Family Law Prof Blog

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

Friday, March 31, 2017

Obergefell Applied Retroactively

From the ABA Journal:

A same-sex couple who split up after about 30 years together had a common-law marriage, a South Carolina family law court judge recently ruled.

It might be the first time in a family law court trial that a judge determined Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court opinion that validated same-sex marriage, applies retroactively, lawyer David Martin told the The Herald.

Read more here.

March 31, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Pet Custody Disputes

From the New York Times:

When couples get divorced, children are not the only ones who can get caught in custody disputes. Fights over other members of the family — beloved pets — can be equally acrimonious.

Courts have traditionally treated pets as personal property in such cases, but that is starting to shift as some state lawmakers and advocacy groups promote the notion that the legal system should act in the best interests of the animals.

Courts have awarded shared custody, visitation and even alimony payments to pet owners, and starting about 15 years ago, more states began allowing people to leave estates or trusts to care for their pets.

One case in San Diego that gained national headlines featured a pointer-greyhound mix named Gigi, who was the focus of a contentious divorce between Dr. Stanley and Linda Perkins.

Read more here.

March 30, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

End of Diamond Engagement Rings

From the Economist:

PEACOCKS strut; bowerbirds build lovenests; spiders gift-wrap flies in silk. Such courtship rituals play an important role in what Charles Darwin called sexual selection: when the female of a species bears most of the costs of reproduction, males use extravagant displays and to demonstrate their "reproductive fitness" and females choose between them. For human males, shards of a crystalline form of carbon often feature. 

Read more here.

March 29, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Gender Budgeting

From the Economist:

IT IS easy to be cynical about government--and rarely does such cynicism go unrewarded. Take, for instance, policy towards women. Some politicians declare that they value women's unique role, which can be shorthand for keeping married women at home looking after the kids. Others create whole ministries devoted to policies for women, which can be a device for parking women's issues on the periphery of policy where they cannot do any harm. Still others, who may actually mean what they say, pass laws giving women equal opportunities to men. Yet decreeing an end to discrimination is very different from bringing it about.

Amid this tangle of evasion, half-promises and wishful thinking, some policymakers have embraced a technique called gender budgeting. It not only promises to do a lot of good for women, but carries a lesson for advocates of any cause: the way to a government's heart is through its pocket.

Read more here.

March 28, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 27, 2017

Saudi Arabian Women

From the Economist:

CAN Saudi Arabia keep its women? Last month’s appointment of women to head two big banks and Tadawul, the kingdom’s stock exchange, offers hope that the path to a fulfilling career is not completely blocked. But the restrictions of Saudi life remain so irksome that covertly, silently, many women are finding ways out.

On family trips abroad, some jump ship. Some, having been sent to Western universities at the government’s expense, postpone their return indefinitely. Others avail themselves of clandestine online services offering marriages of convenience to men willing to whisk them abroad. Iman, an administrator at a private hospital in Riyadh, has found a package deal for $4,000 offering an Australian honeymoon during which she plans to scarper.

Read more here.

March 27, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Same-sex legal groundbreaker case in South Carolina

From The Herald: 

Debra Parks wanted to be treated the same as anybody else by the courts. At 62, she’s disabled, and split from her partner of almost four decades. She filed a lawsuit because she wanted her relationship, which ended last year, to be considered a common law marriage under South Carolina law.

Parks is gay. But until 2015, same-sex marriage was illegal.

“I was in a same-sex relationship for all those years,” Parks said. “We owned a house together. We were a family, even when society didn’t accept it.”

Now, in what legal experts and Parks’ lawyers say is a groundbreaking case for South Carolina, and possibly for other states with common law marriage, a Family Court judge in York County has ruled that Parks and her former partner had a common law marriage under state law. And the state must recognize that their common law marriage has been legal for almost 30 years, the judge ruled.

Read more here.

March 26, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Judges Issues Tri-Custody Agreement

From CNN:

An unconventional family produced a child before becoming tangled in a lengthy custody battle that ended last week when a New York judge awarded shared custody of the boy to his dad and two mothers.

The boy in the case is the biological child of a man and one of his neighbors. Both the man and his wife had a longstanding, intimate relationship with the birth mother, according to court documents.
The father, identified as Michael M., and his wife, Dawn M., had struggled to become pregnant. Dawn M. had suffered a miscarriage before the couple met the neighbor, identified as Audria. The three later began to "engage in intimate relations," the records state.

Read more here.

March 25, 2017 in Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 24, 2017

Duterte Opposes Gay Marriage in Philippines, Reversing Campaign Pledge

From The New York Times:

The Philippines will not legalize same-sex marriage anytime soon, President Rodrigo Duterte has said, reversing a campaign promise in which he pledged to support legislation to allow gay unions.

Mr. Duterte stressed that the country was Asia’s bastion of Roman Catholicism, which steadfastly opposes same-sex marriage.

He pointed to a recent issue of a Time magazine that tackled gender issues, featuring a transgender woman on its cover.

