Family Law Prof Blog

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

Friday, June 10, 2016

Self-represented litigants perceive bias and disadvantage in court process, report finds

Report Finds Pro Se Litigants Feel Bias and Disadvantages in Family Court

From the ABA Journal:

Self-represented litigants in family court have the onus of figuring out how to use the a system that wasn’t designed for their use, making them feel as if they are at a disadvantage or experiencing bias, a new study has found.

The Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System interviewed pro se litigants in family court in four counties in Oregon, Colorado, Tennessee and Massachusetts to learn more about their experiences, according to a press release. The group interviewed 128 self-represented litigants and 49 court professionals.


Read more here.

June 10, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 9, 2016

After Obergefell: How the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage has affected other areas of law

Effect of Obergefell on Other Areas of Law

From the ABA Journal:

The word patchwork may be the best way to describe the layers of laws that governed the relationships of same-sex couples before June 26, 2015, the day the U.S. Supreme Court recognized a constitutional right to marriage for gay couples in Obergerefell v. Hodges.

Robert Stanley, a partner at the family law firm of Jaffe and Clemens in Beverly Hills, California, has personally navigated that patchwork. When he moved to California about 10 years ago from Georgia, he went from a state with no legal status for same-sex couples to one with domestic partnership status. Shortly after the California Supreme Court’s ruling that recognized same-sex marriage went into effect—in mid-June 2008—Stanley and his partner got married.

Then the state’s voters approved Proposition 8, the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. That left Stanley’s marriage legal but prevented additional same-sex couples from marrying. Challenges to Prop 8 sprouted, and same-sex marriages again became permissible under state law in 2013.

California was hardly the only state flopping around like a beached fish when it came to the legal status of same-sex couples. Obergefell brought a conclusive end to that thrashing, and in the first four months after the decision, 96,000 same-sex couples married, according to the Williams Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law. Those unions added an estimated $813 million to state and local economies and $52 million in state and local sales tax revenue.

Read more here.

June 9, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Contentious battles between couples over frozen embryos raise legal and ethical dilemmas

Battle Over the Embryo Raises Legal and Ethical Dilemmas for Attempted Divorcees

From The ABA Journal:

When Risa Levine, a real estate attorney in New York City, got married, she wanted nothing more than to have a baby. Her husband at the time also wanted a child, but they weren't able to do so on their own. So they went to a fertility clinic together.

They discovered their best hope for creating a baby was through in vitro fertilization. IVF is a series of procedures involving extracting eggs from a woman’s body, combining them with sperm in a laboratory and then placing them inside her uterus. Fertility doctors can also cryopreserve any excess embryos so they can be thawed and used later.

Levine and her husband, who worked in real estate finance, had four frozen embryos. The couple went through more than 10 IVF cycles, but they split up before they were able to have a baby. At the time of their separation, Levine was in her mid-40s.

During the divorce process, Levine and her ex battled over custody of the embryos because, while she still wanted to be a parent, he no longer did. He wanted the embryos destroyed, and she wanted to keep them frozen so she could, possibly, have a baby in the future.

Read more here.

June 8, 2016 in Alternative Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Triplets at Center Of Surrogate Baby Custody Battle Now Living with Biological Dad and 'Doing Fine,' Says Attorney

Surrogate Battles for Custody of Triplet 


The triplets at the center of a custody battle – between the surrogate mom who gave birth to them and their biological father – have left the Los Angeles hospital where they've been kept since their birth in February and are now living at their father's home in Georgia.

"They're doing fine," Robert Walmsley, the father's attorney, tells PEOPLE. "My client is finally getting to raise his kids and he's loving it. He's a happy guy right now."

In March, a Los Angeles judge granted surrogate mom Melissa Cook a temporary stay that prohibited the biological father, identified only as C.M. in court papers, from removing the children from California.

Read more here.

June 7, 2016 in Adoption | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 6, 2016

Illinois Legislature Aims to Streamline Divorce Proceedings

From the Belleville News Democrat:

A new Illinois divorce law aims to make the act of divorcing quicker and less litigious—especially where children are involved. Some of the new changes also involve changes in terminology, which are reflective of changes in society—namely gay marriage. Additionally, the term “custody” has been renamed “allocation of parenting time.”

