Family Law Prof Blog

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

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween!

October 31, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 30, 2016

2016 David C. Baum Memorial Lecture

Jonathan Rauch, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute, delivered the fall 2016 David C. Baum Memorial Lecture on Civil Liberties and Civil Rights on October 18, 2016, at the University of Illinois College of Law.  His talk on “Gay Rights, Nondiscrimination and Religious Liberty:  Can We Avoid a Train Wreck” can be seen here:  Jonathan Rauch David C. Baum Lecture on Civil Liberties and Civil Rights.    


October 30, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 28, 2016

They Took In One Refugee Family. But Families Don’t Have Borders.

From The New York Times:

Wissam al-Hajj, a Syrian refugee, woke up in the most comfortable home she had ever lived in, an apartment growing increasingly stuffed with toys for her four children. She realized she had slept far more soundly than usual. But when she remembered why, she grew irritated: Her husband, Mouhamad, had hidden the phone from her.

As their older children competed for the first shower, Ms. Hajj recalled the argument from the night before. Her husband had been trying to spare her from an agonizing consequence of their move to Canada: the pleading messages from family members and friends across the Middle East.

“I’m only going to give it to you if you stop talking to them at night,” he had said to her.

“I’m going to start working and buy my own phone,” she had shot back, the threat hollow but deeply felt.

Read more here.


October 28, 2016 in Adoption, International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Terminally Ill Mom denied treatment coverage - but suicide drug is approved

From The NY Post:

Stephanie Packer wants to be the face of a Right to Live movement — for as long as she draws breath.

“I just want to spend every last second with my kids,” Packer, a terminally ill, married mother of four kids, ages 7 through 13, tells me.

Nearly two years ago, Brittany Maynard, at just 29 years old, became the face of the right to die movement now sweeping across the United States. In Oregon, surrounded by loved ones, she took her own life, legally, before a brain tumor could do it for her, with a self-administered overdose of physician-prescribed barbiturates. I supported her choice to end her agony.

But at what cost?

Packer struggles to open her eyes each blessed morning. And the cultural landscape to which she wakes has shifted dramatically of late into one of pro-death. In June, her home state of California enacted a law permitting doctor-assisted suicide. And something terrible happened.

Premature passing away with medical help is now widely seen as preferable to painful, prolonged living, Packer says. But she’ll fight to live with every last labored gasp drawn from her oxygen tube before ultimately accepting a natural end.

“I want my kids to see that death is a part of life,” she says.

At age 29, Packer was diagnosed with scleroderma, a chronic autoimmune disease that causes scar tissue to form in her lungs. A doctor told her she had three years to live. Now 33, she has outlived the death sentence.

But as her condition deteriorates, she’s finding little support for her fight to stay alive.

Since California’s End of Life Option Act took effect, attitudes expressed by sick members of support groups she’s run or been involved with have changed to the grim. Where once members exchanged messages of hope, “people constantly are talking about, ‘We should be doing this [dying].’ ”

Read more here.

October 27, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Evansville groups giving domestic violence survivors a voice

From The Indiana Lawyer:

A shirt hanging on the wall of the Evansville YWCA reminds visitors: "Your safety, love and happiness matter." Another cautions: "Build your home with love, don't break your home with hate."

Domestic violence affects more than 10 million people a year in the U.S., but almost half of those incidents go unreported. Organizations such as the Evansville YWCA and Albion Fellows Bacon Center are hosting programs throughout October — domestic violence awareness month — to encourage reporting domestic abuse.

The clothes hanging in the YWCA lobby are part of the annual Clothesline Project, which spotlights domestic violence with a gallery of shirts designed by survivors to represent their personal experience. Many carry messages of hope for the next person who leaves an abuser.

"People just create the most beautiful piece of art to express their journey," said Erika Taylor, CEO of YWCA Evansville.

Some shirts' messages are simple, with phrases like "love should not hurt" painted inside hearts. Others carry a reminder to the person who painted them: "I have a voice, I am worthy ... I deserve love."

