Family Law Prof Blog

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

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Embryo Donation

From KPRC Houston:

For Natalie and Brandon Champagne, the question was not if they would become parents, but rather how they would become parents.

"Brandon had leukemia as a child and some of the treatments that he received, we knew we probably wouldn't be able to have children of our own," said Natalie Champagne.

The two then heard about the Snowflake Adoption Program, a program that matches families that are willing to donate embryos they no longer need for IVF, to families that want to have children. Families like the Champagnes then adopt, birth and raise the child as their own.

Read more here.


January 31, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 30, 2015

Marriage and Consquences

From Erez Aloni (Whittier Law School), writing for the Guardian:

Even as social conservatives pontificate on preserving the sanctity of marriage and the importance of making divorce once again more difficult, other conservatives have launched a complementary crusade if ‘I do’ isn’t forever: hands off your ex’s money.

Some politicians contend the ease of getting a divorce is the source of other problems like poverty and crime, making it a worthy primary target for reform. Last month, 50 international scholars and religious leaders wrote a letter to the Pope, urging the Catholic Church to consider the effects of no-fault divorce – or ending a marriage without having to demonstrated the other spouse has done wrong – on society. The letter followed relentless political efforts by conservative legislators to make divorce more difficult, with legislation to impose “cooling off” periods before legally ending a union introduced in more than a dozen states.

Read more here.


January 30, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Adopting Older Children


Babies are a hot commodity and so scarce here in the U.S. that some prospective adoptive parents will spend thousands of dollars to adopt a baby from overseas — while older children are ignored and left behind. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

Stephanie Bosco-Ruggiero, Gloria Russo Wassell, and Victor Groza have written a new book: “Adopting Older Children: A Practical Guide to Adopting and Parenting Children Over Age Four” that is designed to help couples that would like to adopt but have questions about how adoption works with older children.

In an interview with, Bosco-Ruggiero said “people hesitate when considering adopting an older child because they concern that the child will have severe behavioral or emotional problems stemming from backgrounds of abuse and neglect.” While those factors complicate an adoption, these problems can be successfully overcome.

Read more here.


January 29, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Same-Sex Divorce in Mississippi

From SFGate:

Mississippi, which does not allow same-sex marriages, should find a way to grant a divorce to a DeSoto County woman who married another woman in California in 2008, lawyer Carey Varnadotold the state Supreme Court on Wednesday.

The attorney general's office, though, told the court that the state can't grant a divorce to Lauren Czekala-Chatham (chick AH' luh-CHAT' um) and Dana Ann Melancon (muh LAWN' sawn) because their marriage is void in Mississippi.

There may be a way out for the nine justices on Mississippi's top court: They could find a way to grant a divorce or legally dissolve the marriage without overturning the state constitutional amendment and law that limit marriage to a union between only one man and one woman. They could also wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule.

Read more here.


January 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Custody Dispute

From Between the Lines News:

A custody case filed against a local lesbian woman will soon be presented before a Wayne County Judge, as the children's biological father seeks full custody.

Annette Burgan, 44, has three children. The metro Detroit woman elected to seek out a suitable candidate that would enable her and her partner at the time to use the services of a sperm donor bank in California to conceive. Eleven years later she is fighting to remain the legal parent of her children.

Read more here.


January 27, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 26, 2015

DeKalb Middlemen

From Dekalb Daily Chronicle:

A new service beginning Tuesday will provide DeKalb County parents with a middleman to keep their children out of potential squabbling during visitation exchanges.

The Neutral Exchange Program, a new division of the DeKalb County-based Family Service Agency, is a court-ordered service that provides divorced or separated parents a way to transfer custody of their child with almost no interaction, making the situation less uncomfortable for everyone involved.

Read more here.


January 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Attraction in Biological Family

From NY Magazine:

In the late '80s, the founder of a support group for adopted children who had recently reconnected with their biological relatives coined the term “Genetic Sexual Attraction” (GSA) to describe the intense romantic and sexual feelings that she observed occurring in many of these reunions. According to an article in The Guardian, experts estimate that these taboo feelings occur in about 50 percent of cases where estranged relatives are reunited as adults (GSA’s discoverer had herself become attracted to the son she’d adopted out when she met him 26 years later, but her feelings were not reciprocated).

