Family Law Prof Blog

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

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Octomom in Land of One-Child Policy?

A story that might be a hoax and is under investigation, from USA Today:

BEIJING – The photo was undeniably cute: a studio portrait of eight babies in identical onesies and perky white cotton hats, sporting an array of expressions from giggly to goofy, baffled to bawling.

Intended as an advertisement for the studio, the photo grabbed a different kind of attention: In a country that limits most couples to one child, many Chinese were amazed to learn that a couple had spent nearly a million yuan ($160,000) and illegally enlisted two surrogate mothers to help have the four boys and four girls.

The incident has highlighted both the use of birth surrogates, a violation of Chinese law, and how wealthy Chinese do as they please, with scant regard for the rules that constrain others. The most common reaction, though, has been simple disbelief.

Read more here.


December 31, 2011 in Alternative Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 30, 2011

Adoptions Down Under are Down

From the Australian:

ADOPTION continues to fall out of favour in Australia, with just 384 recorded in 2010-11 -- the lowest on record.

The decline is a result of changing conditions in countries that previously provided inter-country adoptions, such as South Korea, along with a fall in the number of local children considered in need of adoption, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has found.

In a report titled Adoptions Australia 2010-11, released yesterday, the AIHW noted that more than half the adoptions in the year were from overseas, and most of the local adoptions were of known children, where there was a pre-existing relationship with a step-parent or carer.

Just 49 Australian-born children outside the known category were adopted in the 2010-11 year, the institute found.

Read more here.


December 30, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

DC Same-Sex Divorce Bill

From the Washington Post:

A bill tackling divorce for same-sex couples who marry in the District but want to divorce in another state has quietly garnered support from a majority of D.C. Council members.

The Civil Marriage Dissolution Equality Amendment Act of 2011 was introduced by Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) and co-sponsored by eight of 13 council members. It would allow same-sex couples who married in the District but have moved away to divorce without having to return to complete a six-month residency requirement, which is currently mandatory.

Read more here.


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

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Swedish Ban on Corporal Punishment

CNN recently ran an interesting piece and video on the 1970's Swedish ban on corporal punishment, which has resulted in a generation of kids who  have never received a spanking.  See them here.



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

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Child-Trafficking in China

From the BBC:

Police in China say they have rescued nearly 200 children after uncovering two child-trafficking gangs.

More than 600 people were arrested in raids in 10 Chinese provinces.

A BBC correspondent in Beijing says the staggering numbers in the investigation reveal the scale of the country's child-trafficking problem.

Critics blame China's one-child policy and lax adoption laws, which they say have created a thriving underground market for buying children.

Read more here.



December 27, 2011 in Adoption | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Decisionmakers' Personal Lives

From the Huffington Post:

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeal heard argument yesterday on whether the decision of Judge Vaughn Walker, who presided over the trial on the constitutionality of Proposition 8, ruling it unconstitutional, should be overturned. The argument, being advocated by so-called "pro-marriage" groups, and not by any governmental agency seeking to uphold Proposition 8, seems absurd. However, a decision in the matter has far-reaching implications for our judicial system, particularly in Family Law Courts where decisions are made by a judge and not a jury.

Read more here.


December 26, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 25, 2011



December 25, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Marriage Market

The Atlantic recently ran an interesting article on the marriage market from the persepctive of a single, female, young professional.  Read it here and one response here.


December 23, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Sperm Donor's Family Tree

From the Atlantic:

BEING ADMITTED TO California Cryobank as a sperm donor is a bit like getting into Harvard. The bank accepts fewer than 1 percent of its 26,000 annual applicants. (Harvard, in comparison, accepts about 6 percent of its approximately 35,000 undergraduate applicants.) Cryobank has even set up clinics in Cambridge, New York, Los Angeles, and Palo Alto specifically to be near the prestigious colleges from which it hopes to draw donors.

