Monday, February 29, 2016
From Fox Boston:
Just four years after the state passed a sweeping alimony reform law, a new alimony bill was filed at the Massachusetts Statehouse to fix some of the confusion and problems that have arisen
In March 2012, following a year long investigation by FOX25 into how alimony was handled in the state, legislators unanimously passed a new law to reform the system.
The purpose of the law was to make alimony need based and end the practice of alimony for life. It was said to be a model for the country.
Chester Chin, from Turner Falls, was one of the first to seek relief from the bill in 2012.
The retired teacher hoped a judge would put an end to his payments based on his financial situation compared to that of his ex-wife’s.
“Over $800 a month is going in that direction,” He said. “When I read the law, I said ‘well, there's a chance to get my life back on track.’”
Chin’s case went all the way to the state’s highest court, and after legal fees topped $12,000 the alimony payments were upheld.
“To have our case dismissed and really rejected it was just mind blowing to this day I can't understand how it happened," Lisa Chin, Chester's current wife, said.
Steve Hitner, President of Massachusetts Alimony Reform, helped draft the 2012 bill and the new version.
Read more here.
Sunday, February 28, 2016
We would like to announce the Ninth Annual Family Law Scholars and Teachers Conference (FLST), which will take place this year on Wednesday June 1, 2016 at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law in New Orleans, Louisiana. As in previous years, the conference will provide an opportunity for us to share scholarship, pool our knowledge on teaching issues, talk about our field and professional development, and get to know one another. The FLST Conference was formerly known as the Emerging Family Law Scholars and Teachers Conference but since last year has been opened up to all family law scholars and teachers, including prospective, junior, and senior faculty.
The FLST Conference will run for one day only, concluding with a dinner in the evening. Loyola University New Orleans College of Law has generously offered us space to meet as well as breakfast and lunch for conference participants. There will be no registration fee for the FLST Conference, but you must secure your own funding for hotel, transportation, and the conference dinner.
In order to maintain a more intimate, safe space where there is an opportunity for each participant to present his or her work, we are continuing our practice of keeping the conference small. Space is limited to forty-five (45) participants (selected purely on a first-come, first-served basis), so please register as soon as possible, but no later than Tuesday, March 15, 2016. We will keep a waiting list so that if anyone cancels, we will invite people on the waiting list to attend the conference. To sign up for the 2016 FLST Conference, please send an email to [email protected]
If you have questions about registering for the 2016 conference, please contact Seema Mohapatra at [email protected] or Allison Tait at [email protected]. If you have any other general questions, please feel free to contact any of us on the planning committee.
We are very excited about this conference. We look forward to hearing from you and hope to see you in New Orleans in June!
Jessica Dixon Weaver
Saturday, February 27, 2016
From The New York Times:
About 20 women came to the abortion clinic here on a recent morning, hurrying past the shouting protesters as volunteer escorts held up umbrellas to shield their faces.
Inside the Reproductive Health Services clinic was Dr. Willie Parker, an Alabama native and one of a few physicians willing to face the professional shunning and the personal threats that come with being an abortion doctor in the conservative Deep South. He travels constantly among three different cities, two in Alabama and one in Mississippi, to provide a service that no local doctors will.
Despite being an experienced, board-certified physician, Dr. Parker, 53, said he had been unable to get the admitting privileges to local hospitals that Alabama and Mississippi have tried to require of abortion doctors. Because federal courts have temporarily blocked those requirements here and across the state line in Mississippi, Dr. Parker continues to practice, and the clinics that rely on him are still open.
But the future of this clinic and many others, across the South and much of the country, could be at stake this spring as the Supreme Court takes up what both sides in the abortion debate describe as a landmark case. While the death of Justice Antonin Scalia has added new considerations, the court’s decision in the case, which involves a Texas law, could shape abortion rules for years to come.
Highlighting the wider stakes, on Wednesday the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, overruling a lower court, said a Texas-style admitting-privileges law in Louisiana that is currently blocked should take immediate effect — which is likely to force three of the state’s four abortion clinics to close. Lawyers for the clinics said they would file an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court within days, arguing that the law should continue to be blocked while the justices consider whether such laws are constitutional.
