Family Law Prof Blog

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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

NY Divorce Laws

From the Wall Street Journal:

A state commission tasked with reviewing a contentious aspect of New York's divorce reform laws is four months behind in delivering an expected report, raising concerns that lawmakers will have little time to address recommendations before their session ends in June.

The independent Law Revision Commission now expects to submit its report May 31. Though the commission's suggestions aren't binding, several legislators have said they are waiting for the report before proposing amendments.

The law was one of a package of 2010 reforms that made New York the last state in the country to adopt no-fault divorce. It set a strict formula for awarding temporary alimony, the money one spouse gives the other during the divorce process.

Since its passage, the statute has come under criticism from many lawyers in the state, who say that the formula may work well for lower-income spouses with few assets but frequently produces lopsided awards for wealthier couples with more complex financial situations.

Read more here.


May 31, 2012 in Current Affairs, Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Back to Murphy Brown

An editorial from the Washington Post:

On May 19, 1992, as the presidential campaign season was heating up, Vice President Dan Quayle delivered a family-values speech that came to define him nearly as much as his spelling talents. Speaking at the Commonwealth Club of California, he chided Murphy Brown — the fictional 40-something, divorced news anchor played by Candice Bergen on a CBS sitcom — for her decision to have a child outside of marriage.


Twenty years later, Quayle’s words seem less controversial than prophetic. The number of single parents in America has increased dramatically: The proportion of children born outside marriage has risen from roughly 30 percent in 1992 to 41 percent in 2009. For women under age 30, more than half of babies are born out of wedlock. A lifestyle once associated with poverty has become mainstream. The only group of parents for whom marriage continues to be the norm is the college-educated.

Read more here.



May 30, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

US Sperm in Demand

From the Daily:

Demand for American sperm is surging — up by as much as 40 percent in the last five years — as other countries clamor for genetic material with the “Made in America” label.

U.S. sperm sales are highest in the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Israel, Australia, Chile, Spain and Sweden, and demand is set to increase even more in the years ahead.

“In the last three years, we have shipped to about 60 countries,” said Scott Brown, a spokesman for California Cryobank, the largest sperm bank in the world with $23 million in sales last year.

Read more here.


Hat Tip: Naomi Cahn

May 29, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Father of 30 Children Asks for State Help


Desmond Hatchett of Knoxville, Tenn., doesn't deny fathering 30 children, by 11 mothers no less -- instead, he's pleading with the state to help him out with child support.

Hatchett, just 33, appeared in court this week to make his case, WREG-TV reported.

Holding a minimum wage job, Hatchett already gives half his pay to the children's mothers but because he has a minimum wage job some moms get just $1.49 a month in support.


WREG noted that Hatchett had not broken any laws fathering so many children, and that the state had no means to require him to stop.

Read more here.


Hat Tip: Kathleen Rand Reed

May 29, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Debunking Marriage Myths

An editorial from the Washington Post:

Late spring is upon us, and with it comes wedding season. It’s a magical time of year that inspires a peculiar mix of sentimental stories about chance meetings that led to love and gloomy commentaries about the chances of actual marital bliss. Both the sentiment and the gloom are based on misguided ideas about the history and evolution of modern marriage — myths that, from this day forward, we should divorce from our notion of wedded bliss.

Read more here.


Hat Tip: Naomi Cahn

May 29, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

The American flag: Flag waving on a pole with shadows

May 28, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

WI Cases on Child Support

From the Wisconsin Law Journal:

On April 3, the state’s high court issued its opinion in May v. May, No. 10AP177, which affirmed the decision of Dane County Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi, on a certification from the Court of Appeals.

The issue was a follow-up from Frisch v. Henrichs, 2007 WI 102, ¶75, in which the court held that a ceiling on child support was against public policy. While I disagree on the public policy, at least it was a simple rule that was easy to follow: Courts always have the authority to increase child support.

In May, the state Supreme Court considered whether an agreement not to decrease child support for 33 months was valid and not against public policy.

After substantial litigation, Michael and Susan May agreed that child support would not be reduced during that period of time, in exchange for which Suzanne agreed to pay 100 percent of the child-care costs. About a year and a half later, Michael sought relief from the stipulation, alleging that he had lost his job. The court found that he was equitably estopped from seeking a reduction in child support.

Read more here.


May 26, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Center for Reproductive Rights & Columbia Law School Seeking Academic Fellow

The Center for Reproductive Rights is thrilled to announce an academic fellowship opportunity for recent law school graduates who are interested in careers in law teaching.

