Monday, November 17, 2014
Prof. DiFonzo of Hofstra Law writes:
The November 2014 elections included a North Dakota voter initiative emblematic of the vigorous debate taking place nationwide about child custody.
The “Parental Rights Initiative” required courts to award “equal parenting time” to both parents after divorce or separation. The measure was defeated by a sizeable margin (62% to 38%) but it represents only the latest round in a combustible campaign to change how child custody cases are decided.
An important 2014 study shows that child custody norms are significantly changing in the 21st century, with the proportion of parents sharing custody rising dramatically. In fact, we reached a major milestone in the past decade: for the first time since the mid-19th century, custodial arrangements that did not provide sole custody to mothers constituted a majority.
The vocabulary of child custody is also adapting to shared parenting.
“Decision making” and “parenting time” are replacing “legal custody” and “physical custody.” The modern terms reflect a cultural pivot toward mutual child rearing responsibilities rather than declaring a winner and a loser. On balance, then, it appears that our society has adapted the best-interest-of-the-child standard to provide some variant of shared custody. In custody cases today, both parents increasingly enjoy significant, though not necessarily equal, amounts of parenting time.
Legally enforceable presumptions, such as the one proposed and rejected in North Dakota or the one that the Governor of Minnesota vetoed in 2012, are problematic. An equal parenting presumption shifts the starting point for a custody determination from the child’s best interests to how the parents will divide the 168 hours in a week so that each parent handles half the child rearing.
A 50/50 presumption alters the critical issue from what’s best for the child to how we can treat the parents equally. That’s not the same question at all. A legal presumption of equal parenting time effectively converts the current focus on the child’s welfare to a best-interests-of-the-parents standard.
Saturday, November 15, 2014
The decision is the first since the U.S. Supreme Court last June ruled that some for-profit companies may, like religious nonprofits, opt out of providing birth control coverage in their insurance plans. In the cases that have followed, various religious nonprofits have maintained, as they did in the Washington case, that the opt-out provision itself is a "substantial burden" on religion, and thus, that it violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a federal law enacted to enhance religious rights.
In rejecting that claim, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said that "Religious objectors do not suffer substantial burdens ... where the only harm to them is that they sincerely feel aggrieved by their inability to prevent what other people would do ... "
These religious objectors have no right, the court said, "to be free from the unease, or even anguish" of knowing that others are legally entitled to receive or provide birth control. The court noted that birth control coverage was added to the Affordable Care Act because it accounts for a large part of women's preventive health care costs.
Writing for the 3-0 court panel, Judge Cornelia Pillard said the challengers' argument that the opt out harms them by triggering substitute coverage makes little sense in light of the government's need to carry out a duly enacted program.
Read the full decision here Priests for Life v. US Dep't of Human Services
Friday, November 14, 2014
"We may name it a Male Law, or Macho law," he said.
From the UK Express:
MEN who have children by different women should be PAID by the government for increasing the population, claimed a Russian MP.
The new "Macho Law", which was proposed by Valeriy Seleznyov, could see men that have a string of children with different women paid an unspecified amount to help cover child costs.
The MP wants to extend a system that is already in place in Russia - where woman can claim "maternity capital allowances" of around £6,500 when they have more than one child.
He went on to explain that the amount granted from the "Macho Law" could then be used to help cover property and education costs.
"Some men have several children from different women, each of whom is not eligible for the 'maternity capital programme, as some of them have only one child, and others can be married to another man," he explained.
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Clare Huntington, Fordham Law, has uploaded "Postmarital Family Law" on SSRN. It's forthcoming from Stanford Law Review and its abstract reads:
Family law is based on marriage, but family life increasingly is not. The American family is undergoing a seismic shift, with marriage rates steadily declining and more than four in ten children now born to unmarried parents. Children of unmarried parents fall far behind children of married parents on a variety of metrics, contributing to stark inequality among children. Poverty and related factors explain much of this differential, but new sociological evidence highlights family structure — particularly friction and dislocation between unmarried parents after their relationship ends — as a crucial part of the problem. As the trend toward nonmarital childbearing continues to spread across class lines, the effect will be most pronounced among children.
This shift is the single most important issue facing family law today, yet scholars have been slow to engage with the structure and substance of the law in response. In family law, the marital family serves as a misleading synecdoche for all families, not only marginalizing nonmarital families, but also actively undermining their already tenuous bonds.
