Family Law Prof Blog

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

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Chinese Parenting

The internet is abuzz about a Yale Law professor's very interesting editorial about the virtues of disciplined parenting, as seen in many Chinese families.

From the WSJ:

Despite our squeamishness about cultural stereotypes, there are tons of studies out there showing marked and quantifiable differences between Chinese and Westerners when it comes to parenting. In one study of 50 Western American mothers and 48 Chinese immigrant mothers, almost 70% of the Western mothers said either that "stressing academic success is not good for children" or that "parents need to foster the idea that learning is fun." By contrast, roughly 0% of the Chinese mothers felt the same way. Instead, the vast majority of the Chinese mothers said that they believe their children can be "the best" students, that "academic achievement reflects successful parenting," and that if children did not excel at school then there was "a problem" and parents "were not doing their job." Other studies indicate that compared to Western parents, Chinese parents spend approximately 10 times as long every day drilling academic activities with their children. By contrast, Western kids are more likely to participate in sports teams.

Read more here.  Read responses here and here.



January 15, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Hamilton: "Immature Citizens and the State"

Vivian Hamilton (William & Mary Law School) has posted "Immature Citizens and the State" (forthcoming BYU Law Review) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Citizens are born, but they are also made. How its citizens come to be — whether the educations they receive will expand or constrain their future options, whether the values they assimilate will encourage or dissuade their civic engagement, etc. — fundamentally concerns the state. Through the power it wields over a vast range of policymaking contexts, the state can significantly influence (or designate those who will influence) many of the formative experiences of young citizens. Young citizens’ accumulated experiences in turn can significantly influence the future mature citizens they will become. The state insufficiently considers the cumulative nature of its citizens’ development, however. Discrete spheres of policy- or law-making may be internally consistent, but they lack consistency when combined over time and across a range of contexts — which is the way in which developing citizens experience them. As a result of this discontinuity, the state at best squanders opportunities to more effectively advance its ends with respect to immature citizens; and at worst, fails to meet its most basic obligations to them.

This Article develops a framework to guide the decisions that affect the young across a range of law and policy contexts, providing consistency and a coherence that will better serve those citizens and further the state’s ends. It grounds the framework in the core values and ends of the liberal democratic state, which dictate the state’s most basic obligations to its citizens, and its requirements of them. It accounts for the interests and constitutional rights of both parents and children. To better understand how these might change as the young develop to maturity, it reviews the processes of cognitive development, drawing on research from a range of disciplines within developmental science. This review examines developing capacities, ongoing deficiencies, and the effects of external influences on development. It then integrates these theoretical, constitutional, political, and developmental considerations into a framework comprising the ends toward which decisions affecting the young should aim: (1) guaranteeing parents’ liberty to form and raise a family; (2) denying anyone absolute authority over the immature, while transferring to the immature themselves authority in realms where they have reliably attained decision-making maturity; (3) ensuring that young citizens will attain maturity with their entitlement to life-deciding liberty intact; and (4) ensuring that young citizens will attain maturity having acquired the capacities to fulfill the basic obligations of citizenship.

To begin illustrating the framework’s potential effects, the Article proposes a set of policies consistent with it. For infancy and early childhood, it proposes minimizing interference in parenting. For adolescence, it endorses obligatory, out-of-home education. It more generally proposes that decision makers identify contexts in which young citizens can make competent self-regarding decisions. The Article argues that by mid-adolescence, these include making health care decisions and voting. It also argues for changes to policies in other contexts where young citizens’ decision making is likely to remain compromised, even into young adulthood, including driving and combat.

Because the scope of policymaking affecting the young is so vast, future projects will carry forward and expand upon the policymaking implications of the framework set out here.


January 14, 2011 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Misbehaving Spouses

From LiveScience:

Everyone from relationship gurus to religious authorities tout the benefits of forgiveness. But new research suggests that in some cases, it may be better to emulate Elizabeth Edwards — who left her cheating husband John Edwards out of her will — than Hillary Clinton, who forgave Bill Clinton for his dalliances with a White House intern.