“That is their culture,” he said, referring to other countries where the American magazine circulates. “That’s for them. That can’t apply to us, because we are Catholics,” Mr. Duterte said in a lengthy speech on Sunday to the small Filipino community in Myanmar, where he arrived as part of a visit to bolster regional ties. He was scheduled to leave for Thailand on Monday.

Read more here

March 24, 2017 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 23, 2017

2nd Children Now More Common in China

From the National Health and Family Planning Commission of the PRC: 

The universal second-child policy implemented early last year was a major factor in raising the number of births in China to 17.86 million last year, an increase of 7.9 percent and the highest annual number since since 2000, according to the top health authority.

The number of newborns has increased by 1.31 million compared with 2015.

The portion of the births to couples who already had at least one child rose quickly to at least 45 percent last year, Yang Wenzhuang, a division director of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, said at a news conference on Sunday. The proportion was around 30 percent before 2013.

"It demonstrates that the universal second-child policy came in time and worked effectively," Yang said.

"Some regions, mostly large cities in eastern areas, began recording second children as comprising more than half of local newborns," he added.

Read more here.

March 23, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Paralegals May Be Able To Provide Family Law Services in Ontario, Canada

From CBC News:

A report on reforms to the Ontario family law system recommends allowing paralegals to provide more family law services without supervision from lawyers.

The province says that in 2014-15 more than 57 per cent of people in family court did not have legal representation.

The report from former Ontario court chief justice Annemarie Bonkalo, released Monday, recommends a special family law licence and training for paralegals among the 21 proposals to help people access the kind of service they need. 

The provincial government and the Law Society of Upper Canada, which regulates the legal profession, commissioned the report.

Read more here.

March 22, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Many Forced Marriage Cases in the United Kingdom in 2016

From Family Law Week:

The Forced Marriage Unit has published information on the number of cases reported to the Unit via its public helpline and email inbox from 1 January to 31 December 2016.

In 2016, the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) gave advice or support related to a possible forced marriage in 1,428 cases (the highest annual figure since 2012). These figures include contact that has been made to the FMU through the public helpline or by email in relation to a new case.

Of the cases that FMU provided support to:

371 cases (26%) involved victims below 18 years of age; and 

497 cases (34%) involved victims aged 18-25.

Read more here.

March 21, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, March 20, 2017

Living With Extended Family

From the Chicago Tribune:

Jessica Fromm and her mother-in-law used to have a great relationship.

It ended as soon as her mother-in-law moved into their small brick house in Chicago four years ago.

"Rules don't apply to her," Fromm said of her mother-in-law. "We don't want her living with us anymore."

It's the little things. When Fromm throws her clothing into the washing machine, she'll return to find it tossed on the floor. And when she has friends over, Fromm notices that her mother-in-law is eavesdropping on her conversations.

Read more here.

March 20, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Upcoming U.S. Supreme Court Oral Arguments

From SCOTUS blog:

Next week the justices will hear oral argument inHowell v. Howell, a dispute between a divorced couple over the wife’s share of the husband’s military retirement pay. The former spouses, John and Sandra Howell, divorced in 1991. As part of the divorce, John – who served in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years – and Sandra agreed that she would receive half of John’s military retirement pay, which began the following year. In 2005, John opted to waive part of his retirement pay in favor of disability benefits – a common choice when it is available because, unlike retirement pay, disability benefits are not taxable. However, that decision also reduced, by approximately $125 per month, the amount of money that went to Sandra as her share of John’s retirement pay; by contrast, John received both the additional money that would otherwise have gone to Sandra and the savings from his disability benefits being tax-free.

Read more here.


March 19, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Call for Papers by Family Law Scholars & Teachers

Dear Family Law Scholars and Teachers:

Registration is open for the 2017 Family Law Scholars and Teachers Conference that will take place in New York, NY, on June 5-6, 2017. If you would like to secure your spot, please register promptly! We will close all registration on March 31, and priority has been given to prior attendees. 

In order to register, please send an email indicating your interest to We will send you a confirmation once you are registered. After you are registered, you will then be asked to submit a proposal for either a work-in-progress or an incubator session. For additional details on both the registration as well as paper submissions, please see the Call For Papers. If you have questions not answered by the Call For Papers, please feel free to email us at

Download the conference flyer here.


UPDATE 3/20/2017:

Registration priority has already been given to prior attendees, and all 45 slots have currently been claimed. However, we will maintain a waiting list and anticipate invite people off the list if spaces open up.  Please email us by April 7, 2017, if you would like to be placed on the waitlist.  We will invite people off the list on a first-come, first-served basis.

We will send you a confirmation once we receive your email. If space opens up, you will then be asked to submit a proposal for either a work-in-progress or an incubator session. For additional details on both the registration as well as paper submissions, please see the Call for Papers.


March 19, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 17, 2017

Carbone & Cahn: Nonmarriage

June Carbone (Minnesota) & Naomi Cahn (GW) have posted to SSRN their paper Nonmarriage, 76 MD. L. REV. 55 (2016). Here is the abstract:

Now that the Supreme Court has reshaped the laws of marriage, attention is shifting to nonmarriage. The law no longer treats intimate couples who do not marry as either deviant or deprived. Yet, rather than regulate nonmarriage in a systematic way, the law applies two inconsistent doctrines to govern these relationships. This Article is the first to explore the fundamental contradiction in the legal approach to unmarried partners. While the laws governing financial obligations between unmarried couples are moving toward a deregulatory model that radically differs from the status-based regulation of marriage, the laws of custody and support insist on imposing normative obligations identical to those involved in marriage, whatever the actual arrangement between the parties. This Article provides a new theory for the current legal regulation of nonmarriage.