It is essential for family law to address the needs of both marital and nonmarital families. This entails a new theory of state regulation as well as new doctrines, institutions, and norms in practice. Some feminists argue that the state should privilege caregiving between parents and children instead of marital relationships, while other commenters stubbornly advocate marriage primacy — the elevation of marriage above other family forms — despite all evidence that marriage promotion fails. These responses fundamentally misunderstand nonmarital family life, in which dynamics between parents deeply affect children yet marriage is not realistically returning. We must instead understand that it is possible to separate marriage from parenthood but not relationships from parenthood. The state must accordingly help unmarried parents become effective co-parents, especially after their relationship ends, so they can provide children with the healthy relationships crucial to child development. This theoretical insight, and the family law that flows from it, will inaugurate a larger debate about how to prepare for a world in which marriage is not the defining institution of family life.
Saturday, November 8, 2014
Deborah N. Misir is in the sixth month of a high-risk pregnancy. So Ms. Misir, a Long Island lawyer, has asked that an upcoming trial for one of her clients — set for about two months before her due date — be postponed.
Doctors told Ms. Misir, 42, to “avoid stress, pressure and upsetting confrontations, which could result in medical complications that could threaten the life of my baby,” according to a letter she wrote on Wednesday to the judge.
But thus far, Ms. Misir’s request has gone nowhere: The United States attorney’s office has fought the proposed delay, and the judge, citing her health, even asked about a trip to Washington that she said she was planning.
“I am puzzled by the U.S. attorney’s office’s objection to any adjournment due to my pregnancy,” Ms. Misir said. “Pregnancy — much less high-risk pregnancy — has long been recognized in this country as a legal disability requiring accommodation."***
In an Oct. 20 letter to the judge opposing the request, prosecutors wrote that the case had been long pending; that Ms. Misir had agreed previously to the January date; and that she had a “highly experienced and able” co-counsel. The government also cited Mr. Tabone’s right to a speedy trial, adding, “The court should not countenance further delay of the trial.” ***
She wrote that she had worked as a Justice Department lawyer, as an ethics lawyer in the White House and as a deputy assistant secretary of labor for policy.
“In over 17 years of federal practice,” she said, “I have never been treated so disrespectfully, brutally, and with lack of basic civility by opposing counsel, as has occurred in this court.”
Friday, November 7, 2014
Today, families are no longer quite so cookie cutter similar. Some families are comprised of a mother and her children and a father who is no longer an active member of the family or never has been. Other families consist of two absent parents, leaving the parental role to be fulfilled by grandparents or foster families. And there are, for the first time in history, a fair amount of same sex parents who are raising children. These types of family are a few million strong.
Despite studies proving otherwise, some people still insist that children are being ruined by this type of family dynamic. They deem homosexual couples as "unfit"parents, but don't seem to have concrete or legitimate evidence to substantiate their claims. They fight against same-sex adoption with the fervor of a quarterback at the Super Bowl.
So, what do opponents argue?
Check out the rest here.
Tuesday, November 4, 2014
It used to be legally required. In the 1870s and the 1970s (to vote, for example). But why now? See BBC News, Why Should Women Change Their Name on Getting Married?
Feelings can run high over the issue of surname change, as demonstrated by recent criticism of Amal Alamuddin's decision to change her name when she married George Clooney. Some feminists point out that women suffer serious detriment to their careers when they change their names - that they signal their submission to their husbands, and reinforce to their own children the idea that women are inferior to men.
Others shrug the issue off and say that women's names mean little to them, or point out that a birth name is usually the name of the woman's father anyway. Those who think a woman should change her surname often say that it's not really important, but, given the choice between the various options, they prefer to go with "tradition".
This argument, of course, presupposes that traditions are worth preserving. But in fact, just a brief dip into the history of marital surname change - a specifically English phenomenon - reveals that its origins are at best controversial. And at worst, they are deeply unsavoury.
Thursday, October 30, 2014
She The People, WaPo, With Supreme Court Case Pending, UPS Reverses Policy on Pregnant Workers
This week United Parcel Service sent a memo to employees announcing a change in policy for pregnant workers: starting January 1, the company will offer temporary light duty positions not just to workers injured on the job, which is current policy, but to pregnant workers who need it as well.
“UPS takes pride in attaining and maintaining best practices in the area of equal opportunity and employment, and has elected to change our approach to pregnancy accommodations,” a memo sent to workers reads.
Hang on a minute. Isn’t this is the very stance that UPS is arguing against in the upcoming, high-profile Supreme Court case, Young v UPS?
Indeed it is.
UPS’ change of policy was not only announced to its workers on Monday, it was announced to the world in the brief they filed at the Supreme Court just days ago.
The change of policy, UPS attorneys argue in the brief, doesn’t mean they were wrong when they denied temporary light duty to one-time UPS driver Peggy Young, of Landover, Md., when she became pregnant and her doctor recommended she take a hiatus from lifting heavy boxes until after giving birth.