Hearing "it's okay, honey," may be just the fuel the transgressing spouse needs for more lapses of judgment, according to the new study of newlyweds.

Newlyweds who forgave their partner's bad behavior were more likely to face additional bad behavior the next day compared with those who stayed mad, the study showed. The benefits of forgiveness may need to be weighed against the risks, said study author James McNulty, a psychologist at the University of Tennessee.

Read more here.



January 14, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Westreich: "The Right to Divorce in Jewish Law: Between Politics and Ideology"

Avishalom Westreich (Academic Center of Law and Business) has posted "The Right to Divorce in Jewish Law: Between Politics and Ideology" (forthcoming Int'l J. of the Jurisprudence of the Family) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

The paper discusses the deep, even emotional, debate surrounding no-fault divorce in Jewish Law. As the paper argues, moderate conception of no-fault divorce has a basis in the classic Jewish Law sources. In current rabbinical court decisions, however, it has become the subject of a keen debate. A possible explanation of the debate is a political one, as part of the inter-authority conflict between rabbinical and civil courts which characterizes the Israeli legal system in matters of family law. According to this explanation, some rabbinical courts have sought to expand their authority by limiting, or controlling, divorce. The paper, however, argues that the political explanation is not sufficient, and suggests an alternative ideological reason. Accordingly, a significant school of rabbinical judges rejects the right to no-fault divorce, and, using various legal and hermeneutic methods, claims that this right belongs to "the laws of the nations," that is, that it arises from non-Jewish sources and lacks roots in Jewish Law.


January 13, 2011 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Dividing a Dog

A Canadian couple's property division had stalled over only one possession: the family dog.

From GlobalBC:

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Ted Zarzeczny, in his recently released written ruling, made it clear he was none too impressed with this dog fight.

"It is an unacceptable waste of these parties' financial resources, the time and abilities of their two very experienced and capable legal counsel and most importantly the public resource of this court that a dispute of this kind should occupy all in a one-day trial involving three witnesses, including an expert called by one of the parties," Zarzeczny said.

"It is demeaning for the court and legal counsel to have these parties call upon these legal and court resources because they are unable to settle, what most would agree, is an issue unworthy of this expenditure of time, money and public resources," he added.

See the terms of this property division here.


January 13, 2011 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Strasser: "Defining Sex: On Marriage, Family, and Good Public Policy"

Mark Strasser (Capital University Law School) has posted "Defining Sex: On Marriage, Family, and Good Public Policy" (17 Michigan Journal of Gender & Law 57) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

This article addresses interstate recognition of families where one of the adults in the marital relatonship is transgendered. While most states have made clear the conditions under which birth certificates can be changed, they are much less clear about how local marriage laws apply when one of the parties is trangendered. Current law in many states simply must be changed, either because it does not take into account the actual lives of the transgendered or because it is indeterminate.


January 12, 2011 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Best Marriages

The New York Times ran an interesting piece on marriage recently:

The notion that the best marriages are those that bring satisfaction to the individual may seem counterintuitive. After all, isn’t marriage supposed to be about putting the relationship first?

Not anymore. For centuries, marriage was viewed as an economic and social institution, and the emotional and intellectual needs of the spouses were secondary to the survival of the marriage itself. But in modern relationships, people are looking for a partnership, and they want partners who make their lives more interesting.

Read more here.


January 12, 2011 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ellman & Braver: "Lay Intuitions About Family Obligations: The Case of Alimony"

Ira Mark Ellman (Arizona State University College of Law) & Sanford Braver (ASU Department of Psychology) have posted "Lay Intuitions About Family Obligations: The Case of Alimony" on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Most people have a sense of obligation to family members that is more powerful than the law in compelling compliance with its demands. When families dissolve, however, the power of such nonlegal norms often dissolves as well. The question then becomes what, if anything, the law should require of people, in their stead. This paper is part of a larger series of studies that have examined this question by uncovering what ordinary people believe the law should should demand. The studies employ lengthy surveys of persons called to jury service in Tucson, Arizona, an excellent random sample of a diverse population. Respondents are asked what they believe the law should require in each of a series of cases in which the facts are systematically varied so as to reveal the implicit principles survey respondents employ in deciding them. Previously reported results in this project have examined studies of the amount of the child support people believe appropriate, and how they believe child custody disputes should be resolved. This study examines lay views about alimony.

