Family Law Prof Blog

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

Monday, December 31, 2018

Lotto Winnings in Divorce

Here are some cases on the topic from Canada.

December 31, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Losing Kids in Imprisonment

From Washington Post:

Mothers and fathers who have a child placed in foster care because they are incarcerated — but who have not been accused of child abuse, neglect, endangerment, or even drug or alcohol use — are more likely to have their parental rights terminated than those who physically or sexually assault their kids, according to a Marshall Project analysis of approximately 3 million child-welfare cases nationally.

In about 1 in 8 of these cases, incarcerated parents lose their parental rights, regardless of the seriousness of their offenses, according to the analysis of records maintained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services between 2006 and 2016. That rate has held steady over time.

Read more here.

December 30, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Financial Documents for Every Family

Read here about the documents Forbes recommends getting in the New Year, if you don't already have them.

December 29, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 28, 2018

Rush to Divorce

From the Hill:

Divorcing couples are scrambling to finalize their cases before the end of the year as a result of President Trump’s tax law.

The 2017 GOP tax overhaul eliminates the deduction for alimony payments in divorce agreements entered into after Dec. 31, 2018. That means beginning next month, tax savings for many divorcing couples will be smaller than they are now.

Divorce lawyers and financial planners say they are racing to have couples complete their agreements before the changes take effect.

Twenty-seven percent of Certified Public Accountant (CPA) financial planners have seen an increase in the number of clients aiming to finalize their divorces this year, with 6 percent reporting a substantial increase, according to survey results released Thursday by the American Institute of CPAs.

Read more here.

December 28, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Challenge to Indian Child Welfare Act

From NPR:

In 1978, with bipartisan support and led by congressmen and senators from the Western states, the Indian Child Welfare Act passed Congress and was signed into law by President Jimmy CarterCha

But in October, U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor struck down the Indian Child Welfare Act as unconstitutional. The same Texas judge struck down the Affordable Care Act last week.


In October O'Connor ruled the Indian child law is a racially-based preference that discriminates against non-Indian families. Timothy Sandefur, vice-president for litigation at the Goldwater Institute in Phoenix, filed a brief in the case before Judge O'Connor.

"The problem was that it [the Indian Child Welfare Act] was so poorly worded that it now inflicts harm on Indian children that it was supposed to protect," Sandefur says. "We're working on a case right now in Ohio where there's a two-year-old Ohio boy born in Ohio, has lived in Ohio his entire life — almost his entire life — with an Ohio foster family. But because his ancestry is Gila River, the Gila River Indian tribe in Arizona obtained an order from its own tribal court forcing the child to be sent to live on the reservation near Phoenix. Simply because the blood in his veins happens to have the required amount of DNA. That's unconstitutional and absurd," says Sandefur.

Read more here.

December 27, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Parents Supporting Adult Children


From Ashton Kutcher to Bill Gates, there's a growing list of notable figures who say they will not be leaving an inheritance for their children. For the average American, there might not be much to leave behind when faced with the choice between supporting adult children or saving for retirement. 

Parents are choosing to cover the costs of groceries, rent and cellphone bills for their adult kids. 

recent study from Merrill Lynch found that 79 percent of parents continue to serve as the "family bank" for their grown-up children, paying for big-ticket items like college and weddings, but also for smaller, everyday expenses. Parents of adult children contribute $500 billion annually -- twice the amount that they invest in their own retirement accounts. 

Read more here.

December 26, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas

xmas card by Chrisdesign

December 25, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 24, 2018

Stark, Choplin, & Wellard: "Taking Domestic Violence Into Account in Custody Cases: An Evidence Based Analysis and Reform Proposal"

Debra Pogrund Stark, Jessica M. Choplin, & Sarah E. Wellard recently posted to SSRN their paper Taking Domestic Violence Into Account in Custody Cases: An Evidence Based Analysis and Reform Proposal, Michigan Journal of Gender & Law (forthcoming 2019).  Here is the abstract:

Promoting the best interests of children and protecting them from serious endangerment in the context of a divorce or parentage case has become highly politicized and highly gendered. There are claims by fathers’ rights groups that mothers often falsely accuse fathers of domestic violence to alienate the fathers from their children and to improve their financial position. They also claim that children do better when fathers are equally involved in their children’s lives, but that judges favor mothers over fathers in custody cases. As a consequence, fathers’ rights groups have engaged in a nationwide effort to reform the custody laws to create a presumption of equal parenting time, with no exception when one of the parents has engaged in domestic violence (“DV”). DV survivors, and their advocates, however, claim that the needs of survivors of DV and their children to become safe and free from further abuse are not being met in custody cases, that their claims of abuse are not being believed, and that the harm to their children from being exposed to domestic violence is not being recognized and addressed by judges. 