In the brief, UPS attorneys explain it this way: “While UPS’s denial of [Young’s] accommodation request was lawful at the time it was made (and thus cannot give rise to a claim for damages), pregnant UPS employees will prospectively be eligible for light-duty assignments.”
The UPS move came as a surprise to many workers’ rights advocates and to Young’s attorneys.
“UPS is highlighting the injustice of its own position,” said Sam Bagenstos, one of Young’s attorneys. “In the future, they want to give people like her fair treatment. But they’re still denying her recompense for the unfair treatment that they gave her.”
The move, he said, “shows that what Peggy Young has been asking for all along is common sense.”
Thursday, October 23, 2014
So suggests the Korea Herald. The fertility rate (or lack thereof) among South Koreans is owing in part to the class inequality in the country and the demands of an industrial nation-state.
South Korea’s low birthrate is generating deep concern among policymakers.
The government is scrambling to shore up the falling birthrate, a threat that could jeopardize Asia’s fourth-largest economy, which is saddled with a rapidly aging population.
What many policymakers have failed to tackle is the underlying problem that forces Koreans to delay or forgo having children.
Just ask Kim Jin-ah, a 28-year-old Seoulite who still hasn’t been “properly” employed, despite her two university degrees.
“I don’t think marriage is an option for me right now,” said Kim, who currently works as a part-time tutor. “Having kids is just not even thinkable. I can’t even take care of myself right now. I am not sure if I deserve to be happy at this moment.”
After finishing her master’s degree in biology, Kim, at age 26, realized she didn’t want to be a scientist. She started looking for jobs ― a full-time position that would pay her enough to move out of her parents’ house and start a family of her own ― but never found one.
During one job interview, for a marketing position at a big firm, Kim was told that she was “too old” for the company’s entry-level positions.
Kim, who lives with her parents, is considering going back to school, or even overseas for job opportunities. She is putting off marriage until she gets a full time job.
“If you are not working full time and want to be married, you have to have wealthy parents,” she said. “That’s just not the case for me.”
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Tomorrow, I am presenting as part ofthe University of Akron's Rethinking Gender series." The title of my talk is "Understanding Divorce Law Historically Through the Lens of Gender." It is based on a chapter of my book project, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Feminist Foundations of Family Law now nearing completion.
One running theme of the book is appreciating Stanton as a lay lawyer - a person trained by her father, who was a judge and lawyer who apprenticed young lawyers in their home; a person analytically inclined to "think like a lawyer;" who understood the normative function of the law; and who advocated for legislative reform and legal change. This legal understanding, I think, offers insights for us in both understanding her work in the nineteenth-century, and also incorporating its relevance today. See Tracy A. Thomas, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Notion of a Legal Class of Gender, in Feminist Legal History (Thomas & Boisseau, eds. NYUP 2011).
On divorce, Stanton was a vocal and persistent advocate for no-fault, or "easy divorce." But more importantly from my perspective is that she framed divorce as a woman's issue. Divorce was both a right and a remedy for woman's wrongs. Her life-long commitment to divorce reform attacked the problem of restrictive marriages, which confined women into legal obscurity under coverture, patriarchal social expectations, and sometimes domestic abuse.
Her framework of gender approached the divorce issue from the three classic feminist approaches: equality, difference, and systemic. As to formal equality, Stanton challenged the double moral standard that supported the law of divorce, for example, allowing divorce for the wife's adultery, but requiring "aggravated" adultery of adultery plus some additional fault like cruelty, dessertion, or sodomy by the husband. Her equality theories conceptualized divorce as a individual right, granting women autonomy and psychological freedom to control their own personal relations.
As to difference, Stanton argued that fault grounds for divorce should be expanded to address the different concerns of women. The law was too focused on grounds based on sexual privilege, as in adultery and failure to consummate. Instead, it needed to include grounds most relevant to women, cruelty and desertion. A cruelty divorce mechanism connected to Stanton's work on temperance and against domestic violence, arguing the necessity of releasing and protecting women and children in abusive relationships. Desertion was important for women because they needed a court to restore their legal rights as a single woman to contract, hold property, earn income, and have custody of their children. Men accomplished desertion by practice, simply walking away, often headed West, retaining their legal identity, all property rights, and the ability to earn a livelihood and thus in little need of the courts.