Our respondents in general believe that it is appropriate to award alimony when there is a significant disparity in income between separating partners, whether or not the alimony claimant can manage a minimal living standard on her own. Most believe such an award will be appropriate in at least some cases even if the partners were not married, although marriage leads them to favor an award more often. They are particularly likely to make little distinction between married and unmarried couples, in their treatment of alimony claims, when the couple has children who are still young at the time of separation. They are more inclined to allow an alimony award when the relationship is longer, although a six year relationship is long enough for most respondents to allow an award in at least some cases, especially if the couple has young children. They are not especially concerned about compensating the partner who was the primary caretaker of the couple’s now-grown children for the earning capacity loss she may have incurred as a result, but they are very concerned about ensuring an adequate income to the partner who remains the primary caretaker of the couple’s young children at the time of separation. While marital status, the presence of children, and relationship duration all affect the proportion of cases in which our respondents allow an alimony award, they have little effect on the amount of the award when they allow one. Award amounts are determined almost entirely by the partner’s incomes, with higher awards being allowed when the claimant’s income is lower and the disparity between the partner’s incomes is higher.

Demographic information revealed no important differences among our respondents with respect to these patterns, which were equally true of men and women, higher and lower income individuals, conservative and liberals, Democrats and Republicans, those divorced and those not. While women, and older respondents, were somewhat more inclined than others to award alimony overall, the impact of the varying vignette factual patterns on their responses was not different than for other respondents.


January 11, 2011 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Put Away That Camera...


HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) - Laurie Shifler, pregnant with her eighth child, assumed that family members would again be able to film her giving birth, but hospital officials said no.

On Nov. 1, Meritus Medical Center implemented a policy prohibiting video, film and still photography of deliveries until five minutes after birth. The change is intended to protect patient privacy and reduce potential staff distractions, said Jody Bishop, administrative director of the department that includes the hospital's birthing center.

"Five minutes after the birth, if everybody's well and the physician approves, they can go ahead and start videotaping and taking pictures," Bishop told The (Hagerstown) Herald-Mail.

But Shifler and husband Michael, of Cascade, say they'd like to capture the entire delivery.

"You can't get back those first moments," Mrs. Shifler said. "There's no redo."

Read more here.


January 11, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Dutch "Daddy Days"

From the NY Times:

Remco Vermaire is ambitious and, at 37, the youngest partner in his law firm. His banker clients expect him on call constantly — except on Fridays, when he looks after his two children.

Fourteen of the 33 lawyers in Mr. Vermaire’s firm work part time, as do many of their high-powered spouses. Some clients work part time, too.

“Working four days a week is now the rule rather than the exception among my friends,” said Mr. Vermaire, the first man at Wijn & Stael Advocaten to take a “daddy day” in 2006. Within a year, all the other male lawyers with small children in his firm had followed suit.

For reasons that blend tradition and modernity, three in four working Dutch women work part time. Female-dominated sectors like health and education operate almost entirely on job-sharing as even childless women and mothers of grown children trade income for time off. That has exacted an enduring price on women’s financial independence.

But in just a few years, part-time work has ceased being the prerogative of woman with little career ambition, and become a powerful tool to attract and retain talent — male and female — in a competitive Dutch labor market.

Indeed, for a growing group of younger professionals, the appetite for a shorter, a more flexible workweek appears to be spreading, with implications for everything from gender identity to rush-hour traffic.

There are part-time surgeons, part-time managers and part-time engineers. From Microsoft to the Dutch Economics Ministry, offices have moved into “flex-buildings,” where the number of work spaces are far fewer than the staff who come and go on schedules tailored around their needs.

