Thursday, June 30, 2011

Chlidren's Voices in English Family Law

From BBC:

A new guide, drawn up by the children's rights director specifically for young people, tells them how to give opinions on how they should be treated.

The comments will be fed into the government's current review of the family justice system.

The review's chairman, David Norgrove, said it was vital children had a voice.

"The publication of the Young Person's Guide gives them this opportunity and the panel will carefully consider what they say," he said.

Read more here.


June 30, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

RI Legislature Passes Civil Unions Bill

From CNN:

Less than a week after New York became the nation's sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage, Rhode Island state lawmakers on Wednesday voted in favor of a bill that permits civil unions between gay and lesbian couples.

The measure, which passed the state Senate by a count of 21-16, is widely seen as a compromise intended to provide same-same couples with added rights and benefits, while also preventing an expanded legal definition of marriage.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an independent, is expected to sign the bill into law, according to his spokesman, Michael Trainor.

If signed, the law would take effect on July 1, making Rhode Island the fifth state in the union to allow civil unions between same-sex couples.

Such unions are currently permitted in New Jersey and Illinois, and will be allowed in Delaware and Hawaii beginning January 1, 2012.

Three West Coast states -- California, Oregon and Washington -- plus Nevada, also allow for "comprehensive domestic partnerships," largely considered an equivalent to their civil union counterparts.

Read the full article here.


June 29, 2011 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Top Female Scientists

Top female scientists discuss their work and families in the NYT.  Read it here.


June 29, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

DiFonzo & Stern: "The Children of Baby M"

J. Herbie DiFonzo & Ruth Stern have posted "The Children of Baby M" (39 Capital Univ. L. Rev. 345 (2011)) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Never the closest of bedfellows, law and technology mix uneasily within the realm of alternative reproductive practices. More than twenty years ago, the drama of Baby M provoked a fierce debate about the legal and biological contours of parenthood. In pondering the issue, the New Jersey Supreme Court attempted to erect a barrier between a natural mother’s right and what it saw as a dangerous and exploitive new mechanism for producing and marketing human life. Since that time, the practice of surrogacy and the use of alternative reproductive technologies have taken firm hold in our culture, creating families where, previously, none might have been possible.

This article examines the social and legal complexities involved in the apportioning of rights and responsibilities within these novel family forms. Biology was once determinative of parentage. Today, desire, intent, and the borrowing of another person’s reproductive capacities to create a child have forcefully intruded upon traditional notions of family. Baby M.’s children have been born into a world where law and technology must come to a rational, peaceable resolution in defining and preserving the bonds of parenthood.


June 28, 2011 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wild Facebook Use by Divorcing Couple

From the Globe and Mail:

In the latest example of two people losing all sense of reason while they part ways, Angela Voelkert, of Indiana, decided to go digital dirt-digging on her ex-husband, David. She created a fake profile on Facebook of a teenager named Jessica Studebaker (complete with a cute picture) and became friends with him.

“Jessica” quickly became a confidante, as The New York Post reports, and everything was going to plan. But then Mr. Voelkert began to spill details of a plot to bump off Angela. In e-mail messages, he apparently explained how he had attached a GPS to his ex’s car so he could find her when the time came, and even allegedly asked “Jessica” whether she knew someone who might do the job for him.

Ms. Voelkert went to the authorities, who promptly charged Mr. Voelkert last week with illegally installing a GPS, with warnings of more charges to come. In court, the Post story says, his e-mails were widely quoted, including his asking Jessica to run away with him when the deed was done. “Let me know, Baby!” (Signed with a smiley face.)

Except, on Tuesday, all charges were dropped suddenly. It appears Mr. Voelkert had been running a scam of his own. According to The Smoking Gun, he produced a notarized affidavit – signed six days before he first mentioned any sinister plans – that made clear he’d suspected all along that Jessica was really Angela. His affidavit stated that he had “no plans” to harm anyone. “I am lying to this person,” the affidavit states, “to gain positive proof that it is indeed my ex-wife trying to again tamper in my life.”

Read more here.


