Family Law Prof Blog

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

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Social Distancing & Prejudice

From Linda McClain (BU Law), writing for the Hill:

Although President Trump has tempered efforts to brand COVID-19 the “Chinese virus,” he continues to allege that China caused the global pandemic. Recent claims suggest the original source of the human pathogen was a virology lab in Wuhan, though there is considerable debate whether such reports are based in fact. Such divisive rhetoric serves only to inflame racist sentiments, likely causing the recent spike in bias incidents against Asian Americans, and to stir up nativist hostilities toward “foreigners.” Unfortunately, this is all too common in our hyper-polarized world.

Rather than falling for such blatant attempts to pit the proverbial “us” against “them,” we might consider how this period of global upheaval serves as a reminder of our common humanity. In this current environment, as scientists and politicians urge people to avoid social contact, it is important to remember that in fighting another epidemic — prejudice — social distancing has been part of the problem and social contact part of the solution.

A century ago, the sociologist Emory Bogardus developed a pioneering “social distance scale” to study prejudice. Bogardus asked Americans if they would be willing to admit members of 40 different “races” to various types of social contact, ranging from the most intimate and personal — marrying into one’s family — to the most distant — being admitted as a “visitor” to one’s country. This long list of “races” reflected now-discredited “race science,” but responses to these questions about social distance revealed clear hierarchies in terms of majority attitudes toward minority groups.


Scientists caution that the future may bring new pandemics that spread even more quickly. As we practice social distancing in dealing with COVID-19 and future pandemics, we should remember the value of social contact for fighting the epidemic of prejudice — even if that contact takes virtual forms — and we must resist calls to stoke the flames of bigotry amidst this crisis.

Read more here.

May 9, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 8, 2020

Ending Child Marriage in PA

From KYW News Radio:

"'Child marriage? Is that a thing?'"

That's a common question asked of Bucks County State Rep. Perry Warren. "And in fact it is," he answered, "in the United States and even in Pennsylvania. But no more, at least in Pennsylvania when Gov. Wolf signs this bill."

The state legislature unanimously passed a bill to end child marriage last week. As it sits on Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk, Pennsylvania could become the third state to end child marriage.


"Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states that doesn't track marriage ages with marriage license data," she said. "We do have U.S. Census data that shows that as of 2014, an estimated 2,323 children age 15 to 17 living in Pennsylvania had already been married."

Legislature to end child marriage is pending in nine states, according to Reiss. Currently, Delaware and New Jersey are the only states that have laws protecting children from getting married.

Read more here.

May 8, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 7, 2020

CA Marriage Licenses Remote

From NBC Bay Area:

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order this week allowing state residents to obtain marriage licenses remotely due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The order, which Newsom signed Thursday, will allow couples to obtain a marriage license from their county clerk via video conference provided that both members of the couple are state residents and that they can both present a valid form of identification on the video call. The clerk will then email the licenses to the couple.

The state will also recognize marriages performed over video call as long as both members of the couple are present and there is at least one witness to the live ceremony.

Read more here.

May 7, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Celebrating Long Marriages

From CBS News:

Behind COVID face masks, and bundled against a blustery April chill, who would recognize Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue, but for his signature gray hair?  "If I go bald, this marriage is over," he said.

So far, so good! They celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary this month.

If you ask Donahue the date of their wedding, he will offer, "It's the fifth of May, May … fifth?"

"You're so funny," said Thomas. "You know very well what it is."

As she explained to "Sunday Morning" host Jane Pauley, "I'm born November 21. He's born December 21. And we specifically decided to be married on a 21. So, 5/21!"

To mark the occasion, they wrote a book about marriages, featuring 40 famous couples who've stood the test of time – and many other tests along the way. Such as? "Having a sick kid, having a bad mother-in-law, losing all your money," Thomas said. "Addiction of all kinds, infidelity. Any issue you can imagine that any marriage could face, in our book they face it."

Read more here.

May 6, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Grandparents Losing Family Time

From NBC News:

Instead of being able to throw a party worthy of matriarch Barbara Burr's milestone birthday, the coronavirus pandemic forced her family to improvise.

The mother of nine, grandmother of 22 and great-grandmother of 37 was instead whisked outside of her home in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, on April 18 — her 90th birthday — for a surprise car parade in her honor.

"It is was extra special, out of this world," Burr said. "Only I felt so bad when they all left and I couldn't give them all a hug."

Burr, who lives with her 95-year-old husband, Gerald, is hoping she will get a chance to hold them all again in her arms.

"It could take years," she said of what she calls "this germ that's floating around," adding that by then, "I'll be long gone."

Even as stay-at-home protocols are lifted across the country, health experts are recommending that older Americans stay indoors and avoid contact with potential virus carriers — including family members who aren't sheltering in place with them. That means that until a vaccine is readily available, grandparents will lose precious time with their children and grandchildren.

