Family Law Prof Blog

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

Sunday, January 20, 2019

What 'Surviving R. Kelly' Tells Us About Race and Sexual Abuse

From The Washington Post:

For many who watched the six-part documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” hearing directly from several women who described sexual abuse at the hands of the R&B star prompted a troubling question: Has Kelly remained popular and largely not faced criminal consequences because his accusers are black?

Rebecca Epstein, a researcher at Georgetown University, thinks so. She co-authored a 2017 study that found black girls are viewed by adults as more sexually mature than white girls in the same peer group. As a result, when black girls are victims of sexual assault, they are less likely to be believed by those who see them as older than they actually are.

“What our research indicates is that black girls face even greater skepticism by the figures that wield such authority over their lives than other victims of sexual violence,” said Epstein, executive director at the law school’s Center on Poverty and Inequality.

Read more here.

January 20, 2019 in Annulment, Child Abuse, Divorce (grounds), Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Jayme Closs Found Alive, Escapes Captor

From USA Today:

Nearly three months after her parents were shot dead in their Wisconsin home and a nationwide search began to locate the missing 13-year-old girl, Jayme Closs has been found alive

The girl described by friends as a "sweet and shy" middle schooler was found in a neighborhood in northwestern Wisconsin about an hour's drive from her home in Barron, Wisconsin. 

The girl described by friends as a "sweet and shy" middle schooler was found in a neighborhood in northwestern Wisconsin about an hour's drive from her home in Barron, Wisconsin. 

The Barron County Sheriff's Department said that 21-year-old suspect Jake Patterson was arrested Thursday in Jayme's disappearance. 

Read more here.

January 19, 2019 in Child Abuse, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 18, 2019

Ohio Bans Common Abortion Procedure

From CNN:

A bill that would ban the most common abortion method used in the second trimester of pregnancy was signed into law Friday by Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Senate Bill 145 prohibits the dilation and evacuation (D&E) procedure, in which the cervix is dilated and the contents of the uterus extracted. Though there is no exception in the law in cases of rape or incest, there is one if the mother's life is at risk.

Any abortion provider who defies this law could face fourth-degree felony charges, including prison time and fines.

The Republican governor's decision to sign off on this legislation sparked immediate backlash from abortion rights advocates.

Read more here.

January 18, 2019 in Abortion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Gay Singaporean Man Can Adopt Son Born Via Surrogacy

From CNN:

A gay Singaporean doctor has won the right to adopt a child he fathered in the United States through a surrogate, in a landmark ruling for the socially conservative country.

On Monday, Singapore's High Court overturned a 2017 ruling in which a district judge said the man could not legally adopt the child because he was conceived through in vitro fertilization -- a process limited to heterosexual married couples in Singapore -- and brought to term through surrogacy, which is technically banned.

Under Singapore law, children born out of wedlock are considered illegitimate and do not have the same rights as those born to married couples, unless legally adopted.

Read more here.

January 17, 2019 in Current Affairs, International, Paternity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Violence Against Women Act Expires

From NPR:

The partial shutdown of the U.S. government, which is affecting more than 800,000 federal workers and numerous government agencies, also has consequences for the Violence Against Women Act, which expired at midnight on Friday.

Separately, both the House and the Senate passed spending deals that included clauses that would have extended VAWA until Feb. 8.

But because the law's future became inextricably tied to the larger budget debate, which hinges on a dispute between Democrats and Republicans over funding for a border wall, it was not reauthorized.

VAWA funds and administers numerous programs assisting survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Its expiration does not prevent all of these programs from being administered — according to The Washington Post, grants already awarded under the law will not be affected. But future payment requests from programs that receive VAWA funding will be delayed until the law is reauthorized.

Read more here.

January 16, 2019 in Current Affairs, Domestic Violence | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Millions of Women in India Join Hands to Form 385-Mile Wall of Protest

From NPR:

It was 3 p.m. on New Year's Day when Rakhee Madhavan, a 39-year-old teacher living in Kochi in the southern Indian state of Kerala, decided that she wanted to begin 2019 by doing something meaningful.

So Madhavan, who was visiting her hometown of Mullukkara 60 miles away for the holidays, boarded a bus there that was brimming with women. One hour later, she was part of what is reportedly the largest public gathering of women for the cause of gender equality in India.

They called it the "women's wall" — vanitha mathil in the local language of Malayalam.

According to government estimates published in the Indian press, somewhere between 3.5 million and 5 million women lined up on National Highway 66, a long stretch of road that runs along the country's western coast. The "wall" stretched out 385 miles. Organizers said it was a continuous chain from one end of the state to the other, but some critics say there were gaps.

Read more here.

