Family Law Prof Blog

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

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Court in China Accepts Gay Man's Lawsuit Demanding Marriage Rights

From NPR:

Chinese media say it's the first legal case to center on the rights of same-sex couples to marry: a gay man has sued a civil affairs bureau in Hunan province for rejecting his attempt to register his marriage to his boyfriend. A court accepted the case Tuesday.

The local court in Changsha, in central China's Hunan province, was responding to a filing made in December by Sun Wenlin, 26, who says an official in Changsha refused his application to marry his partner because their union wasn't between a man and a woman.

The police also came to Sun's house, he told China's Global Times, saying, "The officer kept emphasizing that it is important to have a child to carry on one's family name, but I can't abide by people imposing their values on me."

We should note that while the Global Times calls Sun's name a pseudonym, Reutersand The Wall Street Journal cite it as the man's actual name. Sun tells both of those news outlets that he's optimistic the court will rule in his favor.

Rights activists increasingly have been pushing for same-sex marriage to be legalized in China, particularly after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry. Less than a week after that decision last summer, a prominent lesbian couple held a public wedding ceremony in Beijing.

Read more here.

January 14, 2016 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Alabama Chief Justice Orders Halt to Gay Marriage

From NBC News:

The chief justice of Alabama's supreme court ordered state officials Wednesday to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

But legal experts say the effect of his order is likely to be minimal and short-lived.

Roy Moore, acting in his capacity as the administrative head of the state court system, said he was acting because "confusion and uncertainty" exists among the Alabama officials, known as probate judges, who issue marriage licenses in the state.

Moore said they don't know whether to abide by a ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court last March, which upheld the state's ban on same-sex marriage, or the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in June declaring such bans unconstitutional.

Only the Alabama Supreme Court can resolve that issue, Moore said.

The confusion persists, he said, because the June ruling applied immediately only to the four states whose bans were directly challenged — Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

But Moore's order ignores what's been happening in the federal courts. A federal judge in Alabama issued a ruling in May, declaring the state's ban on same-sex marriage invalid and forbidding probate judges to deny marriage licenses to gay couples.

And in October, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals said that the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage nullified the earlier decision of Alabama's Supreme Court.

Read more here.

January 13, 2016 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

How Obama's Gun Control Push Helps Domestic Violence Survivors

From Huffington Post:

Clai Lasher-Sommers was 13 when her abusive stepfather shot her in the back. It took her six months to walk again. On Tuesday, the 58-year-old sat steps from President Barack Obama as he announced his plan to curb gun violence through executive action. A few minutes into his emotional speech, Obama acknowledged Lasher-Sommers' pain -- and the pain of countless other women across the nation -- when he explicitly named domestic abuse as a source of deadly gun violence in the U.S.

Lasher-Sommers was relieved.

"As women who end up living in domestic violence situations, one of the things that happens is that you lose all power," she said. "When you don’t hear your government officials talking about it, you are just silenced one more time."

Obama’s executive action on guns, while modest, includes a number of proposals that advocates and gun violence prevention experts say could help protect domestic violence survivors from armed abusers. That’s important, as research has found that the presence of a gun makes it five times more likely that a woman will be murdered by her abuser.

A proposal to expand the definition of who is engaged in the business of selling guns -- and therefore must be licensed and conduct background checks -- could reduce domestic-related gun violence, said Allison Anderman, staff attorney at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

"It means that more people will have to get a dealer license," she said. "Those people are more likely now to catch domestic abusers who try to buy guns, and it will limit the number of domestic abusers who will be able to buy guns without a background check."

Under Obama’s plan, Anderman added, local authorities will be notified when prohibited individuals try to buy a gun.

Read more here.

January 12, 2016 in Domestic Violence | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 11, 2016

Arizona Child Support Lien Screwup Infuriates Thousands

From Phoenix New Times:

Thousands of Arizonans who paid off their child support debt continued to be marked as subject to property liens because of a state Department of Economic Security screwup that officials say is almost fixed.

Ticked-off customers — including some with lawyers — finally drove the agency to do something about the problem, according to insiders. Dozens of people had to be hired to help figure it out.

When asked about the snafu, DES officials acknowledged that a lengthy review of closed, past-due child support cases completed last year showed that 8,241 people should have had their liens removed. The agency also determined that 14,016 open child support cases need to be audited for liens that should be released; that review will occur sometime this year.