Though the research is scarce, those who have studied GSA offer a range of possible explanations for it, including a primordial feeling of always having “belonged” to the estranged relative, a sense of wanting to experience the bonding missed out on during childhood, or simply an overwhelming closeness based on similarities: like meeting a mate who was designed for you in a science lab. Perhaps GSA accounts for Kevin Gates’s attraction to his first cousin.

Read more here.


Hat Tip: Gregg Strauss


January 24, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Nebraska’s Child Support Guidelines

From Omaha World-Herald:

Many noncustodial parents would see a reduction in their monthly financial obligations under proposed updates to Nebraska’s child support guidelines.

The across-the-board recommendations of a special state commission are intended to reflect Nebraska’s lower cost of living as compared with surrounding states. Depending upon a parent’s income, the proposed changes could reduce base monthly child support payments by as much as $200.

Read more here.


January 24, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 23, 2015

First Same-Sex Divorce in KY

From The Courier-Journal:

Despite a Kentucky law that bars the recognition of gay marriages performed where they are legal, a Jefferson Family Court judge has granted the state's first same-sex divorce.

In the first ruling of its kind in Kentucky, Judge Joseph O'Reilly permitted the divorce of two Louisville women who were legally married in Massachusetts.

Though state law says gay marriages performed elsewhere are void in Kentucky, O'Reilly said that barring same-sex couples to divorce here violates the state constitutional guarantee that all people should be treated as equals.

Read more here.


January 23, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

1940's Career Girl

A fasinating look at the life of a young woman who chose to work in 1948 is here.


Hat Tip: SH

January 22, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Women Speakers

Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant, writing for the New York Times:

YEARS ago, while producing the hit TV series “The Shield,” Glen Mazzara noticed that two young female writers were quiet during story meetings. He pulled them aside and encouraged them to speak up more.

Watch what happens when we do, they replied.

Almost every time they started to speak, they were interrupted or shot down before finishing their pitch. When one had a good idea, a male writer would jump in and run with it before she could complete her thought.

Sadly, their experience is not unusual.

We’ve both seen it happen again and again. When a woman speaks in a professional setting, she walks a tightrope. Either she’s barely heard or she’s judged as too aggressive. When a man says virtually the same thing, heads nod in appreciation for his fine idea. As a result, women often decide that saying less is more.

Some new studies support our observations. A study by a Yale psychologist, Victoria L. Brescoll, found that male senators with more power (as measured by tenure, leadership positions and track record of legislation passed) spoke more on the Senate floor than their junior colleagues. But for female senators, power was not linked to significantly more speaking time.

Suspecting that powerful women stayed quiet because they feared a backlash, Professor Brescoll looked deeper. She asked professional men and women to evaluate the competence of chief executives who voiced their opinions more or less frequently. Male executives who spoke more often than their peers were rewarded with 10 percent higher ratings of competence. When female executives spoke more than their peers, both men and women punished them with 14 percent lower ratings. As this and other research shows, women who worry that talking “too much” will cause them to be disliked are not paranoid; they are often right.

Read more here.


January 21, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Key Moments

Fortune surveys 12 key moments here leading to the same-sex marriage case the Supreme Court will soon hear.

January 20, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Parness: "Parentage Prenups and Midnups"

Jeffrey A. Parness (Northern Illinois University - College of Law) has posted Parentage Prenups and Midnups, Georgia State University Law Review, Vol. 31 (forthcoming 2015) to SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

In July, 2012 the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws recommended for enactment in all American states the Uniform Premarital and Marital Agreements Act . Unlike its predecessor, the Act treats “premarital agreements and marital agreements under the same set of principles and requirements.” Like its predecessor, it speaks largely to agreements on property, including money. Unlike its predecessor, it expressly recognizes there may be agreements on “custodial responsibility.”

Custodial agreements are not “binding” on the courts under the Act because parents and prospective parents do not have the power to waive the rights of third parties (their current or future children) or to remove the duty of the courts to protect the best interests of minor children. The Act’s Comment suggests that while such agreements are not always enforceable, they can provide “guidance” to courts. The paper argues that “guidance” on “custodial responsibility” should flow from prenups and midnups even if there is no statute on such agreements and even if any statute is silent as to “custodial responsibility.”

