Family Law Prof Blog

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

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Is a Prenuptial Agreement a Must for Most Couples?

From The Wall Street Journal:

It may not be the most romantic idea, but many couples planning to marry opt for prenuptial agreements. In a survey of 1,600 members of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, a professional group based in Chicago, published in October 2013, 63% of the respondents reported an increase in prenups over the previous three years.

Prenups come into play in divorces, of course, but that’s not all. Besides establishing how assets are divided when a married couple splits up, prenuptial agreements also can determine who gets what when one spouse dies.

With that kind of power over people’s financial fates, these are controversial documents.

Some proponents of prenuptial agreements argue that they protect the interests of both parties to the agreement and prevent nasty, costly court battles when a relationship ends. But some critics say the nastiness that can arise in negotiating a prenup can cripple a marriage before it even starts, and that there are laws on the books that do a better job in most cases of balancing the interests of both spouses when they split or one dies.

Read more here.

 

November 19, 2015 in Antenuptial (postnuptial) Contracts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Utah Judge Rescinds Order that Lesbian Couple Can't Keep Foster Child

From CNN:

A Utah judge who initially decided to take a baby away from her same-sex foster parents and place her in a home with heterosexual parents has changed his mind, after widespread criticism.

Juvenile Court Judge Scott Johansen rescinded his order, according to court documents obtained by CNN on Friday.

He amended Tuesday's first ruling, crossing out the line in the order that read, "The Court orders the Division to place the child with a duly married, heterosexual foster-adoptive couple within one week."

Court documents show Johansen wrote initially that it was not in the best interest of children to be raised by same sex couples, citing "belief that research has shown that children are more emotionally and mentally stable when raised by a mother and father in the same home ..."

Johansen, in his amended order, struck the sentence about the best interest of children and scratched out "belief" and replaced it with "concern."

"The judge is clearly reacting to adverse publicity and critical comments regarding his controversial previous ruling," said CNN legal analyst Paul Callan after reviewing the court documents.

Callan said the change suggests that the judge was worried about his order "being viewed as an application of religious belief rather than an application of the law."

Read more here.

November 18, 2015 in Adoption | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Supreme Court to Hear Major Abortion Case

From CNN:

The Supreme Court announced Friday that it will hear a challenge to key parts of Texas' 2013 abortion law that supporters of abortion rights say is one of the strictest in the nation.

The court has not heard a major abortion case since 2007, and its decision will likely come down sometime next spring or early summer in the heat of the presidential campaign. If the justices uphold the lower court's decision and allow two provisions of the law to go into effect, the number of available clinics in the state is expected to fall to about 10.

While supporters of the law argue it's meant to protect women's health, opponents say it has nothing to do with health and safety, but instead is a disguised attempt to put an end to abortion. Other states have similar legislation percolating through the lower courts.

One provision at issue requires that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The other mandates that clinics upgrade their facilities to hospital-like standards.

Amy Hagstrom Miller, who owns and operates four clinics in Texas, is the lead plaintiff in the case and is represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights. She says the provisions directly challenge court precedent that renders a law invalid if it "has the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion."

Read more here.

November 17, 2015 in Abortion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Hundreds of Mormons Leaving Church Over Same-Sex Marriage Stance

From NBC News:

Hundreds of people are formally renouncing their membership in the Mormon church in protest over a new policy that punishes same-sex couples and their children, an attorney assisting them said.

Utah lawyer Mark Naugle, 30, whose family split with the church 15 years ago, is offering his services pro bono to those who want help with the paperwork involved in getting off the rolls — which have 15 million members.

In the week since the policy was announced, 1,700 people have contacted him, he said.  "People are fed up and just don't want their name associated with the church any more," Naugle said.

Salt Lake City realtor Joey Furtado, 42, became a Mormon as a teenager in Brazil and spent two years as a missionary before moving to Utah. But by 2001, he was disillusioned with his adopted faith and stopped attending services. But he said he never bothered to make it official, in part because he worried it would be a hassle.

"I have a friend who sent a resignation letter and months later had members of the church knocking at his door trying to reactivate him," Furtado said.

But after the church's declaration last week, Furtado decided to cut ties for good. "I am not a gay man. I have a girlfriend and two sons, so the policy does not affect me directly, but I have seen families in a situation like this," he said. "I don't want to have anything to do with them anymore ... enough is enough."

Leaving the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn't require legal representation, but Naugle said that his forms simplify the process and he acts a buffer between clients and church leaders who may try to convince them not to leave.

Read more here.