June 28, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 27, 2011

New York Prepares for Same-Sex Marriage Onslaught

From the New York Times:

From City Hall in Manhattan to rural hamlets upstate, New York officials began to prepare on Saturday for a surge in gay couples expected to flood clerks’ offices next month seeking to marry.

The state’s same-sex marriage law, which was signed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo just before midnight on Friday, will go into effect in 30 days, meaning that gay couples can marry here beginning on July 24.

Gay couples from out of state will also be allowed to apply for wedding licenses and hold nuptials in New York.

Roughly 45,000 gay couples live in New York State, according to census estimates. No exact projection is available for how many will marry here, but officials are readying for thousands, especially in the first week.

“We are training our staff to be prepared for a very large number of people on the first day,” said Michael McSweeney, the New York City clerk, who oversees the marriage bureau. “We are going to be part of history.”

The city has struck an agreement to increase the number of state judges available to perform same-sex marriages. Their workload could swell; John Feinblatt, a top adviser to the mayor, said judges could be bombarded by requests to circumvent the 24-hour waiting period.

Read the full article here.


June 27, 2011 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Unmarried but Divorced


If one person in a relationship believes the couple is married and the other says they're not, what does the law say?

A Maplewood woman divorcing her husband of 18 years argued she should be treated as a spouse because she had a "good-faith belief" that they were legally married.

Initially wed in the Hmong tradition, Su Xiong and Choa Yang Xiong described themselves as husband and wife, obtained a marriage license and filed taxes and bought houses and insurance together as a married couple.

They did not, however, get a marriage certificate. The husband, Su Xiong, argued in court that this meant they were not legally married.

But the state Court of Appeals agreed with a Ramsey County district judge this week that the woman was a "putative spouse" under Minnesota law, with all the benefits that implies.

Read more here.



June 27, 2011 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Appell: "The Myth of Separation"

Annette Ruth Appell (Wash. Univ. St. Louis) has posted "The Myth of Separation" (6 Northwestern J. Law & Social Policy 291 (2011)) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

On the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern University Law School, a center that holds among its core values that children are human beings and that all children matter, this short commentary reflects on lessons juvenile courts teach us about family values and the disconnection between our expectations of and aspirations for rich and poor families and their children. This dichotomy of expectations undergirds the myth of separation: that children can be fully and existentially separated from their parents; and that we must excise children from parents to improve children’s lives. The separation myth works to the detriment of all children, but particularly to children under the jurisdiction of juvenile courts who are more vulnerable to family disruption in a system that devalues kinship and ignores socioeconomic solutions. Against the kin-suspicious culture of juvenile courts, this commentary juxtaposes research in adoption that illustrates the importance of birth kin to children and their adoptive parents.


June 26, 2011 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Intercountry Adoptions

From the Washington Times:

NEW YORK, June 10, 2011 — The past month has been ripe with changes for Americans interested in international adoption.  Three countries—Ukraine, Mexico and the Democratic Republic of Congo—have issued new regulations that are expected to dramatically restrict and reduce intercountry adoption.

Read more here.


June 25, 2011 in Adoption | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 24, 2011

NY Legalizes Gay Marriage

From NYT:

ALBANY — Lawmakers voted late Friday to legalize same-sex marriage, making New York the largest state where gay and lesbian couples will be able to wed and giving the national gay-rights movement new momentum from the state where it was born.

Read more here.


June 24, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Davidson: "Octomom and Multi-Fetal Pregnancies: Why Federal Legislation Should Require Insurers to Cover in Vitro Fertilization"

Camille Davidson (Charlotte School of Law) has posted "Octomom and Multi-Fetal Pregnancies: Why Federal Legislation Should Require Insurers to Cover in Vitro Fertilization" (17 William & Mary J. Women & the Law 135 (2010)) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

On January 26, 2009, Nadya Suleman, dubbed Octomom by the media, delivered octuplets after using in vitro fertilization. The same day, Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York introduced the Family Building Act of 2009 in the United States House of Representatives-a federal mandate requiring insurers to provide coverage for in vitro fertilization. The octuplets are no longer headline news, but issues associated with in vitro fertilization are still newsworthy. In this paper I propose that Congress should take a serious look at the Family Building Act of 2009. After addressing some additional issues, Congress should pass legislation mandating that insurers provide coverage for in vitro fertilization. Such legislation will have the effect of reducing the number of multi-fetal pregnancies and preterm births, as well as the costs and risks associated with such pregnancies
and births.

