Family Law Prof Blog

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

Friday, September 30, 2011

First Generation of Sperm Donor-Conceived Children

From the Washington Post:

LaBounty is part of the first documented generation of donor-conceived children: those born in the late 1970s to mid-1980s, when sperm banks began to spread in the United States. These children are now adults, and caring for them has prompted a host of unanticipated issues, ranging from a lack of medical histories to the psychological impact of knowing the circumstances of their conception. Many donor-conceived children are finding out, often only by chance, that they are predisposed to certain illnesses. In one recent case in the news, a donor-conceived teen learned that his biological father, who provided sperm for at least 24 children, carried a genetic disorder that causes a potentially fatal heart defect.


In July, a law went into effect in Washington state giving adults the right to medical and identifying information about their sperm donor. Although the law gives donors the option of vetoing disclosure of their identities, it guarantees that offspring will be able to access their medical histories in every case.

“It’s really landmark legislation,” said Naomi Cahn, a family law professor at George Washington University, though there are still questions about how it will be implemented. For example, sperm is often shipped across state lines. “In the absence of federal law,” Cahn notes, “it’s unclear what the rights are of any individual in each state.”

Read more here.


September 30, 2011 in Alternative Reproduction, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Divorce Numbers in Asia Rising

The Financial Times reports that divorce numbers in Asia are rising due to women's growing economic power.  Read more here.


September 29, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Effect of Recession on Young People


In record-setting numbers, young adults struggling to find work are shunning long-distance moves to live with Mom and Dad, delaying marriage and buying fewer homes, often raising kids out of wedlock. They suffer from the highest unemployment since World War II and risk living in poverty more than others — nearly 1 in 5.

Read more here.


September 28, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ownership of Dodgers

From the Los Angeles Times:

Frank and Jamie McCourt expect to settle their divorce -- and with it the question of who owns the Dodgers -- in a trial during the 2012 baseball season.

The trial is expected to start next spring or summer and last 30 to 45 days, a timetable set forth by attorneys on both sides after a hearing Wednesday at Los Angeles Superior Court.

Frank McCourt claims sole ownership of the Dodgers, and ex-wife Jamie claims half-ownership. It is unclear when the Dodgers will emerge from federal bankruptcy protection, and the team has funding to operate until well into next season. 

Although Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon could decide ownership of the team before the bankruptcy proceedings end, he emphasized Wednesday that "the ultimate question of the disposition of the Dodgers" would need to wait for a resolution in Bankruptcy Court.

Read more here.



September 27, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cahill: "Regulating at the Margins: Non-Traditional Kinship and the Legal Regulation of Intimate and Family Life"

Courtney Cahill (Roger Williams Univ. School of Law) has posted "Regulating at the Margins:  Non-Traditional Kinship and the Legal Regulation of Intimate and Family Life" (forthcoming Arizona L. Rev.) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

This Article offers a new theory of how the law attempts to control intimate and family life and uses that theory to argue why certain laws might be unconstitutional. Specifically, it contends that by regulating non-traditional relationships and practices that receive little or no constitutional protection - same-sex relationships, domestic partnerships, de facto parenthood, and non-sexual procreation - the law is able to express its normative ideals about all marriage, parenthood, and procreation. By regulating non-traditional kinship, that is, the law can be aspirational in a way that the Constitution would ordinarily prohibit, and can attempt to channel all of us in ways that satisfy its normative ideals. This Article refers to this form of channeling or control as “back door” regulation, and maintains that by regulating at the margins, the lawattempts to regulate everyone. In addition to offering a new theory of the family and its legal regulation, this Article uses that theory to enrich constitutional challenges to laws, like exclusionary marriage regimes, that selectively burden non-traditional intimacy and practices. Most broadly, it invites readers to consider just how far the lawreaches when it regulates as well as just how interconnected to one another the law’s regulation (and discrimination) makes us.


September 26, 2011 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

TN Alimony Case

From the Commercial Appeal:

NASHVILLE -- The Tennessee Supreme Court Friday reversed a lower appeals court decision to award long-term and lump-sum alimony to a suburban Nashville woman who is in good health, has a stable and relatively well-paying job and received significant assets in the divorce.

The divorce case of Johanna and Craig Gonsewski of Hendersonville had been watched by family law attorneys because the earlier Court of Appeals ruling reversed years of precedents that limited lifetime alimony for former spouses who are not in especially difficult circumstances.