More than one in three women and one in four men in the U.S. say they were physically abused by an intimate partner at some point in their life, according to a national survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The survey results, published in 2010, also showed almost one in 10 women in the U.S. have been raped by an intimate partner.

While domestic violence is common, victims do not always report it. The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates only 56.1 percent of domestic violence incidents in 2014 were reported to police. That rate improves, though not by much, when it's restricted to intimate partner violence, committed by current or ex-spouses, girlfriends or boyfriends.

Read more here.

October 26, 2016 in Domestic Violence | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A child's mental health records may be open to parties in custody battle even if doctor objects

From Richard A. Mann writing for

The Indiana Court of Appeals in Meridian Health Services Corporation v. Thomas Martin Bell just ruled that a provision of Indiana Law that allows a mental health professional to deny the patient access to his or her records does not apply to a parent obtaining those records.

This was a custody and parenting time case where Father was seeking access to the child’s mental health records. The counselor in this case obtained a letter from a medical doctor stating that it was “medically necessary that the records of [the child's] therapy sessions not be released to her parents.” The doctor and counselor took the position that I.C. 16-39-2-4 prevented the release of the records based upon the providers’ opinions.

The counselor failed to appear at a deposition and produce the records as Meridian Health had filed a motion to quash the subpoena 3 days before the deposition. The court had not yet ruled on the motion to quash. Father filed a motion for rule to show cause and the court held a hearing on all pending motions. The court denied Meridian's motion to quash and for a protective order and father subpoenaed the counselor for deposition again. The counselor again failed to appear at the deposition with the records and Meridian then filed the records with the court and asked the court to hold them under seal pursuant to Indiana Administrative Rule 9(G)(2). Importantly, the physician supporting the refusal to release the records testified that it was the "standard position of pediatricians" that the child’s words should be protected when there was conflict between the child’s parents. The trial court ordered that the attorneys could review the records in camera but subsequently ordered that the counsel could copy the records.

Read more here.


October 25, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 24, 2016

Famadihana: The family reunion where the dead get an invite

From CNN News:

In the rolling hills of Madagascar Central Highlands, the Merina tribe exhumes the remains of their ancestors for a celebration-cum-family reunion.

In this sacred ritual, which occurs every five to seven years, a number of deceased relatives are removed from an ancestral crypt. Living family members carefully peel the burial garments off the corpses and wrap them in fresh silk shrouds.
The festivities begin and guests drink, converse, and dance with their forebears.
"We wrap the bodies and dance with the corpses while they decompose," says anthropologist Dr Miora Mamphionona.
Just before the sun sets, the bodies are carefully returned to the tomb and turned upside down. The crypt is then closed for the next five to seven years.
Read more here.

October 24, 2016 in International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Woman who says ex-partner misrepresented wealth wins appeal

From The Guardian:

A woman who says she did not get enough money when an 18-year same-sex relationship ended because a wealthy ex-partner “misrepresented” the size of her fortune has won the latest round of a legal battle.

Helen Roocroft, who is in her 40s and comes from Bolton, Greater Manchester, accepted a settlement of about £200,000 after separating from Carol Ainscow, a property developer, in 2009.

But she said Ainscow, who died aged 55 three years ago, “misrepresented her wealth”. She took legal action against a representative of Ainscow’s estate in the hope of getting more.

Roocroft lost the first round of her fight in a family court two years ago. But three appeal court judges have ruled in her favour. Lord Justice Elias, Lord Justice Kitchin and Lady Justice King said on Friday that the case should be reanalysed by a high court judge.

Read more here.

October 23, 2016 in Divorce (grounds), International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Divorce Makes Baby Boomers Work Longer, Especially Women

From Bloomberg:

Divorce in the U.S. surged in the 1970s and 1980s as the baby boomers reached adulthood. As they enter retirement, they’re still splitting up, and it’s having a disproportionate effect on women.

Even as divorce rates for younger Americans have fallen, failed marriages among people over 50 doubled from 1990 to 2010, according to Bowling Green State University’s National Center for Family & Marriage Research. As a result, the overall risk for getting divorced in the U.S. has remained constant: About half of all marriages will collapse.