On March 2, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on the challenge to the Texas law, which requires abortion doctors to be affiliated with nearby hospitals and also limits abortion to ambulatory surgical centers. Abortion opponents say such measures are needed to protect women, but major medical groups say they will not enhance patient safety and will only reduce women’s access to abortion.
Overruling a lower court’s injunction, the Fifth Circuit appeals court allowed the Texas admitting-privilege rule to take effect throughout the state in 2013, immediately shuttering about half of what had been more than 40 abortion clinics, although exceptions were later granted for geographically isolated clinics in McAllen and El Paso. The second requirement, mandating costly surgical center facilities, has been temporarily stayed by the Supreme Court, but it would force still more reductions if upheld.
At stake in the case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, is not only the future of abortion access in Texas and in the nine other states that, like Alabama and Louisiana, have adopted similar physician rules. It could also affect dozens of other regulations of disputed medical value that have been adopted by numerous states, including limits on nonsurgical drug-induced abortions, mandated building standards for clinics and two-day or three-day waiting periods.
Read more here.
Friday, February 26, 2016
From The Baltimore Sun:
A recent report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services included a startling statistic: The number of abused or neglected children in Maryland in 2014 had climbed 27 percent, the second-sharpest increase in the nation.
But state officials say that the figure was inflated because of a reporting error. It turns out that the number of cases depends on how a state defines a victim.
The federal government has been gathering state-level child abuse and neglect data for more than two decades, tracking the time it takes for Child Protective Services to respond to a report of child abuse, for instance, and the number of cases that are substantiated after an investigation.
The most recent installment of that data, which was released in late January and covers 2014, identified 15,800 children in Maryland who were victims of abuse or neglect — up from just over 12,000 cases the year before. Only Massachusetts had a larger year-over-year increase in abuse cases.
But officials at the Maryland Department of Human Resources said the federal number should not include children who are assisted through a new effort to segregate "low-risk" cases and work with those families to improve the situation at home rather than conduct a formal investigation.
That effort, known as "alternative response," was fully implemented in Maryland in 2014.
"We have determined that Maryland should not have counted any of the children receiving alternative response as victims," DHR spokeswoman Paula Tolson said in a statement. "Maryland therefore will be resubmitting 2014 data to correct this error."
The alternative response approach is designed to lessen the adversarial relationship between families and caseworkers. While many child advocates regard it as a best practice, some critics question whether the two-track system does enough to keep children safe.
Read more here.
Thursday, February 25, 2016
From AOL News:
A bill, passed on to the house floor Tuesday, would require the state to do business with child welfare and adoption agencies - even if they turn down prospective parents because their religious beliefs or morals don't align.
Opponents of the bill said it opens the door for agencies to turn away same-sex or unmarried couples that are looking to adopt children.
"I think [the bill] is a huge step backwards," said Tamera Maresh-Carver, who adopted a son with her now-wife eight years ago. "We look at it and we think: there are families like us that have the ability to give a kid a home. And, we provide a really loving home, and you have kids who really need a home, and it seems like we get in our own way a whole lot of times."
Her wife, Chere Carver, can remember the trouble the couple went through trying to adopt their son, traveling six hours to find a court that would grant the adoption.
Now, she and her wife fear children will be the victims of what they call a discriminatory bill, particularly concerning as they consider adopting another child.
"I think most people who work with the children in the system who need a home are there for the best interest of the child," said Maresh-Carver. "This would be just a huge blow to families across the board."
But, the bill's author tells NewsChannel 4 she wrote the bill to be inclusive,not exclusive.
Rep. Sally Kern (R-Bethany) said the point is to ensure religious-based organizations continue to provide adoption services in the state.
Read more here.
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
From The Washington Post:
This session, Virginia House Republicans failed to pass a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, a top priority. But they are surprisingly upbeat, encouraged by signs in Virginia and across the country that their long-term strategy for restricting access to the procedure is picking up steam.
About a quarter of the legislature signed on to this year’s bill, including 10 from the Senate — historically the more moderate chamber. National public opinion appears to favor a 20-week ban. And Republicans are looking at 2018, when they hope to trade Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) — a self-professed “brick wall” against limits on abortion — for an antiabortion Republican.