Raul Walters, whose name has been changed, represents the Cryobank’s ideal candidate. He is tall and good-looking, holds degrees from top schools, and enjoys a clean bill of health: no one in his immediate family has a history of cancer, early-onset heart disease, or mental illness.


Raul made about $10,000 total by donating a couple of times a week for a year and a half, at $70 a sample. He didn’t dwell on the outcome—the possible children, the various mothers. He went on with his plans for a legal career, his artistic pursuits, and his own family life. Last year, he mentioned to colleagues that he’d been a sperm donor during his time off. “Have you ever Googled your donor number?” one of the other lawyers asked.

Read more here.



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

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Engagement Rings

Slate recently ran a piece against engagement rings:

The retail fantasy known as a "traditional" American wedding comprises many delicious absurdities, ranging from personalized wedding stamps to ring pillows designed for dogs to favors like "Love Mints." Of all these baubles, though, perhaps the most insidious is the engagement ring. Most Americans can say no to the "celebrity garter belt" on offer for a mere $18.95 from Weddings With Class. But more than 80 percent of American brides receive a diamond engagement ring (at an average cost of around $3,200) before they get married. Few stop to think about what, beyond the misty promise of endless love, the ring might actually signify. Why would you, after all? A wedding is supposed to be a celebration. Only the uncharitable would look a sparkly diamond in the eye—never mind a man on his knee—and ask what it means.

Read more here.


December 21, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Adoption Fundraising Website

From the Republic:

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — A Middle Tennessee couple has started a website to connect families who want to adopt with vendors who can help them raise money for the endeavor.

Troy and Amber Lucht of Murfreesboro said they decided to create the site after adopting an Ethiopian boy three years ago. Shortly after bringing him home, they decided to adopt again but needed to raise money for all the expenses and thought about other families who needed help financially with the process.

Troy, who is an Internet developer, came up with the idea to create as a way to help other families raise enough money to adopt, according to The Daily News Journal (  The site connects families to vendors who are interested in helping.

Read more here.



December 20, 2011 in Adoption | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Views on Women

Stunning new results from a study conducted by academics at Middlesex University and the University of Surrey:

Psychologists from Middlesex University and the University of Surrey found that when presented with descriptions of women taken from lads’ mags, and comments about women made by convicted rapists, most people who took part in the study could not distinguish the source of the quotes.

The research due to be published in the British Journal of Psychology also revealed that most men who took part in the study identified themselves more with the language expressed by the convicted rapists.

Read more here at the University of Surrey's news website.


December 19, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Wardle: "The Boundaries of Belonging: Allegiance, Purpose and the Definition of Marriage"

Lynn Wardle (BYU) has posted "The Boundaries of Belonging:  Allegiance, Purpose and the Definition of Marriage" (BYU J. Public L. (2011)) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

This article addresses an important concept theme in family law scholarship: that of belonging. This paper will address the boundaries of belonging, the need to preserve boundaries to preserve communities, particularly the community of marriage, and to protect and maintain the opportunity and value of belonging to such communities. One of the paradoxes of belonging is that the need to belong also creates a need to exclude; in order for belonging to occur, there must be boundaries, standards defining the relationship, and criteria separating members of the group from nonmembers. The boundaries of marriage must reflect the key purposes of the community. This article explains why allowing same-sex couples to marry would seriously undermine the basic legal and social institution of marriage. This article seeks to establish five basic points about the boundaries of marriage. First, boundaries and exclusion are necessary for all communities, including the community of marriage. Second, boundaries must reflect, protect, and reinforce the core principles of the community. Third, gender integration is a critical, core purpose of marriage. Fourth, legalizing same-sex denies and undermines the core gender-integrative purposes of marriage. Finally, in setting the boundaries of basic social institutions such as marriage, it is especially important to follow the legitimate process of democratic self-government, and not abuse or circumvent, evade or cut off those important political processes which help society learn, grow, unite and heal.