November 16, 2015 in Marriage (impediments), Religion | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Amazon Increases Parental Leave, Offers Paid Paternity Leave for First Time

From PBS NewsHour:

Amazon announced to its employees today that it has increased the amount of leave time it is giving to new parents, joining a host of other tech companies that are extending benefits in order to attract top talent.

Amazon’s policy change comes after a blistering New York Times investigation in which the company was lambasted for fostering a harsh work culture. The article included examples of women who felt they were penalized for trying to spend time caring for children or relatives. It’s a portrayal the company disputes.

Under the policy, all new parents, including those who are adopting a child, will get six weeks of paid leave. This means that birth mothers, who already had 10 weeks of leave, will now have 16 weeks of leave time, or 20 if they qualify for an additional four weeks of medical leave. New fathers, who previously did not have paid leave time, will now be able to take paid time off.

Additionally, Amazon is introducing a “leave share program” where employees can give some of their leave to a partner at another company. Under this program if the partner does not have paid parental leave, the Amazon employee returns to work, and the partner will be paid by Amazon to stay home. Returning to work, primary caregivers will have the option of working part-time for their first eight weeks back.

Amazon’s changes also come in the wake of Netflix's highly publicized policy of giving new parents unlimited time off during the first year after their child’s birth or adoption. Other tech companies such as Facebook, Apple, Google and Yahoo all offer maternity leave of at least 16 weeks for birth mothers, and at least six weeks paternity leave for fathers and non-biological parents.

Read more here.

November 15, 2015 in Paternity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Mormons Sharpen Stand Against Same-Sex Marriage

From The New York Times:

Children of same-sex couples will not be able to join the Mormon Church until they turn 18 — and only if they move out of their parents’ homes, disavow all same-sex relationships and receive approval from the church’s top leadership as part of a new policy adopted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In addition, Mormons in same-sex marriages will be considered apostates and ordered to undergo church disciplinary hearings that could lead to excommunication, a more rigid approach than the church has taken in the past.

The new policies are an effort by the church, which has long opposed same-sex marriage, to reinforce and even harden its doctrinal boundaries for its members at a time when small but increasing numbers of Mormons are coming out as gay or supportive of same-sex marriage.

At the same time, the church has recently been taking a tolerant public stance supportive of laws that ban discrimination against gay people in employment and housing. Since the Supreme Court established a right to same-sex marriage nationwide in June, Mormon leaders have parted company with the leaders of evangelical and other conservative churches by affirming that despite their religious convictions, even people of faith opposed to gay marriage must follow the law.

“The church is walking a fine line between on the one hand recognizing the reality of changing mores in American society externally, but internally holding the line on its own doctrinal rigor — its own beliefs and teachings,” said David Campbell, a professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame and a co-author of “Seeking the Promised Land: Mormons and American Politics.”

Read more here.

November 14, 2015 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Abortion Case Granted Cert

From the New York Times:

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a challenge to a Texas law that would leave the state with about 10 abortion clinics, down from more than 40. The court has not heard a major abortion case since 2007, and the new case has the potential to affect millions of women and to revise the constitutional principles governing abortion rights.

“Texas is the second-most-populous state in the nation — home to 5.4 million women of reproductive age,” abortion providers challenging the law wrote in their brief urging the court to hear the case. “More than 60,000 of those women choose to have an abortion each year.”

The case concerns two parts of a state law that imposes strict requirements on abortion providers. It was passed by the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature and signed into law in July 2013 by Rick Perry, the governor at the time.

One part of the law requires all clinics in the state to meet the standards for “ambulatory surgical centers,” including regulations concerning buildings, equipment and staffing. The other requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

Other parts of the law have already caused about half of the state’s 41 abortion clinics to close. If the contested provisions take effect, the brief said, the number of clinics would again be halved.

Read more here.

November 13, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Same-Sex Foster Parents in Utah

From the New York Times:

A Utah judge on Friday reversed, at least temporarily, his order that a foster child be taken away from a lesbian couple because of their sexual orientation, but he continued to question the placement of children with same-sex parents.

The judge, Scott N. Johansen of Juvenile Court, had issued an order on Tuesday saying that the child, a 9-month-old girl, be removed from the couple’s home by the end of the day next Tuesday and placed with a heterosexual couple.

The foster parents, Rebecca A. Peirce, 34, and April M. Hoagland, 38, and the state Division of Child and Family Services, both filed motions Thursday asking the judge to reconsider, and said they were prepared to appeal his decision. The couple, who were married last October, live in Price, southeast of Salt Lake City.

