Family Law Prof Blog

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

Thursday, February 28, 2013

NJ's Family Leave Law

From CBS Philly:

A study by researchers based at Rutgers University takes a good, long look at New Jersey’s three-year-old Family Leave law, which provides paid coverage for up to six weeks to allow people to care for newborns or loved ones who get sick.

Read more here.


February 28, 2013 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Personal Auction for Alimony

Actor John Cleese is holding a personal auction of Monty Python paraphernalia in an effort to make alimony payments to his third ex-wife, American psychotherapist Alyce Faye Lichtenberger.  At the time of their divorce in 2008, Cleese was ordered to make annual payments of almost $1 million to Lichtenberger for a total of seven years.  Even though he launched a tour in 2009 called "The Alimony Tour" to help him afford these payments, he is struggling to make them again.  Cleese and Lichtenberger were married for 16 years, and last year (2012), Cleese married Jennifer Wade, who is 31 years younger than himself.

Read more here.


February 27, 2013 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

North Carolina Abuse Bill

Both Democratic and Republican members of the North Carolina House of Representatives have sponsored a bill that, if passed, will increase the maximum penalty of child abuse convictions from 15 years to 33 years.  The proposed bill, “Kilah’s Law,” is named after Kilah Davenport, who was only 3 years old when she was severely beaten and almost killed by her stepfather, Joshua W. Houser, in May 2012.  Her injuries were so severe that doctors had to remove part of her skull to help reduce brain swelling.  Kilah’s mother Kirbi said in an interview, “My baby’s a prisoner in her own body.  My baby’s going to get justice, but it’s not the correct justice.  And the next one will get the correct justice.”

Read more here.


February 26, 2013 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 25, 2013

How Divorce Clients Can Help Their Lawyer Effectively Represent Them

*This post was written by guest author Scott Morgan, a board certified family law attorney in Houston. In addition to their Houston office the Morgan Law Firm has an Austin office as well.

A divorce is an emotionally charged period in your life. Decisions must be made about child custody, support, the division of assets and a multitude of other issues while you and your spouse struggle with feelings of anger, guilt, betrayal or a desire for revenge. 

You’ve taken the right step by hiring an attorney to represent you. Now, what do you do? Do you sit back and let your lawyer handle everything? What is your role expected to be? Here are a few things you can do to help your lawyer represent you and, at the same time, help yourself.

Be Honest with Your Lawyer

This recommendation is listed first because it is the most important thing you can do. Tell your lawyer everything and be truthful when responding to questions. If you cheated on your spouse, tell the lawyer. If you work off the books, tell the lawyer. You never want your lawyer to be blindsided and find out something about you from your spouse’s attorney in the middle of the case, or worse yet, in the middle of a trial. What you discuss privately with your lawyer is protected by the attorney-client privilege, so feel free to speak frankly and honestly.

Write Down Your Questions

A lot is going on in your life during a divorce, so chances are you will not remember the question you thought of last night when you meet with your lawyer next week. The solution is to write it down and keep a running list. Nothing is wrong with walking into a meeting with your lawyer with a list of questions. It saves time for both of you and helps your lawyer know what to cover during the meeting that will be most helpful in keeping you informed.

Take Notes

It is easy to become confused or to forget something during your meetings with your lawyer. Taking notes will help you to remember about information or documents requested by your lawyer during the meeting. 

Make Appointments and Keep Them

You have the right to expect your lawyer to be focused on you and your case during meetings, but the only way a lawyer can do that is to block out uninterrupted time for appointments. Dropping in unexpectedly to “ask a quick question” is guaranteed to strain even the best lawyer-client relationship. Same thing goes for being prompt. Think about how irritated you would be if your lawyer kept you sitting in the waiting area long after the scheduled time for an appointment.

Get Your Documents in Order

Your lawyer will need documents and information about your marriage, the reasons for the divorce, assets and debts, and IRAs and retirement accounts. Ask the lawyer or a paralegal in the office to give you a list of what the lawyer might need and begin the process of gathering and organizing it. This will save you from paying for the time spent by the paralegal or lawyer sorting through a shopping bag stuffed with documents.

Getting the Help You Need

The emotions and stress that go along with the dissolution of a marriage might be more than you can handle on your own. A therapist or counselor who is experienced in working with people going through a divorce might help you through this difficult time. Seeking professional help will not be held against you and could make it easier for you to focus on working with your lawyer.