But they still have an uphill climb in Virginia, where Republicans running on social issues have consistently lost statewide races. The most recent example was Ken Cuccinelli II, an ardent abortion foe who lost the governor’s race to McAuliffe in 2013.
That hasn’t stopped Del. David A. LaRock (R-Loudoun) from trying to persuade the General Assembly to ban certain late-term abortions for the second year in a row.
“I really believe when people on either side of the aisle realize what this bill is about, we’ll come together and just say this can’t be done in a society that has regard for human life,” said LaRock, who teared up during an interview as he spoke of his 15 children and grandchildren. “So that’s why I’m passionate about it.”
He ultimately agreed to put the bill on hold for a year, but the effort proves that Republicans’ commitment to the issue has not waned since their failed 2012 attempt to require vaginal ultrasounds made Virginia a national punch line.
Read more here.
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
From Times of India:
A single letter can constitute an act of cruelty, the Delhi high court has said, granting divorce to a man living separately from his estranged wife for the past 28 years. The missive in question: a declaration by his angry wife in 1990 when he was stationed abroad that she wanted to divorce him and that she had found an old friend who wanted to marry her and accept her with their young daughter.
It was only in 1995, when the case came up in trial court, that she admitted the letter didn't contain a grain of truth and was only meant to jolt the husband out of his complacency. But Justice Najmi Waziri of the high court pointed out the mental agony caused to the husband due to "this sole act of cruelty that continued for a period of 4-5 years".
Upholding the decision of the trial court to dissolve the marriage on ground of cruelty, Justice Waziri noted, "For a husband living away from his wife since 1987, to have received a letter from her intimating him about her unequivocal decision to dissolve the marriage and marry another man would have been a pain as grievous as any to endure. Such an element of rejection, coupled with brunt of emotional infidelity by the wife, can break the spirit of the husband to continue marital ties."
Challenging the decision in high court, the wife argued that the letter was a "one-off, stray incident and could not be a ground for divorce". She said it was an act of despair, the letter was written in sheer frustration since she had been waiting for many years to live with her husband again, abroad or back home.
Read more here.
Monday, February 22, 2016
The U.S. Supreme Court next month is scheduled to hear its biggest abortion case in at least a decade, and the reach of that decision will likely be impacted by the absence of Justice Antonin Scalia, who died over the weekend.
A Texas law requires that doctors have local admitting privileges, and that clinics make costly building upgrades to operate like out-patient surgical centers. Numerous other states have passed similar laws, and Scalia was widely expected to provide a fifth vote to uphold such restrictions.
Without him, it may not change much for Texas. A 4-4 split in the court would leave in place the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that upheld these provisions. Ilyse Hogue of NARAL Pro-Choice America says that would shut down a number of clinics that perform abortion. And she says that would come in addition to other Texas restrictions that have already closed about half the state's clinics, leaving some women to travel hundreds of miles to obtain an abortion.
"We would be looking at an even greater health care crisis in Texas than we're already facing," Hogue says.
But a split decision in the Supreme Court would have no national precedent. That means other appeals court rulings striking down similar laws would also stand. And Hogue says there are more cases to come.
"I think this vacancy is far, far greater in terms of its implication than this one case in Texas," she says. "There are so many laws looking to restrict not only abortion access and abortion rights, but a broader set of reproductive rights in front of the court right now."
One of them also comes up next month, when the court hears a challenge to the Affordable Care Act's mandate on covering birth control for female employees.
Read more here.
Sunday, February 21, 2016
From The Clarion-Ledger:
Domestic violence would become grounds for divorce under a bill passed out of the Senate Judiciary A Committee on Tuesday.
"One incident of domestic violence is enough," said state Sen. Sally Doty, R-Brookhaven, author of Senate Bill 2418.
Doty said she had conversations with the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence and others about the bill.
Mississippi has 12 grounds for granting a divorce. Under Senate Bill 2418, one or more instances of domestic violence would be the 13th, if established by clear and convincing evidence.
Freshman Sen. Chad McMahan. R-Tupelo, argued for adding documented domestic violence to the language in the bill.