Although in vitro fertilization is used to treat infertility, it has replaced one problem (the inability to procreate) with a more serious problem (multi-fetal pregnancies). This problem exists largely because the fertility industry is not regulated. While the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM)and the Society for Reproductive Technology (SART) have issued permissive industry guidelines, there is no serious consequence to the physician or clinic that ignores those guidelines. As in vitro fertilization is expensive and largely funded with out-of-pocket monies, patients and their physicians are inclined to transfer more than one embryo for implantation during *136 each cycle of in vitro fertilization. They do so in order to increase the chances of a “successful” pregnancy and maximize a patient's use of funds. As a result, women who undergo in vitro fertilization often have more than one baby at a time.

Moreover, the only federal law that regulates the industry-the Fertility Clinic Success Rate and Certification Act-also encourages multiple embryo transfers by requiring physicians and clinics to report their pregnancy success rates each year. A successful pregnancy is one that results in a live birth-regardless of how many children. This encourages physicians to transfer multiple embryos to increase their chances of a successful pregnancy so that they can attract additional consumers. Because the human uterus is designed to carry only one baby at a time, multi-fetal pregnancies are risky and usually result in preterm babies. The children often have long-term health and other needs. This is a public health concern.

The Family Building Act would help regulate the largely unregulated fertility industry. If passed, women and their physicians would be inclined to transfer fewer embryos for implantation during a cycle of in vitro fertilization because an unsuccessful pregnancy would not mean the loss of out-of-pocket dollars. A patient would be more willing to try again if insurance covered the procedure. Furthermore, physician reimbursement rates could be tied to the industry guidelines. A federal mandate requiring insurers to cover in vitro fertilization would strengthen the industry guidelines without a need for an additional regulatory industry. An insurance mandate will reduce the incidence of multi-fetal pregnancies, the largest problem associated with in vitro fertilization, and ultimately increase the incidence of healthy single-baby pregnancies.


June 24, 2011 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

FL Death Benefit Plans

From Florida Wires:

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The Florida Supreme Court says contract documents designating beneficiaries trump divorce settlements that don't say who should receive death benefits.

The justices ruled Thursday in a dispute between the ex-wife and daughter of the late Manuel Crawford over who should inherit his deferred compensation fund in a case from Miami-Dade County.

Read more here.



June 24, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Littwin: "Coerced Debt: The Role of Consumer Credit in Domestic Violence"

Angela Littwin (UT School of Law) has posted "Coerced Debt: The Role of Consumer Credit in Domestic Violence" (forthcoming California L. Rev.) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Over the past several decades, the modern domestic violence (DV) movement has had some success in reforming the systems on which survivors must rely to achieve basic safety for themselves and their families. Although far from perfect in their treatment of domestic violence, police departments, hospitals, and family law courts are at least now engaged in the conversation about DV as a social problem, rather than denying its existence or importance. But there is a new form of domestic violence that has not yet been recognized and which needs to be addressed: Financial abuse through consumer credit. As consumer lending has permeated American life, violent partners have begun using debt as a means of exercising abusive control, making the consumer credit system an unknowing party to domestic violence.

Coerced debt can take a variety of forms. It ranges from abusers taking out credit cards in their partners' names without their knowledge to forcing victims to obtain loans for the abuser to tricking victims into signing quit claims deeds for the family home. This article uses original, empirical data to explore how abusive relationship dynamics interact with a complex and amorphous consumer credit system to leave many victims of domestic violence with hundreds or thousands of dollars of coerced debt.


June 23, 2011 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Math Skills Linked to Parental Divorce?

From USA Today:

Young children of divorce are not only more likely to suffer from anxiety, loneliness, low self-esteem and sadness, they experience long-lasting setbacks in interpersonal skills and math test scores, new research suggests.

