Family Law Prof Blog

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

Monday, January 9, 2017

Marrying the Right Person--Yourself

From Good Housekeeping:

On the rooftop of her Brooklyn apartment building this past spring, Erika Anderson put on a vintage-style white wedding dress, stood before a circle of her closest friends, and committed herself — to herself.

"I choose you today," she said. Later she tossed the bouquet to friends and downed two shots of whiskey, one for herself and one for herself. She had planned the event for weeks, sending invitations, finding the perfect dress, writing her vows, buying rosé and fresh baguettes and fruit tarts from a French bakery. For the decor: an array of shot glasses emblazoned with the words "You and Me." In each one, a red rose.

"It wasn't an easy decision," she noted on the wedding invitations. "I had cold feet for 35 years. But then I decided it was time to settle down. To get myself a whole damn apartment. To celebrate birthday #36 by wearing an engagement ring and saying: YES TO ME. I even made a registry, because this is America."

Self-marriage is a small but growing movement, with consultants and self-wedding planners popping up across the world. In Canada, a service called Marry Yourself Vancouver launched this past summer, offering consulting services and wedding photography. In Japan, a travel agency called Cerca Travel offers a two-day self-wedding package in Kyoto: You can choose a wedding gown, bouquet, and hairstyle, and pose for formal wedding portraits. On the website I Married Me, you can buy a DIY marriage kit: For $50, you get a sterling silver ring, ceremony instructions, vows, and 24 "affirmation cards" to remind you of your vows over time. For $230, you can get the kit with a 14-karat gold ring.

It's not a legal process — you won't get any tax breaks for marrying yourself. It's more a "rebuke" of tradition, says Rebecca Traister, author of All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation. "For generations, if women wanted to have economic stability and a socially sanctioned sex life or children, there was enormous social and economic pressure to do that within marriage," she says. "Personally, as someone who lived for many years single and then did get married, I know that the kind of affirmation I got for getting married was unlike anything I'd ever had in any other part of my life." That, she adds, is "incredibly unjust."

Marriage (to another person) is on the decline. Barely half of all adults in the U.S. are married — a record low — according to a 2011 study from the Pew Research Center. In 1960, 72% of adults age 18 and older were married, while today, just 51% are wed. People are waiting longer to marry as well: The median age at first marriage is at a new high for brides (26.5 years) and grooms (28.7 years).

Read more here.

January 9, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Dog for Kids in Court

From CBS News:

Some of the most vulnerable victims and witnesses involved in court cases are finding comfort in special canines. The facility dogs help children cope with the trauma of facing an accuser or giving testimony in court.

When Pella is on the job, she sees the happy effect of charming 5-year-old Malayla. It’s another training day at the office for Pella, a Labrador-Golden Retriever mix. Malayla and the other children we met this day were volunteers helping in Pella’s work.

“She just brings a smile to people’s faces just seeing her,” Amber Urban said. 

Read more here.

January 8, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Prenups for IP

From Professor Orly Lobel (San Diego), writing for the New York Times:

The recent report that a growing number of millennials are signing prenuptial agreements to divide their intellectual property in advance is unsurprising. Our most intimate relationships – marriages – are, in addition to many other things, high-stake contracts.

It would be great if this particular kind of contract could always last forever, sustained by pure love, but that proves not to be the reality for many couples. Prenups are a contingency plan.

That millennials are focusing on the future value of their talents — rather than on current salaries, real-estate and personal property — makes perfect sense in an age when intellectual property is so highly valued. Employers increasingly require employees to sign away all future ideas and opportunities to compete with the company and divorcing partners too hope to keep these assets in case of a breakup.

Read more here.

January 7, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 6, 2017

13th Annual Wells Lecture on Adoption Law
Wednesday, February 8, 2017 at Capital University Law School
2:00 p.m. - 4:15 p.m. 
Reception to follow
Joshua B. Kay,
J.D., Ph.D.
TOPIC: “The Americans with Disabilities Act: legal and practical applications in child protection proceedings.”

The 2017 Wells Lecturer, Professor Joshua B. Kay, is a clinical assistant professor of law and director of the Veterans Legal Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School. He also has taught extensively in the Child Advocacy Law Clinic and Child Welfare Appellate Clinic. Professor Kay has litigated numerous cases in trial courts, the Michigan Court of Appeals, and the Michigan Supreme Court. His primary interests focus on the intersection of disability and various civil legal issues, including family law and child protection. READ MORE
The Douglas N. Wells Lecture was established in honor of N. Douglas Wells, a dedicated teacher and cherished faculty member of the Capital University Law School from 1989 through 2004. Professor Wells, whose research and teaching focused on family law, helped to establish the National Center for Adoption Law and Policy, now known as the Family and Youth Law Center. The 2017 Wells Lecture is the 13th annual event named in Professor Wells' honor.


January 6, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Average Cost of UK Divorce Sores

From the Times:

The cost of divorce for UK couples is now more than £70,000 on average, research published today shows, with lawyers’ fees making up nearly half of the sum.

