Family Law Prof Blog

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

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Women’s Shelter Family Rescue Sees Miracles Daily

From The Huffington Post:

It came down to a matter of matching blinds.

Women, removed from shelters, lived in their cars, awaiting the opening of Family Rescue‘s Ridgeland Transitional Housing because the state objected to the fact that some window blinds did not match. After six long years of jumping through the state’s hoops and convincing private investors that Ridgeland and domestic violence was worth their money, Family Rescue found the only thing standing between 22 families in need of a home and the December elements was matching window blinds. So, housing center officials opened anyway, ready to face whatever fines the state would throw at them.

Read more here.

September 11, 2016 in Domestic Violence | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Men stage child custody protest on Jeremy Corbyn's roof

From The Guardian:

Police have been called to Jeremy Corbyn’s north London home, where two men are staging a protest on his roof.

The pair, from New Fathers for Justice, climbed onto the Labour leader’s house in Islington just after 10am and are refusing to move until he talks to them.

Police cordoned off the street as a large crowd gathered to watch the protest, which comes weeks after a similar demonstration on the roof od Labour MP Angela Eagle's office.

One of the protesters, Bobby Smith, told LBC radio he would not come down until Corbyn listened to their complaints about fathers’ rights.

Read more here.

September 10, 2016 in International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 9, 2016

4th Amendment & Civil Offenses

From Orin Kerr, writing for the Washington Post/The Volokh Conspiracy:

In a fascinating new decision by Judge William Pryor, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit answered an interesting Fourth Amendment question: Can a judge issue an order to arrest someone for violating a civil offense? In the case, United States v. Phillips, a Florida state judge issued an order that the suspect should be arrested because he had committed civil contempt for failure to pay his child support. The court ruled that the order was a valid warrant for Fourth Amendment purposes and that the arrest was therefore valid.

Read more here.

September 9, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Inheritance & Divorce

From Naomi Cahn and Amy Zeittlow, writing for Family Studies, the Blog of the Institute for Family Studies:

A recent court case caught our attention, and we’ll provide a slightly modified version of the case here (the names have been changed for privacy). Soon after “Charles” and “Dena” married, Charles’ father, “Frank” set up a trust to benefit his “issue,” that is, his “lawful blood descendants.” The purpose of the trust was the “comfortable support, health, maintenance, welfare and education” of the recipients. During a little more than two years of their more than 10-year marriage, Charles received $800,000 from the trust, money that “augmented” his family’s “upper middle-class lifestyle.” Once Charles filed for divorce, he received no more money from the trust because “the trustees deemed it too risky to distribute funds to [Charles] at a time when he might be required to share the funds with [Dena], a nonbeneficiary.” As part of the divorce, the courts had to decide whether Dena had any legal rights to Charles’ interest in the trust. The trial court judge valued Charles’ interest in the trust at more than $2 million, included it as part of the marital property to be divided, and awarded Dena with 60 percent of that amount. After several appeals, the Massachusetts Supreme Court determined that Charles’ interest in the trust was not “sufficiently certain” to be treated as marital property.

Read more here.

September 8, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

National Family Law Moot Court Competition

29th Annual Domenick L. Gabrielli

National Family Law Moot Court Competition

March 2 – March 4, 2017

The Gabrielli National Family Law Competition is held each year at Albany Law School focusing on current issues in the field of family law.  Last year’s problem involved a mother and her same-sex partner who contracted with a known donor to conceive their own child through artificial insemination.  The competitors’ arguments focused on whether a state’s artificial insemination statute should be read in conjunction with the state’s three-parent statute to allow a biological father to seek parental rights over a child conceived using artificial insemination.  Also, the competitors argued whether granting parental rights to the biological father under the three-parent statute would be in the best interest of the child.

Our final round panel of judges traditionally include state and federal judges, as well as, distinguished professors and practitioners in the area of family law.

Key Dates:

11/08/2016   Registration/Postmark Deadline

12/01/2016   Problem released (online)

01/17/2017   Briefs Postmarked

03/02/2017   Preliminary Rounds

03/03/2017   Octofinal & Quarterfinal Rounds

03/04/2017   Semifinal & Final Rounds

Costs: The registration fee is $300 per team and a law school may register up to two teams consisting of either two or three competitors.

Awards: The competitors and coaches will receive a t-shirt for participating in the event. All participants are invited to attend a formal dinner where awards will be announced for the teams who display excellence in oral advocacy, brief writing and overall team performance.