The Supreme Court's unanimous decision Friday reinstated the trial court's decision not to award lifetime alimony and substantial attorneys fees to Johanna Gonsewski, even though she earned less than her husband of 21 years.

Read more here.



September 26, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Heartbreak Hotel

USA Today brings a story that shatters the image of a romantic five star hotel:

Often, hotels are where relationships start. But now, you can end them by "checking into" a luxury Divorce Hotel, PRI's tells us.

We're not talking about a 300-room hotel filled with angry couples.

Instead, the report says, Dutch entrepreneur Jim Halfens has created the "Divorce Hotel" for couples capable of ending their marriage without lawyers during a three-day mediation process.

The process takes place in the luxury hotel of their choice.

They might check into the Hotel Karel the Fifth in Utrecht, which oozes charm and - yes - even romance, the story says. Lawyers aren't invited.


Due to differences in divorce laws, however, he says only Dutch couples can participate although he's working on launching Divorce Hotel in Germany through partners.

Read more here.



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

Friday, September 23, 2011

Very Funny Commercial on (Ideal?) Marriage



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

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Divorce in Alzheimer's Cases


Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson stunned "700 Club" viewers Tuesday when he said divorcing a spouse with Alzheimer's disease was justified.


The remarks sparked outrage throughout religious and medical communities.  

"I'm just flabbergasted," said Joel Hunter, senior pastor of the 15,000 member Northland Church in Orlando, Fla. "I just don't know how anyone who is reading Scripture or is even familiar with the traditional wedding vows can come out with a statement like that. Obviously, we can all rationalize the legitimacy for our own comfort that would somehow make it OK to divorce our spouse if circumstances become very different or inconvenient. ... That's almost universal, but there's just no way you can get out of what Jesus says about marriage."

Read more and view a related video here.




September 22, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

SC: Must Live Apart to Receive Support


COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The South Carolina Supreme Court says couples seeking a divorce must live apart in order for one spouse to seek monetary support in the interim.

The justices ruled Monday that a Family Court judge was right to dismiss Eileen Theisen's request for support as she sought a divorce from her husband of 30 years, because the two still lived under the same roof.

Read more here.


September 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

CALL FOR AUTHORS: Cultural Sociology of Divorce: An Encyclopedia

We are inviting academic editorial contributors to Cultural Sociology of Divorce: An Encyclopedia, a 3-volume library reference to be published in 2013 by SAGE Publications.
While the formal definition of divorce may be fairly concise and straightforward (the legal termination of a marital union, dissolving the bonds of matrimony between parties), the effects are anything but, particularly when children and other family members are involved. The Americans for Divorce Reform estimates that “probably, 40 or possibly even 50 percent of marriages will end in divorce if current trends continue." And outside the United States, there are markedly increased divorce rates across developed countries—divorce and its effects are a significant social factor in our culture and others. In fact, it might be said that a whole “divorce industry” has been constructed, with divorce lawyers and mediators, family counselors, support groups, etc. As King Henry VIII’s divorces showed, divorce has not always been easy or accepted. In some countries, divorce is not permitted and even in Europe, countries such as Spain, Italy, Portugal, and the Republic of Ireland only legalized divorce in the latter quarter of the twentieth century. This multi-disciplinary encyclopedia covers curricular subjects around the world ranging from marriage and the family to anthropology, social and legal history, family law, developmental and clinical psychology, and religion.  Three volumes, comprised of over 500 articles, illuminate what has become a culture of divorce and its impact on society.
This comprehensive project will be marketed to academic and public libraries as a print and digital product available to students via the library’s electronic services.  We are now making assignments with a deadline for submissions of November 17, 2011.
Each article, ranging from 900 to 4000 words, is signed by the contributor. The General Editor of the encyclopedia is Robert E. Emery, Ph.D., University of Virginia, who will review all the articles for editorial content and academic consistency.
If you are interested in contributing to the encyclopedia, it can be a notable publication addition to your CV/resume and broaden your publishing credits. Payment for the articles are honoraria that range from a $50 book credit from Sage Publications for article submissions up to 1,000 words up to a free copy of the encyclopedia for contributions totaling greater than 10,000 words. More than this, your involvement can help assure that credible and detailed data, descriptions, and analysis are available to students of divorce issues.
The complete list of available articles (Excel file) submission guidelines, and sample article are prepared and will be sent to you in response to your inquiry. Please then select which unassigned articles may best suit your interests and expertise.  (A shorter list of available entries related to divorce law only follows below).
If you would like to contribute to building a truly outstanding reference with Cultural Sociology of Divorce: An Encyclopedia, please contact me by the e-mail information below. Please provide a brief summary of your background in divorce issues. Thanks for your time and interest.
Lisbeth Rogers
Author Manager
Golson Media<>
Abandonment/Desertion (2000)
Absolute Divorce (1200)
Alexander, Paul W. (Judge) (1500)
Child Custody vs. Child Support (1700)
Child Support, Government Enforcement of (2000)
Childless Divorce (1400)
Custody, Joint Legal and Physical Child (2500)
Custody, Sole Legal and Physical Child (2200)
Debt, Division of (2500)
Divorce Law and Shorter vs. Longer Term Marriages (1750)
Divorce Law-Comparative Perspective (3000)
Divorce Law-United States (4000)
Divorce Negotiations, Legal Tactics in (2000)
Grounds for Divorce (overview) (4000)
Grounds for Divorce, US History of Legal (3000)
Informal Divorce (1200)
International Divorce (1750)
Irreconcilable Differences (1800)
Judges, Family Law (2000)
Lawyers, Divorce (3000)
Mental Cruelty (2500)
Pre-Nuptial Agreements (1500)
Pro Se Divorce (1200)
Property Distribution (3000)
Property Division Law, U.S. History of (2500)
Property, Marital (2200)
Separation, Legal (2000)
Separation, Trial (2000)
Shared/Joint Custody of Children (2500)
Simplified Divorce (2500)
Step-Parent’s Child Custody Legal Rights (after a second divorce) (1500)
Summary/Simple Divorce (2000)
Uncontested Divorce vs. Contested Divorce (2500)