The Act implies there can be guidance within premarital and marital agreements on future child support for existing and future children. It also implies there can be guidance within such agreements to create, have created, or adopt children. States implementing the Act should expressly recognize that prenups and midnups can address child support and child creation as well as child custody.

When might child custody, child support or child creation promises within prenups and midnups be suitable for prospective and current spouses and others? And when might prenups and midnups provide “guidance” to judges? This paper suggests that future and actual stepparents could employ such agreements. Without such agreements, stepparent standing to seek childcare orders is usually less available because of the superior parental rights of existing parents. The paper also suggests that childcare pacts in prenups and midnups can guide other current and future family members (like grandparents, aunts and uncles) who later seek to childcare.

As to child support pacts, superior parental rights and public concerns about children’s interests pose fewer problems than childcare pacts. Childcare by a parent generally is not negatively impacted when additional child support is provided. Public policy does not allow money alone, however, to be the basis for childcare standing.

As to child creation agreements, both superior parental rights and other federal constitutional interests (like paternity opportunity interests), as well as public concerns, are significantly implicated. Statutes and common law rulings already respect certain child creation pacts involving assisted human reproduction outside of prenups and midnups. The paper suggests prenups or midnups on child creation should also guide judicial decisions, sometimes beyond these statutes and rulings.


January 19, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

SCOTUS Takes on Gay Marriage Case

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide whether all 50 states must allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, positioning it to resolve one of the great civil rights questions in a generation before its current term ends in June.

The decision came just months after the justices ducked the issue, refusing in October to hear appeals from rulings allowing same-sex marriage in five states. That decision, which was considered a major surprise, delivered a tacit victory for gay rights, immediately expanding the number of states with same-sex marriage to 24, along with the District of Columbia, up from 19.

Largely as a consequence of the Supreme Court’s decision not to act, the number of states allowing same-sex marriage has since grown to 36, and more than 70 percent of Americans live in places where gay couples can marry.

The cases the Supreme Court agreed to hear on Friday were brought by some 15 same-sex couples in four states. The plaintiffs said they have a fundamental right to marry and to be treated as opposite-sex couples are, adding that bans they challenged demeaned their dignity, imposed countless practical difficulties and inflicted particular harm on their children.

The pace of change on same-sex marriage, in both popular opinion and in the courts, has no parallel in the nation’s history.

Read more here.


January 18, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Smith & Pollvogt: "Children as Proto-Citizens: Equal Protection, Citizenship, and Lessons From the Child-Centered Cases"

Catherine E. Smith (University of Denver Sturm College of Law) and Susannah William Pollvogt (Washburn University School of Law) have posted Children as Proto-Citizens: Equal Protection, Citizenship, and Lessons From the Child-Centered Cases, UC Davis Law Review (forthcoming) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

The rights of children have recently taken a prominent role in the popular and judicial consciousness. This is largely due to litigation over marriage equality. In authoring the majority opinion in United States v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675 (2013), Justice Kennedy cited tangible and psychic harm to the children of same-sex couples as a basis for invalidating the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Post-Windsor, myriad state and federal courts similarly have recognized the manner in which state-level marriage bans inflict harm on the children of same-sex couples.

Yet, while courts have recognized the significance of harm to children as a factual matter, they have yet to address its significance as a legal matter. Specifically, they have ignored compelling Supreme Court precedent that directly addresses the equal protection rights of children. This body of law — which we refer to as “the child-centered cases” — unequivocally stands for the proposition that states may not deprive children of benefits in an effort to regulate adult behavior. Marriage bans do exactly this. Such laws deprive the children of same-sex couples the benefit of a legal relationship to one of their parents in an effort to incentivize opposite-sex couples to enter into the institution of marriage. This directly contravenes the legal principle articulated in the child-centered cases.

Thus, at a minimum, the child-centered cases provide a clear legal principle for resolving the same-sex marriage issue. But we contend that these cases offer much more. In particular, in the child-centered cases we see the Court giving greater meaning to equal protection guarantees because it views children as proto-citizens. In this context, the Court recognizes certain substantive rights — namely, public education, family formation, and the right to transfer economic benefits from one generation to the next — as foundational to citizenship, and therefore worthy of special judicial solicitude. The Court recognizes that depriving children of these rights at the beginning of life sets a pattern of marginalization and deprivation that has lasting effects on their ability to develop into full-fledged citizens.