To separate the wheat from the chaff, this article first presents a literature review, with articulated scientific standards applied to each of the pieces of research cited in this review, on what is happening outside of court and in court relating to domestic violence and best practices for taking domestic violence into account in these child custody cases. Among the key findings from this literature review are: (1) exposure to DV can cause serious long-term harm to children, (2) custody judgments tend to favor fathers over mothers because greater weight is placed on claims of alienation than on DV claims, (3) long-term harms can be mitigated by evidence-based best practices, most notably, supporting non-abusive parents in their efforts to protect themselves and their children from further DV, (4) family law professionals must be trained on DV and its nuances to adequately support them, and( 5) a key component of this training is learning how to distinguish “situational couple violence” for which “parallel parenting” custody arrangements and other protective features might be feasible, from a pattern of “coercive abuse” where sole decision making and primary parenting time should be ordered to the non-abusive parent, and more extensive protective measures affecting parenting time should be ordered to the abusive parent. 

The article then reports on a fifty state review of custody related laws (laws determining which parent makes major decisions relating to the child, who is allocated primary parenting time, and whether protective restrictions shall be placed on the parenting time of a parent who has engaged in domestic violence). This review found huge gaps between what evidence-based best practices suggest, and what is currently required by law. These gaps in the law, including the failure of the law to require DV screening and training, contribute to poor custody decision-making by judges and the family law professionals they often rely upon, that compromise the safety and welfare of DV survivors and their children. 

The article then proposes nuanced law reforms that would align custody related laws with evidence-based best practices for taking DV into account in custody cases, including creating rebuttable presumptions, burdens of proof, and definitions of domestic violence that conform with these evidence based best practices.

December 24, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Brinig & Garrison: "Multi-Partner Fertility in a Disadvantaged Population: Results and Policy Implications of an Empirical Investigation of Paternity Actions in St. Joseph County, Indiana"

Margaret F. Brinig & Marsha Garrison have posted to SSRN their article Multi-Partner Fertility in a Disadvantaged Population: Results and Policy Implications of an Empirical Investigation of Paternity Actions in St. Joseph County, Indiana, Family Law Quarterly (forthcoming 2019).  Here is the abstract:

In this paper, we report data on multi-partner fertility (MPF) in a population of children and parents for whom paternity actions were brought, in 2008 or 2010, in St. Joseph County, Indiana. The computerized, court-based record system we utilized enabled us to collect information on parental characteristics and child outcomes that other MPF researchers have been unable to access. Our research thus offers a unique, data-rich window into an important, and growing, aspect of contemporary family life. It also points the way to needed shifts in family policy and law.

December 23, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Prenups in Late-In-Life Marriages

From MarketWatch:

More older couples are getting divorced in their middle years or even after reaching 65 years of age. A Pew Research study shows that although the overall divorce rates have been declining, the frequency of divorces among people 50 has more than doubled. Among the 65-and-older set, the divorce rate has tripled. Some of these divorces are among people whose marriages lasted 30 or even 40 years.

The new term for a later-in-life divorce is a “gray divorce”. And many of these newly divorced people are getting married again. They are concerned about their retirement, and what happens if they get divorced again.

Read more here.

December 22, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 21, 2018

Movie Review

From the Los Angeles Times:

In Kosovar filmmaker Blerta Zeqiri’s debut feature “The Marriage,” bride and groom are both trying to tamp down certain emotions before their upcoming wedding. Anita (Adriana Matoshi), one of the many Kosovans with missing loved ones from the war, would like to suspend feelings of loss and concentrate on tying the knot.

Serious-looking Bekim (Alban Ukaj) has unresolved issues too, but they’re now in front of him in the form of surprise visitor Nol (Genc Salihu), his secret gay ex from when they lived under Bekim’s parents’ roof together as close friends. Hard-drinking Nol, explained to Anita as an old pal, brings an intemperateness out in the closeted Bekim, but as their romance rekindles, also a goofy tenderness he’s kept concealed for years.