The state has about 321,000 active child support cases, with the state and county splitting them roughly in half. Besides typical cases, the state automatically receives cases that involve federally assisted foster care and recipients of Medicaid or welfare. Under previous rules, if someone ordered to pay child support falls more than two months behind, an administrative lien is placed on all current and future property they own. (The state recently changed that to four months.) The lien prevents the person from selling the property, typically a home, until the past-due payments are satisfied.

The problem was that "liens were not properly tracked and documented," according to information provided by Tasya Peterson, DES spokeswoman. Computer hardware from the 1980s at the agency, including a mainframe ATLAS system, "allows for user entry errors."

Read more here.

January 11, 2016 in Child Support Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Illinois Divorce Law: A Change-up for the Breakup

From Belleville News-Democrat:

After the holidays, divorce lawyers tend to get really busy. This coming year is going to be even busier.

The Illinois General Assembly passed the first revision of the “Dissolution of Marriage Act” in decades that changes how divorces are handled by the courts. The new law goes into effect Friday.

“It’s not perfect, but we were told perfection is the enemy of good,” said Edwardsville lawyer Jennifer Shaw, who helped revamp Illinois’ divorce law.

The changes will affect everyone filing for divorce in Illinois after Jan. 1. In 2015, more than 1,000 divorces were filed in St. Clair County and 1,200 in Madison County.

Some of the changes cover new terminology that reflects recent changes in society, such as gay marriage. Husband and wife are now referred to as the more gender-neutral “spouses.” Child custody is now referred to as “allocation of parenting time and responsibility.”


“It takes the sting out of the word ‘custody,’” Shaw said. “The judge will still make the decision on the amount of time the child spends with either parent by what’s in the child’s best interest.”

It also makes the process less confrontational.

Read more here.

January 10, 2016 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Senate Passes Bill Allowing Termination of Rapist's Parental Rights

From Michigan Radio:

A new law would protect rape victims from a custody battle with their rapists when a child is conceived.

The Michigan Senate unanimously passed legislation this week that would allow courts to terminate a rapist's parental rights to a child conceived by the rape of the mother.

Senate Bill 629 was introduced by Republican Sen. Rick Jones earlier this month.

"I want to ensure that victims of rape are not faced with a custody battle from their rapist," Jones said.

Current state law allows a court to terminate parental rights once a rapist is criminally convicted.

SB 629 would allow courts to terminate all rights upon the victim petitioning before a family court judge, requiring a lower burden of proof.

Read more here.

January 9, 2016 in Termination of Parental Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 8, 2016

Alimony Payments Denied for Brooklyn Man Who Abused, Raped Wife

From New York Daily News:

A Brooklyn man who’s serving a 40-year prison sentence for raping his abused wife has lost his galling bid to get alimony payments from her.

The callous creep, who’s being identified in court papers by his initials TT to protect his wife’s identity, claimed he supported his wife, identified as AT, when she went to school with “hustled cigarettes” and by collecting public assistance.

In a decision made public Wednesday, Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey Sunshine found TT hadn’t even done that much — but that he had beat up his wife so many times during their marriage that she wound up losing her job because of her excessive absences.

The judge also found TT’s claims he helped his wife with her schooling to be ridiculous because he was locked up on drug and gun charges at the time.

“If he was around, I would not have been able to finish college,” the 52-year-old woman testified during their divorce trial in March.

The couple tied the knot in 2002, and TT “engaged in extreme acts of physical and sexual violence” against his wife throughout the marriage, the judge found. He was arrested twice for attacking her, but AT testified that he’d brutalized her “a lot of times.”

Asked how many times she’d been assaulted in all, she testified she “can’t count, it’s been so many.”

Read more here.


January 8, 2016 in Maintenance (alimony) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 7, 2016

China Finally Has A Law Prohibiting Domestic Violence

From CNN:

After a decades-long push, China has finally enacted its first nationwide law prohibiting domestic violence.

The ground-breaking legislation covers both married and co-habiting couples and those living in foster families. It comes into force March 1, state news agency Xinhua reported.

It also defines domestic violence for the first time, and includes pyschological abuse as well as physical violence.

