Family Law Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Wedding Slogans

From Overheard in DC:

Group of young 20-something campaign staffers walking in Dupont Circle, Tuesday around 4 p.m.

Woman 1: “Do you have a wedding hashtag?”
Woman 2: “Yes, and a slogan. We’re campaign people!”
Man 1: “What’s the slogan, ‘Four more years?'”

Read it here.

December 31, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 30, 2019

Wedding Locations

From the Cut:

A number of popular wedding planning websites have announced they will cut back on language that glorifies former slave plantations as “charming” or “elegant” wedding venues, according to a new report by BuzzFeed.

Plantations continue to be popular wedding destinations in the American South; Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds have long been criticized for their choice to get married at a former slave plantation in Charleston back in 2012. Yet until now, there has been little reckoning within the wedding industrial complex about re-appropriating sites of historical atrocities as venues for fairy-tale romance. “Declare Your Love In Paradise,” reads the listing on the Knot for Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, South Carolina, which used slave labor for almost two centuries. “This vibrant garden setting is a breathtaking backdrop for couples to celebrate their partnership, creating unforgettable memories. The surrounding landscape boasts a rich history and culture, setting a sophisticated ambiance for couples to proclaim their love for another.”

In response to a campaign by the civil rights organization Color of Change, five prominent sites — Pinterest, The Knot, WeddingWire, Brides and Zola — have promised to make changes to the way they promote plantations as wedding venues. “Plantations are physical reminders of one of the most horrific human rights abuses the world has ever seen,” Color of Change wrote in a letter to these groups. “The wedding industry routinely denies the violent conditions Black people faced under chattel slavery by promoting plantations as romantic places to marry.”

Read more here.

December 30, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 29, 2019

More on Divorce Lawyers in "Marriage Story" Netflix Movie

From Slate:

The built-in irony of Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story is that it’s mostly about divorce. To that end, it features what is surely the best divorce-lawyer acting you’ve ever seen from Laura Dern and Ray Liotta as the high-powered Hollywood attorneys representing each half of the couple at the movie’s center (plus a little help from Alan Alda as a, ahem, somewhat lower-powered divorce lawyer). To find out how the movie’s decidedly barbed take on high-profile, high-stakes divorces sat with someone who actually litigates them, Slate called Nancy Chemtob, a matrimonial attorney who has handled the divorces of Tory Burch, Star Jones, and Bobby Flay, among others. Our conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Read more here.

December 29, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Egg Donor's Religion

From Above the Law:

Choosing an egg donor can be a difficult decision. For most, it’s not the first or preferred path to parenthood, and it often presents substantial medical and financial obstacles. Plus, the choice of a specific donor will forever affect your child’s future. No pressure!

For some, a potential donor’s religion may be the most important factor. That’s particularly true where a religion has specific rules about parental lineage, and whether a child can be considered a member of the religion from birth. Famously, many Jewish denominations strictly follow matrilineal descendancy, where a child born to a Jewish mother is automatically Jewish at birth. Anyone else, according to these denominations, must go through a conversion process before becoming Jewish.

Recently, one Jewish Israeli couple turned to an egg donor for help conceiving. After the wife delivered the couple’s new baby, however, the couple received a disappointing ruling from the Israeli Rabbinical Court on the Jewish status of their child. Despite their careful choice of an anonymous egg donor that had been listed as Jewish in the Population Registry of the Interior Ministry of Israel — and the couple themselves being Jewish, including the mother who carried and delivered the baby — an Israeli Rabbinical Court rejected the child’s Jewish status.

Read more here.

December 28, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 27, 2019

More Adoptions in TX

From Fox4:

More children in the Texas foster care system are finding homes than ever before.

New state figures show adoptions surging this year and more children leaving foster care than entering the system.


“We've seen more children exiting the foster care system than coming into the foster care system,” explained Child Protective Services Spokesperson Marissa Gonzalez. “And for the first time, we've topped 6,000 adoptions in one year.”

Judge Lane says vetted CPS foster parents were the preferred caregivers. Now, the agency is looking more toward other family members to step in. New laws are making it more feasible. 

“Fortunately because of a lot of the changes in Texas laws since 2017 where family is embraced, now they can get kinship funds so that they can support the children,” Lane explained.