Zeqiri’s gratefully non-farcical approach to a well-worn scenario in LGBT drama is to not make it about melodramatic moments — there’s tension and deception, but also passion and a wedding — but rather a cold ache born of equal parts internalized pain and battle-scarred trauma.

Read more here.

December 21, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Celebrating Long Marriages

From the Boston Globe:

On Tuesday, the Sheehans celebrated their journey with 74 other couples who’d been together for at least 50 years at the Boston Commission on Affairs of the Elderly’s annual Golden Anniversary Celebration. All couples received certificates signed by the mayor, champagne flutes, and ate lunch and dessert at the Four Seasons, while enjoying music and dancing.

It was the event’s 40th anniversary and the commission’s 50th anniversary this year, which meant there was even more to celebrate, said Emily Shea, commissioner on affairs of the elderly.

Read more here.

December 20, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Planning for Holidays

From WMC News:

'Tis the season to be jolly, but for some the holidays can be stressful, especially for divorced parents trying to decide who gets the kids, who pays for travel and even gifts.

Experts say a proper plan is a Christmas must.

“People who are going through a separation or divorce, that added stress can be really difficult during the holidays,” said Leigh-Taylor White, attorney.

The holidays are a busy time for White, a family law attorney at Shea, Moskovitz and McGhee in Memphis.

“It is one of the busiest times of year because there are a lot of things that need to be decided going into the holidays,” said White.

Read more here.

December 19, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Call for Applications

The University of Richmond School of Law seeks a faculty director for the Jeanette Lipman Legal Clinic for Families and Children.  Created in 2009, this endowed clinic provides a broad range of legal services to economically challenged families and children in the areas of divorce, custody, and child welfare.  It is one of four in-house clinics, staffed by full-time faculty at the University of Richmond.  The faculty director will have a significant role in determining the clinic’s areas of emphasis and operation.

Required qualifications for this position include a law degree, a license to practice in Virginia (or a willingness to become licensed), experience in litigation involving families and children and/or clinical teaching with underserved populations.

This is a renewable contract position.  Salary and benefits will be commensurate with experience and scope of responsibilities assumed. Starting date is flexible, but position would ideally be filled for the 2019-2020 academic year. Interested applicants should send a cover letter, curriculum vitae, and list of references to

The University of Richmond is committed to developing a diverse workforce and student body and to supporting an inclusive campus community.

December 18, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 17, 2018

Splitting Art in a Divorce

From Art News:

The closely watched divorce proceedings of collectors Harry and Linda Macklowe have finally come to a resolution, as New York judge Laura Drager has officially ordered that they sell their collection, worth near $700 million, and split the proceeds, according to Bloomberg. Linda Macklowe will be able to keep $40 million worth in art, but pay half of that sum to Harry, indicating a complete center split of all assets.

Their collection, which encompasses some 165 pieces of art, among them Andy Warhol’s Nine Marilyns which is estimated to be worth $50 million, Le Nez by Alberto Giacometti, worth up to $35 million, Jeff Koons Vest with Aqualung for $10-11 million, and Jackson Pollock, Number 17, valued at up to $35 million. The collection is just a fragment of the former couple’s $2 billion fortune amassed over a 59-year marriage, which will all be split.

Read more here.

December 17, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Mrs. Doubtfire to the Rescue

From Rotten Tomatoes:

I saw Mrs. Doubtfire at the exact right moment. It wasn’t on the day it came out, but maybe a year and a half later. My parents were about to embark on what would end up being a nasty divorce, and my father was no longer living at home. It was well before the “50% of marriages end in divorce” world we’re all deeply familiar with now, and my parents’ separation made me feel like an outlier in our slightly Stepford-ish Connecticut town. I didn’t know anyone else whose parents were divorced. Would we survive it? It felt like the end of the world.

My two younger siblings and I watched Mrs. Doubtfire for the first time on VHS, a rare universally approved pick from the local Blockbuster. Instantly, we were transfixed by Robin WIlliams’ effortless charisma. This was the dad that every kid wanted, and in my 9-year-old eyes, my father was a hilarious hero much like Daniel Hillard, an energizer bunny of a mostly stay-at-home dad, especially compared to my far grumpier workaholic mother. You’d expect a story like this to totally villainize the mother, but what happened was something far different. The film quickly became a tender ode to modern families when love simply isn’t enough, and what happens when families break apart for the better.

