases pertain to women instead of men running away,” said a WCD official. The Law Commission’s report too cites data showing that 68 per cent of the parents who took their child away were mothers, where 85 per cent of these mothers are the primary caregivers of their children across the globe.

Read more here.

December 3, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 2, 2016

Man must continue to pay child support for son he claimed was his, court holds

From The Indiana Lawyer:

A divided Court of Appeals panel has affirmed an order requiring a non-biological father to pay child support for his wife’s child, finding that because the man supported the child throughout his life, he is legally estopped from challenging the child support order.

Shortly after his marriage to Ronnie Sheetz in 2002, Benjamin Sheetz was sent to prison. While he was incarcerated, Ronnie Sheetz became pregnant by another man. Together the couple agreed to tell people that she had become pregnant during a conjugal visit, that she would not tell the biological father about the child and that they would raise the baby together as their own.

When the baby was born, Benjamin Sheetz signed the birth certificate as the father and told his wife not to contact the biological father, seek support from him or institute paternity proceedings. When Ronnie Sheetz filed for divorce in May 2014, she claimed that her first child and her other two children with her husband were all children of the marriage. Benjamin Sheetz was ordered to pay child support for all three, and he did not object.

However, Ronnie Sheetz eventually told her first child that Benjamin Sheetz was not his biological father. The Adams Circuit Court subsequently entered findings that concluded that Benjamin Sheetz was “estopped from denying his obligations to (the child)” because “(t)o hold otherwise would be unjust” and “an injustice to a young man who was led to believe that (Benjamin was) his father when he is not.”

Read more here.

December 2, 2016 in Child Support Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Kansas Case on Sperm Donor

From CBS News:

A Kansas judge has ruled that a Topeka man who donated sperm so two women could have a baby together isn’t legally the child’s father and doesn’t have to provide financial support.


Marotta answered a Craigslist ad from the same-sex couple. Kansas law says a donor providing sperm to a doctor for insemination isn’t legally a father, but the two women didn’t use a physician.

Read more here.

December 1, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Hiding wealth during divorce

From the New York Times:

A few weeks after she realized her husband was finally leaving her, Sarah Pursglove flew down to the Bahamas to figure out how much money he really had. Like many women married to very wealthy men, she didn’t know much about the family accounts. Her husband, a Finnish entrepreneur named Robert Oesterlund, had sworn to a Canadian court that his immediately calculable “net family property” totaled just a few million dollars. Pursglove was skeptical. She could come up with several family purchases worth more than that off the top of her head. There was the 165-foot yacht, Déjà Vu — that cost a few million dollars a year just to keep on the water. There was the $30 million penthouse at the Toronto Four Seasons, which was still being renovated. It wasn’t their only home. The Déjà Vu wasn’t even their only yacht.

Pursglove grew up in a working-class family. She did not consider herself to be a complicated person, or a greedy one. Recent events in her life had, however, inculcated a newfound habit of suspicion. Her husband’s tirades, his frequent absences and threats to leave, had led inexorably to the day when she tailed him through the streets of Toronto and caught him picking up an interior designer for what appeared to be a romantic ski getaway. She had been with Oesterlund since she was 25 and scraping by as a cruise ship’s photographer. Now, as she assessed her crumbling marriage and girded for divorce, she wondered what else she didn’t know.

Her first answers came that morning in the Bahamas, as she quickly rifled through papers in their soon-to-be-former vacation home. She didn’t have long: The caretaker, Pursglove suspected, was loyal to her husband and would soon alert him that she was there. In a pile of mail was a statement from a bank in Luxembourg showing an account with at least $30 million in cash. She had never seen it before. There were two laptops — one with baby photos of their younger daughter, which she set aside. In a cupboard were documents concerning not only Xacti, the internet company she and Oesterlund had built, but also oddly named corporations in other states and countries. Finally, there was a statement from their accounting firm. She had never seen that before, either. The accountants seemed to think her husband was worth at least $300 million.

But even as Pursglove was repacking her suitcase for the flight home, her family’s fortune was vanishing into an almost impenetrable array of shell companies, bank accounts and trusts, part of a worldwide financial system catering exclusively to the very wealthy. In recent decades, this system has become astonishingly effective at “offshoring” wealth — detaching assets, through complex layers of ownership and legal planning, from their actual owners, often by hiding them in another country. Created by lawyers, accountants and private bankers and operating out of a global archipelago of European principalities, former British colonies and Asian city-states, the system has one main purpose: to make the richest people in the world appear to own as little as possible.


One divorce attorney urged her to settle with her husband as soon as possible or else risk losing everything. Another told her the case would be too daunting for a normal family lawyer, even in South Florida, where high-priced divorces are common. Eventually, she found herself in the offices of Jeffrey Fisher.

Fisher was not a normal family lawyer. Early in his career, at the height of the South Florida drug wars, he worked for the United States attorney’s office in Miami, prosecuting cocaine smugglers and money launderers. When he opened his own firm with a partner in West Palm Beach in the late 1980s, he began specializing in cases that were equal parts divorce and white-collar litigation, representing the discarded wives of rich men with complex business concerns.

Read more here.

November 30, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

D.C. Council to vote on nation’s most generous family leave law: 11 weeks off

From The Washington Post:

The District may soon require employers to provide 11-weeks of paid family leave for parents to bond with newborn or adopted childen and 8 weeks of paid time off to care for a dying parent or grandparent – by far the most generous paid leave law in the nation.