The legislature has also pumped millions into the state agency to hire hundreds of caseworkers to reduce caseloads and turnover. Added staff means more focus on the family.

“Now, CPS must do a lot more before removing the child. So instead of automatically removing the child, they are doing a lot of rehabilitative stuff,” Judge Lane said. “They're giving parents services within the home. They are monitoring the parents’ progress to keep the family intact.”

Read more here.

December 27, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Fun Facts for Holiday Parties

From Family Inequality:

There’s a lot to do this decade, and only a few days to do it. You need to look smart doing it. The best way to look smart is to be smart, and that means ingesting meaningful bits of data and turning them into useful knowledge. When you display data bits at a holiday party, they merge with those from the other people there, to become the common knowledge we need to get things done in the next decade, which we will do.

So here are a few meaningful bits of demographic data, presented with trend lines and easy-to-memorize fact statements. These aren’t the most important or most interesting demographic trends of the decade, but they’re all meaningful and readily interpretable — plus I was able to gather them on short notice between other last-minute decadal deadlines. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

Read more here.

December 26, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Book Review

Nicholas H. Wolfinger has reviewed Unequal Family Lives: Causes and Consequences in Europe and the Americas, edited by Naomi R. Cahn, June Carbone, Laurie Fieldls DeRose, and W. Bradford Wilcox.  Here is that review: Wolfinger, N. H. (2020). Unequal Family Lives: Causes and Consequences in Europe and the Americas. Contemporary Sociology, 49(1), 33–35. 

December 26, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Feinberg: "Restructuring Rebuttal of the Marital Presumption for the Modern Era"

Jessica R. Feinberg (Mercer) has recently posted to SSRN her article Restructuring Rebuttal of the Marital Presumption for the Modern Era, 104 Minn. L. Rev. 243 (2019).  Here is the abstract:

The longstanding marital presumption of paternity, under which a husband is presumed to be the legal father of any child born to or conceived by his wife during the marriage, has reached a critical juncture. Pursuant to the Supreme Court’s mandate that states provide marriage to same-sex couples on the same terms accorded to different-sex couples, states will need to either expand the marital presumption so that it encompasses both the different- and same-sex spouses of individuals who give birth or abolish the presumption entirely. It is unlikely that many states will choose the latter option. The marital presumption has, since the nation’s inception, played a core role in parentage law, and it remains the most common way of establishing an individual as a child’s second legal parent. As a result, it is probable that in the near future there will be a number of states that seek to extend their marital presumptions to same-sex spouses. In doing so, these states will need to grapple with how rebuttal of the marital presumption, which has traditionally focused on the lack of genetic connection between the spouse of the individual who gave birth and the child, will now be structured given that in most cases involving same-sex couples the spouse will not be genetically connected to the child. In reconceptualizing and restructuring their marital presumptions, states will be forced to reevaluate both what considerations are most important in identifying the individuals entitled to recognition as a child’s legal parents and what primary objectives a marital presumption should seek to promote. The decisions that states make in this process are of great importance and will likely play a significant role in the modern development of the law governing the establishment of parentage. After identifying the various objectives that states may seek to further through a modern marital presumption, this Article sets forth a comprehensive analysis of the approaches that states can take to restructuring their marital presumptions in order to effectively promote such objectives.

December 26, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas

Click to view

December 25, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Millenials Buying More Christmas Trees for Young Families

From MarketWatch:

Americans spent more than $2 billion on over 32.8 million live trees last year, according to the National Christmas Tree Association, the official trade organization for the natural Christmas tree industry. And that was a 20% spike — or 5 million more trees — over the number of live trees purchased the year before, even though the prices of these festive pines also jumped 4% to top out at $78 per tree on average.

The NCTA has credited the growing demand on more millennials like Swift buying live trees as they start having families, as well as young adults choosing natural trees as a more sustainable alternative to artificial ones, which are mostly made of PVC plastic. While reusing an artificial tree year over year is more cost-effective and can reduce its environmental impact, most artificial trees eventually end in landfills, contributing more plastic waste. Buying a live tree locally (preferably without driving, or at least minimizing driving) and recycling it at the end of the season is often the most environmentally-friendly option, according to a New York Times report.

“We think we’re getting a big response out of the millennial generation — the thirtysomethings that are getting married and having kids are coming to real trees,” Doug Hundley, the seasonal spokesperson of the National Christmas Tree Association, told MarketWatch. “Millennials tend to know more about what they buy, like where it comes from, and they are into organics and the natural environment. And a real tree is obviously the better environmental choice.”