This Article examines the different trajectories of the two bodies of law -- financial and custodial obligations -- that underlie the legal treatment of nonmarriage. It shows how the financial law of nonmarriage reflects women's growing economic independence and the deregulation of adult relationships. By contrast, custody and support law are rooted in an older view of parental obligations that is contrary to emerging community norms about unmarried parenting. Consequently, as this Article shows, the laws of marriage, which envision a single coherent institution, are an inappropriate model for the laws of nonmarriage. Finally, this Article articulates a framework to provide a coherent legal approach to nonmarriage. As marriage -- and nonmarriage -- become true choices, it will be increasingly important to address what full legal respect for these choices entails.

March 17, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Guns & Domestic Abuse

From the Huffington Post:

Nicole Beverly, a clinical social worker living in Ypsilanti, Michigan, hadn’t given her husband’s gun much thought until the night he pressed it against her head.

It was 2009. Before that, her husband, a former police officer, had never threatened her with his firearm. It sat in a box in their bedroom closet, almost forgotten. Over the years, she said, he had abused her in other ways: Calling her names, shoving her to the ground, throwing objects in her direction. But the gun never made an appearance.

Once it did, everything changed. From then on Beverly, then 36, couldn’t stop thinking about the weapon, she said. She was acutely aware of its exact location in the house at any given time, in terror of when it might be brandished next.

But he didn’t have to take it out again. He only needed to mention it and Beverly would shrink. He frequently threatened to kill her, she said, telling her he knew exactly where to shoot to paralyze her. He told her he would disfigure her face, she said, and that she would never see it coming.

It took five months after the incident for her to gather the courage to leave. And when she did she took the gun.

“I didn’t feel safe leaving the relationship knowing he had it in his possession because he was threatening me with it on a regular basis,” Beverly told The Huffington Post by phone on Wednesday. “Once it was introduced into the equation, it became a tool of intimidation and fear.”

Read more here.

March 16, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Jane Roe Obituary

From the Economist:

SOMETIMES she just couldn’t settle at anything. At ten she ran away from home to stay with a girlfriend in a motel. At 16 she married a man who took her for a ride in his black Ford car, but she left after two months because he beat her. She lived on the streets, slept with women and men, got pregnant by the men. Pot, acid, mescalin, she did it all. Work was whatever came along: barhop, carnival barker, house-painter, cleaner. She got involved in the whole abortion debate first on one side and then, when she took Jesus Christ for her personal saviour, on the other. That made her famous, though nobody knew who the regular Norma McCorvey was. And maybe they didn’t care.

Read more here.

March 15, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Fixing Embryos

From the Economist:

IT USED to be so simple. Girl met boy. Gametes were transferred through plumbing optimised by millions of years of evolution. Then, nine months later, part of that plumbing presented the finished product to the world. Now things are becoming a lot more complicated. A report published on February 14th by America’s National Academy of Sciences gives qualified support to research into gene-editing techniques so precise that genetic diseases like haemophilia and sickle-cell anaemia can be fixed before an embryo even starts to develop. The idea of human cloning triggered a furore when, 20 years ago this week, Dolly the sheep was revealed to the world (see article); much fuss about nothing, some would say, looking back. But other technological advances are making cloning humans steadily more feasible.

Read more here.

March 14, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, March 13, 2017

Millennials Behind on Milestones

From Vice:

Millennials are the patient generation — but not necessarily by choice.

In 1960 America, the median age for a first marriage was 20 for women and 23 for men. Today, it’s 27 and 29, respectively, according to the latest census data.

They’re having kids later in life, too. The CDC reports the age of a first-time mom, 26.3, has risen by nearly a year and a half since 2000.

No surprise, then, that millennials aren’t buying houses at the rate other generations did. In the fourth quarter of 2016, the homeownership rate among Americans under 35 was 34.7 percent. In 1980, it was 43.8 percent. That decline is a major reason the overall homeownership rate in the US,63.7 percent, is hovering near a 50-year low.

Read more here.

March 13, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Same-sex marriage just became legal in Finland

From PBS:

Same-sex marriage is now legal in Finland, the 12th European state to do so, according to Pink News.

Finland has allowed same sex-unions, or partnerships, with restricted rights since 2002; however, the new legislation, which went into effect Wednesday, allows same-sex couples the right to take each other’s surname and adopt children, according to The Huffington Post.

Finnish lawmakers rejected a petition Feb.17 from more than 100,000 people demanding the repeal of the same-sex legislation, according to The New York Times. Petitioners, who claimed registered partnerships were sufficient enough, included members of the far-right populist Finns Party and the Christian Democrats. Despite opposition, the Finnish Parliament voted 120-48 in order to uphold the law.

Read more here.

March 12, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)