However, critics say there are still gaps -- it excludes same-sex couples and makes no mention of sexual violence.

Until 2001, when China amended its marriage law, abuse wasn't considered grounds for divorce and violence in the home has traditionally been regarded as a private matter to be dealt with by family members.

The high-profile divorce in 2013 of Li Yang, the founder of the "Crazy English" teaching method and his American wife Kim Lee, forced the issue out of the shadows, Xinhua says.

In 2011, Lee posted pictures of her bruised face on Chinese social media and accused her husband of domestic violence. She later said in an essay in the New York Times that police had told her no crime had occurred.

Li admitted beating his wife but attacked her for breaking with Chinese tradition and discussing private matters in public. The episode triggered a massive public debate on domestic violence.

Read more here.



January 7, 2016 in Domestic Violence | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Your Kids Care About Their Dad More Than Child Support

From The Good Men Project:

Children don’t care about child support. In fact, unless their parents sit them down and explain it to them, most children don’t even know what child support is.  Many children, in their independent mind frame (especially younger children), believe that the money is used to provide their wants and needs: grows on trees, can be picked up at leisure from the bank, is unlimited on “those cards you swipe at the store," flows freely out of money making machines (i.e. ATMs), or is unlimited as long as you go to work. 

So although child support is often our top concern as parents, children could care less.

Over the years, I’ve interviewed numerous children in connection with my child custody law and mediation practice. When asked about their feelings and wishes, NOT ONE child responded that they wanted more child support from daddy. Similarly, not one wished daddy made more money or anything else related to money, except, I have had a few children request that their dad didn’t have to work so much so they could spend more time with them. Out of all of my interviews, the only time the words “child support” were mentioned, was when one child said, “I wish mommy wasn’t so mad at my dad about child support so that I can see him.”

What children consistently seem to care about the most when dad, child custody and or/support is at issue, is being able to spend time with their dad, and without worry.

Being a parent requires much more than “having/paying money.” In my line of work, I’ve realized that society has so many people so wrapped up in riches and material things that the things that are most important are often disregarded for things that don’t compare. Children indeed need both money and quality time with both parents–one is not at the mercy of the other. I would suggest that moms who are using child support to interfere with the child’s relationship with their father look at how that behavior can be harmful to their children. 

Read more here.

January 6, 2016 in Child Support Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

"Egg-Timer" Row Over Fertility Tests in Australia

From Yahoo News:

WA doctors are being swamped by women aged in their 30s wanting “egg-timer” fertility tests that could be doing more harm than good.

Experts warn the popular blood tests are unreliable, with one woman distraught after the results suggested she was going through menopause, only to later find out she was actually pregnant.

Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on tests, women are being advised to track their own cycle with a $10 smart phone app and a thermometer.

The Anti-Mullerian hormone or egg-timer test has been used in Australia for more than a decade by women wanting to check how many eggs they have left.

But a recent study of almost 500 women aged 20 to 44, published in the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics, found the original AMH test underestimated fertility by 68 per cent.

While the accuracy of the test was improved in 2013 after a spate of false low readings, experts say women should still be wary, and the tests often led to unnecessary referrals to specialists.

University of WA professor of reproductive medicine Roger Hart said that every time he gave a talk to GPs they complained about being harassed by women wanting to be tested.

Read more here.

January 5, 2016 in Alternative Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 4, 2016

Federal Judge Blocks Arkansas Abortion Law for 2 Weeks

From ABC News:

A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order late Thursday preventing Arkansas from enforcing new limits on how the abortion pill is administered.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued a 14-day delay in enforcing two sections of the law, which was scheduled to go into effect Friday. Baker wrote in her ruling that "for now" she found enforcing those sections would cause a greater threat of irreparable harm to Planned Parenthood's two Arkansas clinics and the patients than the potential injuries to the state by maintaining the status quo.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland filed a lawsuit Monday challenging one portion of the law requiring doctors administering abortion pills to contract with a physician who has admitting privileges at a hospital and agrees to handle any complications. It also challenged another portion requiring providers to follow guidelines set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration when administering the pills.

Baker wrote that for now, she believed Planned Parenthood had a substantial chance of succeeding in its argument that the requirement to contract with a physician, "would result in an undue burden and have the effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman's right to choose to have an abortion of a nonviable fetus."

