Family Law Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Pet Custody

From the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

Family law attorney Mandy McKellar valued her cats so much that she included them in a prenuptial agreement with her husband — “just in case.”

By the time they divorced this summer, the couple also had acquired two dogs. Now all five pets live with McKellar in her Las Vegas home, although she has offered to let her ex-husband take the cat they adopted.

“He can come back and get her at any time,” McKellar said of the cat. “She hates the dogs.”

Although McKellar and her husband went through an uncontested divorce, lawyers and judges who handle Family Court cases know that breakups often turn bitter. Couples fight over their children, their houses, and yes, even their pets.

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers announced in February that 27 percent of the respondents in a recent survey had noticed an increase in the number of couples who fought over custody of a pet during the previous five years. Most of the time, those disputes involved a dog.

Read more here.


December 31, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Burma's Proposed Family Law

From Human Rights Watch:

Burmese President U Thein Sein and National Assembly Speaker U Thura Shwe Mann should reject proposals for discriminatory marriage legislation that would strip Buddhist women of the right to freely choose whom they marry, Human Rights Watch said today.


The proposed law, seen by Human Rights Watch, restricts Buddhist women to marrying only Buddhists. It requires individuals holding other religious beliefs to convert to Buddhism before marrying a Buddhist, and seek written parental consent of the bride. The proposed law also sets out a 10-year prison sentence and confiscation of properties of any non-Buddhist who seeks to marry a Buddhist in violation of the law.  

Read more here.



December 30, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 29, 2014

Census Data Changing?

From Pew:

The Census Bureau has proposed dropping a series of questions about marriage and divorce from its largest household survey of Americans, touching off a debate about the usefulness of such data.

Since 2008, the bureau’s American Community Survey has asked a subset of the U.S. population about their relationship status, including whether they have been married, widowed or divorced within the past year. The survey also asks how many times a person has been married and when he or she last got married, which can be used to look at marital stability.

The bureau proposed eliminating these questions, and two others, in part because it is under pressure from Congress to justify every question on the survey, which some political conservatives would like to eliminate because they say that it invades people’s privacy. But two vocal groups — academic researchers and some conservative advocates for heterosexual marriage — say it is important to have the data in an era when marriage is declining.

The proposal is open for public comment through Dec. 30. The agency will then review the feedback and send a recommendation to the Office of Management and Budget, which makes the final decision. Any changes would take effect in 2016.

Read more here.


December 29, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

PA's Child Custody Standards

Read a review of Pennsylvania's child custody standards, changed back in 2010, here.


December 29, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Forced to Pay for College

From Margaret Ryznar, writing for the Huffington Post:

The recent Caitlyn Ricci case -- which resulted in a set of divorced parents forced to pay $16,000 for their adult daughter's college tuition at Temple University despite their strained relationship with her -- has drawn significant attention to the post-majority educational support laws that exist in a few states.

These laws seek to provide more than the basic child support required in a divorce or paternity case: they aim to provide college tuition support. The laws differ by state: some take into account the parent's financial capacity and the child's ability (although a college admissions letter may be enough to prove ability), some ignore a parent's role (or lack thereof) in choosing the college, and some provide parents access to the child's college transcripts. Some states have statutes permitting such support, while others have court precedent allowing it.

There are no analogous laws that apply to married parents, who are never forced by the law to pay for any part of their children's college education. But, married parents might pay anyway -- and willingly so. On these grounds, the Supreme Court of Washington upheld a post-majority educational support statute. According to the court, the statute simply remedied the economic disadvantages facing children of divorced parents, who likely would have received greater financial support if their parents had remained married.

Read more here.


December 27, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 26, 2014

On Bias

From the New York Times:

A FATHER and his son are in a car accident. The father is killed and the son is seriously injured. The son is taken to the hospital where the surgeon says, “I cannot operate, because this boy is my son.”

This popular brain teaser dates back many years, but it remains relevant today; 40 to 75 percent of people still can’t figure it out. Those who do solve it usually take a few minutes to fathom that the boy’s mother could be a surgeon. Even when we have the best of intentions, when we hear “surgeon” or “boss,” the image that pops into our minds is often male.

Our culture’s strong gender stereotypes extend beyond image to performance, leading us to believe that men are more competent than women. Managers — both male and female — continue to favor men over equally qualified women in hiring, compensation, performance evaluation and promotion decisions. This limits opportunities for women and deprives organizations of valuable talent.

To solve this problem, business leaders, academics and journalists are working to raise awareness about bias. The assumption is that when people realize that biases are widespread, they will be more likely to overcome them. But new research suggests that if we’re not careful, making people aware of bias can backfire, leading them to discriminate more rather than less.

Read more here.


December 26, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

merry christmas

December 25, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Billion $ Divorce

From Sean Williams (University of Texas), guest blogging for Concurring Opinions:

A few weeks ago, an Oklahoma judge was tasked with dividing Harold and Sue Ann Hamm’s $2Billion marital estate. And the judge’s only guidance was to divide it in any way that was, in his mind, “fair,” “just,” and “reasonable.”  Billion dollar divorces like this one highlight long-known problems with divorce law. Namely, that courts have wide and almost unreviewable discretion over many aspects of a divorcing couples’ lives.  When I ask students in my family law class how they would divide a particular marital estate, I generally get a lot of variation.  Many people choose 50%-50%, a substantial number choose 66%-34% or 75%-25%, but there are always a lot of students who choose more extreme divisions, like 90%-10%.  This highlights the lottery-like aspect of many family law issues.

But what can be done? I want to float a controversial idea, and then very briefly explain why it deserves serious attention.

Here’s the idea: Let local governments (like city councils) weigh in on how local judges should exercise their discretion.

Read more here.


December 1, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)