Read more here.


June 23, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ontario Family Law

From the Huffington Post:

Despite the increasing use of mediation, arbitration and collaborative family law through Ontario, the Family Court system remains mired in delay and inefficiency. Three of the most unsettling trends are the increased number of unrepresented litigants in the family court system, the costs associated with the production of relevant disclosure and the increasing length of trials. In order to confront these problems, the family law system in Ontario must undergo several important changes in an effort to better serve those who need its services. These trends must be dealt with, or Ontario could find itself with an irreparably clogged family court system.

Read more here.


June 22, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Celebrity and Minor Marriage

From the NY Daily News:

Age ain't nothing but a number - just ask 51-year-old actor Doug Hutchison.

Hutchison, whose film and TV credits include "The Green Mile," "Lost" and "24," said "I do" to 16-year-old aspiring country star Courtney Alexis Stodden on May 20 in Las Vegas.

While the couple's 35-year age difference has already raised many eyebrows, the newlyweds insist they are truly in love.

According to the Clark County, Nevada Marriage Bureau, applicants wanting to obtain a marriage license must be at least 18 years of age. Since Stodden, a former beauty pageant queen, is considered a minor, the only way her marriage could be considered legal is if one of her parents gave consent.

And by the sound of it, Stodden had both her father and mother's blessing.

"Every father can only pray to have such a man behind their daughter," dad Alex Stodden told

"Courtney is one of the most level headed girls out there and I'm not just saying that because she's my daughter. Doug is the nicest man I've ever met in my life," he said.

"We are totally supportive of this marriage," the blond beauty's mom, Krista Stodden, also told Radar. "Doug is a wonderful man and we love him."

Read more here.


June 21, 2011 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Carbone & Cahn on Marital Satisfaction and Work Roles

June Carbone and Naomi Cahn posted a piece on marital satisfaction and workloads on HuffPost Women:

A new study of newlyweds found that increases in workloads were associated with increases in marital satisfaction for both men and women. The researchers expected this to change when the newlyweds became parents, and indeed it did -- for men. For women who became parents, however, increases in the amount of time and energy they devoted to work were associated with increases in their marital satisfaction. The authors speculated that, once they become parents, husbands and wives might respond differently to changes in each other's workloads; fathers might spend more time on childcare when their wives face high demands at work.

This is important information for those of us trying to balance work and family. On the other hand, increasing numbers of people in the United States are neither married nor employed. Family structure has become a marker of class, and studies can cloak profound differences among different types of families. Unpacking this research requires reconsideration of the relationship between work, marriage, and class. First, limiting the examination to married mothers skews the study from the outset. The most elite women, as measured by education, have become the most likely to marry, a reversal of historical trends.

For two-career couples, women's workforce participation brings greater income and marital quality, along with greater pressure on men to help with the children.

Amato found, however, that the same did not hold true for working-class wives. The marital quality of couples in financial distress dropped significantly during the same 20 year period. This was in large part because women in less satisfying jobs who preferred to be home with the children have increasingly found that they have to work because their husbands cannot support them. More recent studies confirm that unemployed men, in contrast with both unemployed women and men with stable jobs, are less likely to help with either the children or the house, increasing their partners' unhappiness.

The new study, by focusing on newlyweds, largely misses these effects. . . . This study fails to show the class based increases in employment instability -- instability that in the long run discourages marriage and contributes to family instability. The fact that the middle class is successfully combining work and family roles says little about those for whom both work and marriage are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. While the Great Recession has at least temporarily decreased divorce rates, it has also lowered marriage rates. Any focus on newlyweds therefore is likely to include only those who can marry, and that overwhelmingly means the better educated with the best jobs. For the rest of the country, the prospects for marriage and jobs remain bleak -- so news about how to manage the tensions between work and family are not comforting.

Read the full post here.


June 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Satirical or Too True?

From (by Rachel Friedman, entitled "30 and Pregnant"):

There were several people to break the news to, first and foremost my husband. We've only been married for four years, practically newlyweds! This wasn't part of the plan.