Read more here.


December 17, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Exploding Wedding Dress Post-Divorce

From NPR:

A woman in Texas didn't just decide to mark her divorce with a party and burning her dress, she took it a step further embedding her dress in 20 pounds of explosives and then shot it.

Hear the story here.

December 16, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Timeline on Birdnesting

From NBC:

Sherri Sharma, partner at Aronson, Mayefsky & Sloan, LLP, a matrimonial law firm in NYC typically sees divorcing parents who take a nesting approach by keeping the main house and then sharing a separate apartment, which they individually occupy when not “at home” with the children.

“The way I've seen nesting done is not people having three homes, as most people, even quite wealthy clients, don't find that feasible,” Sharma tells NBC News BETTER. “Usually the parents have a studio apartment they share and rotate, and then keep the marital home where the children stay put.”

The motivating concept behind nesting, as Sharma puts it, is “there's little disruption for the kids. They're not being affected [environmentally] by the fact that their parents are separating.”

Sharma has seen nesting work out well for clients who are parting amicably, but only if it’s done in the short-term.

“I’ve never seen ‘nesting’ go on forever,” says Sharma. “A few months is okay but for longer periods (beyond six months), I think the uncertainty of not knowing what it will really be like to have separate homes can be confusing or anxiety-[inducing] for children.”

Dr. Fran Walfish, a family and relationship psychotherapist and the author of “The Self-Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond with Your Child” concurs with Sharma on a short-term nesting plan, and actually finds this method to be beneficial to children. She caps it at three months.

Read more here.

December 15, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 14, 2018

Pet Custody

From Glamour:

When Maddy, a 39-year-old gallery founder living in Virginia, split from her husband, she imagined their parting would be placid. Aspirational even. Their home would be informally partitioned—she would live in one part, he in another, then there would be a common area in which their two children, along with their Boston terrier and standard poodle, would roam freely. “I thought we were going to have this amazing Scandinavian divorce,” she says.

Yeah, no. That plan hit the skids. Instead, she found a pet-friendly apartment building and assumed the animals would go with her because she says her ex was never crazy about the pets. “But he insisted he have the dogs sometimes too," she says. So, after much negotiation, they came to an off-the-books agreement: The pooches would commute back and forth with the kids. They’ve been doing that weekly shuffle for six years.

Pet sharing after a divorce makes some sense, particularly when you factor in the degree to which Americans are majorly, totally, butt-crazy in love with their domestic creatures. The average dog owner spends more than $1,000 a year on Fido, and those with more disposable income drop their animals off at day care, buy them BarkBoxes and health insurance, and snap little raincoats on them when it drizzles. According to a recent report, in 2018, pet spending in the U.S. hit a record $86.7 billionnearly double what it was just 10 years ago.

Blame the boom on—who else?—millennials, who have fewer children than previous generations and own more animals. In fact, a full 75 percent of Americans in their thirties have dogs and 51 percent have cats, according to a 2016 report. To a generation that’s saddled with student loan debt and concerned about overpopulation, climate change, and the chemicals in American cheese, pets could represent a comforting, safe investment. But what happens when the pet is part and parcel of a household that finds itself upended by separation? A legitimate custody arrangement, in many cases.

Read more here.

December 14, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Divorce Registries

From Glamour:

It’s a subject that writer Sarah Bregel recently tackled in a wonderful essay for The Washington Post, and—given the lengthy comments section—it definitely struck a nerve. Including with me: When my ex moved out, we tried to split things up equally; it felt like the “right” thing to do. Unfortunately, that left me with a half-furnished apartment, half a set of dishes, and the old television. (Even now I’m a little mad I let him take the new TV I bought him as a gift right before things soured.) But asking friends and family to literally buy me things—the same way they did when I walked down the aisle—never even occurred to me as an option while getting divorced.

Bregel, the Post essayist, says she felt the same: “I certainly didn't expect anyone to give me anything when they found out my husband and I were parting ways—that's not our societal norm," she wrote to me via email. "But there really has been no greater time in my life when I've needed things and not had the means to acquire them,” she wrote to me via email.

Read more here.

December 13, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)