The proposal, released Monday by D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), is expected to draw support from a majority of the council, which has been discussing a paid leave law for more than a year.

Under the plan, full-time and part-time employees would be able to draw from a government account to receive up to 90 percent of their pay. The benefit would be capped at $1,000 a week.

It would be funded by a 0.62 percent increase in the payroll taxes on businesses of every size, despite strong opposition from the city’s largest private employers.

The legislation would not allow employees to take paid leave to deal with their own health problems, except in cases connected to childbirth.

Advocates say paid leave family leave fills a crucial need in a country where 59 percent of mothers with infants are in the workforce. Studies show that when a parent can care for an infant or child after birth or adoption, it results in improved health for both the child and parent.

The U.S. is the only industrialized nation without a national paid leave law of any kind and just 12% of U.S. workers in the private sector can get paid family leave through their employer, according to the Department of Labor. Only a handful of states have enacted paid leave laws.

Read more here.

November 29, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 28, 2016

Told to go back to his own country, BigLaw partner says lawyers need to stand up and be heard

From The ABA Journal:

The second-to-last time WilmerHale intellectual property litigator William Lee heard such a biased comment reflecting hostility to immigrants was 40 years ago.

The last time was this August, and Lee believes the incident in which he was told to return to his country reflects an anti-immigrant political environment, the Am. Law Daily (sub. req.) reports.

Lee, whose parents are Chinese immigrants, is the former co-managing partner of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr. “If this can happen to the managing partner of an Am Law 200 firm,” Lee told the Am Law Daily, “what’s happening to the rest of the country?”

Read more here.

November 28, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Anorexic woman cannot be force fed, judge rules

From The Daily Record:

MORRISTOWN - A 29-year-old, severely-anorexic Morris County woman who has been a Greystone Park Psychiatric patient since 2014 cannot be artificially fed against her wishes, a Superior Court judge ruled Monday.

The 140-minute opinion delivered by Superior Court Judge Paul Armstrong in Morristown was shaped by established rights to self-determination and privacy, legislation passed since the 1990s, and multiple landmark rulings that include the case of Karen Ann Quinlan, whose parents Armstrong represented in the 1970s when Joseph and Julia Quinlan fought successfully to have their daughter, who was in a persistent vegetative state, removed from a ventilator.

Armstrong found that the woman identified as A.G. had expressed an unwavering wish to refuse force-feeding after a near-lifelong battle with anorexia nervosa. Armstrong said that the people around her -- her parents, treating psychiatrist and physicians, the bioethics committee of Morristown Medical Center, her guardian and lawyer - all concur that it's in A.G.'s best interests to be transferred to a palliative care unit at the hospital where she won't be force-fed as the state Department of Human Services - which operates Greystone - wanted.

Read more here.

November 27, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

When it comes to starting a family, you can’t have your cake and eat it too

From The Huffington Post:

A woman is 35 years old. She is unmarried. She wants to have a child. She realizes that her childbearing years are coming to an end relatively soon. The proverbial “clock” is ticking away. She goes to a sperm bank and looks at the profiles. She doesn’t like the idea of picking the sperm of a stranger, so instead she decides to approach a male friend of hers and ask him to provide sperm.

Her male friend has no children of his own and likes the idea. He is interested in helping her. He wants to know what his involvement will be. Will they share the child and raise the child together? Will the child spend nights at each of their homes? Can they be like divorced parents sharing custody?

Her response to this is “not exactly”. When asked what that means, she explains to him that he will help her achieve the pregnancy but he will not have legal responsibility to the child. He will be the child’s “uncle” and he can take the child out once in a while on outings or to play, he can babysit, and he can celebrate some holidays with the child, but in the end she is the mother and the child’s only parent. She tells him that this is a good arrangement for him because he never has to pay child support. He gets to see his child grow up and participate in that in a limited way, but he is also untethered and can do whatever he wants.

Read more here.


November 26, 2016 in Alternative Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 25, 2016

Now that the nest is empty, retirees seek housing better suited to their age and households

From The Washington Post:

Howard Bluth was standing outside his five-bedroom house in McLean, Va., when a man stopped in a pickup truck and asked him whether he’d like to sell it. That was three years ago, and Bluth and his wife, Paige, haven’t looked back. “I sold it very quickly,” said Howard Bluth, an engineer.

While selling was easy, buying required research and more time. Like many empty nesters, the Bluths found that the tough part was preparing to transition from a large home to a much smaller one — identifying their many needs and wading through a range of options to meet them.

Among the considerations: Do you want a one-level condo or a single-family house? Do you want a multilevel single-family house with the master bedroom on the first floor? Do you want a newly constructed home or an existing one? Do you want a townhouse with an elevator? Can you find a place we can afford near your family?

“We want to be near our grandchildren and our children,” Howard Bluth said. All three of their grown children expect to be living in the D.C. area, and two already do.

The Bluths looked at high-rises in downtown Bethesda, Md., not far from Northwest Washington, and at condominium apartments and townhouses throughout the area. “We didn’t want the steps,” Paige Bluth said. Much of what they saw was too pricey, including one-bedroom condominiums for $600,000 to $800,000 — more than they wanted to spend for less space than they needed.

Finally, driving around the area with daughter Liza Aronie, they became interested in the Sumner Village condominium community, not far from where Aronie and her husband and children live in Bethesda. They called Aronie’s real estate agent, Caryn Krooth Gardiner of Long & Foster Real Estate, affiliated with Christie’s International in Bethesda, to find out what might be available there.

Read more here.

November 25, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

November 24, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)