The Dutch culture of part-time work provides an advance peek at the challenges — and potential solutions — that other nations will face as well in an era of a rapidly changing work force.

“Our part-time experience has taught us that you can organize work in a rhythm other than nine-to-five,” said Pia Dijkstra, a member of Parliament and well-known former news anchor who led a task force on how to encourage women to work more. “The next generation,” she added, is “turning our part-time culture from a weakness into a strength.”

On average, men still increase their hours when they have children. But with one in three men now either working part time or squeezing a full-time job into four days, the “daddy day” has become part of Dutch vocabulary.

Read the full article here.


January 10, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Shedding Family & Friends Whilst Falling in Love

Bad news for the family and friends of Cupid's victims:

From BBC:

Professor Dunbar's group studies social networks and how we manage their size and composition.

He has previously shown that the maximum number of friends it is realistically possible to engage is about 150. On the social networking site Facebook, for example, people will typically have 120-130 friends.

This number can be divided into progressively smaller groups, with an inner clique numbering between four and six.

These are people who we see at least once a week; people we go to at moments of crisis. The next layer out are the people we see about once a month - the "sympathy group". They are all the people who, if they died tomorrow, we would miss and be upset about.

In the latest study, the team questioned 540 participants, aged 18 and over, about their relationships and the strain those relationships came under when a new romantic engagement was started.

The results confirmed the widely held view that love can lead to a smaller support network, with typically one family member and one friend being pushed out to accommodate the new lover.

Read more here.


Hat Tip: SH

January 10, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Civil Unions Over Marriage?

From the NY Times:

Some are divorced and disenchanted with marriage; others are young couples ideologically opposed to marriage, but eager to lighten their tax burdens. Many are lovers not quite ready for old-fashioned matrimony.

Whatever their reasons, and they vary widely, French couples are increasingly shunning traditional marriages and opting instead for civil unions, to the point that there are now two civil unions for every three marriages.

When France created its system of civil unions in 1999, it was heralded as a revolution in gay rights, a relationship almost like marriage, but not quite. No one, though, anticipated how many couples would make use of the new law. Nor was it predicted that by 2009, the overwhelming majority of civil unions would be between straight couples.

It remains unclear whether the idea of a civil union, called a pacte civil de solidarité, or PACS, has responded to a shift in social attitudes or caused one. But it has proved remarkably well suited to France and its particularities about marriage, divorce, religion and taxes — and it can be dissolved with just a registered letter.

“We’re the generation of divorced parents,” explained Maud Hugot, 32, an aide at the Health Ministry who signed a PACS with her girlfriend, Nathalie Mondot, 33, this year. Expressing a view that researchers say is becoming commonplace among same-sex couples and heterosexuals alike, she added, “The notion of eternal marriage has grown obsolete.”

France recognizes only “citizens,” and the country’s legal principles hold that special rights should not be accorded to particular groups or ethnicities. So civil unions, which confer most of the tax benefits and legal protections of marriage, were made available to everyone. (Marriage, on the other hand, remains restricted to heterosexuals.) But the attractiveness of civil unions to heterosexual couples was evident from the start. In 2000, just one year after the passage of the law, more than 75 percent of civil unions were signed between heterosexual couples. That trend has only strengthened since then: of the 173,045 civil unions signed in 2009, 95 percent were between heterosexual couples.

“It’s becoming more and more commonplace,” said Laura Anicet, 24, a student who signed a PACS last month with her 29-year-old boyfriend, Cyril Reich. “For me, before, the PACS was for homosexual couples.”

As with traditional marriages, civil unions allow couples to file joint tax returns, exempt spouses from inheritance taxes, permit partners to share insurance policies, ease access to residency permits for foreigners and make partners responsible for each other’s debts. Concluding a civil union requires little more than a single appearance before a judicial official, and ending one is even easier.

It long ago became common here to speak of “getting PACSed” (se pacser, in French). More recently, wedding fairs have been renamed to include the PACS, department stores now offer PACS gift registries and travel agencies offer PACS honeymoon packages.

Read the full article here.


January 9, 2011 in Current Affairs, Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)