"Are you saying it should be some documented report of domestic violence?" Senate Judiciary A Chairman Sean Tindell, R-Gulfport, asked McMahan.
McMahan said he believes domestic violence should be proven and not based solely on a person claiming it without proof.
Doty said the bill states domestic violence has to be established by clear and convincing evidence, which sets a higher standard than a person merely claiming it.
Read more here.
Saturday, February 20, 2016
From Business Insider:
Ever been in the middle of a heated argument when suddenly the other person pulls out their phone and starts texting? If the answer is yes, and if you find it happening constantly, we hope that person isn't your significant other.
This behavior, known as stonewalling, is one of four reactions that John Gottman, a psychologist at the University of Washington and the founder of the Gottman Institute, has identified as a telltale sign that all is not well with a married couple.
In fact, when Gottman and University of California-Berkeley psychologist Robert Levenson lumped stonewalling together with three other behaviors — contempt, criticism, and defensiveness — and measured how often they occurred within the span of a 15-minute conversation, they found they could predict which marriages would end in divorce with striking precision.
When the psychologists added questions about things like relationship satisfaction and how many times the research subjects had thoughts about separating to the mix, they could predict which marriages would end in divorce 93% of the time.
The figure, which comes from a 14-year study of 79 couples living across the US Midwest (21 of whom divorced during the study period), was so striking it spurned the researchers to label the four behaviors "the four horsemen of the apocalypse."
While that initial study, published in 2002, was small and focused on a specific population, a decade of research into marriage and divorce has lent further support to the idea that divorce is associated with specific negative behaviors.
Read more here.
Friday, February 19, 2016
From New York Daily News:
As the yule log’s embers died and resolutions for a new year — and a new you — abounded at the start of January, family attorneys everywhere, including myself, prepared for the influx of official separations and divorce filings.
In the divorce law community, we generally adhere to three truths. Engagement season is November to February. And divorce, sadly, has two high seasons — January and March.
For January’s bump, the let-down of failed holiday happiness, mixed with hurt and angry partners, often leads to a trip to the divorce lawyer to discuss their options.
My office is usually filled with spouses who truly thought that if they could just make it past the holidays and New Year, they could heal their marriage.
However, the holidays usually end up being the last straw before the matrimonial bliss takes a tumble.
In addition to failed expectations, financial and family pressures soar in November and December.
According to a 2012 study published in The Family Relations Journal, “Examining the Relationship Between Financial Issues and Divorce,” researchers Jeffrey Dew, Sonya Britt and Sandra Huston found that most couples argue about their children, money, in-laws and quality time — or a lack thereof — with financial arguments being the most likely predicter of divorce.
Read more here.
Thursday, February 18, 2016
From Chicago Tribune:
Dickler, the presiding judge of the domestic relations division in Cook County Circuit Court, has overseen thousands of divorces, from the seemingly ordinary to the obviously extraordinary. You may have heard her name during the highly publicized divorce of Chicago billionaire Ken Griffin from his wife, Anne Dias Griffin.
In her quarter century of handling divorces, Dickler has witnessed how the finances may differ from case to case, but the other hard parts — the sadness, the loneliness, the bitterness, the fight over children — are the same regardless of address or social class.
But awhile back, Dickler recognized that there was a class of people for whom divorce — and the related issues of how to deal with property and children — came with unique difficulties.
Those people are known in the legal system as "the incarcerated."
The incarcerated tend to be poor, people for whom "property" may mean little more than a few clothes and papers. In Illinois, the prisons where the incarcerated live tend to be in remote places far not only from their homes and their children, but from domestic relations court; the logistical impediments to getting a divorce have made getting one almost impossible.
Read more here.
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
A bill being heard this week by a Missouri legislative committee promotes shared parenting – a flexible arrangement in which children spend as close to equal time as possible with each parent after separation or divorce.
The legislation proposes adding language to the state’s child custody law to emphasize that the best interest of the child is equal access to both parents – a change that would encourage judges to pay more attention to research on the best interest of children.
Dr. Ned Holstein, president of the National Parents Organization, says numerous studies have shown in recent years that children do not fare as well in “sole custody” or “primary custody” arrangements and that shared custody needs to be emphasized whenever it is possible.