Having to sell or unwind jointly-owned property and investments — such as houses, cars and pension funds — takes the biggest toll on the funds of divorcing couples, with the average loss en route to final settlement calculated at £70,243.

Read more here.

January 5, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Cheap Divorces

From the Economist:

MOST of the employees at the Centre for Out-of-Court Divorce in Denver are trained in mediation or social work, but they also pay close attention to interior design. The centre, on the ground floor of a nondescript office block, is decorated with photos of smiling children and stocked with dolls’ houses, stuffed animals and board games. It has three exits in case tensions flare and the separating partners need personal space. They have been used a few times since 2013, when the centre began helping to dissolve marriages, says Susan Carparelli, the centre’s executive director; but not many.

The centre is one of several new enterprises that seek to make divorce cheaper and more amicable. Another, Wevorce, uses mostly online methods to guide couples through the process. Based on their answers to a survey, potential divorcees are assigned one of 18 “archetypes” and walked through the legal, financial and emotional processes of ending a marriage. Its website promises to help couples divorce in less time, for less money, with less conflict., which began operations in 2015, offers online legal guidance for divorcing pairs from $99.

Read more here.

January 4, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Divorce On the Rise in China

From the Economist:

WITH his slick navy suit, silver watch and non-stop smoking, Yu Feng is an unlikely ambassador for Chinese family values. The office from which he operates, in Chongqing in western China, looks more like a sitting room, with grey sofas, cream curtains and large windows looking out on the city’s skyscrapers. Women visit him here and plead for help. They want him to persuade their husbands to dump their mistresses.

Mr Yu worked in family law and then marriage counselling before starting his business in 2007. He charges scorned wives 100,000-500,000 yuan ($15,000-75,000); cases usually take 7-8 months. He befriends both the two-timing husband and the mistress, encouraging them to find fault with each other, and gradually reveals that he has messed up his own life by being unfaithful. Most clients are in their 30s and early 40s. “This is the want, buy, get generation,” he says; sex is a part of China’s new materialism. But changing sexual mores and a rocketing divorce rate have prompted soul-searching about the decline of family ties. Mr Yu claims a 90% success rate.

The ernai, literally meaning “second wife”, is increasingly common. So many rich men indulge that Chinese media sometimes blame extramarital relationships for helping to inflate property prices: some city apartment complexes are notorious for housing clusters of mistresses, paid for by their lovers, who often provide a living allowance too.

Read more here.

January 3, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 2, 2017

Data in Divorce

From the New York Times:

A marriage is not just the union of two people. It is also the union of their data. And when they divorce, the data often gets spilled.

The electorate is now witnessing a vivid example of this, arising from the separation of Anthony D. Weiner, a former congressman, and Huma Abedin, a top aide to Hillary Clinton. The F.B.I. is poring over their emails with a presidential election just days away.

Divorce lawyers and data analysts interviewed on Monday said less public versions of this story play out all the time.

“The problem is, once they’ve already engaged in bad behavior, it’s out there,” said John Slowiaczek, the president-elect of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. “You can’t recapture it, you can’t bury it.”

Read more here.

January 2, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year!

January 1, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 30, 2016

CA Birth Rate Lowest in History

From the Los Angeles Times:

California’s birthrate dropped to its lowest level ever in 2016, according to data released by the state’s Department of Finance.

Between July 2015 and July of this year, there were 12.42 births per 1,000 Californians, the agency said this week. The last time the birthrate came close to being that low was during the Great Depression, when it hit 12.6 per 1,000 in 1933. 


But, unlike after the Depression, birthrates haven’t bounced back quickly as the economy has picked up.

California has been experiencing a years-long downward trend that likely stems from the recession, a drop in teenage pregnancies and an increase in people attending college and taking longer to graduate, therefore putting off having children, said Walter Schwarm, a demographer at the Department of Finance. When people do complete their schooling, they’re interested in taking some time to pursue their careers or other goals, he said.

Read more here.

December 30, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Divorce in India

From the New York Times:

India’s family law was written to discourage divorce, and in that sense it has succeeded brilliantly: The last census, in 2011, showed that the number of Indians who described themselves as separated was nearly three times the number who were divorced.

The country’s legal code offers a notably narrow selection of divorce-worthy faults, among them cruelty, incurable leprosy and renunciation of the world by entering religious orders. Many applicants plead “mental cruelty,” but defining mental cruelty is a murky affair, often coming down to a judge’s discretion.

“No uniform standard can ever be laid down for guidance,” declared a Supreme Court panel in 2007, adding, unhelpfully, that “what is cruelty in one case may not amount to cruelty in another case.”

Here are some examples of the idiosyncratic ways judges used their discretion to support claims of cruelty (and approve divorce)...

Read more here.

