Family Law Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

States Urged to Provde Children with Lawyers

"Fifteen states get failing grades on a first-of-its-kind report card assessing the legal representation provided to abused and neglected children as courts make potentially fateful decisions about whether to separate them from their families.

The report, being released at a Capitol Hill briefing Tuesday by the Washington-based child advocacy group First Star, is sharply critical of states which do not require all children in these proceedings to be represented by their own attorneys.

It also says more states should join the 17 that require lawyers in these cases to represent the child's expressed wishes and ensure that those preferences are heard in court.

''In these proceedings the family of a child can be created and or destroyed based on the determination by the court,'' the report says. ''And too often, the child, although most impacted by the court, has the least amount of input.''

Since 1974, Congress has required states to appoint a representative -- often known as a guardian ad litem -- for any child involved in abuse and neglect proceedings. However, states have interpreted the federal law in varying ways; the First Star report said 16 do not have statutes requiring that these children be represented by their own attorneys in all child-protection proceedings." Associate Press, N.Y. Times Link to Article (last visited 4-24-97 NVS)

April 24, 2007 in Child Abuse | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Hampshire Civil Unions?

"New Hampshire’s governor said Thursday that he would sign a bill legalizing civil unions for same-sex couples.

For weeks, the governor, John Lynch, declined to express his views on the civil union bill, which was passed by the House of Representatives and is expected to be passed by the Senate next week. Both chambers are controlled by Democrats for the first time in more than a century.

The measure would make New Hampshire the fourth state to allow civil unions, following the lead of Vermont, Connecticut and New Jersey. California allows domestic partnerships with benefits similar to civil unions. Massachusetts is the only state that allows same-sex marriage." By Pam Belluck, N.Y. Times Link to Article (last visited 4-24-07 NVS)

April 24, 2007 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New AFCC Newsletter Available

You can view the latest informative newsletter from the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts here. (last visited 4-24-07 NVS)

April 24, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Foreign Adoption Agency Problems

"Perched on the coffee table of Terry and Barb Sonnentag's Monticello home is a book of photos devoted to a child they may never see again. Willy, a 5-year-old Kenyan, grins brightly in one of the pictures. He is atop Terry's shoulders, ready to leave an orphanage for life with his new American family.

But two weeks after Terry Sonnentag landed in Kenya in December to plan Willy's departure, the family's dream fell apart.

The lawyer retained in Kenya by Reaching Arms International, an adoption agency in New Hope orchestrating the adoption, turned out not to be a lawyer. Soon after, Kenyan officials informed Sonnentag that he had to stay six months to complete an adoption, not the three weeks he had been told. Then came the crushing blow: Reaching Arms didn't even have the credentials to do Kenyan adoptions.

"I was stunned," Terry Sonnentag said. "We had put our faith in them completely.""

By Patricia Lopez, Star Tribune Link to Article (last visited 4-15-07 NVS)

April 15, 2007 in Adoption | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Older Parents

"LATE in 1996, while rehearsing for a production of “A Christmas Carol” in New York, Tony Randall was giddily anticipating becoming a father — at the age of 77. “What I look forward to,” he said during a break, “is when the kid is 15 and we go out in the yard to play ball. I’ll only be 90.”

But Mr. Randall never made it. He was 84 when he died in 2004, leaving behind not only a 7-year-old daughter, Julia, but also a 6-year-old son, Jefferson.

In December 1996, inspired in part by Mr. Randall’s well-publicized late fatherhood (his wife was 26 at the time), I wrote an article for The New York Times about men having children at a stage in life when their peers were usually contemplating a move to Florida or their next cardiogram. One proud papa dubbed them start-over dads, or SODs for short." By Thomas Vinciguerra, N.Y. Times Link to Article (last visited 4-12-07 NVS)

April 12, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Chinese Divorce

"Divorce, once nearly unheard of in China, has become more common than ever as women such as Wu gain financial independence and shrug off the diminishing stigma of leaving their husbands. Legal barriers to divorce have fallen away -- couples needed permission from their employers until just four years ago -- and the Internet has become a resource for discontented spouses seeking guidance. More broadly, experts say, the increase in divorce points to an embrace of individualism in this country, which in many ways remains only nominally communist." By Maureen Fan, Washington Post Link to Article (last visited 4-10-07 NVS)

April 10, 2007 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

DNA Stalkers?

"They swab the cheeks of strangers and pluck hairs from corpses. They travel hundreds of miles to entice their suspects with an old photograph, or sometimes a free drink. Cooperation is preferred, but not necessarily required to achieve their ends.

If the amateur genealogists of the DNA era bear a certain resemblance to members of a “CSI” team, they make no apologies. Prompted by the advent of inexpensive genetic testing, they are tracing their family trees with a vengeance heretofore unknown.

“People who realize the potential of DNA,” said Katherine Borges, a co-founder of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy, “will go to great lengths to get it.”

Unlike paper records, which can be hard to come by and harder to verify, a genetic test can quickly and definitively tell if someone is a relative. But not all potential kin are easily parted from their DNA. Some worry about revealing family secrets. Some fear their sample could be used to pry into other areas of their lives. Some just do not want to be bothered.