January 15, 2019 in International, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 14, 2019

Male Guardianship System for Saudi Women

From BBC:

Saudi Arabia drew international plaudits last year when it lifted a longstanding ban on women driving.

However, restrictions on women remain - most notably, the "male guardianship system", a woman's father, brother, husband or son has the authority to make critical decisions on her behalf.

These restrictions were highlighted in early January, when a young Saudi woman fleeing her family barricaded herself in a hotel room in Bangkok saying she feared imprisonment if she was sent back home.

A Saudi woman is required to obtain a male relative's approval approval to apply for a passport, travel outside the country, study abroad on a government scholarship, get married, leave prison, or even exit a shelter for abuse victims.

"This is something that affects every Saudi woman and girl, from birth to death. They are essentially treated like minors," the Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy told the BBC.

Read more here.

January 14, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Can't Pay Child Support During Government Shutdown?

From Feldesman, Tucker, Leifer, and Fidell:

There are few absolutes in the world of divorce, but the unyielding nature of the obligation to make court-ordered child support and alimony payments is one of them.  The failure to do so can have dire consequences – the possibility of jail time, a requirement to pay your ex-spouse’s attorney’s fees, garnishment of future pay and liens on assets, revocation of your driver’s license, and a negative impact on your professional and personal reputation, to name a few.

So if you are one of the many who is experiencing a loss of income due to the government shutdown and you have legally-enforceable support obligations, what are your options?

First, the worst thing to do – just stop paying without any advance notice.  This leaves you exposed to accumulating arrearages, on which interest will begin to accumulate.  Plus, it makes it impossible for your ex-spouse to plan how to meet the financial needs of the children who are, after all, your children as well.

Read more here.

January 14, 2019 in Child Support Enforcement, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Divorce Series in the New York Times

From the New York Times:

In Unhitched, couples tell the stories of their relationships, from romance to vows to divorce to life afterward.

In 2006, Vanessa Hammer and Brendan Hammer were in law school (she at the University of Houston and he at DePaul) and living in different states when they met at a national Hispanic moot court competition.

They married nine months later. Both saw in each other a good mate, someone with whom to make a life.

“My family was surprised we moved so fast because I’m usually cautious but at the time I had no hesitation,” she said.

Read more here.

January 13, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Banta & Cahn: "Digital Asset Planning for Minors"

Natalie Banta & Naomi Cahn have recently posted to SSRN their article Digital Asset Planning for Minors, Prob. & Prop., Jan./Feb. 2019, at 44.  Here is the abstract:

This article is one of the first to explore minors, digital assets, and estate planning. It argues that there are special considerations when it comes to minors and their control over their digital assets upon death or incapacity. First are issues concerning the capacity of minors. This is important in two contexts: the capacity of minors to execute a binding estate planning instrument and to enter into a contract with a service provider. Second, it observes that internet law does not treat all minors under the age of eighteen the same. The article offers guidance on how parents, children, and estate planners might approach digital asset planning.


January 13, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Godsoe: "Redefining Parental Rights: The Case of Corporal Punishment"

Cynthia Godsoe recently posted to SSRN her paper Redefining Parental Rights: The Case of Corporal Punishment.  Here is the abstract:

Discussions of the constitutional elements of family law have largely focused on adult intimate relationships, yet it was a line of cases about parenthood, not marriage, that first reflected a substantive due process relational protection. Since deciding Meyer in 1923, the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly expressed a parent’s fundamental right to raise her child as she sees fit, according parents significant choice in education, medical care, and other aspects of child rearing. In this symposium essay, I argue that this thick conception of parental rights has been overread to shield the only remaining categorical exception to interpersonal violence, parental corporal punishment. Every state has a parental discipline privilege, often little changed since Blackstone’s time. Permissible discipline often goes well beyond “spanking” to include hair-pulling, beatings with belts or sticks, and even choking. Corporal punishment continues to be widely practiced, despite the research consensus demonstrating that it is ineffective at discipline, impedes children’s socialization, and brings harms including elision into serious physical abuse, as well as a strong correlation to future intimate partner violence.

This is a particularly propitious time for an examination of the parental discipline privilege. The constitutional analysis of family status and privacy in the context of marriage and adult intimacy has changed significantly in recent years to recognize new equality norms. It is time for the jurisprudence of parenthood to catch up. The constitutional analysis of parental rights should adapt to new empirical data and evolving social norms against the exculpation of intrafamilial harms. I conclude that abolishing the parental discipline privilege is consistent with the dominant family rights framework and fitting in a post-Obergefell world.