To learn more about this event, please visit

To register for this event please click here

Please contact Kayla C. Champagne at with any questions.

September 8, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Student Scholarship Call for Papers: Sarah Weddington Writing Prize

If/When/How, in collaboration with the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Center for Reproductive Rights and Justice at U.C. Berkeley School of Law, is pleased to announce the Call for Submissions for the twelfth annual Sarah Weddington Writing Prize for New Student Scholarship in Reproductive Rights. 


This year, the Writing Prize invites submissions on all reproductive rights and justice topics. The suggested theme is: Balancing Burdens and Benefits after Whole Woman's Health v. Hellertstedt. Please refer to the attached Call for Submissions for guidance on this theme, as well as additional requirements. 


The deadline for submissions is Monday, February 27, 2017.


Winning authors will receive cash prizes: $750 (1st place), $500 (2nd place), or $250 (3rd place). The first place winner will also have a chance at publication with the NYU Review of Law and Social Change. All winning authors will also receive copies of Melissa Murray's and Kristin Luker's Cases on Reproductive Rights and Justice


Please submit applications for the Sarah Weddington Writing Prize here:


September 7, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Call for Student Papers

Hofstra Law and AFCC sponsor an annual Family Law Writing Competition for law students. The competition requires the students to research and write a legal paper discussing any area of family law.   Download the call for papers here.





September 6, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Post-Vacation Divorce

From Bloomberg:

The post-vacation hangover may be dangerous for your marriage.

Filings for divorce spike twice a year, in March and August, according to a new study. University of Washington sociology professor Julie Brines and doctoral candidate Brian Serafini found divorce filings seem to follow the annual schedule of family holidays: lowest in November and December, then peaking in March after the passage of winter holidays and Valentine's Day. Filings drop in April and don't spike again until August—after July, the most popular month for vacations.

"Family life is governed by a 'social clock' that mandates the observations of birthdays, holidays and other special transitions," Brines and Serafini write in the study, presented this weekend at the annual conference of the American Sociological Association. Their study provides "the first systematic, quantitative evidence of a pronounced and durable 'seasonal' pattern in the timing of filings for divorce."

Read more here.

September 6, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 5, 2016

‘Toxic environment’ for sons accused of campus sex offenses turns mothers into militants

From The Washington Post:

In the course of a year, Sherry Warner-Seefeld went from high school teacher to activist promoting fairness for students accused of sexual misconduct. Explaining why, for her, means revisiting a night of shock and a phone call she will never forget.

She was grading social science papers on a cold, late January evening in Fargo, N.D., when her cellphone rang, she told The Washington Post.

It was her son, Caleb Warner, calling to tell her he had heard from a dean at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. A woman with whom he had had a short sexual relationship, the dean told him, had accused him of sexual misconduct, of nonconsensual sex, that she alleged had occurred on the night of Dec. 13, 2009.

Read more here.

September 5, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Irish women live-tweet journey to Great Britain for abortion

From CNN:

An Irish woman live-tweeted her journey to the United Kingdom to have an abortion this weekend. The woman, and a friend who accompanied her, began posting early Saturday morning from the Twitter account Two Women Travel.

Abortion is illegal in the Republic of Ireland, except in certain circumstances, and more than 165,000 women traveled from Ireland to Great Britain for the procedure between 1980 and 2015, according to the United Kingdom's Department of Health.
The pair described their mission as "Two women, one procedure, 48 hours away from home."
Most of the tweets were directed at Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, with an early morning post from Dublin Airport reading "boarding, it's chilly, @EndaKennyTD."
Read more here.

September 4, 2016 in Abortion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 3, 2016

India to Enact a New Law on Surrogacy - Foreigners Barred from Seeking Services of an Indian Mother


For the past two decades, India has been the place for foreigners who seek to have a child through surrogacy, the states of Gujarat and Kerala being in the forefront with well-established clinics, doctors and middlemen, all working in tandem to ensure a foreign couple or even a single parent be blessed with a child and who were ready to loosen their purse by approximately USD 30,000.

Such was the clamor surrounding surrogacy in India that it led to the mushrooming growth of several commercial firms and even law firms claiming specialty in surrogacy law and assisting foreigners to have their child in India through a surrogate Indian mother.

Several foreign companies too entered India by establishing their own companies (our firm had established one such company – Proactive Family Solutions Private limited) to assist nationals from around the world identify a surrogate mother in India, negotiate the fee to be paid by them to the Indian mother for carrying the child in her womb, navigate the foreigners through the maze of paperwork (which in fact was meagre given the fact that India did not have a law on surrogacy and will not have one till the new Bill becomes law), and even assist the child in obtaining a passport and a visa to leave the country.