It turns out that this may be part of the reason why about one in five Americans over 65 is working—twice as many in the early 1980s and the most since the creation of Medicare. Unlike divorces earlier in life, later breakups have a huge impact on individual finances, often forcing people to delay retirement.

New research suggests this increased monetary stress also plays an outsize role in pushing older women back into the workforce.

According to a study by economists Claudia Olivetti of Boston College and Dana Rotz of Mathematica Policy Research, the later a woman divorces, the more likely she is to be working full time late in life. Using survey data on almost 56,000 women, they found that—compared with women who divorced before age 30—women who divorced in their 50s were about 10 percentage points more likely to be working full time from ages 50 to 74.

Read more here.

October 22, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 21, 2016

HBO's "Divorce"

From Professor Jeannie Suk Gersen (Harvard Law School), writing for the New Yorker:

Marking the start of a period in which divorce may well get more attention is the new HBO series “Divorce,” which began airing this month. Sarah Jessica Parker, the show’s star and executive producer, has explained that her desire to tell the story of an ordinary suburban couple’s divorce was motivated by fascination with the inside of a marriage. The show, written by Sharon Horgan, of “Catastrophe,” understands that how people divorce can reveal more about a marriage than anything one could see before its unravelling.

Nora Ephron once said, “Never marry a man you wouldn’t want to be divorced from.” I teach family law to students in their twenties, most of whom intend to marry and have children, and the life lesson of the course is much the same as that aphorism. Students must contemplate the legal rules of divorce—about custody, asset division, and financial support—as they consider whom to marry, and prepare to make consequential decisions, and sacrifices, regarding children, money, and work. This forces them to reflect on how the series of choices that makes up a marriage will shape what happens to them and the children if the marriage ends—a thought process that goes far beyond whether to enter a prenuptial agreement.

Read more here.

October 21, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


From the New York Times:

Paris — I spend a lot of time listening to parents around the world complain. In Kiev recently, a working mother told me the joke about how Ukrainians are raised by same-sex couples: their mothers and grandmothers.

How hard or easy it is to raise kids, especially while working, is a big part of people’s well-being everywhere. This topic rarely gets much traction in American politics, but it’s become an issue in this election. Even Donald J. Trump, when he isn’t boasting that he can grab women by their genitals, claims he wants them to have a better work-life balance.

There is a dawning sense among voters that our lack of government support for child care, and the anxiety this causes, isn’t normal. In other rich countries — heck, even in Ukraine — parents get the state’s help in their children’s early years. Americans get practically nothing.

What we do get is a pervasive national angst. A forthcoming study in The American Journal of Sociology finds that Americans with children are 12 percent less happy than non-parents, the largest “happiness gap” of 22 rich countries surveyed. The main sources of parents’ unhappiness are the lack of paid vacation and sick leave, and the high cost of child care, the authors said.

Read more here.

October 19, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Family Names in Japan

From the Guardian:

The campaign for sexual equality in Japan has suffered another setback after a court ruled that a schoolteacher must use her married name at work, describing as “rational” her employer’s insistence on the practice.

The ruling at Tokyo district court came less than a year after the supreme court ruled that a 19th century law forcing married couples to use the same surname – almost always that of the husband – did not violate the constitution.

The teacher, who was not named, filed a lawsuit after her employer, Nihon University Daisangakuen, refused to allow her to use her birth name in professional interactions with pupils and parents.

The three male judges noted that while an increasing number of married women continued to use their birth names at work, the practice “has yet to take root in society”.

They cited a poll of 1,000 female workers in their 20s to 50s conducted in 2015 by the Nikkei business newspaper that found that more than 70% of married women used their husband’s name at work.

Read more here.