Read more here.

May 5, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 4, 2020

Hurting the Ex

From Men's Health via Yahoo:

The end of a marriage can be a traumatic thing, as two people who once promised to love and support each other come to realize they are incompatible, or in some cases, are faced with infidelity or deception. Once that happens, anger is a pretty predictable emotional response — and it can fuel all kinds of chaos when it comes to divorce proceedings.

In a thread that has blown up on Reddit, divorce lawyers have been recalling some of the most outlandishly acrimonious separations they've ever dealt with in a professional capacity, and the ways that soon-to-be-exes use the law to try to hurt each other.

Like this client, whose seemingly generous offer in the divorce came with a sting in the tail:

"He gave her five of his nine companies," says Flintoid. "They were the ones that owed seven figures in payroll taxes. He had made her the bookkeeper on paper. She spent decades trying to shake the IRS for the results."

Read more here.

May 4, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 3, 2020

New PA Laws Reduce Waiting Time of No-Fault Divorce to One Year

From The Patch 

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed a new state law that reduced waiting timeafter a no-fault divorce from two years to one. Law 102, which will enter into force by 60 days, reduces the waiting period for a one-way divorce without errors from two years to one.

Before the bills were passed, both sides heard arguments. In other words, marriage in Pennsylvania is a traditional divorce and two types of divorce without errors: mutual consent and a two-year separation. Separation simply means that you and your spouse live separately and individually, either under one roof or otherwise.

It is important to note that a one-year waiting period does not necessarily mean that the divorce will be completed in one year. Proponents of the new law believe that it will reduce emotional pressure on families, which seems to worsen the two-year waiting period. This new rule can save your spouse time, money, and emotional trauma. There is also a delay for people whose spouses disagree with the divorce.

Read more here 

May 3, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Misfortunes of Graduating Now

From the Atlantic:

By the end of the current academic year, American schools will have conferred an estimated 3.7 million high-school diplomas, 1 million associate’s degrees, and 2 million bachelor’s degrees. Many of those 6-million-plus graduates will soon pursue another degree, but many others will enter a historically terrible labor market, and one that’s especially brutal for young workers. The class of 2020 has some extraordinarily rotten luck to graduate right now, and the unfortunate timing could set many of them back financially and professionally for years.

Read more here.

May 3, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Call for Papers

Call For Papers: AALS Section On Aging 2021 Annual Meeting program, co-sponsored by the Sections on Civil Rights, Disability Law, Family & Juvenile Law, Minority Groups, Poverty, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Issues, Trusts and Estates, and Women in Legal Education  

Intersectionality, Aging, and the Law

The AALS Section on Aging will focus its 2021 annual meeting program on intersectionality and aging.  We are interested in participants who will address this subject from numerous perspectives. Potential topics include gray divorce, incarceration, elder abuse (physical or financial), disparities in wealth, health, housing, and planning based on race or gender or gender identity, age and disability discrimination, and other topics.  The conception of the program is broad, and we are exploring publication options.

If you are interested in participating, please send a 400-600 word description of what you'd like to discuss.  Submissions should be sent to Professor Naomi Cahn,, by June 2, 2020, and the author[s] of the selected paper(s) will be notified by July 1, 2020.  

The Call for Paper presenters will be responsible for paying their registration fee and hotel and travel expenses.  Please note that AALS anticipates that the Annual Meeting will go forward (, and the theme is The Power of Words.


May 2, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 1, 2020

Marriage Rates Drop

From the Wall Street Journal:

WASHINGTON—The share of Americans getting married has fallen to its lowest level on record, according to government figures released Wednesday that reflect how economic insecurity and changing norms are eroding the institution.

The U.S. marriage rate fell 6% in 2018, with 6.5 new unions formed for every 1,000 people, according to a report by the National Center for Health Statistics. That was the lowest rate since the federal government began keeping data in 1867, said Sally Curtin, a statistician at the center and lead author of the report.

“Millennials are in peak marriage years, their 20s and 30s, and it’s still dropping,” Ms. Curtin said. “This is historic.”


Many Americans are opting to form households without tying the knot, and strained finances have been a top reason. In recent years, much of the marriage decline has come for middle earners and those with only a high-school education. Declining religious adherence and growing acceptance of unmarried cohabitation have also played a role.

Just over half of American adults were living with a spouse in 2019, down from about seven in 10 in 1970, census figures show. About 7% lived with a partner last year, up from less than 1% in 1970.

The fallout from Covid-19 is likely to further discourage marriage in the near term since financial insecurity, coupled with travel and social-gathering restrictions, are matrimonial deterrents.

Read more here.

May 1, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)