These specific arguments as to divorce grounds though were part of Stanton's much bigger and radical challenge to the system of marriage itself. She conceptualized marriage not as a covenant or status, but as a contract. And as a contract between two fully equal partners. And as a contract like any other employment or commercial contract that could be modified or terminated at the will of the parties. This gave her the legal foundation to justify no-fault divorce, though it didn't mollify the moral critics. Despite opposition from most other feminist reformers, Stanton continued to advocate for free access to divorce, fighting against the backlash and growing conservativism at the end of the century. See Tracy A. Thomas, Elizabeth Cady Stanton on the Federal Marriage Amendment, 22 Const. Comment. 137 (2005).
Saturday, September 27, 2014
The Atlantic, The Economic Case for Paternity Leave
All over the globe, paid maternity leave policies have proven vital in boosting the likelihood that a new mother will return to work, and will put in more hours after she returns. Along with tax reform, these policies powered the surge in Europe’s female labor-force participation in the 1980s and ’90s. The U.S., however, stagnated. Whereas in 1990 the U.S. had the sixth-highest rate of female labor participation in the OECD in 1990, within two decades it had plunged to 17th place. The U.S.’s lack of paid parental leave and flexible work policies were responsible for nearly three-tenths of that drop, according to an oft-cited study by Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn of Cornell University.
But on its own, paid maternity leave works only up to a point. Even in euro-zone countries and others that have boosted the share of women in the workforce by offering lavish maternity leave and cheap childcare, the gap between male and female labor participation still yawns.
For the vast majority of women who don’t return to work after giving birth, this is because the costs of returning—both financial and psychological—outweigh the benefits.
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Emily Bazelon, NYT, Mother in Jail for Helping her Daughter have an Abortion
On Sept. 12th, Jennifer Whalen, a 39-year-old mother of three in the rural town of Washingtonville, Pa., went to jail to begin serving a 9-to-18-month sentence. Whalen’s crime was, in effect, ordering pills online that her older daughter took in the first several weeks of an unplanned pregnancy, when she was 16, to induce a miscarriage. The medication was a combination of mifepristone (formerly called RU-486) and misoprostol. The drugs have been available from a doctor with a prescription in the United States since 2000 and are used around the world to induce miscarriage.***
On the night before Whalen went to jail, I drove to Pennsylvania to meet her. We sat at a conference table in the office of her lawyer, who was present for the 90-minute conversation. For most of the time we spent together, she sat hunched forward, arms wrapped around herself. She was dreading the prospect of leaving her 11-year-old daughter and her husband at home, she said, as well as her older daughter, now 19, who still lives with the family. (The oldest child, a 20-year-old son, lives nearby.) “I’m scared,” Whalen said of serving her sentence. “And I’m hurt because I can’t be with my family.”
A New York City family court ruled on Sept. 12 that a Staten Island man could use Facebook to serve his ex-wife with a legal notice about child support. According to the New York Post, Staten Island Support Magistrate Gregory Gliedman noted in his decision that it was the first such decision in New York or the United States in general (excluding situations in which the person being served was overseas).
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Courtney Joslin (Davis) has posted Federalism and Family Status, Indiana L.J. (forthcoming).
The myth of family law’s inherent localism is sticky. In the past, it was common to hear sweeping claims about the exclusively local nature of all family matters. In response to persuasive critiques, a narrower iteration of family law localism emerged. The new, refined version acknowledges the existence of some federal family law but contends that certain “core” family law matters — specifically, family status determinations — are inherently local. I call this family status localism. Proponents of family status localism rely on history, asserting that the federal government has always deferred to state family status determinations. Family status localism made its most recent appearance (although surely not its last) in the litigation challenging Section 3 of DOMA.
This Article accomplishes two mains goals. The first goal is doctrinal. This Article undermines the resilient myth of family law localism by uncovering a long history of federal family status determinations. Although the federal government often defers to state family status determinations, this Article shows that there are many circumstances in which the federal government instead relies on its own family status definitions.
Sunday, September 14, 2014
A former New York Mets senior vice president, who was fired last month by the club, sued the organization on Wednesday alleging that she was discriminated against on the basis of her sex, and ultimately fired for becoming pregnant while unmarried. Leigh Castergine, who joined the Mets organization in 2010, was the head of ticket sales when, the suit says, she was fired by team COO Jeff Wilpon because he was “morally opposed” to Castergine having a child out of wedlock.
[T]he National Women’s Law Center and law firm Jenner & Block submitted an amicus brief on behalf of 123 Members of Congress in the Supreme Court pregnancy discrimination case, Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc.; the brief highlights the plain language, legislative history and intent of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which Congress passed in 1978. In Young, the Supreme Court will decide for the first time whether the PDA requires an employer to provide light duty to a worker if she needs it because of pregnancy, when the employer provides light duty to workers with similar limitations in ability to work arising out of disability or on-the-job injury. The brief argues that the plain language and legislative history of the PDA demonstrate that an employer may not deny accommodations for medical needs arising out of pregnancy that it provides to other workers based on a similar inability to work.