In determining allocations of parenting time, a judge can consider levels of parental involvement prior to a petition for dissolution of marriage and whether there have been attempts by either parent to cause estrangement of the child to the other parent. Other changes to the law include the consent requirement regarding relocation.

When the law takes effect, Illinois persons seeking a divorce will only have one option for dissolution—irreconcilable differences. Having one option will streamline the process and prevent one spouse from utilizing “fault based” divorce technicalities to draw out divorce proceedings.

Read more here.

June 6, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Indiana University Seeks Preliminary Injunction from New Abortion Restriction Law in Indiana

From the Indy Star:

Indiana University (IU) has filed a lawsuit challenging Indiana’s new abortion restriction law. Under HEA 1337, “a person who acquires, receives, sells or transfers fetal tissue would face a Level 5 felony, punishable by up to six years in prison.”

IU utilizes aborted or miscarriage fetal tissue to conduct research regarding autism, Alzheimer’s disease, and a host of other neurological diseases and defects. IU states that the law would curtail scientists’ academic freedom and all but shut down research efforts. IU further states that, under the law, research efforts would be criminalized.

Furthermore, HEA 1337, which will take effect on July 1, 2016, will also ban abortions sought solely because a fetus might be born with a disability.

IU seeks a preliminary injunction that would prevent Indiana from enforcing the law.

Read more here.

June 5, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 4, 2016

SCOTUS Upholds Adoption by Lesbian in Alabama

From the LA Times:

The Alabama Supreme Court refused to recognize a lesbian woman’s adoption that had occurred in Georgia. The court stated that “Georgia adoption law didn’t allow a ‘non-spouse to adopt a child without first terminating the parental rights of the current parents.’” The woman appealed to the United States Supreme Court. The Court said that the Alabama Supreme Court erred in refusing to grant Georgia’s adoption through the full faith and credit clause.

Read more here.

June 4, 2016 in Adoption | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 3, 2016

States Aim to Sue over Obama's Transgender Directive

From the LA Times:

Eleven states are suing the Obama Administration over its directive that schools allow transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms for the gender in which that student identifies. Many states that are suing claim that their resistance to the Directive is in furtherance of the safety of their students. Proponents of the Directive claim that opponents are acting out of hatred. However, politicians in opposition to the Directive are prepared to argue their position all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Read more here.

June 3, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Male Birth Control Injection Trials are Going Well

From Science Alert:

Trials for a promising form of male birth control will begin on humans later this year with a speculative sale date of 2018. Vasalgel is a fully reversible male birth control, which has had a high rate of success among rabbits. The method also expects fewer potential side effects; such as, hormone disruption.

One large draw to this method of birth control is that the injection into the vas deferens can work for up to one year.

In scientific research, eleven of twelve rabbits were unable to create sperm immediately after injected. The lone rabbit that was still able to create sperm, was unable to create sperm soon after injected. The birth control seems to be easily reversed in trials so far.

Read more here.

June 2, 2016 in Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Colorado Domestic Violence Survivors and Teen Parents Have Less Hurdles for Childcare Assistance

From the Denver Post:

Under Colorado House Bill 1227, teenagers and victims of domestic violence will have one less barrier to applying for assistance for day care. The current law requires anyone requesting for assistance to pay for childcare to apply for child support within 30 days of the application. The new law exempts teenagers and victims of domestic violence from child support enforcement requirements.

Read more here.

June 1, 2016 in Child Support (establishing), Domestic Violence | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Rooming with the Parents

From the New York Times:

The empty nests are filling up: For the first time in modern history, young adults ages 18 to 34 are more likely to live with a parent than with a romantic partner, according to a new census analysis by the Pew Research Center.

Millennials, who have been slower than previous generations to marry and set up their own households, reached that milestone in 2014, when 32.1 percent lived in a parent’s home, compared with 31.6 percent who lived with a spouse or a partner, the report found.