January 13, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Huntington: "Abortion Talk"

Clare Huntington has recently posted to SSRN her paper Abortion Talk, Michigan Law Review (forthcoming).  Here is the abstract:

Carol Sanger’s book, About Abortion: Terminating Pregnancy in Twenty-First Century America, arrives just as the confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh brings the future of abortion rights to an urgent new salience. About Abortion is a welcome and timely intervention in the highly polarized debate, focusing attention in a new direction. Sanger’s thesis is that we rarely talk about women’s experiences of abortion and that this absence of real conversation impoverishes our views about abortion and, in turn, impoverishes our democracy. In the book, Sanger uses both a metaphorical wide-angle lens, to capture the broad social and cultural context of abortion, and a telephoto lens, to focus attention on the fine-grained experiences of women, treating them as subjects, not objects, of the law.

This review essay argues that Sanger’s delightfully eclectic methodology has considerable normative consequences for both abortion talk and family law more generally. The textured, contextual conversation prompted by the book lowers the temperature of the debate and brings attention to new aspects of the issue. More broadly, the embedded humanism of her methodology is relevant to scholarly inquiry in other areas of family law in light of the mutually constitutive relationship between law and social context, as well as the profound effect of legal regulation on the daily life of families. The book thus succeeds in two ways. It opens the conversation about abortion, and it provides a methodology for scholars to think about the enormous range of influences in family law and the felt reality of that legal regulation.

This review essay also argues that despite the breadth of the book, it could and should have been even broader, bringing into the conversation more fully other important factors, most notably race and class. The odious history of—and ongoing efforts to—control the fertility of women of color, and the disproportionate rates of abortion among low-income women and women of color, mean the experiences of these women are distinctive and should be added to the conversation. This review thus engages in the call for conversation Sanger issues, drawing out additional voices to address these and other aspects of women’s experiences.

January 12, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 11, 2019

Americans Marrying for Money

From MarketWatch:

People are more realistic than romantic by the time they wed, Abby Rodman, a psychotherapist in Boston, told MarketWatch. “We’re living in a time when people are waiting longer to get married,” she said. “Today, both genders are closing in on 30 by the time they tie the knot. If they’ve already experienced a long-term, ‘head over heels’ relationship before marriage, they’ve also learned that those crazy in love feelings do subside over time.” She described this as a “somber maturity.”

Rsearch supports her theory. Some 56% of Americans say they want a partner who provides financial security more than “head over heels” love (44%), a survey released Friday by Merrill Edge, an online discount brokerage and division of Bank of America Merrill Lynch BAC, -0.04% found. This sentiment is held in almost equal measure by both men and women (54% and 57%). Generation Z (born between 1996 and 2010) is the only cohort to choose love (54%) over money.

Read more here.

January 11, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 10, 2019

World's Most Expensive Divorce

From Bloomberg: Inc. founder Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie are divorcing after a relationship that started at a New York hedge fund and is ending a little more than a year after he became the world’s richest person.


Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos met in New York at D.E. Shaw. Jeff was the first person to interview MacKenzie for a role at the hedge fund and the pair ended up having offices next to each other, according to a 2013 interview with Vogue. They married in 1993 and a year later drove across the country to Seattle, where Jeff founded Amazon. They have four children.

Bezos often discussed the bond with his wife and made the story of their marriage a foundation of his personal biography. He liked to say that as a single man he sought a partner who could “get him out of a third-world prison” and that MacKenzie fit the bill. At work, Bezos often lit up when discussing his wife and children.

MacKenzie, an author, played a significant role at the company in the early years and “was there when he wrote the business plan,” she wrote in a disparaging 2013 reviewof a Bezos biography written by Bloomberg Senior Executive Editor Brad Stone. “I worked with him and many others represented in the converted garage, the basement warehouse closet, the barbecue-scented offices, the Christmas-rush distribution centers, and the door-desk filled conference rooms in the early years of Amazon’s history.”

Read more here.

January 10, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Royal Historic Marriage

From History Extra:

Queen Victoria married her husband of 21 years, Prince Albert, on 10 February 1840 in St James’s Palace chapel, in what was the first marriage of a reigning queen of England since Mary I in 1554. To the outside world, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were the golden couple, exemplars of traditional family values. Yet, as Jane Ridley reveals, behind the romanticised veneer, Albert's thirst for power was putting the marriage under intense pressure…

Read more here.

January 10, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Parenting Blogging

From Slate:

Christie Tate has been writing online about her family for more than a decade. Now, her daughter is old enough to notice. After receiving a laptop for Christmas, Tate wrote in a widely shared essay in the Washington Post last week, the fourth-grader quickly marched up to her mom and wondered, “Why are all of these pictures of me on the Internet?” She asked if all the essays and photographs she had found by Googling could be taken down. “I told her that was not possible,” Tate wrote. And furthermore, “I’m not done exploring my motherhood in my writing.”