The CRR-CLS Fellowship is a two-year, post-graduate fellowship offered by the Center for Reproductive Rights and Columbia Law School. The Fellowship is designed to prepare recent law school graduates for legal academic careers in reproductive health and human rights. Fellows will be affiliated with the Center and the Law School and will participate in the intellectual life of both programs. Applicants do not need to be graduates of Columbia Law School to be eligible for this program.

After the successful launch of the CRR-CLS Fellowship in the summer of 2008, we are excited to begin the process of selecting a Fellow for 2013-2015. The deadline for this cycle is October 29, 2012.

For more information please see


May 25, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Heartwarming Adoption Story...

...recently ran in the Baltimore Sun.  Read it here.


May 24, 2012 in Adoption | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tait: "A Tale of Three Families: Historical Households, Earned Belonging, and Natural Connections"

Allison Anna Tait (Gender Equity and Policy Postdoctoral Associate, Yale Women Faculty Forum) has posted A Tale of Three Families: Historical Households, Earned Belonging, and Natural Connections, 63 Hastings Law Journal (2012), on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Cases targeting family regulation in the 1970s turned, for the first time, on three contrasting and sometimes competing theories of the family – historical households, earned belonging, and natural connections. This Article introduces and defines these three theories and offers a descriptive account of how the theories were used by litigants and the Supreme Court alike to measure discrimination, evaluate the rights of individual family members and, often, increase household equality. The theory of historical households, developed with great success by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, invoked a Blackstonian family defined by gender hierarchy and the law of coverture, and posited that this model was in need of legal reordering. Earned belonging, offered by Ginsburg as a replacement for historical households, presented a new and more democratic family theory centered on ideas of conduct-based outcomes. The earned belonging theory proposed that an individual could earn her full place in the family through positive conduct and performance. The theory of natural connections, on the contrary, promoted received wisdom about family ordering based on biologic “truths” about sex-based differences. Courts operating according to natural connections theory privileged maternal rights, rejected many paternal claims, and affirmed laws promoting the nuclear, or natural, family. The work of this Article is to present a new and synthetic reading of cases about wives, illegitimate children, and unwed fathers that follows these three logics, revealing how they weave together and why earned belonging provides the strongest support for Ginsburg’s original vision of an equalized household.


May 23, 2012 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Separation & Divorce Statistics

From USA Today:

SAN FRANCISCO — About 79% of married couples who separate end up getting divorced, suggest new estimates of the incidence and length of separations.

"Separation is very common and is more common than immediate divorce," said researcher Dmitry Tumin of Ohio State University at a presentation at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America, which ended Sunday. "Most separations last one year or less, but a few drag on a decade or more before ending in divorce. Other separations stay unresolved."

"The decision to separate is driven by time spent in the first marriage, and for women, by the presence of young children," Tumin said. He co-authored the research with sociologist Zhenchao Qian, also of Ohio State.

Read more here.


May 23, 2012 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Do-It-Yourself Divorces

From PR Web:

The do-it-yourself divorce trend shows no sign of slowing, and that is probably good news for everyone except divorce lawyers. According to statistics released today by online divorce provider, during the first quarter of 2012, a record number of Americans filed for divorce without hiring divorce attorneys. The uptick in do-it-yourself divorce filings cuts across all geographic areas and income levels. Online divorce services now play a major role in the divorce process for many divorcing couples.

Read more here.


May 22, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Public Breastfeeding Laws

From Reuters:

The latest Time Magazine cover is stirring up some controversy over breastfeeding. While it's a practice that has gone on for ages, it hasn't always been on the right side of the law.


Public breastfeeding and public indecency laws have always gone hand-in-hand. Today, 45 states have laws that allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location. And a majority of states exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws. Federal law even requires employers to give break time for women to nurse their children.

Read more here.


May 21, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Women in the Top 1%

From CNN Money:

So what is behind the income gains of the 1%? Let's start with the global and technological changes that pump up the salaries of superstars in a range of professions: Call it the Yo-Yo Ma effect. In 1600 a famous cellist would have reached his career peak by playing for the king. Now Ma can stage concerts all over the world, with commensurate earnings. Apply that same concept to the in-demand skills of star lawyers or bankers or doctors in the 1% club, or of hungry entrepreneurs plying new markets.

Women in high-paying professions are another factor. Researchers from Indiana University and the Treasury Department studied the top 1% of households and found that by 2005 the number of taxpayers (largely men) with working spouses rose to almost 40%, up from 25% in 1979. That spouse tends to be a wealthy professional as well.