It is not clear that the fight is over, given the wording of the revised order the judge issued Friday.

Read more here.

November 13, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Seeing Double

From the Huffington Post:

Matrimony is a beautiful thing, and a double wedding is twice as nice!

A recent wedding in the Indian state of Kerala celebrated the marriages of a pair of twin brothers to twin sisters. And as if that weren't special enough, the quad also had twin flower girls, twin page boys, and the ceremony itself was officiated by twin priests, HuffPost India reported.

Read more and see pictures here.

 

November 13, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

12 Sterile Men Father Babies Through Spermatid Injection

From Daily Mail:

Twelve men considered sterile by their doctors have had babies, thanks to a breakthrough by scientists.

The ‘remarkable’ work brings could allow hundreds of British men a year to fulfill their dream of fatherhood, despite not making any sperm themselves.  The hope surrounds a technique called round spermatid injection.

It involves injecting a very immature sperm directly into a woman’s egg and is designed to help men in which sperm production stops half-way through, when the cells are still round and before they take on their distinctive tadpole shape.

It first caught doctors’ interest in the 1990s and a handful of babies were born worldwide, including one in the UK.  However, it was quickly banned here due to concerns that such early-stage sperm may be genetically abnormal.

Success rates were also low and the technique was abandoned worldwide.

In the latest study, Japanese scientists refined the method and used it to allow 12 infertile men father 14 babies between them.

All of the boys and girls were deemed to be healthy and free of physical, mental or genetic problems.

Read more here.

November 13, 2015 in Alternative Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Long Shadow of China's One-Child Adoption Policy

From The New York Times Magazine:

If you get stuck in a crowd in China — it’s not hard to do in a country of nearly 1.4 billion — you may hear someone mutter, “Ren tai duo!”: “Too many people!” It’s a common but misleading complaint. The real demographic crisis that prompted the Chinese government’s decision last week to end its one-child policy is more palpable on the quiet Shanghai lane where I live with my family: There is a dearth of young people.

Our neighbors consist mainly of aging pensioners and young Chinese families with a single child, or no children at all. After 35 years of one of the world’s most radical experiments in social engineering, Shanghai’s fertility rates have plunged to perilously low levels: just 0.7 children per couple, less than half the national average and a third of the 2.1 replacement rate. (The United States’ replacement rate is about 1.9.)

When we go out together on the streets of Shanghai, our two sons draw double takes (along with the inevitable question: “They’re twins, right?”). The confusion provoked by the sight of two boys in a single family may soon dissipate, even if the social complications triggered by the one-child policy will continue to shape China for decades to come. By promising to allow families to have two children — but no more — the government hopes to avert a demographic time bomb that is the precise opposite of the one it faced 35 years ago. Back then, in the aftermath of Mao Zedong’s patriotic campaign to produce more children to “make the nation stronger,” Deng Xiaoping instituted the one-child policy to reduce the number of mouths to feed, stimulating economic growth and prosperity.

The debate over whether the one-child policy has been essential to China’s rise, or whether that would have been achieved naturally without such an intrusive campaign, will rage for years to come. But even the government has come to recognize, belatedly, its dangerous social and economic consequences.

Chinese officials still seem impervious to the needless human suffering the policy has inflicted: the forced abortions and sterilizations, the undocumented children born and raised in the shadows, the persecution and even imprisonment of those (like the blind lawyer Chen Guancheng) who tried to expose its abuses. But Beijing’s reversal is an attempt to mitigate the massive social imbalances that will most likely reverberate for generations: the shrinking work force that is hurting China’s competitiveness; a rapidly aging population with too few young people to shoulder the burden; and a sex ratio so skewed that there is now a bubble of 25 million extra males of marrying age, “bare branches” on the family tree with few prospects of ever finding a wife.

Read more here.

November 12, 2015 in Adoption | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Mississippi Supreme Court Narrowly Grants Same-Sex Divorce

From ABC News:

The Mississippi Supreme Court voted to allow a lesbian couple to seek a divorce, even as two justices questioned the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage and suggested that landmark ruling has no constitutional basis.

The decision Thursday came after DeSoto County Chancery Judge Mitchell Lundy Jr. ruled in 2013 that the Mississippi Constitution and state law prevented him from granting a divorce to Lauren Czekala-Chatham and Dana Ann Melancon because the state didn't recognize same-sex marriage.

Czekala-Chatham appealed, and it was initially opposed by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat. However, Hood asked the court to allow the divorce after the June 26 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Friday, same-sex couples will be in federal court seeking to overturn Mississippi's last-in-the-nation ban on adoption by gay couples.