Read more here.


December 24, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 23, 2019

Gender Gap in Retirement

From Forbes:

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the earnings gap between men and women affects not merely their living standards in the short-term, but also their well-being in retirement.

There’s nothing surprising here.

But the whole discussion is very narrowly focused on income. There’s an elephant in the room: marriage.

Let’s start with the data; to take a few sample age brackets,

    • Women ages 20 - 24 earn 89% of their male counterparts,
    • Women ages 35 - 44 earn 79% of their male counterparts, and
    • Women ages 55 - 64 earn 75% of their male counterparts.

Add on to this difference, the greater degree to which women work part-time or leave the labor force entirely for caregiving, their greater likelihood to choose to retire early (in part to match an older spouse’s retirement age), and their greater longevity, and lower earnings in retirement are no surprise.

Read more here.

December 23, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Communal Grandparents

From Quartz:

It’s Wednesday morning, so toddlers in the Tammi nursery in Helsinki, Finland, are excited—their communal grandparent, or “kylämummi,” is here.

This classroom’s “kylämummi” is Marjatta Ahonen,  a 71-year old retired psychotherapist. She volunteers for the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare (MLL), Finland’s largest organization dedicated to child and family welfare. From 2006, MLL has run a program encouraging older people to volunteer as communal grandparents. They meet their communal “grandchildren” in schools, libraries, and other family-friendly spaces. The idea is to give lonely pensioners a purpose, and to give children who may live far away from their own grandparents a chance to forge a meaningful bond with an older person. There are 830 communal grandparents across Finland.

Read more here.

December 22, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 21, 2019

New Exercise Study Shows Wealth Differences for Kids

From BBC:

When it comes to getting enough exercise, wealthier children are beating their poorer classmates, research from Sport England suggests.

Only about two in five children (42%) from low-income homes do the recommended 60 minutes' exercise a day.

But this rises to 54% for children from better-off homes, a survey of more than 130,000 five- to 16-year-olds suggests.

"Significant inequalities remain in the areas of family affluence, gender and race," Sport England says.

Children from more affluent homes also enjoy exercise more, the online survey of 132,835 children and 4,480 parents indicates, with 43% of those from poor homes saying they enjoyed being active, compared with 59% of those from wealthy families.

There is also an exercise gender gap, the researchers say, with about half of boys but only two in five girls meeting the recommended minimum for sport and exercise.

Read more here.

December 21, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 20, 2019

Adoption Down in England

From the Guardian:

The number of adoptions in England has fallen by a third in the past four years, against a backdrop of increasing numbers of children in care, according to official statistics.

The number of children leaving care because of adoption fell by 7% in the last year alone, continuing a sharp downward trend since 2015.

According to the figures, published by the Department for Education on Thursday, the number of children who were adopted dropped to 3,570 in the year leading up to the end of March, down from a peak of 5,360 in 2015. Meanwhile, in the last year the number of looked-after children rose by 4% to 78,150.

Read more here.

December 20, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Childcare & Taxes in the UK

From Financial Times:

This article is the one I wish I had read before attempting to hire a nanny. If you’re about to become a parent (or know someone who is), I truly hope that reading this will help you navigate the financial challenges, as well as saving precious hours of your time. 

Read more here.

December 19, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

New NYT Column

We are looking for couples who would like to be featured in our "Unhitched” column. If you and your former spouse are interested in sharing your story of romance to vows to divorce to life afterward, submit here:

December 18, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Decreasing Divorce Rates

From Family Inequality:

In “The Coming Divorce Decline” I showed the U.S. divorce rate falling from 2008 to 2017, and predicted that, because the married population was being stocked with increasingly non-divorce-prone marriages, the rate would continue to fall. After the first draft (based on 2016 data), divorce fell in 2017, providing the first support for my prediction before the paper was even “published” (accepted for Socius). Now the 2018 data is out, and divorce has become less common still.

Here’s a quick update.

Read more here.

December 18, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Oldham & Smyth: "Child Support Compliance in the USA and Australia: To Persuade or Punish?"