Read more here.

January 9, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Marriage Not Supposed to be Great

From the New Yorker:

The psychotherapist Esther Perel knows how to work a room. Since the publication of her first book, “Mating in Captivity,” in 2006, she has travelled the world, speaking to audiences about love, sex, intimacy, and infidelity: the nuts and bolts of romantic life. (Those who do not have an opportunity to see her live can watch her on the ted stage, where her videos, subtitled in more than thirty languages, have been viewed tens of millions of times.) Perel, who grew up in Antwerp as the daughter of Holocaust survivors, got her start as a family therapist, focussing on issues of trauma and cultural conflict. Couples have since become her clinical and theoretical specialty. In a style marked by humor, frankness, and empathy, Perel’s talks and books take a counterintuitive approach to answering provocative questions: How did the romantic couple become the primary unit of organization in society? Can romantic desire truly be sustained? Is infidelity ever a good thing?

Last year, Perel gave her fans access to a different side of her work. In her Audible podcast, “Where Should We Begin?”—which recently aired its third season—Perel conducts therapy sessions with real couples, one per episode, allowing listeners unprecedented access to her cloistered consultation room. The appeal of the show is partly voyeuristic; it is fascinating, not to mention unnerving, to hear other people expose their most intimate feelings and conflicts. It is also educational, poignant, and often profound, a public service in a culture that loves to talk about love, but rarely does so with honesty or humility. I first spoke with Perel last year, and caught up with her this fall onstage at the New Yorker Festival, where we discussed her own family background, her theories about romantic life, and her role as a mediator between a couple’s competing narratives. When we listened to clips from her show, Perel handed out pillowy eye masks so that audience members could focus more fully on her patients’ voices; as you listen to the audio clips amid the text below, you might want to do the same by closing your eyes.

Read more here.

January 9, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Japanese Town Paying for Kids

From CNN:

When Katsunori and Kaori Osaka had their first child, they were living in a cramped apartment in Nagoya, a city of more than 2 million people in central Japan.

Like many other young couples, they tried to raise their child in the city but found life among the apartment blocks too crowded and expensive, with few child care options. Eventually, they gave up.
Fourteen years later, the Osakas moved to Nagi, where Katsunori grew up. The sleepy agricultural town in western Japan has become a success story in the country's efforts to boost its declining birth rate.
Nagi has been ramping up payments since 2004, as well as offering other fertility-boosting parental perks, to turbocharge the town's birth rate and buck Japan's broader trend of aging populations.

Read more here.

January 8, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Divorce by Text to Protect Saudi Women

From CNN:

Women in Saudi Arabia divorced by their husbands will now be sent a text message to inform them of their new status.

The move is designed to stop the practice of men ending marriages without telling their wives.
The Saudi courts started to send such notifications Sunday in "a step aimed at protecting the rights of female clients, and enhancing digital transformation with more services," the country's Ministry of Justice said in a statement.
Read more here.

January 8, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Call for Presentations



Institute for Law Teaching and Learning Summer Conference

“Teaching Today’s Law Students”

June 3-5, 2019

Washburn University School of Law

Topeka, Kansas


The Institute for Law Teaching and Learning invites proposals for conference workshops addressing the many ways that law professors and administrators are reaching today’s law students.   With the ever-changing and heterogeneous nature of law students, this topic has taken on increased urgency for professors thinking about effective teaching strategies. 

The conference theme is intentionally broad and is designed to encompass a wide variety of topics – neuroscientific approaches to effective teaching; generational research about current law students; effective use of technology in the classroom; teaching first-generation college students; classroom behavior in the current political climate; academic approaches to less prepared students; fostering qualities such as growth mindset, resilience, and emotional intelligence in students; or techniques for providing effective formative feedback to students.

Accordingly, the Institute invites proposals for 60-minute workshops consistent with a broad interpretation of the conference theme. Each workshop should include materials that participants can use during the workshop and when they return to their campuses.  Presenters should model effective teaching methods by actively engaging the workshop participants.  The Institute Co-Directors are glad to work with anyone who would like advice on designing their presentations to be interactive.

To be considered for the conference, proposals should be one page (maximum), single-spaced, and include the following information:

  • The title of the workshop;
  • The name, address, telephone number, and email address of the presenter(s); and
  • A summary of the contents of the workshop, including its goals and methods; and
  • A description of the techniques the presenter will use to engage workshop participants and make the workshop interactive.


The proposal deadline is February 15, 2019.  Submit proposals via email to Professor Emily Grant, Co-Director, Institute for Law Teaching and Learning, at


January 8, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)