December 29, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Splitting up the retirement

From Forbes:

When you are in the midst of a divorce, the emotional toll itself is hard enough to manage. However, there are also many thorny financial issues that will need to be addressed. A legal separation will most likely involve the division of your retirement plan assets which, if not done properly, can create big tax headaches and other issues down the road.   The type of retirement plan, whether it be an IRA or qualified plan determines the rules that will apply to you.

Retirement accounts are frequently the largest liquid assets in a divorce proceeding. The number one issue relating to the distribution of retirement assets during a divorce is taxation. Transfers from one spouse’s IRA to another spouse’s IRA must be done correctly to avoid an unintentional distribution and the related penalties. Likewise, dividing qualified plans such as 401(k)’s, Defined Benefit plans, or pension plans require a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO). Both spouses should know and clearly state which category each of their retirement assets fall under in order to avoid any unnecessary problems later on.

Read more here.

December 28, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Divorcing for a new home

From Wall Street Journal:

Earlier this year, a Shanghai couple with a newborn daughter made a practical decision: They got a divorce in order to buy their fourth home.

The couple wanted to live near Shanghai Jiangning School, in the city’s Putuo District. Ms. Li, who works in internet operations in Shanghai, and her husband hoped to one day enroll their daughter there.

But Shanghai regulations barred the couple, who already owned three homes in the city, from buying another together as a family. So they used a loophole: If they divorced, they could transfer their properties to one partner, which would free the other to buy a first home as an individual. They ended up with a two-bedroom, roughly five million yuan ($726,000) apartment just minutes away from the school.

“Divorce is not some great thing,” said Ms. Li, who declined to disclose her full name. But “we needed to buy before it got more expensive.”

Shanghai authorities recently started targeting so-called fake divorces in a campaign to tighten credit-lending standards and rein in frothy home prices.

Read more here.

December 27, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 26, 2016

New PA Law Reduces Divorce Wait Time


More than half of marriages end in divorce, but although the splitting of spouses has become commonplace, the process of separating hasn't become any easier.

But now, in Pennsylvania, there is new law that intends to alleviate some of the stress associated with divorce, especially if there are children involved.

"A unilateral, no fault divorce is when one party says the marriage is over and the other one says I can't consent. So what do you have to do? The old law said you have to wait two years after separation begins," Mary Cushing Doherty, Esq. of High Swartz said.

But on October 4, Governor Tom Wolf signed a bill into law reducing the waiting period from two years to one.

Read more here.

December 26, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas

christmas lights

December 25, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Psychologists' Thoughts on Kids of Divorced Parents during Holidays

From Family Legal Sydney:

Divorce can take its toll on the whole family. For children, Christmas is a time of excitement and wonder, however, with your recent separation, it can often be confusing and uncertain.

Your first Christmas after divorce can often be the hardest. To help parents through this difficult time and support their children we asked local experts:

What one mindset can newly divorced parents take on to help their kids through Christmas?

Their answers may surprise you.

Read more here.

December 24, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Symposium on Former Foster Children

No Need to Come Home for Christmas If You Already Live There

From the Wall Street Journal:

Almost 40% of young Americans were living with their parents, siblings or other relatives in 2015, the largest percentage since 1940, according to an analysis of census data by real estate tracker Trulia.

Despite a rebounding economy and recent job growth, the share of those between the ages of 18 and 34 doubling up with parents or other family members has been rising since 2005. Back then, before the start of the last recession, roughly one out of three were living with family.

Read more here.

December 24, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, December 23, 2016

Return of Engagement Rings in VA

From the ABA Journal:

A $26,000 engagement ring was a conditional gift and a man who broke off his engagement is entitled to its return, the Virginia Supreme Court has ruled.

The court said in a Dec. 15 decision (PDF) that the lawsuit by Ethan Dockendorf was not barred by the state’s heart balm statute, which bars suits for breach of a promise to marry, report Bloomberg News and the Legal Profession Blog.

Read more here.

HT: Josh Blackman

December 23, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Recognizing Hairdressers As Confidants

From the New York Times:

In the two decades that Angela Smith has been a hairstylist in Chicago, she has heard countless intimate stories from the women who have sat in her chair. Most times the banter is carefree. But sometimes, there are whispers of mistreatment by spouses or partners, of being choked, chased or emotionally abused.

“They say that the hairdresser gets all the secrets,” Ms. Smith said. “They let go here. Everybody doesn’t talk, but once you build a relationship with someone, that’s when it happens. It’s just like when you have a best girlfriend.”

A new state rule taking effect on Jan. 1 recognizes that the unique relationship between hairdressers and their customers may help curb domestic abuse and sexual assault. The amendment to a law that governs the cosmetology industry will require salon workers to take one hour of training every two years to recognize the signs of abuse and assault and will provide them with a list of resources to which they can refer clients for help.

Without the training, cosmetologists in Illinois will not be able to renew their licenses. The professionals covered by the rule — believed to be the first in the nation — include hairstylists, nail technicians and aestheticians.

Read more here.

December 22, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (1)