December 18, 2011 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Happy Holidays to All


December 17, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Oman: "How to Judge Shari'a Contracts: A Guide to Islamic Marriage Agreements in American Courts"

Nathan Oman (William & Mary) has posted "How to Judge Shari'a Contracts:  A Guide to Islamic Marriage Agreements in American Courts" (Utah L. Rev. (2011)) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

This Article thus has two goals. The first is to show how the Muslim conception of marriage diverges from the Christian-influenced norms that dominate American law and society. Understanding this divergence provides a necessary background to Islamic mahr contracts. The second goal is to provide lawyers and judges with a doctrinal framework within our current law for analyzing these contracts and reaching sensible results in concrete cases.

The remainder of this Article will proceed as follows: Part II provides an introduction to Islamic law in general, and the law of marriage and divorce in particular, as well as some discussion of how these rules function in practice. Part III summarizes the way in which American courts have dealt with mahr contracts, showing how both husbands and wives seek to deploy arguments based on contract law, the law of premarital agreements, and constitutional law. Part IV provides a framework for analyzing mahr contracts. It argues that such contracts are best dealt with using traditional contract doctrines. Indeed, once the meaning of mahr contracts are properly understood, this Article argues that the common law of contracts is capable of dealing with potential problems presented by mahr contracts without any dramatic legal innovations.


December 16, 2011 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Indigent Parents & the Right to Counsel

From ABA Now:

CHICAGO, Dec. 13, 2011 – Indigent parent-defendants in abuse or neglect proceedings in which the state is seeking custody of their minor children should have the right to state-provided counsel, according to an American Bar Association amicus brief filed with the New Hampshire Supreme Court in In re Christian M. and Alexander M.

Responding to the New Hampshire Court’s request for briefs on the ramifications of a decision in these cases, the ABA states that its long history of examining this issue has led it to conclude that the risk of error when indigent parent-defendants are not represented in such matters is so great that fair and equal access to justice requires the appointment of counsel.

Read more here.


December 16, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

NeJaime: "Marriage Inequality: Religious Exemptions and the Production of Sexual Orientation Discrimination"

Douglas NeJaime (Loyola LA) has posted "Marriage Inequality:  Religious Exemptions and the Production of Sexual Orientation Discrimination" (forthcoming Cal. L. Rev.) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

As more states consider marriage recognition for same-sex couples, attention turns to the conflict between marriage equality and religious liberty. Legal scholars are contributing substantially to the debate, generating a robust academic literature and writing directly to state lawmakers urging them to include a “marriage conscience protection,” containing a series of religious exemptions, in marriage legislation. Yet the intense scrutiny of religious freedom specifically in the context of same-sex marriageobscures the root of the conflict. At stake is the relational enactment of sexual orientation; same-sex relationships constitute lesbian and gay identity, and religious objections arise largely in response to such relationships. Same-sex marriage is merely one form of sexual orientation identity enactment, and religious objections to same-sex marriage are merely a subset of objections to sexual orientation equality. By exposing the connections between same-sex relationships and lesbian and gay identity, this Article argues for an antidiscrimination regime that includes same-sex relationships more comprehensively; in doing so, it resists the use of marriage as antidiscrimination, both for same-sex couples and religious objectors. Yet even as the “marriage conscience protection” proposed by religious liberty scholars misapprehends the basis of the underlying conflict, its sweeping language threatens to reach into the antidiscrimination domain and target lesbians and gay men based not primarily on their marriages but instead more generally on their same-sex relationships. By permitting religious organizations, as well as some employers, property owners, and small businesses, to discriminate against same-sex couples throughout the course of the couples’ married lives in situations far removed from marriage itself, the “marriage conscience protection” may have unintended consequences that would threaten substantial progress made in antidiscrimination law. Worse yet, using the term “marriage conscience protection” to label instances of discrimination against same-sex relationships would hide an increasing amount of sexual orientation discrimination that antidiscrimination law is just beginning to address.