In the Mississippi court's divorce ruling, five of nine justices said in a two-page order that because Hood had reversed his position, "we find no contested issues remain" and sent the case back to DeSoto County for further action.

Justices Leslie King and James Kitchens agreed with the outcome, but dissented, calling for the court to issue a full opinion. King and Kitchens called for Mississippi to overturn its ban on same-sex marriage and grant the divorce in February.

Czekala-Chatham and Melancon were married in San Francisco in 2008 and bought a house in Mississippi before separating in 2010. Czekala-Chatham said she hopes to soon be divorced from her wife, who now lives in Arkansas.

Read more here.

November 11, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Unkown Siblings

From NBC News:

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine does release guidelines that put limitations on the number of offspring that can be conceived by sperm donation, according to ASRM spokesperson Sean Tipton. But they're guidelines, not law.

Judith Daar, the chair of ASRM's ethics committee and a professor of law at Whittier Law School, questions whether it would be appropriate to put limits on sperm donors.

"Could a similar regulation be enforced in a natural situation? Would we tell people who want very large families to restrict the number of offspring?" said Daar. "I think we would not favor the law limiting the individual's ability to procreate naturally."

Others see potential advantages to providing donor children and their parents with more information on their genetic background, and some are in favor of limits on how sperm donations are used.

"I think that allowing donor-conceived offspring to be able to have information about their donors is critical, and I think we need to establish as a country a limit on the number of offspring that can be produced from one donor," said Professor Naomi Cahn, a family law specialist at George Washington University. Other countries, including the Netherlands, Australia and England have put limits on how many times sperm from a single donor can be used.

Read more here.

November 10, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 9, 2015

Marriage Tax Breaks

From Professor Erez Aloni, writing for the Guardian:

Marriage can help reduce economic inequality when it serves as a vehicle for people to cross class boundaries. But if wealth marries wealth, as it often does, it serves as a mechanism to accumulate capital and redistribute it upward. That’s just one reason why the state subsidization of marriage in the United States makes so little sense.

Conservatives often say that married couples and their children fare better than their counterparts in a variety of measures – and thus the US government should continue to promote marriage. As Senator Marco Rubio put it, marriage is “the greatest tool to lift children and families from poverty”.

But is it?

Read more here.

November 9, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Same-Sex Marriage In Case of Adoption

From CNN:

The legalization of same-sex marriage has given way to a new problem for a Pennsylvania couple, who technically are father and son.

Before states across the country began striking down bans on same-sex marriage and the Supreme Court ultimately decided the issue nationwide, some gay couples used adoption laws as a way to gain legal recognition as a family, and the related benefits such as inheritance and hospital visitation rights.

Nino Esposito, a retired teacher, adopted his partner Roland "Drew" Bosee, a former freelance and technical writer, in 2012, after more than 40 years of being a couple.

Now, they're trying to undo the adoption to get married and a state trial court judge has rejected their request, saying his ability to annul adoptions is generally limited to instances of fraud.

Read more here.

 

November 9, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Clerks Must Issue Gay Marriage Licenses, Poll Finds

From U.S. News & World Report:

Linda Massey opposes gay marriage. But she was incensed last summer to see that Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk, was refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

"If the government says you have to give out those marriage licenses, and you get paid to do it, you do it," says the 64-year-old retiree from Lewiston, Michigan. "That woman," she said of Davis, "should be out of a job."

Americans like Massey are at the heart of a shift in public opinion, an Associated Press-GfK poll has found. For the first time, most Americans expect government officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, even over religious objections.

It's partly a matter of expecting public servants to do their jobs. But more broadly, the issue touches on a familiar dispute over which constitutional value trumps which: religious freedom, or equality under the law?

The question in recent months has entangled leaders with political sway, among them Pope Francis and the 2016 presidential contenders. But it's not a new conflict for a nation that has long wrestled with the separation of church and state.

Where Davis's answer was the First Amendment's protection of religious freedom — and she served jail time to back it up — a majority of respondents don't buy that argument when it comes to public officials issuing marriage licenses. That's a shift since an AP-GfK survey in July, when Americans were about evenly split. Then, 49 percent said officials with religious objections should be exempt from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and 47 percent said they should be required to issue them.

Read more here.

November 8, 2015 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 7, 2015

American Civil Liberties Union Sues Indiana Agency over Adoption Subsidies

From Washington Times:

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana has filed a lawsuit on behalf of two foster parents against the director of the Indiana Department of Child Services’ Central Eligibility Unit over adoption subsidies.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday on behalf of Lyons residents David and Julie Arthur, who act as foster parents for three grandsons, the Indianapolis Star (http://indy.st/1Sdqc3W ) reports.