September 20, 2011 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Call for Papers: Wells Conference on Adoption Law

8th Annual Wells
Conference on Adoption Law
March 8, 2012
Capital University Law School
Columbus, Ohio

The conference is seeking proposals for presentations and papers
emphasizing the following themes:

Facilitating Adoptions through the Internet
Suggested topics include, but are not limited to: using the internet to
facilitate adoptions, the legal barriers to using the internet to facilitate
adoptions, and the ethical implications of using the internet to facilitate

Changes in Search and Reunion Activities through the Internet and
Social Media
Suggested topics include, but are not limited to: the psychological and
attachment implications of search and reunion activities through the
internet and social media, whether regulation of search and reunion
situations facilitated through the internet is desirable, and the role of

Legal Implications of Technology’s Impact on Evolving “Family”
Suggested topics include, but are not limited to: how the law responds
to advances in technology, whether the law can keep up with changes in
technology, and issues with children who have not been adopted.
Participants are asked to lead a forty-minute discussion on one of the
above topics. Each topic will have three panel members who will give a
presentation, followed by a discussion at the end. In addition, participants
are requested to prepare an article associated with their presentation for
publication in the Capital University Law Review next year. The article
would be due on August 1, 2012.

Please send proposals by Oct. 1, 2011,
to Capital University Law Review
Symposium Editor Christine Diedrick
Mochel (


September 19, 2011 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Australia May Toughen Child Abduction Laws

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

TOUGH laws to stop parents abducting and taking their children overseas are being considered by the federal government.

The Family Law Council has told the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, new criminal charges need to be created to punish parents.

''The [existing] legislation does not cover the situation where a parent takes a child overseas with the other parent's consent or in accordance with a court order, but subsequently retains the child overseas beyond the agreed or authorised period,'' said the council chairwoman, Associate Professor Helen Rhoades.

It also ''does not cover the situation where children are taken overseas without the other parent's consent and no parenting orders have been sought from, or granted by, the courts. The question that arises is whether a parent's behaviour in either or both of these circumstances should be criminalised.''

About 125 children are taken out of Australia each year, says the Attorney-General's Department. In 2007, 147 were abducted overseas and in 2008 it was 138.The number fell to 95 in 2009 but rose to 125 last year. Under the Family Law Act, international parental child abduction carries a maximum three-year jail sentence.

Read more here.