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

Adoption Credits for Same-Sex Couples

From the New York Times:

Since the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriage, such couples are viewed as strangers in many spheres of their financial lives. They need to file separate federal tax returns, for instance.  And sometimes, that can come with certain advantages.

Take the adoption tax credit.  If you adopt your spouse’s child, you cannot claim the credit. But since same-sex married couples are not considered spouses under federal law, they are permitted to use the credit — at least until their unions are recognized.

So when several lesbians seeking to adopt a partner’s child received letters from the Internal Revenue Service that said they could not use the credit, they couldn’t help but wonder: Is the government choosing to recognize our unions only when it’s to the government’s benefit?

As it turns out, the I.R.S. keeps close tabs on many refundable credits: The adoption credit is refundable in 2010 and 2011, which means that the credit reduces the amount of tax you owe, dollar for dollar. And if the amount of the credit exceeds your tax bill, you get to collect that extra cash. Because it’s such an enticing break, it’s also ripe for abuse.

As a result, the I.R.S. conducted more audits by mail last year, and required many couples — gay and heterosexual — to provide more documentation. (In fact, 68 percent of the nearly 100,000 returns on which taxpayers claimed the adoption credit were audited by mail, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office, which reviewed the I.R.S.’s strategy to ensure taxpayers were rightfully claiming the credit.)

Read more here.


December 15, 2011 in Adoption | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Rotz: "Do Outside Options Matter Inside Marriage? Evidence from State Welfare Reforms"

Dana Rotz (Harvard) has posted "Do Outside Options Matter Inside Marriage?  Evidence from State Welfare Reforms" on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

I analyze the impact of the early 1990s state waivers from Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) guidelines to understand how changes in options outside ofmarriage affect household expenditures. AFDC waivers decreased the public assistance available to impoverished divorced women and thereby reduced a woman's bargaining threat point in marriage. Using the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CEX) and an empirical synthetic control approach, I find that decreases in potential welfare benefits altered the expenditure patterns of two-parent families. Waivers were associated with increased expenditure on food at home relative to restaurant meals and decreased expenditure on child care and women's clothing, suggesting greater home production and decreased consumption by women. Such changes are evident only for households containing a woman with a reasonable probability of receiving welfare benefits if her marriage ended. The changes in expenditure patterns suggest that reductions in a wife's outside options cause her utility within marriage to decline.


December 14, 2011 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Jones: "Disproportionate Representation of Minority Youth in the Juvenile Justice System: A Lack of Clarity and Too Much Disparity among States 'Addressing' the Issue"

Elizabeth N. Jones has posted Disproportionate Representation of Minority Youth in the Juvenile Justice System: A Lack of Clarity and Too Much Disparity among States “Addressing” the Issue (16 U.C. Davis J. Juv. L. & Pol’y ____ (2012)) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

This article explores how states are struggling to reduce the overrepresentation of youth of color in their juvenile justice systems by complying with the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. The JJDPA provides funding for states following its directive to identify, assess, and reduce the disproportionate contact by minority youth with the juvenile justice system. This article queries whether the JJDPA is an effective instrument with which to seek racial parity for minority youth who are already “in contact” with the juvenile justice system. It first provides a brief history and overview of the JJDPA, highlighting three areas of potential concern. This article then posits that these three focal points hinder, and may actually serve to undermine, the states from completing their mission of reducing, and eventually eliminating, the disproportionate representation of minority youth in the juvenile justice system. Various states are surveyed, and their limited successes in attempting to reduce disproportionate minority contact are noted. Finally, a strategy to catch children “pre-contact” through a continuum of school and community-based programs is discussed. President Obama’s projected 2012 budget proposes incentives for the states to remain in compliance with the JJDPA, though many of them appear to be in danger of falling out of conformity. With the JJDPA ripe for reauthorization, this issue is aptly timed for debate. This article supplies some ideas for consideration.


December 14, 2011 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)