February 25, 2013 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Same-Sex Marriage in IL

A majority of Illinois Republicans admit (albeit off the record) they want to see the bill legalizing gay marriage to be passed as soon as possible.  This is mainly due to the growing support of gay marriage amongst state citizens, especially the high percentage of support amongst the public below age 45 (58% backing gay marriage).  Republicans also want it passed quickly so the "white-hot war will end and the quicker the party can move along to other, less divisive issues such as taxes."

Read more here.


February 25, 2013 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Same-Sex Marriages Before Supreme Court

From the Huffington Post:

Next month, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases concerning same-sex marriage. What are the legal issues?

United States v. Windsor (regarding DOMA)

In United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court will determine the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) signed into law in 1996 by President Clinton. Section 3 of DOMA provides that the word "marriage," as used in any federal law or regulation, means only a union of a man and a woman. This includes laws that govern veterans' benefits, tax adjustments, Social Security, and many other benefits.

Read more here.


February 23, 2013 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Jones: "Questioning a Juvenile's Capacity for Criminal Liability in Street Gangs Post-J.D.B. v. North Carolina"

Elizabeth N. Jones (Western State College of Law) has posted "Questioning a Juvenile's Capacity for Criminal Liability in Street Gangs Post-J.D.B. v. North Carolina," 32 Children's Legal Rights Journal (Winter 2012) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

This article explores how the recent groundswell of acceptance of adolescent neuroscience has manifested in United States Supreme Court cases involving juveniles, and the resultant implications for children accused of gang-related crimes and enhancements. Juvenile gang convictions proliferate, but the foundation of such prosecutions is precariously – and improperly – based. Though varied in title, predicate offenses, and penalties, most state gang legislation contains language requiring offenders to have at least a tacit understanding, or knowledge, that the group’s common purpose is to commit crimes to benefit the gang. However, this mens rea required for anti-gang statutes, combined with the inability to know, without closer analysis, whether juveniles in fact possess such mens rea, creates a conundrum: children make up a significant proportion of gang membership, but yet lack the capacity to be prosecuted under current anti-gang legislation, especially given the new parameters set forth by the United States Supreme Court.


February 22, 2013 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

IL Senate Passes Same-Sex Marriage Bill

On Thursday, February 14, 2013, 33 Democrats and one Republican in the Illinois Senate passed a gay marriage bill; the bill will now move to the House for approval.  Many believe if the bill is passed in Illinois, many other Midwest states could be spurred to pass similar bills in the near future.  The bill echoes the state's growing voter support.  A poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale showed 45% of surveyors support gay marriage, up 11 percentage points from 2010.

Read more here.


February 22, 2013 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Eyer: "Constitutional Colorblindness and the Family"

Katie R. Eyer (Rutgers School of Law -- Camden) has posted her paper "Constitutional Colorblindness and the Family" (forthcoming, University of Pennsylvania Law Review) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Family law has escaped the colorblindness revolution. During the same time frame that the Supreme Court has adopted increasingly stringent constitutional standards for even “benign” uses of race (including most notably affirmative action), the lower courts have continued to take a loose and permissive approach to many government uses of race in the family. Thus, courts have continued to regularly affirm (and to apply minimal constitutional scrutiny to) the use of race to determine foster care and adoptive placements, as well as the use of race as a factor in custody disputes between interracial parents. 

This paper, drawing on heretofore unexplored historical sources, examines the Supreme Court’s role in the development of these divergent approaches to the use of race in the affirmative action and family law contexts. As those sources demonstrate, the Court has — over the last 40 years — had numerous opportunities to address the growing divide. Nevertheless the Court (and particularly its most strident affirmative action detractors) have been reluctant to do so, at least in part because of a normative endorsement of the race-based practices at issue in the family law context. Thus, the Court has avoided taking up cases involving the use of race in family law — and taken other steps to limit the reach of its doctrine in the family law arena — based on a normative perception that remaining instantiations of race in family law are, at their core, benign. 