September 19, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

French Suit over Relations (or Lack Thereof)

The Telegraph reports about a Frenchman sued by his ex-wife for lack of physical relations:

The 51-year-old man was fined under article 215 of France’s civil code, which states married couples must agree to a “shared communal life”.

A judge has now ruled that this law implies that “sexual relations must form part of a marriage”.

The rare legal decision came after the wife filed for divorce two years ago, blaming the break-up on her husband’s lack of activity in the bedroom.

A judge in Nice, southern France, then granted the divorce and ruled the husband named only as Jean-Louis B. was solely responsible for the split.

But the 47-year-old ex-wife then took him back to court demanding 10,000 euros in compensation for “lack of sex over 21 years of marriage”.

Read more here.


September 17, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Reforming the Sale of Sperm

Naomi R. Cahn and Wendy Kramer have published an interesting editorial in the New York Times:

The United States has almost no rules when it comes to buying or selling sperm. In fact, no one keeps records on how much sperm is bought or sold, so we don’t even know how big the sperm market really is, or how many babies are born each year through donor sperm. The same donor can father hundreds of children, and, although his sperm must undergo some minimal testing before it is used, these tests don’t catch many genetic diseases. No laws in the United States require that donors or recipients exchange any information, identifying or otherwise...

...Ultimately, however, if we value children and their families, reform and regulation must occur.

Read their proposed solutions here.


September 16, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Zoppo: "The War on Women"

David Ronald Zoppo has posted "The War on Women" on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:   

The 2010 mid-term elections were a boon for the Republican Party at the state level. In five states - Alabama, Maine, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Wisconsin - both legislative chambers flipped from Democratic to Republican control. In Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, Republicans won over an additional chamber, thereby taking control of the state legislature. And in Colorado, New York, and Oregon, the Republicans won over one chamber to split control with the Democrats.

The resurgence of Republican power at the state level has led to a corresponding resurgence in restrictive abortion regulations - both in those states with new conservative majorities and in traditional Republican strongholds. In some ways, these new regulations reflect existing state abortion laws that have been on the books since the United States Supreme Court’s 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. New conservative majority have seized the opportunity to pass “traditional” abortion regulations on matters such as spousal notification or “informed consent.” In the history and scheme of abortion regulations, statutes such as these are nothing new.

In other ways, however, these new regulations - and the conservative majorities that have implemented them - represent a departure from the past. They have been drafted and passed in an arguably more polarized political climate, and their substance reflects the radical prerogative of their proponents. For example, South Dakota passed a law - which was struck down by the Eighth Circuit - requiring doctors to tell patients that the abortion procedure increases the risk of suicide. Another law in Texas - which was blocked by a federal district court - required doctors to give patients a sonogram and to provide patients with audio of the fetal heartbeat. Women could opt out of this process but they would have to certify in writing that their pregnancy was the result of rape or incest, which would remain with their medical record for at least seven years. These terms of these laws are unprecedented, and they demonstrate a new frontier in the already contentious area of abortion regulation.

The assault on abortion providers has been equally as pronounced. In the first half of 2011, five states - all controlled by Republican legislatures - voted to preclude Planned Parenthood from receiving Title X Medicare funds for family planning funding. Federal judges in several states have issued injunctions preventing these laws from going in to effect on the basis that they impermissibly exclude otherwise qualified entity from receiving funds under Title X. Kansas passed a law that would effectively shut down abortion clinics in that state by requiring that they meet certain space snd storage requirements. Virginia is considering a similar law. It seems clear that abortion opponents have broadened their strategy to target not just a woman’s individual privacy rights under Roe and Casey, but also her access rights as well.

This new era of abortion regulation at the state level raises important questions that will undoubtedly be addressed by the courts. To what extent do these laws violate the Supreme Court’s “undue burden” threshold as announced in Casey? How would the current Court rule in the event one of these laws come before it? To what extent to these laws violate doctors’ or patients’ first amendment rights? How does Title X figure in to states’ attempts to regulate otherwise eligible Medicare and Medicaid providers? What sort of legal theories might be most persuasive and effective for an advocate seeking to defeat these laws? What weaknesses inhere those legal theories? And, perhaps most importantly, what is the role of the courts in all this? The new slew of abortion regulation at the state level posits not just a fascinating development in abortion law in this country. They also resurrect the timeless debate about the tension between the legislature and the judiciary; is now an appropriate time for judicial discretion to override the popular will in the name of individual rights?