Read more here.

September 3, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 2, 2016

China wants to stop domestic violence. But the legal system treats it as a lesser crime.

From The Washington Post:

In a courtroom in the Chinese heartland, a defense attorney made his final pitch.

That his client, Zhang Yazhou, killed his wife was not in question. At 5:25 in the evening on Feb. 21,  Zhang walked into his wife’s hospital room. They argued. He strangled her, digging his fingers deep into the flesh of her neck.

By the time nurses entered the room, Zhang was gone and Li Hongxia, just 24, was dead.

Since Zhang confessed on television and in court, the issue at hand was the sentence. Li’s family and their lawyer asked for the death penalty, which is common in China, describing a year of escalating abuse that culminated in a brutal murder.

Read more here.

September 2, 2016 in Domestic Violence, International, Resources - Domestic Violence | Permalink | Comments (0)

Higdon: "Divorce and the Serial Monogamist: The Ex Ante Costs of Legalized Polygamy"

Michael J. Higdon (University of Tennessee College of Law) has posted his article Divorce and the Serial Monogamist: The Ex Ante Costs of Legalized Polygamy on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

The question of whether the fundamental right to marry might also include the right to polygamy is one that has long intrigued legal scholars. In the wake of Obergefell v. Hodges, that question has taken on even greater significance. Although other scholars have attempted to answer this question, this Article does so in a novel way. Specifically, this Article looks at the practice of polygamy through a law and economics lens, exploring the ex ante consequences of legalization, not on practicing polygamists, but on serial monogamists — i.e., those who never intend to have more than one spouse at any given time but are, nonetheless, prone to marry more than one person in their lifetime. When looked at in that manner, the degree to which legalized polygamy would harm the state becomes much more evident. After all, if polygamy were legal, the current laws prohibiting bigamy would no longer be in operation. In turn, separating couples would lose one of the strongest incentives they currently face to pursue formal divorce in lieu of simply deserting one another. In essence, then, a serial monogamist could marry multiple times in his lifetime without ever getting a divorce, safe in the knowledge that his actions are no longer subject to a criminal charge of bigamy. Such actions — dubbed “sequential polygamy” — are quite harmful to the state’s substantial interest in protecting its citizens from financial harms. Indeed, the current law of divorce is designed to encourage separating couples to elect that formal course of action so as to provide the state some assurance that those leaving a marriage are not doing so to their financial detriment. With the legalization of polygamy then, goes the prohibition against bigamy, thus eroding the state’s ability to encourage divorce as a means of protecting all its citizens; but in particular its poorest citizens, who would likely be hardest hit by any societal shift away from formal divorce.


September 2, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Women's Wages

From FiveThirtyEight:

The gender wage gap has narrowed significantly over the past 50 years. In 1964, according to data from the Census Bureau, the typical woman working full time made about 59 cents on the dollar earned by a man; by 2004, that had risen to 77 cents. (These calculations don’t take into account differences in experience, industry or other factors.) More recently, however, progress for women has nearly stalled out: In 2014, the latest data available, women earned 79 cents for every dollar earned by men, a 2-pennies-an-hour improvement over a decade.2

Other measures of women’s progress in the workforce — their rate of employment, the likelihood that they will work in a historically male-dominated field, the rate at which they run big companies — show a similar pattern of what researchers Martha J. Bailey and Thomas A. DiPrete, in a new essay, call “five decades of remarkable but slowing change” for American women.

Bailey and DiPrete’s essay serves as the introduction to a remarkable new collection of papers from the Russell Sage Foundation that examines the progress that women have — and haven’t — made over the past half-century. It isn’t a simple story. The U.S. has already made major, albeit incomplete, progress on many of the most obvious causes of gender inequality — explicit discrimination on pay,3Estimates for the amount of outright wage discrimination — a woman making less than an equally qualified man in the same job — vary by industry and by who is doing the analysis. But most economists agree on two things: The gap is much smaller than it used to be but hasn’t disappeared. overt barriers to employment, taboos against working while raising children. What is left is a tangle of cultural norms, implicit biases, individual preferences and other, subtler forms of discrimination that are much harder to change or even to measure.

Read more here.