This history has profound implications for the Court’s broader race law jurisprudence. Supreme Court doctrine has — on its face — rejected the possibility of a role for normative judgments about the “benign” or “invidious” nature of particular race-based classifications in its Equal Protection doctrine. But the history of the Court’s approach to family law suggests strongly that the Court itself does in fact weigh such factors sub rosa in its approach to taking up and adjudicating race law claims. This article suggests that there are serious process, legitimacy and substantive concerns raised by such a divergence, and discusses alternatives for bringing the Court’s doctrine into greater alignment with its practice.


February 21, 2013 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Pregnant Teen Wins Against Parents

From ABC News:

A pregnant teen who sued her parents, claiming they were coercing her to have an abortion, will be able to give birth to her baby.

Attorneys representing the 16-year-old girl were granted a long-term injunction against the girl's parents in Texas family court on Monday, according to court documents.

The teen is 10 weeks pregnant and the injunction will last for the duration of her pregnancy.

As part of the order, the girl will be able to use her car to go to school, work and medical appointments. Her parents had taken away the use of the car as part of their effort to force an abortion, court papers stated.

The teen's parents will be liable for half of the hospital bill when she gives birth, unless she is married to the baby's 16-year-old father.

Read more here.


Hat Tip: B.M.

February 21, 2013 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Nanny Cams

From  Jacoba Urist, writing for Today:

Few things get parents riled up like a discussion of nanny cams.

And that debate is taking center stage once again following the arrest of a 52-year old Staten Island nanny for allegedly slapping a 5-month old baby in the face – an act that authorities say was caught on on tape. According to NBC 4 New York, the video came from a camera hidden inside the home’s carbon monoxide detector.

Those in favor of nanny cams can't imagine leaving their kids alone without one.

Read more here.


February 20, 2013 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

IN Child Death Case

Marion County, Indiana, Judge Sheila Carlisle has ruled that Dr. Jolene Clouse's conclusion that a newborn baby's death was the result of her mother's ingesting rat poison is unreliable and cannot be used against the mother Bei Bei Shuai at her murder trial.  Carlisle said that, because Clouse didn't specify how she knew for certain the rat poison was the cause of infant Angel Shuai's death instead of indomethacin, a drug given to pregnant women that can cause similar effects, combined with Clouse's failing to consider that brain bleeds often occur in premature infants without any clear cause, her reasoning was flawed.

Read more here.


February 20, 2013 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Chafin Decision Rendered by Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Sergeant Chafin in an international custody dispute previously discussed here.  See the Supreme Court opinion here.


February 19, 2013 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Same-Sex Adoption in Germany

The Jurist reports that same-sex couples in a civil union can legally adopt the non-biological children of their partners.  Read it here.


Hat Tip: Angelique Devaux

February 19, 2013 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

OH Child Support Case

An Elyria, Ohio, judge has ordered 35-year-old Asim Taylor to stop fathering children because he cannot pay child support for his four current children.  Taylor, originally indicted in August 2011 for owing almost $79,000 in child support to the mothers of his children, now owes more than $96,000 in payments.  Taylor has pleaded guilty.  Judge James Walther explained he put the condition on his sentencing because, "It's your personal responsibility to pay for these kids."

Read more here.


February 19, 2013 in Child Support Enforcement, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 18, 2013

U.S. Supreme Court Adoption Case

The Supreme Court is hearing an adoption case this term.  Read about it here.


February 18, 2013 in Adoption | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Beyond Roe: Reproductive Justice in a Changing World

Beyond Roe: Reproductive Justice in a Changing World

Throughout 2013, five law schools in the Delaware Valley will hold events exploring various aspects of reproductive justice in the 40 years post-Roe v. Wade. The final event in this series is a conference sponsored by the Rutgers School of Law – Camden that will take place on Friday, October 11 on the Rutgers campus in Camden, New Jersey.* You can find more information about the conference here:

We are now pleased to invite proposals for papers and panels. The conference theme is Beyond Roe: Reproductive Justice in a Changing World. We welcome submissions on any topic related to the law, policy and reproduction, including avoiding reproduction, public policy related to reproduction, and reproductive regulation post-Roe.

Paper abstracts should be no more than 500 words, accompanied by a descriptive title for the paper proposed. Proposed panels should include a description of the overall topic, as well as a panel title and the titles of all the papers and panelists to be included in the panel.  Panels should include no less than 4 proposed panelists. Panel proposals should also be no more than 500 words. All submissions must include the names, e-mail addresses, and full affiliations of all authors.  In the case of panels and co-authored papers, please identify a corresponding author and provide sufficient detail in your abstract or proposal so that reviewers can fully assess your proposal and determine how it will fit with other proposals being reviewed.