Those cases inspire tactics that are turning the once-staid pursuit of genealogy, perhaps second only to gardening among American hobbies, into an extreme sport." By Amy Harmon, N.Y. Times Link to Article (last visited 4-10-07 NVS)

April 10, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Cost of Supervised Visitation

"Custody battles are rarely gentle affairs, but if you are poor, such fights can carry an added frustration: waiting months to get a court-approved visit with your own child. In cases involving allegations of domestic violence, which are increasing, or other issues, such as drug abuse and long absenteeism, judges often require that child’s visits with the noncustodial parent take place only in the presence of a professional, like a social worker. But when judges order supervised visitation, neither the court nor other government agencies pay for the service, a growing problem in New York City and across the nation.

Because he cannot afford to pay for supervised visitation, which routinely costs $100 an hour, Juan Manuel Fernandez, 51, of Washington Heights, said, he has not seen his two daughters, ages 6 and 11, since last October. A year ago, he said, his wife walked out, moved the girls to New Jersey, and told the court he was threatening her. He denies the accusation, but the judge in his case ruled that supervision was necessary. So now he is waiting for free supervision through a nonprofit agency, which can take months." By Leslie Kaufman, N.Y. Times Link to Article (last visited 4-10-07 NVS)

April 10, 2007 in Visitation | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 2, 2007

Equal Rights Amendment

"Federal and state lawmakers have launched a new drive to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, reviving a feminist goal that faltered a quarter-century ago when the measure did not gain the approval of three-quarters of the state legislatures.

The amendment, which came three states short of enactment in 1982, has been introduced in five state legislatures since January. Yesterday, House and Senate Democrats reintroduced the measure under a new name -- the Women's Equality Amendment -- and vowed to bring it to a vote in both chambers by the end of the session." by Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post Link to Article (last visited 4-2-07 NVS)

April 2, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Donating Frozen Embryos for Stem-Cell Research

"There are a half-million or so frozen human embryos stored in freezers across the country, and two of them belong to Jodi Kreiser and her husband.  Like thousands of couples trying to have families through in-vitro fertilization (IVF), they faced a wrenching choice: what to do with embryos they created at great financial and emotional cost that are not destined to become their children. Most couples keep them frozen indefinitely, and eventually, experts say, they are destroyed.

Now, the Kreisers are among the first in the state to have a new choice. Their embryos will be donated to the University of Minnesota for embryonic stem-cell research. The step is emerging as an option amid intensifying political debate on the use of stem cells." By Josehine Marcotty, Star TRibune, Link to Article (last visited 4-2-07 NVS)

April 2, 2007 in Alternative Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Sexual Abuse and Juvenile Detention

To most Texans, the West Texas State School here is the troubled institution at the center of a sexual abuse scandal that has shaken the state’s juvenile detention system.

But to the residents of this town of 129 and the neighboring communities, it is a source of badly needed jobs.

That is why about 200 people gathered outside the county courthouse in Monahans on Tuesday to oppose a state auditor’s recommendation to close the school, and why nine residents made the 750-mile round trip drive to Austin this week to address legislators on the matter.

“This facility has been a part of the community since 1965,” said Donna Garcia, community relations coordinator at the school. “It feels like a personal vendetta against this community. We feel like the Legislature needs somebody to blame this on.”

In February, news accounts reported that from 2003 to 2005 two officials at West Texas State had had late-night sexual encounters with incarcerated boys and then were allowed to resign without facing criminal charges. Responding to the disclosure, and to pressure from the Legislature, Gov. Rick Perry forced the resignation of the Texas Youth Commission board and ordered a review of all of its facilities.

The agency is currently investigating 1,200 complaints against juvenile facilities around the state.

“Obviously, we’re outraged at the kind of things that are alleged,” Judge Greg Holly of the
By Barbara Novovitch, N.Y. Times Link to Article (Last visited 4-1-07 NVS)

April 1, 2007 in Child Abuse | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Stigma of Third Divorces?

"“The stigma of divorce is lower than in the past, even the stigma of a second divorce,” said Andrew Cherlin, a professor of public policy at Johns Hopkins University who specializes in marriage and divorce trends. “Researchers used to think that people in third marriages were very different — not as good at keeping a marriage together by temperament or taste.”

“But these days, with so much more divorce, third marriers aren’t necessarily so different.”

There is little information on people who marry three or more times because the demographic is relatively small. Census surveys show that only 3 percent of men and women marry three times or more, compared with 13 percent of men and 14 percent of women who marry twice.

But third marriages are, by logic, more common among older Americans, and when broken down by age the census figures show a significantly higher incidence of marriage for certain groups. Eight percent of men and 6 percent of women in their 50s had married three or more times, 2001 figures show, and so had 7 percent of men and 6 percent of women in their 60s.

That’s likely to rise as people who grew up in the 1970s, when divorce became more commonplace, reach midlife, Dr. Cherlin said." By Mireya Navarro, N.Y. Times Link to Article (last visited 4-1-07 NVS)

April 1, 2007 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)