The couple claims the state agency violated federal law by calculating the adoption subsidy without considering “circumstances of the adopting parents and the needs of the child being adopted,” according to court records.

The Arthurs say they want to adopt their grandsons, who are 6, 3 and 2 years old. The couple says the boys have “profound disabilities,” but that they can’t pay for services needed.

Medicaid covers the boys’ medical needs. Their grandparents receive $145.72 per day as licensed foster parents to help offset the boys’ extensive needs.

If the Arthurs adopt the boys, they would get $52 per day under the Department of Child Services’ “final offer” for adoption assistance payments. The couple says it would be “impossible” to “adequately and appropriately care for the children” at that amount, according to the lawsuit.

Read more here.

November 7, 2015 in Adoption | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 6, 2015

March for Life Faces Obama Administration Appeal Over Birth Control Mandate

From Washington Times:

The Obama administration filed notice Thursday that it will appeal a federal ruling that blocked it from enforcing its birth control mandate on a pro-life nonprofit known for its massive D.C. rallies against abortion.

In August, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon said the Health and Human Services Department practiced “regulatory favoritism” by exempting houses of worship on grounds that its employees are less likely to want the contraceptives, while rejecting pleas from March for Life, a secular group that says its employees also don’t want contraceptives, particularly those they equate with abortion.

“HHS may be correct that this objection is common among religiously affiliated employers. Where HHS has erred, however, is in assuming that this trait is unique to such organizations. It is not,” wrote Judge Leon, who was appointed to the District of Columbia bench by President George W. Bush.

On Thursday, secretaries of the Treasury and Health and Human Services and Labor departments filed notice with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The birth control mandate is an outgrowth of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 that requires employers to cover 20 types of drugs and services approved by the Food and Drug Administration as part of their health care plans. Pitched as a boon for women’s health, the rules quickly spawned controversy, with dozens of religious nonprofits and devout business owners filing suit.

Read more here.

November 6, 2015 in Abortion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Woman Forced to Drive 300 Miles to Abort Dying Fetus

From USA Today:

An Ohio woman whose baby would have been stillborn was forced to travel 300 miles to Chicago because no Ohio abortion clinic would do the procedure, she said.

Sheva Guy, 23, a doctoral student from Cincinnati, said her daughter was diagnosed with a fatal spinal abnormality when she went to a hospital for her second-trimester ultrasound at about 22 weeks. She and her husband were expecting to find out the gender of their child.

"I wanted a girl. He wanted a boy, so it was like, 'Who was going to be right?'" Guy said.

But the technician was quiet. The baby was too small. Something was wrong.

A second test at a second hospital confirmed that the baby's head was too large, the rest of the body was too small and a severe spinal abnormality meant the baby would never live.

"I just completely broke down. I mean, I was so vulnerable," Guy said. "Pantsless on the table, I was finding out this news. I was just sobbing. Both my contacts fell out. I couldn't see anything."

Guy shared her story at a Tuesday news conference hosted by ProgressOhio, a liberal-leaning public policy group, and NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. Both groups oppose tightening restrictions on abortions.

Guy said she had two options: deliver a stillborn daughter or have an abortion. The first was more than she could bear.

Read more here.

November 5, 2015 in Abortion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Divorce Rate Doesn't Go Up As Families of Children with Disabilities Grow

From University of Wisconsin-Madison:

Couples raising a child with developmental disabilities do not face a higher risk of divorce if they have larger families, according to a new study by researchers from the Waisman Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The study, published in the American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, also compares divorce rates of couples who have at least one child with a developmental disability to that of their peers who have typically developing children.

Researchers found that among couples with children without any disabilities, the risk of divorce was lowest for couples with one child and increased with each successive child. In contrast, the risk of divorce for parents of children with developmental disabilities remained unchanged with increasing family size.

Parenting a child with a developmental disability involves challenges and rewards that are unique to each family and prior research has shown that parents of a child with a developmental disability tend to experience greater marital stress compared to peers raising typically developing children.

As a result, there has been "a conception that, in general, parents of children with disabilities are more likely to experience divorce, and we wanted to test that assumption," says Eun Ha Namkung, first author of the paper and a graduate student in social work at the Waisman Center's Lifespan Family Research Program, led by study co-authors Jan Greenberg and Marsha Mailick. Previous research has proven inconclusive.

Read more here.

November 4, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)