The judge also wrote that the FDA-approved regimen for administering the pill "does not appear to be the current standard of care."

Susan Allen, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said she had confidence in the merits of the case against the law passed in March by the majority-Republican Legislature.

Read more here.

January 4, 2016 in Abortion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

"Super Dads" are Challenging Gender Roles in South Korea

From Business Insider:

Chung Sang-hoon, 34, has taken a year off of his intensive sales job to stay at home with his children.

Taking paternity leave was previously unheard of in South Korea. Now, a small group of "superdads" are joining a growing, government-encouraged movement.

"The reason I took childcare leave is I want to be different from my father's generation," Sang-hoon said. "Everything is definitely worth it, from preparing breakfast to doing the dishes. I can live for the sake of values I find important."

His wife, Jeon Jeong-mi, said her husband taking paternity leave has been a huge help to her career.

"I can work without feeling pressure," she told Reuters. "I don't have to worry about home. And I do not have to go home early. Also, I do not need to feel sorry for my kids whenever I go to work in the morning."

These "superdads" are challenging gender roles in South Korea, where men are expected to work long hours and be minimally involved with raising kids.

The country's rigid gender expectations have led South Korean women to believe they're being punished in the workplace because they may have to take time off to care for their kids down the road, per Reuters.

As a result, South Korea has the lowest birth rate of wealthy nations, which is why South Korean President Park Geun-hye has made increasing the number of men who take paternity leave a priority — both to address the low birth rate and to give women's careers a boost.

Read more here.

January 3, 2016 in Paternity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 2, 2016

New Hampshire Couple Seeking to Undo Their Divorce Gets Turned Down

From NBC News:

Should those irreconcilable differences suddenly become reconcilable, don't go looking to get un-divorced in New Hampshire.

The state's Supreme Court this month upheld a lower court ruling refusing to vacate a New Castle couple's 2014 divorce after 24 years of marriage.

Terrie Harmon and her ex-husband, Thomas McCarron, argued on appeal that their divorce decree was erroneous because they mended fences and are a couple once more. But the justices, in a unanimous ruling issued Dec. 2, said the law specifically allows them to grant divorces — not undo them.

Courts in some states — including Illinois, Nebraska, Mississippi, Arkansas, Maryland and Kentucky — will vacate divorces within a certain time frame or under certain circumstances, at the parties' request. Others — including New York and South Dakota — maintain they, like New Hampshire, have no statutory authority to undo a divorce.

Attorney Joshua Gordon, appointed to defend the lower court's ruling, said allowing the couple's divorce to be undone could jeopardize the finality of all divorces.

"Divorce is a uniquely fraught area of litigation," Gordon argued. "For divorced couples, it is often important to have the solace of knowing that their former spouse is indeed former."

Read more here.

January 2, 2016 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 1, 2016

Colorado Hotline Expands Reporting of Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect

From The Denver Post:

With the approaching first anniversary of the launch of a toll-free statewide telephone hotline for reporting child abuse and neglect, child-welfare officials are urging Coloradans to stay vigilant if they're concerned about a child's safety and well-being.

The Colorado Department of Human Services announced that as of Dec. 20, state and county officials had received nearly 205,000 reports of suspected child abuse or neglect since the hotline went live on Jan. 1 — both through the new state hotline and from people contacting counties' and the state's human services offices.

"There is a growing understanding in our community that we all play a role in keeping our kids safe," state Department of Human Services Director Reggie Bicha said in a news release.

Bicha said the 1-844-CO-4-KIDS hotline is integral to help Coloradans spot and report signs of child abuse and neglect. "One call can save a child," he said.

Of the total 204,983 calls received by Dec. 20 about possible child abuse or neglect, 26,461 were made on the state hotline, according to Department of Human Services spokesman Lee Rasizer. Of that total, 4,516 came from Boulder County, 706 from Broomfield County and 5,395 from Weld County.

Under a system in which calls are evaluated and determinations made about whether further assessments and investigations are merited, and how rapidly those assessments and investigations need to be made, 88,441 of the total calls to the state's hotline and Colorado counties were accepted for assessment and 32,709 were assessed and investigated, Rasizer said.

Read more here.


January 1, 2016 in Child Abuse | Permalink | Comments (0)