October 18, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Call for Proposals on Formative Assessments



The Impact of Formative Assessment:
Emphasizing Outcome Measures in Legal Education

The University of Detroit Mercy Law Review is pleased to announce its annual academic Symposium to be held on March 3, 2017, at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. The Symposium will contemplate how the American Bar Association’s emphasis on outcome measures in its revised Standards for Approval will affect law students’ educational experience. Specific topics may address, but are not limited to, the following issues:

  1. The Need for and Benefits of Incorporating Formative Assessments into the Classroom
  • The importance of self-regulated learning and qualitative feedback; the benefits of formative assessment versus using only summative assessment; the effect of formative assessments on professors’ teaching experience.
  1. Methods for Incorporating Formative Assessments into the Classroom
  • The types of formative assessments that satisfy the ABA’s requirements; when qualitative feedback is most effective for student success; ways in which to implement formative assessments to improve student learning.
  1. Measuring the Success of Formative Assessments
  • The methods by which law schools can conduct ongoing evaluation of the assessment methods to adequately “measure the degree to which students have attained competency in the school’s learning outcomes” as required by the new ABA Standards.

The Law Review invites interested individuals to submit an abstract of 250-300 words that detail their proposed topic and presentation. Since the above list of topics is non-exhaustive, the University of Detroit Mercy Law Review encourages all interested parties to develop their own topic to present at the Symposium. Included with the abstract should be the author’s name, contact information, and a copy of their resume/curriculum vitae. Abstracts should indicate whether the proposal is for presentation and publication or for presentation only. Although publication is not required to present at the Symposium, preference will be given to proposals that include a commitment to produce a publishable article for the Symposium edition of the Law Review (to be published Fall 2017).

The deadline for abstract submissions is October 31, 2016. Individuals selected to present at the Symposium will be contacted by November 14, 2016.

Submissions, and any questions regarding the Symposium or the abstract process, should be directed to Law Review Symposium Director Erin Cobane at  

October 17, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

DNA Revealing Families

From the Washington Post:

Last year, Bob Nore, a Vietnam War veteran in Huntsville, Ala., was working on a family tree and wanted to trace his ancestors’ history and origins. So he sent a vial of saliva and $89 to a DNA registry for analysis.

The results showed British and Nordic stock — no surprises. But then Nore received a message from the registry that floored him: We have found a very high probability of a father-son relationship between you and Son Vo.

“I showed it to my wife, and then I looked him up online and found out that he was born in Vietnam shortly after I left,” said Nore, 67.

He vaguely recalled a brief relationship with a Vietnamese woman in Saigon in 1970, but he remembered little about her and had no idea she was pregnant. Yet he had no doubt that Vo, a 45-year-old musician in Los Angeles, was his son. As an engineer, he said, “I have a lot of trust in DNA.”

Read more here.

October 16, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

British women, please rally to support decriminalisation of abortion

From The Guardian:

In Poland mass protests have forced the government to drop plans to tighten its already draconian abortion laws. Yet here in Britain most people are unaware that women still live under the threat of being sentenced to life imprisonment if they end their own pregnancies by buying pills on the internet. Doctors also face harsh penalties if they do not fill in the correct forms before terminating a pregnancy.

Back in 1967 our law was changed to allow the legal ending of pregnancies if certain conditions were met. Otherwise the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act remained in place; and so it still is today – nearly half a century later.

On Wednesday 24 October a ten-minute rule bill is to be introduced to the House of Commons proposing that abortion in Britain is decriminalised. To do so would not only allow speedier and much less bureaucratic use of modern medical procedures, but would save a huge amount of NHS money while bringing us into line with countries such as Canada where medical abortion was decriminalised nearly three decades ago.

Read more here.

October 15, 2016 in Abortion, International | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, October 14, 2016

California Child Support: The 10 Most Frequently Asked Questions Answered

From The Huffington Post:

  1. How is it determined? Child support in California is based on a statewide guideline. The formula by which it is determined is rather complex. As a result, it is usually calculated by attorneys using one of a few computer programs licensed by companies that provide legal research software. The calculation is based upon the number of children, the income of each of the parents, the timeshare that each parent has custody, their tax filing status, and their tax-deductible expenses;

  2. Is there a dollar limit on the amount of support that one can be ordered to pay? Unlike some states, California does not provide for a cap in the amount of support to be ordered. The guideline calculation is the presumptively legal calculation in most cases. There are some very limited instances when the court can deviate from this, discussed below.