In 2006, Peggy Young, a pregnant UPS delivery driver in Landover, Maryland, was instructed by her medical provider to avoid heavy lifting during her pregnancy. Although UPS routinely accommodates employees who need light duty because they have a disability or an on-the-job injury—and even when they lose their commercial driver’s license because of a D.U.I. conviction—it forced Young to take a leave of absence for the rest of her pregnancy, causing her to lose her wages and her health insurance coverage. Young sued UPS, but two lower courts ruled against her, finding that the company’s refusal to accommodate pregnancy when it accommodated the medical needs of other workers with similar limitations in ability to work did not constitute pregnancy discrimination
More than 120 members of Congress urged the Supreme Court on Thursday to recognize that pregnant workers are entitled to reasonable accommodations such as light duty, saying it's needed to ensure that expecting mothers are not forced out of their jobs.
In a friend-of-the-court brief, the Democratic lawmakers — 99 from the House, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and 24 senators — said UPS delivery driver Peggy Young of Lorton, Virginia, was unfairly treated by her employer when it asked her to take unpaid maternity leave rather than provide a less strenuous position as her doctors advised.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
The concept of alimony, also referred to as “maintenance” in some countries, dates back thousands of years and was first referenced in texts in ancient Babylon. Though gender roles and traditional marriage definitions have evolved greatly since then, the traditional meaning of alimony has remained largely the same. A marriage ends and one party pays the less financially solvent party some sort of means of support. In ancient times when it was not feasible for women to obtain meaningful work or to remarry easily due to cultural norms, alimony served as an important form of security. But today, in an age in which women serve in the cabinet and are now obtaining college degrees at higher rates than men, the idea that women (who receive alimony at much higher rates than men) should be awarded a post-divorce allowance from a spouse strikes many as outdated and an embarrassment to feminist principles.
Thursday, August 21, 2014
Chinese men in rural villages are paying $3200 to families (parents, usually) to sell their daughters in rural Vietnam for marriage.
Their marriages were arranged for cash, but some of the Vietnamese women who have found unlikely Prince Charmings in remote Chinese villages say they are living happily ever after.
"Economically, life is better here in China," said Nguyen Thi Hang, one of around two dozen women from Vietnam who have married men in Linqi.
Thursday, August 14, 2014
When they can't even wait until you are actually pregnantly disabled to fire you.
In Cadenas v. Butterfield Health Care II, Inc. (N.D. Ill. 7/15/14), a federal court asked the question of whether an employer could terminate a pregnant employee on the basis of its inability to accommodate her future pregnancy-related job restrictions. Even though the employee won this battle, the employer really won the war.
What can we learn from this case?
- It is okay not to accommodate a pregnant employees’ restrictions, as long as there is no evidence of providing accommodations to other employees with similarly debilitating medical conditions. Given the scope of the definition of “disability” under the ADA, coupled with the ADA’s reasonable accommodation requirements, this might be a high hurdle to overcome, this case notwithstanding. Also, don't forget about the EEOC's recent sweeping Enforcement Guidance on this issue.
- If a pregnant employee tells you that she will be unable to perform at some point in the future, wait until that time to terminate her. This employer could have saved itself a headache of a lawsuit by waiting five weeks to fire Cadenas. Of course, winning a lawsuit is relative, and if you could made the argument that employer won this case because it limited its potential exposure for economic damages to five weeks' back pay, I would not disagree with you.
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Kristin Collins (Boston U) has posted A Short History of Sex and Citizenship: The Historians' Amicus Brief in Flores-Villar v. US.
The historians’ amicus brief that accompanies this essay was submitted to the Supreme Court in Flores-Villar v. United States, an equal protection challenge to federal statutes that regulate the citizenship status of foreign-born children of American parents. When the parents of such children are unmarried, federal law encumbers the ability of American fathers to secure citizenship for their children, while providing American mothers with a nearly unfettered ability to do the same. The general question before the Court in Flores-Villar – and a question that the Court has addressed in sum and substance on two other occasions during the last thirteen years – was whether the gender asymmetry in this statutory scheme is consistent with constitutional sex-equality principles. The goal of the historians’ amicus brief in Flores-Villar was to explain to the Court how this ostensibly obscure citizenship law is part of a larger historical phenomenon: the persistence of gender-based sociolegal norms in determining citizenship. The introductory essay provides an overview of the account provided in the brief and discusses how generic conventions shaped the amicus brief’s presentation of the history of sex-based citizenship laws.