September 1, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

NY Law Change on Defining Parents

New York court makes changes in defining parents:

Petitioners in the two cases before us have alleged that the parties entered into a pre-conception agreement to conceive and raise a child as co-parents. We hold that these allegations, if proven by clear and convincing evidence, are sufficient to establish standing. Because we necessarily decide these cases based on the facts presented to us, it would be premature for us to consider adopting a test for situations in which a couple did not enter into a pre-conception agreement. Accordingly, we do not now decide whether, in a case where a biological or adoptive parent consented to the creation of a parent-like relationship between his or her partner and child after conception, the partner can establish standing to seek visitation and custody.

Read the court decision here.

August 31, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Child Protective Services Investigate Weiner

From the Hill:

Child-welfare officials have launched an investigation into Anthony Weiner after the former New York congressman sent lewd photos of himself with his toddler son lying next to him.

The Administration for Children's Services in New York City will look into Weiner's care of the boy, according to the The New York Post.

An agency employee visited Weiner's apartment Tuesday, according to the Post.

The photo in question shows Weiner lying in his bed in his underwear with his son in the background.

Read more here.

August 31, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Top-Cited Family Law Profs

Brian Leiter highlights top-cited family law scholars in his Law School Reports:





Age in 2016


Martha Fineman

Emory University




Naomi Cahn

George Washington University




Elizabeth Scott

Columbia University




Lynn Wardle

Brigham Young University




Mark Strasser

Capital University




June Carbone

University of Minnesota




Nancy Polikoff

American University




Robin Wilson

University of Illinois




Joanna Grossman

Southern Methodist University




Melissa Murray

University of California, Berkeley




See the runners-up here.

August 31, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The (Unhappy) Male Breadwinner

From the Washington Post:

Since they surged into the U.S. labor force, quadrupling in number since 1970, female breadwinners have lived under a cultural microscope. Can they have it all — the spouse, the baby, the corner office?

Christin Munsch, a sociology professor at the University of Connecticut, said this puzzle is outdated and, frankly, exclusive. She wanted to understand what life is like for heterosexual men who juggle work and family.

So, she looked at 14 years of data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which seeks to gauge the well-being of young adults nationwide. About 3,100 respondents, ages 18 to 32, took the survey on the last day of 1996 and answered the same questions every year until 2011.

Munsch noticed a startling gender divide: Men who took on larger shares of household income had lower physical and mental health scores. Both men and women, it turned out, were happier when women made most of the money.

Read more here.

August 31, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Can mentally incompetent man obtain a divorce? Kentucky Supreme Court to decide

From The ABA Journal:

The Kentucky Supreme Court on Friday considered whether any elderly man who has been declared incompetent can divorce the woman who is serving as his guardian.

The lawyer for Elmer Riehle is asking the state supreme court to overturn a 1943 decision finding that state law did not authorize a mentally incompetent person to divorce, the Associated Press reports. Kentucky is one of 10 states that bar mentally incompetent people from divorcing.

Elmer Riehle’s lawyer, Steven Megerle, argues that even a person who is deemed disabled can show what their true feelings and intentions are. “I don’t think that they should be locked up by their guardian,” he tells AP.

Read more here.

August 30, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 29, 2016


From BuzzFeed:

Surrogacy is unquestionably expensive: Even before they ran into trouble and began accruing bills from a dozen different lawyers, the Virginia men paid $35,000 to their surrogate and another $12,500 to the Wisconsin agency that arranged their contract.

Some people see these arrangements as selling babies, or exploiting poor women’s bodies. But others, including many feminists, say women should be able to use their bodies as they please.

There is no federal law on the subject, and state laws vary enormously. California, for example, where Timmons and Olson hired the surrogates who delivered their two daughters, is the center of the nation’s surrogacy industry, thanks to a friendly state law.

But most states don’t have any surrogacy laws on the books. Some simply refuse to enforce surrogacy contracts. Others, including Virginia, don’t allow surrogacy unless at least one of the intended parents has a genetic connection to the baby. New York and Washington allow only unpaid, or “altruistic” surrogacy, and Michigan has criminal penalties for all types.

“We’re not getting any closer to a national consensus on the subject,’’ Naomi Cahn, a family law professor at the George Washington University Law School, told BuzzFeed News. “And it’s not just a split between red states banning it and blue states supporting it.”

Despite the legal limbo, because of the rise of in vitro fertilization — now responsible for nearly 2% of US births — and the legalization of same-sex marriage, demand is also rising for surrogates. And, partly to avoid legal snags, these women are generally “gestational surrogates,” meaning that they carry embryos that are not genetically related to them. According to the CDC, there were 3,432 gestational surrogates in 2013, up from 727 in 1999.

Read more here.

August 29, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)