Read more here.


May 19, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Comedic Take on Gendered Advertisements

May 18, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

On Sex and Reproductive Rights

Law Professor Beth Burkstrand-Reid (University of Nebraska College of Law) has recently published an editorial in the Huff Post:

Sure, the recent barrage of legal attacks on women's reproductive rights signifies a war on women. Women's ability to control their reproductive lives -- and therefore their lives more generally -- has never been subjected to more legal interference than it has in the first months of this year.

But what we are missing is that the latest attacks on reproductive rights are not just missiles launched in the war on women. This is also a war on consenting adults' right to have sex for nothing but sheer pleasure.

Read more here.


May 18, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Chemical-Endangerment Prosecutions of New Mothers

From the NYT:

There have been approximately 60 chemical-endangerment prosecutions of new mothers in Alabama since 2006, the year the statute was enacted. Originally created to protect children from potentially explosive meth labs, Alabama’s chemical-endangerment law prohibits a “responsible person” from “exposing a child to an environment in which he or she . . . knowingly, recklessly or intentionally causes or permits a child to be exposed to, to ingest or inhale, or to have contact with a controlled substance, chemical substance or drug paraphernalia.”

Criminal convictions of women for their newborns’ positive drug tests are rare in other states, lawyers familiar with these cases say. In most places, maternal drug use is considered a matter for child protective services, not for law enforcement. Advocates for Kimbrough insist that, in any case, Alabama’s chemical-endangerment law was never meant to apply to pregnant women’s drug use. “The words ‘womb,’ ‘uterus,’ ‘pregnant women’ don’t appear in the law,” Ketteringham says. “It was a law meant to protect children from meth labs.” One state legislator has filed an amicus brief, claiming the law was not intended to be used this way, and the Legislature has repeatedly rejected amendments to expand the law’s definition of “child” to explicitly mean “fetus.” But shortly after the law passed, Alabama prosecutors began extending the term “environment” to also mean the “womb,” and “child” to also mean “fetus.” In 2006, Tiffany Hitson was charged with chemical endangerment the day after she gave birth to a baby girl who tested positive for cocaine and marijuana but was otherwise healthy. When that prosecution was successful (Hitson was incarcerated for a year), other counties followed suit, making Alabama the national capital for prosecuting women on behalf of their newborn children.

Read more here.


May 18, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

AL Divorce Bill


HUNTSVILLE, AL - Over the past two decades, divorce rates around the country have skyrocketed. Alabama is no exception to the trend. In fact, the state ranks sixth in the nation for the highest rate of divorce. With more and more marriages falling apart, more and more children are struggling to cope.

Alabama lawmakers are working curtail the growing trend's negative effects on children with House Bill 482. Family law attorney Henri McDaniel says the bill is a good thing. In here more than thirty year career working with divorcing families, she says she's seen it all.


If passed, House Bill 482 will require a four hour marriage dissolution education course before any parent of a child under 18 could file for divorce. Portions of the program would focus on "increasing the parents sensitivity to childrens' needs" and at "giving parents skills to improve their own and their childrens' adjustment to the breakup of the family." Sponsors say its an effort to help the parents find ways to get along for the sake of the child.

Read more here.


May 17, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Genetic Scars from Child Mistreatment

From the Wall Street Journal:

Being maltreated as a child can perhaps affect you for life. It now seems the harm might reach into your very DNA. Two recently published studies found evidence of changes to the genetic material in people with experience of maltreatment. These are the tip of an iceberg of discoveries in the still largely mysterious field of "epigenetic" epidemiology—the alteration of gene expression in ways that affect later health.

Read more here.


Hat Tip: Naomi Cahn

May 16, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

On Marriage

The Huff Post recently ran an editorial on marriage by two law professors:

President Obama’s strong support for same-sex marriage is strong support for the institution of marriage itself. It's a vital step toward a revitalized institution better equipped to address the needs of today’s families.

Those who think and talk like Rush Limbaugh – who called the president’s statement a “war on traditional marriage” -- have championed the policies underlying the real war. Research on contemporary marriage such as Brad Wilcox's "When Marriage Disappears" shows that the ability to sustain a long-term, two-parent relationship (with any sex) is increasingly a function of class. Our research in Red Families v. Blue Families reveals that it is also the product of a conservative economic program that has wreaked havoc on the family lives of struggling Americans.

Read more here.


May 16, 2012 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)