The best custody arrangements, says Holstein, are those in which parents rotate responsibilities, typically on alternate weeks.
But he says nationally the typical custody arrangement is to place the children with one parent about 80 to 85 percent of the time with the other parent only spending time with the children a few days a month.
Holstein also says setting a standard shared custody model will reduce the number of nasty custody battles.
“Many of the parents who are warring,” he says, “are warring precisely because what the courts set up is a fight, where they say one parent will win and the other parent will lose."
Read more here.
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
From The Guardian:
The Catholic church is telling newly appointed bishops that it is “not necessarily” their duty to report accusations of clerical child abuse and that only victims or their families should make the decision to report abuse to police.
A document that spells out how senior clergy members ought to deal with allegations of abuse, which was recently released by the Vatican, emphasized that, though they must be aware of local laws, bishops’ only duty was to address such allegations internally.
“According to the state of civil laws of each country where reporting is obligatory, it is not necessarily the duty of the bishop to report suspects to authorities, the police or state prosecutors in the moment when they are made aware of crimes or sinful deeds,” the training document states.
Monday, February 15, 2016
From Military Times:
The House on Tuesday passed a bill that would require anyone employed by the Defense Department to report cases of suspected child abuse on military installations to state child protective service agencies in addition to reporting such suspected crimes up their chain of command.
The legislation was approved by voice vote and sent to the Senate for consideration.
Called Talia’s Law, the bill is named for five-year-old Talia Williams who was tortured and beaten to death by her father — an active-duty Army specialist at the time — and step-mother in 2005 at Wheeler Army Airfield in Hawaii.
Talia’s mother, Tarshia Williams, sued the U.S. government in 2008 for what she argued were failures by military officials to report suspicions that her daughter was being abused. Williams was awarded $2 million in a settlement last May.
The Defense Department had signed a memorandum of understanding with the State of Hawaii in 2013 that said the state’s child welfare services agency was “primarily” responsible for handling instances of child abuse on military bases. But DOD also has its own parallel system for child and domestic abuse investigations.
Suspected cases of child abuse are reported to military police or the installation’s Family Advocacy Program, which work in coordination to identify and investigate instances of child abuse. Those mandated by law to report suspected child abuse are usually professionally involved with children, such as day-care workers and doctors.
The U.S. District Court of Hawaii, where Williams brought her suit, found that various individuals failed to report Talia’s case, including members of the military police, doctors, and an employee with the Family Advocacy Program – all covered by the House bill.
Read more here.
Sunday, February 14, 2016
Six months pregnant with her first child, Eritania Maria has a rash and a mild fever, symptoms of the Zika virus linked to brain deformities in newborn children in Brazil.
But the 17-year-old is too scared to take a test to confirm if she has Zika.
Like other women in the slums of Recife, which squat on stilts over mosquito-ridden marshland in northeast Brazil, Maria has few options if her child develops microcephaly, the condition marked by an abnormally small head and underdeveloped brain that has been linked to Zika.
Brazil has amongst the toughest abortion laws in the world and is culturally conservative. Even if she wanted an illegal abortion and could afford one, Maria is too heavily pregnant for a doctor to risk it. So she prefers not to know.
"I'm too scared of finding out my baby will be sick," she told Reuters, her belly poking out from beneath a yellow top.
The Zika outbreak has revived the debate about easing abortion laws but Maria's case highlights a gap between campaigners and U.N. officials calling for change and Brazil's poor, who are worst affected by the mosquito-borne virus yet tend to be anti-abortion.
Add a conservative Congress packed with Evangelical Christians staunchly opposed to easing restrictions, plus the difficulty of identifying microcephaly early enough to safely abort, and hopes for change seem likely to be frustrated.
As with many countries in mostly Roman Catholic Latin America, Brazil has outlawed abortion except in cases of rape, when the mother's life is at risk or the child is too sick to survive.
An estimated 850,000 women in Brazil have illegal abortions every year, many under dangerous conditions. They can face up to 3 years in prison although in practice, jail terms are extremely rare.