"You're... pregnant?" he said when I told him over pasta primavera that evening. "Are you sure?" He eyed me warily. "Is it mine?"

"Of course it's yours!" I cried. What a cretin. He was all sweet talk during our monthly "dates" and here he was in the sober light of day throwing around accusations.

"How did this happen?" he said. I couldn't believe he didn't know. "We were so careful." I sighed heavily, twirling a piece of spaghetti around my fork, feeling overwhelmed that now I would officially have to come down on one side of the cloth versus disposable diapers debate. "Well, of course I'll do my part," he announced in what I assume he thought was a chivalrous tone. "I'll step up to the plate." He reached for his iPhone. "I can't promise that we'll be able to get into a decent pre-K this late in the game, but my colleague's wife is a teacher at the 92nd Street Y. It's worth a shot." He exchanged some pleasantries with the man on the other end of the line then mouthed to me: "How far along are you?" He nodded efficiently and scribbled my response on a scrap of paper next to a list of the city's most prestigious schools that he had begun compiling.

Next on the list was my father, the professor. There was a long silence after I confessed to him.

"But you haven't even made tenure yet!" he wailed once he was finally able to speak. "A baby is going to derail your entire career!"

"It's going to be okay, Dad," I said, trying to calm him. "I'll only have to take a few weeks off."

"I thought you were waiting until 35," he said. "That's what good girls do."

"Sometimes accidents happen," I said.

Read more here.


June 21, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Redefining the Family

Interesting New York Times piece about the cohabitation of a mother, her child, the child's sperm donor, and his domestic partner:

The setup is complicated. Griffin’s mother, Carol Einhorn, a fund-raiser for a nonprofit group, is 48 and single. She conceived through in vitro fertilization with sperm from Mr. (George) Russell, 49, a chiropractor and close friend. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday nights, Mr. Russell stays in the spare room of Ms. Einhorn’s apartment. The other three days he lives on President Street with his domestic partner, David Nimmons, 54, an administrator at a nonprofit. Most Sundays, they all have dinner together.

“It’s not like Heather has two mommies,” Mr. Russell said. “It’s George has two families.”

Two addresses, three adults, a winsome toddler and a mixed-breed dog officially named Buck the Dog. None of this was the familial configuration any of them had imagined, but it was, for the moment, their family. It was something they had stumbled into, yet had a certain revisionist logic.

Such is the hiccupping fluidity of the family in the modern world. Six years running now, according to census data, more households consist of the unmarried than the married. More people seem to be deciding that the contours of the traditional nuclear family do not work for them, spawning a profusion of cobbled-together networks in need of nomenclature. Unrelated parents living together, sharing chores and child-rearing. Friends who occupy separate homes but rely on each other for holidays, health care proxies, financial support.

“Some of the strictures that were used to organize society don’t fit human change and growth,” said Ann Schranz, chairwoman of the Alternatives to Marriage Project, a 10-year-old organization. “What matters to us is the health of relationships, not the form of relationships.”

And so here on Plaza Street, four people are testing the fuzzy boundaries of an age-old institution, knowing there is no single answer to what defines family or what defines love.

Griffin, now almost 3, calls Mr. Russell “Uncle George” and Mr. Nimmons “Dave.” At some point, Ms. Einhorn intends to tell her son the truth. Mr. Russell worries about that moment. He never wanted to be a parent; he saw the sperm donation as a favor to a friend. He did not attend the birth or Griffin’s first birthday party. His four sisters were trying to figure out whether they were aunts.

Read more here.


June 20, 2011 in Alternative Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)



The neighbours know Witterick and her husband, David Stocker, are raising a genderless baby. But they don’t pretend to understand it.

While there’s nothing ambiguous about Storm’s genitalia, they aren’t telling anyone whether their third child is a boy or a girl.

The only people who know are Storm’s brothers, Jazz, 5, and Kio, 2, a close family friend and the two midwives who helped deliver the baby in a birthing pool at their Toronto home on New Year’s Day.

Read more here.


June 20, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)