  3. What happens if the calculation generates an amount that is clearly higher than what is necessary to raise a child? The guideline calculation may or may not generate such a result. What is necessary to raise a child varies on a case-by-case basis. The law provides that a child is entitled to have a lifestyle commensurate with that of his or her parents. For this reason, a child support calculation that improves the lifestyle of the lower income parent is often upheld by the court. In those instances when the child support amount is so excessive that it bears no reasonable relationship to either the lifestyle of the parents or the amount of support required to raise a child commensurate with that lifestyle, the court may deviate from the guideline.

Read the answers and more here.


October 14, 2016 in Child Support (establishing), Child Support Enforcement, Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Mistress-Dispelling in China

From the New York Times:

BEIJING — When Ms. Wang, a 39-year-old from Shanghai, discovered texts on her husband’s phone that suggested he was having an affair with one of his employees, she was distraught. “I couldn’t sleep at night and couldn’t stop crying,” she said. “I was very hurt.”

She decided to take action, though perhaps not in the expected way. Rather than confronting her husband, she searched online for a “mistress dispeller.’’

Mistress-dispelling services, increasingly common in China’s larger cities, specialize in ending affairs between married men and their extramarital lovers.

Typically hired by a scorned wife, they coach women on how to save their marriages, while inducing the mistress to disappear. For a fee that can start in the tens of thousands of dollars, they will subtly infiltrate the mistress’s life, winning her friendship and trust in an attempt to break up the affair. The services have emerged as China’s economy has opened up in recent decades, and as extramarital affairs grew more common.

Read more here.

October 13, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

New York Expands the Definition of Parent for Unmarried Couples


On August 30, 2016, the New York Court of Appeals issued a landmark decision in In the Matter of Brooke S.B. v. Elizabeth A.C.C. As a result, New York now recognizes that children may have a second parent not related to them by blood, adoption, or marriage.  

The Brooke S.B. case involved Brooke and Elizabeth—unmarried partners in a lesbian couple—who were engaged to be married in 2007. In 2008, Elizabeth became pregnant through artificial insemination and gave birth to a baby boy. Brooke had no legal or biological ties to the child, but she maintained a close, parental relationship with him for years, which included giving him her last name and raising him jointly with Elizabeth.

The couple separated in 2010, and in 2013, Elizabeth began restricting Brooke’s contact with the child, so Brooke filed for custody.

Read more here.

October 12, 2016 in Adoption, Alternative Reproduction, Cohabitation (live-ins), Custody (parenting plans), Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

In Lebanon, a Tangle of Religious Laws Govern Life and Love

From The Atlantic:

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- When May Omari, now 45, tied the knot at age 23, she married a secular man in a secular marriage in New York City. As a formality, and to appease their Lebanese families, they later held a brief religious ceremony in Beirut. A Sunni Muslim mufti, or religious leader, came to her house, the couple signed a few papers, and she put them in a drawer.

After 18 years of married life and a move back to Lebanon, they decided to divorce. At that point, her religious marriage came back to haunt her. Although her husband had never shown a hint of piety in the past, she says, the prevailing interpretation of sharia family law in Lebanon granted him custody of the couple's two sons. And when he took them -- along with all the furniture -- there was nothing she could do.

Read more here.

October 11, 2016 in Custody (parenting plans), Divorce (grounds), International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 10, 2016

Judge: State must reply to lawyers seeking fees of $2.8M in DCS case

From The Indiana Lawyer:

A judge has ordered the state to reply to the petition of four lawyers for fees of $2.8 million for winning a $31 million judgment for a northern Indiana family victimized by the state Department of Child Services.
The four represented the family of Lynnette and Roman Finnegan, who sued DCS and others in 2008 for the wrongful removal of their children from their home and the for agency’s falsified substantiations against them in Pulaski County in late 2005. The nearly 8-year-old case culminated last year in the jury verdict, and Judge Rudy Lozano of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana last month denied the state’s motion to reduce the judgment.

Lozano on Wednesday issued an order giving the state 14 days from his Sept. 30 ruling upholding the jury’s award to respond to counsel’s petition for fees that was filed last November.

Read more here.

October 10, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)