With two-thirds of the population Catholic and support for Evangelicals growing fast, polls show Brazilians oppose changing the law. A survey by pollster VoxPopuli in 2010 showed that 82 percent reject decriminalization, while a Datafolha poll the same year put the figure at 72 percent.
Read more here.
Saturday, February 13, 2016
From ABC News:
A federal judge in Louisiana has issued a new order blocking the state from enforcing a law that he says would keep most women from getting abortions.
Attorneys for the state immediately asked Judge John deGravelles to stay Wednesday's order while they appeal it and his Jan. 26 finding that the law is unconstitutional.
The law requires doctors who perform abortions to be able to admit patients to a hospital within 30 miles. Supporters say that would protect women's health. Opponents say it would make it impossible to get abortions.
DeGravelles said in January that of six doctors performing abortions in Louisiana, only two meet the requirement, and one of them has said he would quit if the law is enforced.
The remaining doctor performed nearly 30 percent of all abortions in the state, deGravelles said. He said forcing the other five doctors out of their clinics would therefore leave about 70 percent of the women who want abortions unable to get one.
Even if the second doctor who has admitting privileges continued to perform abortions, about 55 percent of the women who want the procedure would be unable to get one, deGravelles wrote.
Read more here.
Friday, February 12, 2016
From The New York Times:
“Free Pregnancy Testing,” reads the large sign in front of the East County Pregnancy Care Clinic, on a busy intersection of this impoverished city east of San Diego.
Inside the clinic, a woman will not only get a free pregnancy test, but she will also see a counselor to discuss her options. She will see models of fetuses at early stages of development, which show that “at week 12, you see a recognizable human,” said Josh McClure, the executive director of the clinic. If she is pregnant, she can get a free ultrasound and attend childbirth classes. If she gives birth, she may receive help with diapers and a car seat.
What she will not get from this center is advice on where to obtain an abortion.
The clinic is one of more than 3,000 crisis pregnancy centers around the country that are operated by religious opponents of abortion, with the heartfelt aim of persuading women to choose parenting or adoption. Now it and others in California are in a First Amendment battle with the state over a new law that requires them to post a notice that free or low-cost abortion, contraception and prenatal care are available to low-income women through public programs, and to provide the phone number to call.
The clinics argue that the law, which took effect in January, flagrantly violates their rights of free speech, and it appears that many of the dozens of licensed pregnancy centers in California are not yet complying.
Read more here.
Thursday, February 11, 2016
From The Charlotte Observer:
“I have an appointment this afternoon with a family law attorney.”
“Oh no. I’m so sorry. So, you are going through a divorce?”
“What? No, no. I just want to ask some questions. Do you think the attorney is going to make me leave my spouse? Should I cancel?”
So often conversations like the one above take place and people worry about what it really means to meet with an attorney. All kinds of thoughts and emotions fill the client’s head and heart. They worry that their spouse will find out. They worry what other people will think. They worry that if they meet with an attorney, their fate has been sealed and they are doomed to divorce.
That is simply not the case. Yes, sometimes when people meet with a family law attorney, it is because they have decided to separate and want to move forward with the process. But, unbeknownst to many, there are other reasons to meet with a family law attorney.
Someone may be experiencing a tough time in their relationship and he or she may simply want to know what is behind “door number two.”
Read more here.
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
From Action News Jacksonville:
Living with a significant other out of wedlock is illegal in Florida, but anew push, mostly by Democratic state lawmakers, is trying to do away with the ban on shacking up.
Michigan, Mississippi and Florida are the only states where it’s illegal for a man and a woman to live together and not be married.
The current law dates back to 1868.
It’s rarely enforced, but multiple attempts to do away with the ban on cohabitation have failed. However, many lawmakers want it off the books for good.
Senate Bill 498 is moving forward in Tallahassee. A Senate panel voted Thursday in favor of the bill, sponsored by State Sen. Eleanor Sobel. The bill now moves to the full Senate for a vote.
Local Republican State Rep. Charles Van Zant has been against changing the law since the beginning. But, Ryan Strickland, who lived with his wife for four years before they got married, says it’s time.
“People need to adjust as the time goes on,” Strickland said. “Lots of laws need to be adjusted to reflect the times and the feelings of people.”
Read more here.