“The really seismic change is that we have so many fewer young adults partnering, either marrying or cohabiting,” said Richard Fry, the Pew economist who wrote the report. “In 1960, that silent generation left home earlier than any generation before or after, because they married so young.”

But in recent decades, fewer people have been marrying, and those who do are marrying at older ages. In 1960, the median age for a first marriage was 20 for women and 22 for men, and just one in 10 people over 25 had never married. Now, the median ages are 27 and 29, and one in five adults older than 25 has never married. In a 2014 study, Pew projected that a quarter of this generation of young adults might never marry.

Read more here.

May 31, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 30, 2016

Happy Memorial Day

usa flag

May 30, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 29, 2016

4 Things Newly Single Women Should Do With Their Finances

Saving for a New You

From US News & World Report:

Over the years, I've worked with many women who find themselves newly single as a result of divorce or widowhood. Those life events can be incredibly demanding emotionally, even without the financial component adding to the shock. Women come to me with questions such as:

  • How much money do I have left?
  • What financial institutions did my spouse have accounts with?
  • How much insurance did my husband have?
  • Can I buy a car?
  • Do I need to move to a new home?
  • At what age will I be able to retire?
  • How much money can I give to my children?
  • How much money can I give to my favorite charity?
  • Will I be OK?

Read more here.

May 29, 2016 in Resources - Divorce | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 28, 2016

SCOVA Watch: Three Takeaways From the Court’s Recent Ruling on Same-Sex Cohabitation

3 Takeaways on Virginia's Luttrell v. Cucco

From JD Supra Business Advisor:

Last December, I previewed the case of Luttrell v. Cucco, which had, at that time, just been taken up by the Supreme Court of Virginia. The Court recently issued its ruling in the case and you can read the opinion here.

There are a few notable lessons from the Court’s ruling that are useful reminders for other cases.

1.) The Court does not like sweeping rulings. In some of the press coverage following the Court’s opinion, several outlets initially characterized the ruling broadly as one that took the logical next step following Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the Supreme Court of the United States legalized same-sex marriage throughout the country. Even the ACLU, trumpeting their victory, framed the ruling in those terms. The Court’s holding, however, is a narrow one based on the plain language of the statute at issue, Code § 20-109(A), and the opinion never discusses, or even mentions, Obergefell.

Code § 20-109(A) allows a spouse paying support to petition a court to terminate such support if “the spouse receiving support has been habitually cohabiting with another person in a relationship analogous to marriage.” In two sentences at the heart of the opinion, the Court states that Code § 20-109(A), is “gender neutral” and can thus “apply to either same-sex or opposite-sex relationships.” The Court then bolstered this finding by distinguishing prior decisions and examining the legislative history of the enactment. In case there was any doubt, the Court then expressly stated that the definition of marriage in Virginia was irrelevant to its ruling because the controlling words in Code § 20-109(A) were “a relationship analogous to marriage.”

Read more here.

May 28, 2016 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 27, 2016

Father bugs daughter's clothes in court battle over who she lives with

Listening Devices on Little Kids

From The Guardian:

A young girl had listening devices sewn into her school blazer and raincoat so that her father could eavesdrop on her private meetings with a social worker, a court has been told.

The discovery of the bugs during a residence dispute emerged in a judgment by Mr Justice Peter Jackson in the family division of the high court in London.

The girl, said to be in the “later stages of primary school”, was not aware she had been monitored. None of those involved have been identified.

Read more here.

May 27, 2016 in Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Divorce in France Simplified

From the Washington Post:

The French government plans to allow divorce by mutual consent to proceed without a judge, to simplify and accelerate the process.

Details are to be discussed Tuesday in the lower house of parliament during debate on a bill to modernize the country’s justice system.

Family associations, however, have expressed fears that the best interests of children would not be protected enough.

Justice minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas said the process would cost about 50 euros ($56) at the notary office. Each spouse would be required to have a lawyer. The divorce would still need to be pronounced by a judge if a child requests to be heard by a magistrate.

Read more here.