The citizenship theme running through the child-centered cases is significant for several reasons. First, it connects equal protection jurisprudence to the concept of citizenship. Second, it draws attention to the substantive rights associated with citizenship-formation. Third, while the special concerns articulated in these cases are inspired by the fact that the plaintiffs are children, recognizing the interference with the individual’s ability to develop as a citizen can and should be extended to adults as well. In this sense, we are all proto-citizens — citizens in progress — entitled to basic civil rights necessary to thrive in our democracy.


January 16, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 15, 2015


From USA Today:

Talking about money is never easy, especially with someone you love and especially when you're talking about keeping it for yourself.

While we commonly think of prenuptial agreements as contracts for the soon-to-wed wealthy, you don't always enter a marriage with riches, or guarantees that the bliss will last. And even if differences or difficulties don't arise, it might not be a bad idea to have such a plan in place.

Prenuptial agreements, or "prenups," are contracts entered into before marriage that outline the division of assets in case of divorce. They may touch on things like spousal support (alimony), ownership of businesses and properties, and even financial duties and responsibilities during the marriage.

"Since getting into the business and seeing what can happen to family relationships in a divorce, I'm not sure there is an instance where a prenup would be a bad thing," says financial adviser Jeffery Cortright, president of Phase 2 Investment Advisers in Jenison, Mich.

While prenuptial agreements are normally thought of as a matter of assets, there are many other concerns that can be addressed in the contract, such as: the costs of raising a child, caring for a parent or going back to school; shopping habits and matters like credit card debt; the costs and proceeds of business ownership; tax liabilities; spousal and child support from previous relationships; and even how death or disability could affect the finances of your family.

Read more here


January 15, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Conference Announcement

Engaging the Entire Class:
Strategies for Enhancing Participation and Inclusion in Law School Classroom Learning


Register and pay online
(through UCLA website)

"Engaging the Entire Class: Strategies for Enhancing Participation and Inclusion in Law School Classroom Learning" is a one-day conference being presented by the UCLA School of Law and the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning (ILTL) in Los Angeles, California on February 28, 2015.

Conference Structure

The conference will include an opening and closing led by ILTL Co-Directors and Consultants, and five workshop sessions. Each workshop session will be presented by a teacher featured in What the Best Law Teachers Do.


Workshop presenters include:

·         Patti Alleva, University of North Dakota

·         Steven Friedland, Elon University

·         Steven K. Homer, University of New Mexico

·         Nancy Levit, University of Missouri-Kansas City

·         Hiroshi Motomura, UCLA

By the end of the conference, participants will have concrete ideas for enhancing participation and inclusion in law school classrooms to take back to their students, colleagues, and institutions.

Who Should Attend

This conference is for all law faculty (full-time and adjunct) who want to learn about enhancing participation and inclusion in law school.

Conference Schedule

All Sessions will take place at the UCLA School of Law on Saturday, February 28, 2015.

·         8:00-8:40 a.m.: Registration and Continental Breakfast

·         8:40-9:00 a.m.: Welcome and Opening

·         9:00-10:00 a.m.: Workshop 1

·         10:00-10:20 a.m.: Break

·         10:20-11:20 a.m.: Workshop 2

·         11:20-11:40 a.m.: Break

·         11:40 a.m.-12:40 p.m.: Workshop 3

·         12:40-1:30 p.m.: Lunch

·         1:30-2:30 p.m.: Workshop 4

·         2:30-2:50 p.m.: Break

·         2:50-3:50 p.m.: Workshop 5

·         3:50-4:10 p.m.: Break

·         4:10-4:30 p.m.: Closing

·         4:30 p.m.: Adjourn

Registration Fee

Through February 12, 2015

·         $250 - General Attendance

·         $100 - Gonzaga University, University of Arkansas Little Rock, or Washburn University full/part-time faculty

·         $0 - UCLA Law full/part-time faculty (registration required)

After February 12, 2015

·         Registration is on-site only

·         $300 - General Attendance

·         $300 - Gonzaga University, University of Arkansas Little Rock, or Washburn University full/part-time faculty

·         $0 - UCLA Law full/part-time faculty (registration required)

Registration fee includes:

·         all materials, and

·         breakfast, lunch, and snacks.