There will be two plenary sessions at the conference and some submitted papers might be selected for plenary presentations. If you wish for us to consider your paper for a plenary session, please indicate that desire on your submission.

Please e-mail submissions (in .doc, .docx, or .pdf format) to by April 1, 2013. If you have any questions about the conference, please direct them to Kimberly Mutcherson at

Though the conference will have a primary focus on law, we also invite submissions from other disciplines including philosophy, the social sciences, critical cultural studies (gender and sexuality studies, disability studies, critical race studies, etc.), public health, and others. 

We urge you to interpret the conference theme broadly. While this conference emerges from the Roe anniversary, we seek to initiate and support discussion across a wide range of reproductive justice topics and want to build a conference program that looks forward to the world created in the wake of Roe rather than focusing narrowly on the Roe decision itself or on issues related to abortion. Possible topics for inclusion on the program include:

- Burgeoning markets in reproduction fueled by assisted reproductive technology (“ART”), including cross border fertility care (“reproductive tourism”), the market in gametes, creating of kinship ties without biological or genetic links, and informed consent in the fertility industry;

- Public health approaches to abortion, contraception, assisted reproduction, pregnancy and childbirth;

- Race, class, sexual orientation and access to childbearing and the economics of reproduction;

- The medical market and insurance issues related to abortion/contraception, prenatal care, childbirth and fertility services;

- Reproductive justice in the courts, including the future of the Supreme Court’s evolution on abortion access, treatment of pregnant prisoners, access to contraception, reproductive health services for undocumented immigrants, prenatal testing, etc.;

- Issues of abortion access, including training for a new generation of abortion providers, harassment of providers, and TRAP laws;

- Racialized and woman protective arguments against abortion and their impact on abortion access and reproductive health;

-  Familial privacy and the state, including the relationship between access to reproduction and parenting and the power wielded by child protective services;

- Intimate partner violence and reproduction;

- Affordable Care Act implications for reproductive health services;

- Pregnancy and the workplace; and

- Human rights discourse and access to reproductive health services.

There may be a publishing opportunity for interested conference participants. We will share more information about that possibility with panelists whose work is selected for inclusion in the conference program.

* For those unfamiliar with our campus, we are located a few short minutes from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Amtrak’s 30th street station is a 10-minute cab ride from campus and the Philadelphia International Airport is approximately 20 minutes from campus by cab. Philadelphia offers a wealth of cultural opportunities, including world-class museums, fine dining, theater, and an extensive public park system that can be enjoyed while away from the conference (


February 16, 2013 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 15, 2013

"Applied Feminism and Families" Conference at University of Baltimore School of Law

University of Baltimore School of Law is hosting a conference titled Applied Feminism and Families on March 7-8, 2013.  Download Conference Flyer Here.


February 15, 2013 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Cammett: "Shadow Citizens: Felony Disenfranchisement and the Criminalization of Debt"

Ann Cammett (University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law) posted her article "Shadow Citizens: Felony Disenfranchisement and the Criminalization of Debt," 117 Penn State Law Review 349 (2012), on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

The disenfranchisement of felons has long been challenged as anti-democratic and disproportionately harmful to communities of color. Critiques of this practice have led to the gradual liberalization of state laws that expand voting rights for those who have served their sentences. Despite these legal developments, ex-felons face an increasingly difficult path to regaining the franchise. This article argues that, for ex-felons in particular, criminal justice debt can serve as an insurmountable obstacle to the resumption of voting rights and broader participation in society. This article uses the term “carceral debt” to identify criminal justice penalties levied on prisoners, “user fees” assessed to recoup the operating costs of the justice system, and debt incurred during incarceration, including mounting child support obligations.

In recent years, another disturbing voting rights challenge has emerged that has received little attention from scholars. State appellate and federal courts across the country have affirmed the constitutionality of statutes that require ex-felons to satisfy the payment of all carceral debts in order to resume voting privileges. Such a paradigm has a clearly differential impact on the poor: if only those who can pay their debts after a criminal conviction can regain the right to vote, those who cannot will remain perpetually disenfranchised, rendering them “shadow citizens” and raising a host of policy and constitutional questions.


February 15, 2013 in Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day


February 14, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)