Though many scholars have commented on the abortion regulation at the state level, none have addressed this most recent development in abortion law and the abortion debate. My paper will proceed by providing a brief overview of the Court’s decisions in Roe and Casey - and, to a lesser extent, its rulings in Griswold and other seminal privacy cases. It will then proceed by providing a brief history and synopsis of abortion regulations at the state level and how the courts have treated such laws under the Supreme Court’s privacy jurisprudence. The bulk of the paper will be devoted to answering some - and hopefully all - of the questions above. As research for this topic is still in its preliminary stages, the exact focus and thesis of the paper have not yet been ironed out, but I expect they will be as time proceeds.


September 15, 2011 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

New Interpretation of Bad Parenting


Raised in a $1.5 million Barrington Hills, Ill., home by their attorney father, two grown children have spent the last two years pursuing a unique lawsuit against their mom for "bad mothering" that alleges damages caused when she failed to buy toys for one and sent another a birthday card he didn’t like.

The alleged offenses include failing to take her daughter to a car show, telling her then 7-year-old son to buckle his seat belt or she would contact police, "haggling" over the amount to spend on party dresses and calling her daughter at midnight to ask that she return home from celebrating homecoming.

Read more here.


September 15, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mississippi Voters Determine "Personhood"

From the Huff Post:

Mississippi voters will be allowed to decide on a ballot measure that defines "personhood" from the moment of fertilization, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled last week. The measure could potentially outlaw abortions, birth control, in vitro fertilization and stem cell research across the state.

Measure 26, which will bypass the legislature and go straight to a popular ballot vote, redefines the term "person" as it appears throughout Mississippi's Bill of Rights to include "all human beings from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof." The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit against the proposal earlier this year, not based on its content or constitutionality, but because Mississippi state law says a ballot initiative cannot be used to change the Bill of Rights.

The Mississippi Supreme Court rejected the lawsuit in a 7-2 ruling, saying that it had no power to review any ballot initiative before the actual vote takes place.

Read more here.



September 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Kim: "The Neutered Parent"

Suzanne Kim (Rutgers School of Law - Newark) has posted "The Neutered Parent" on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Despite family law’s broader recognition of nonmarital sexualities and nonmarital parental status in the past forty years, marriage has continued to shape the legal and social experiences of parents in a critical aspect of their lives - sexuality. Encompassing sexual behavior and sexual orientation, the sexuality of parents has curiously drawn little attention in legal scholarship, except in contexts the law has deemed aberrant. This Article breaks ground by widening the lens on parental sexuality to examine how the law’s conventional framing of evaluations of parental sexuality obscures the marriage-based structure of these appraisals.

The law of custody and visitation, in particular, reveals a legal and social preference for that perceived as “sexually neutral” parenting, an ideal that assumes that parenting can and should occur far removed from parents’ sexuality. As I argue in this Article, family law has premised this ideal on a dichotomy of parental sexuality based on marriage and on traditional, gendered norms of parental sexuality within marriage. Parents hewing to traditional marriage-based norms of parental sexuality have been held up as embodying a “sexually neutral” baseline, pursuant to which their sexuality fails to register as problematic. By contrast, parents who have strayed from these norms - historically, sexually active heterosexual mothers and lesbian and gay parents - have tended to be perceived as “sexually salient.” The legal construction of a parent as “sexually neutral” or “sexually salient” shapes how courts assess harm in making child placement decisions and promises to influence evaluations of parental fitness across a variety of evolving family law contexts, including same-sex marriage.

The dichotomization of parental sexuality based on marriage obscures the ability to assess actual harm to children. Moreover, this treatment of parental sexuality “neuters” parents. It metaphorically diminishes their sexual capacity by forcing sexually nonconforming parents to adhere to a standard of sexual neutrality that is fundamentally structured in opposition to them. Moreover, it undermines parents’ ability to achieve the laudable goal of experiencing meaningful adult-oriented parental sexuality in the context of successful parenting.


September 13, 2011 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

The Biggest Reason for Divorce in England

From Mail Online:

An extra-marital affair is no longer the most common reason for married couples to divorce, family lawyers have revealed.

In a survey of the [England's] leading family law firms, the main reason for divorce proceedings was given as couples falling out of love.

Read more here.


September 13, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)