Conference activities will be held at UCLA School of Law, 385 Charles E. Young Drive East, 1242 Law Building, Los Angeles, California 90095 (Directions and Maps).


Participants are responsible for their own travel arrangements to the conference.


A block of rooms has been reserved until January 25, 2015 for the nights of February 27 and February 28 at:

·         UCLA Guest House
330 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Los Angeles, CA 90095
$177.00: queen bed
$182.00: queen bed with kitchenette
$182.00: queen bed with twin bed

Make reservations by calling the hotel directly at (310) 825-2923 and mentioning that you are participating in the UCLA School of Law's "Institute for Law Teaching and Learning Conference at UCLA".

Please note: UCLA Guest House offers complimentary continental breakfast each morning but is not a full-food service hotel - meaning that they do not provide the service of ordering food via room service, and there is not a lobby restaurant. There are, however, many restaurants in Westwood Village, which is less than a 15 minute walk from the hotel. Also: On-site parking at the Guest House is free, but limited, on a first-come, first-served basis. If the hotel parking lot is full, the Guest House sells parking passes for the closest UCLA parking structure number 3.

Register and pay online
(through UCLA website)

January 14, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Stay-At-Home Dads

From the Atlantic:

This past summer, on the last day of my clerkship with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she rose from her cavernous desk and, following a hearty goodbye hug, asked me what was next. I told her that the next morning marked the start of my new job as a stay-at-home dad. She smiled warmly and wished me luck.


The Boss (as clerks tend to refer to their justices at the Court) was legendary in her ability to navigate these obstacles with deftness and grace. At Harvard Law School in the 1950s, she was one of a handful of women in her class. Then-Dean Erwin Griswold, who later served as solicitor general under Presidents Johnson and Nixon, famously challenged the Boss, at a (small) dinner he held for the women students, to justify her presence at the school when the spot could have gone to a man. (Fifty-one years later, when I attended my own welcome dinner for incoming Harvard Law students, my dean was future Justice Elena Kagan, the first woman to hold that position at the law school. She chatted with us about the Red Sox pennant race and a tricky issue of federal civil procedure.)

Read more here.


Hat Tip: Gregg Strauss

January 13, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 12, 2015

Marriage Rates

From Today:

The New York Times looked closely at those numbers and reported: “Those who married in the 2000s are so far divorcing at even lower rates. If current trends continue, nearly two-thirds of marriages will never involve a divorce, according to data from Justin Wolfers, a University of Michigan economist (who also contributes to The Upshot).”

This means we need to update how we think of marriage. It’s no longer accurate to casually proclaim that 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. 

Whelan says there are many factors contributing to lower divorce rates. People are getting married later in life, which often means they are more financially stable. Birth control reduces the chance of surprise babies. But there is also a diverging trend in marriage, she says.

“It turns into the marriage ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’,” she says. “On the one hand we have educated people who are marrying at [high rates].”

But, on the other hand: “If you are less educated and affluent you are more likely to cohabitate," says Whelan. Not that this means an end to marriage.

“Fewer lower-income folks, I believe, are getting married now than in the past,” she says. Marriage used to be something everyone did regardless of class. Now that living together seems less shocking, some people have less incentive to tie the knot. And some women don’t see the economic advantage to marrying and simply don’t.   

When cohabitating couples break up, which can be just as disruptive as divorce, these numbers don’t make it into the divorce rates.

Read more here.


January 12, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Privacy in Divorce

From Forbes:

By any measure, divorce exacts a heavy toll. Financial, emotional and logistical matters are invariably complicated by shifting family dynamics and factual disputes. In many cases, the only thing most separating parties can immediately agree on is the need to shield children from the ugliness of the process. For celebrities and other ultra-wealthy clients, this often means preserving the family’s good name and legacy for future generations.

“Celebrity clients nearly always arrive at a settlement rather than going to trial. After legal costs, privacy concerns are probably the biggest reason why,” according to Judith L. Poller, partner and co-chair of the Family Law Group at Pryor Cashman LLP. “While in New York, there is an expectation of privacy in court filings, unfortunately it has become apparent that this expectation is no longer a forgone conclusion, even when both parties agree that confidentiality is in the best interests of children”.

Read more here.


January 10, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)