Hat Tip: Angelique Devaux

May 27, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, May 26, 2016

2 year statute of limitations applies to set aside a paternity and child support order, even if fraud exists.

2 Year Statute of Limitations Still Applies in Fraudulent Paternity Suit

From Missouri Divorce and Family Law:

Mother and Father (T.B.) had a baby in 2000.  Mother told T.B. he was the father, and he signed an affidavit acknowledging paternity.  The Family Support Division made an administrative determination that T.B. was the legal father, and ordered T.B. to pay child support for the child in February 2001.

Sometime prior to June 2010, to clear her conscience, Mother told T.B. that he was not the biological father.  Father filed a declaration of non-paternity on August 27, 2012.  He attached a DNA test report showing he was not the biological father of the child.  T.B. sought relief under Rule 74.06(d), asserting that Mother had perpetuated fraud against him by making false statements to him that he was the biological father when she knew he wasn’t.

The trial court concluded that T.B.’s right to bring an action for extrinsic fraud was foreclosed by the statutory time limit for him to contest paternity, which had run.

T.B. appealed.

Read more here.

May 26, 2016 in Child Support Enforcement, Paternity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Judge OKs malpractice suit over law firm's successful fight to uphold client's postnuptial agreement

Malpractice Suit on Firms Negotiated Post-nuptial Agreement Gains Traction

From the ABA Journal:

A New York trial court has OK’d a malpractice suit against Phillips Nizer, over the law firm’s handling of a divorce case that generated $1.4 million in legal fees for work done by 23 attorneys and 16 other professionals.

At issue is a 2000 postnuptial agreement that the firm helped negotiate and draft for client Elizabeth Berardi. It granted her a 49 percent interest in companies controlled by her husband, who operates bus companies. However, the pact did not specify whether she could liquidate her interest and, if so, how she could do so, reports the New York Law Journal (sub. req.).

A divorce ensued within five years, and Berardi again retained Phillips Nizer. Her husband, Eugene Berardi, challenged the postnup and she fought against its invalidation, winning the legal battle. However, unbeknownst to her, agreements made before 2000 with former shareholders and business partners in her husband’s companies limited the liquidity of her own interest, Elizabeth Berardi alleges in her complaint against the firm.

Read more here.

May 25, 2016 in Attorneys, Divorce (grounds), Resources - Divorce | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

New Poll Shows Strong Support for Paid Family Leave Programs

People say "Yes!" to Family Leave Programs

From ABC News:

Time off from work to care for a child or relative is codified in federal law. Now, an overwhelming majority of Americans 40 and older want that time away from the job to be paid.

An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released Friday said 72 percent support paid family leave. Democrats were more likely to back it, but Republicans also expressed strong support. Overall, support was stronger among people age 40-64 and among women.

At least 19 states are considering paid family leave laws, but only three have active programs. New York, the latest to approve it, will launch its program in 2018.

"There is a lot of interest and a lot of momentum," said Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values @ Work, an advocacy group. "We hope that over the next five years a critical mass of states will win these policies."

Read more here.

May 24, 2016 in Paternity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 23, 2016

What Does “No Fault” Divorce Mean?

"No Fault," what?

From HuffPost Divorce:

In 1970, the State of California originated the concept of “no-fault” divorce. The rationale behind the law was that there was no point in forcing people to stay in a marriage when they were not happy in it, and that requiring someone to prove legal grounds to dissolve the marriage was not serving any useful purpose. Historically, in order to obtain a divorce one had to prove the existence of legal grounds such as adultery. This often required additional expenses on behalf of the aggrieved party, only serving to make the divorce process more expensive and cumbersome than it already was. In the years leading up to the enactment of “no-fault” divorce, courts often granted divorces on bases that were easier to prove, the most common being “mental cruelty.” In that situation, one spouse would testify that he or she was being subjected to mental stress as a result of the actions of the other spouse. Given that, and given that people simply did not want to be married, there seemed little reason to force them to stay in marriages when grounds could not be established. Over time, the “no-fault” movement expanded to other states, although interestingly it only reached the typically progressive state of New York in 2010.  

Read more here.

May 23, 2016 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)