J. Thomas Oldham (Houston) & Bruce M. Smyth (Australian National University College of Arts & Social Sciences) have recently posted to SSRN their article Child Support Compliance in the USA and Australia: To Persuade or Punish?, Family Law Quarterly (forthcoming 2019).  Here is the abstract:

In this paper, we compare strategies employed in Australia and the U.S. to attempt to increase child support compliance. We compare the tendency in the U.S. to look to various punitive measures and compare that approach with the more holistic approach that has sometimes been used in Australia.

We note that, at least based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, child support compliance has not significantly changed during the period from 1993-2015. We speculate upon why this may have occurred, and highlight promising initiatives in the U.S. that reflect a move away from a punitive compliance strategy.

December 18, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Haksgaard: "Blending Surnames at Marriage"

Hannah Haksgaard (South Dakota School of Law) has recently posted to SSRN her article Blending Surnames at Marriage, 30 Stanford Law & Policy Review 307 (2019). Here is the abstract:

In most states, marrying couples are severely limited in their surname choices at the time of marriage. While recent scholarship has focused on men’s limited surname choices, other important problems with the marital surname process exist. For example, the increasingly popular decision to blend surnames — taking parts of both current surnames to create an entirely new surname — is generally not allowed. Four states explicitly allow for surname blending on the marriage license, and three more allow for any surname to be adopted. This article argues the remaining states should follow suit by allowing surname blending and other surname options. In addition to providing too few surname options, in most states the current system creates ambiguities and problems because marriage licenses fail to reflect the married surname of either spouse. This article argues that states should update marriage licenses to include the surname a marrying couple chooses to adopt as the marital name.

December 17, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 16, 2019

Purvis New Scholarship

Dara E. Purvis (Penn State) has recently posted two articles to SSRN recently:

Trump, Gender Rebels, and Masculinities, 54 Wake Forest Law Review 423 (2019).  Here is the abstract:

Since the inauguration of President Trump, most of his Administration’s actions have been sharply conservative: notably, his efforts to ban transgender Americans from military service. There have been exceptions, however, such as proposals to create support for paid parental leave, an issue previously championed by Democrats.

This seeming contradiction of progressive and regressive policies can be reconciled by viewing the Trump Administration through the lens of masculinities theory. Hegemonic masculinity depends upon sharp differentiation between “real” men and everyone else, the latter occupying places in a hierarchy far below men. In this reading, Trump’s version of parental support makes sense: it focuses support solely on women, who in the view of hegemonic masculinity are the only proper caregivers for children. Similarly, masculinities analysis helps to explain targeting transgender Americans, as this group directly challenges a central tenet of hegemonic masculinity — that gender is binary and immutable.

Masculinities thus explains arguably contradictory policies and reveals that both policies reflect the Trump Administration’s hostility to principles of diversity and antidiscrimination. The Administration is not against antidiscrimination in all forms — only those that challenge the hegemonic ideals of masculinities.

The Constitutionalization of Fatherhood, 69 Cas. W. Res. L. Rev. 541 (2019).  Here is the abstract:

Beginning in the 1970s, the Supreme Court heard a series of challenges to family law statutes brought by unwed biological fathers, questioning the constitutionality of laws that treated unwed fathers differently than unwed mothers. The Court’s opinions created a starkly different constitutional status for unwed fathers than for unwed mothers, demanding additional actions and relationships before an unwed father was considered a constitutional father. Although state parentage statutes have progressed beyond their 1970s incarnations, the doctrine created in those family law cases continues to have impact far beyond family law. Transmission of citizenship in the context of immigration law and the inheritance rights of children of unwed parents whose fathers died without a will echo the reasoning of the family law cases, including two unwed father principles giving legal imprimatur to stereotypes about fathers. Across multiple areas of law, therefore, unwed fathers are not constitutional fathers. It is not enough, however, to simply revive past challenges to such statutes: individual criticisms of each line of cases have not prompted reconsideration of the cases purely on their own terms. This paper identifies a new approach, however, using modern precedents to provide a clearer theory of constitutionalizing fathers: Obergefell v. Hodges illustrates a methodology of analyzing claims that involve the unequal application of a fundamental right, and Sessions v. Morales-Santana provides the substantive rejection of gendered parental stereotypes that fills out Obergefell’s framework. The result is an unambiguous argument rooted in the Equal Protection Clause that will constitutionalize fathers across the law.

December 16, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)