Family Law Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Upcoming Webcast on Pet Custody Disputes

On July 23 at noon, the DC Bar is hosting a webcast on pet custody disputes:

In most households, pets are part of the family. But if a family splits in two, what happens to the dogs, cats, and other beloved animals who lived with the couple? Our panelists will answer that question in this evolving area of law. We’ll discuss pet visitation privileges, the interplay between child and pet custody, drafting a settlement agreement to protect the welfare of family pets, and even creating a “pet-nuptial agreement.” We’ll also examine the consequences that occur based on the status a state bestows on pets. How does the outcome change when the best interests of the pets are taken into account instead of applying the traditional inquiry treating them only as property? Given the number of legal and practical challenges, this will be a lively discussion of these fraught, high-stakes proceedings.
Pre-registration for this program is required. As always, please feel free to share this invitation with colleagues. D.C. Bar membership is not required to attend.
Register here.
Hat Tip: Catherine Ross

June 30, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 29, 2020

Supreme Court Strike Down Abortion Limitations

From AP:

A divided Supreme Court on Monday struck down a Louisiana law regulating abortion clinics, reasserting a commitment to abortion rights over fierce opposition from dissenting conservative justices in the first big abortion case of the Trump era.

Chief Justice John Roberts and his four more liberal colleagues ruled that the law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals violates abortion rights the court first announced in the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

The outcome is not the last word on the decades-long fight over abortion with dozens of state-imposed restrictions winding their way through the courts. But the decision was a surprising defeat for abortion opponents, who thought that a new conservative majority with two of President Donald Trump’s appointees on board would start chipping away at abortion access.

The key vote belonged to Roberts, who had always voted against abortion rights before, including in a 2016 case in which the court struck down a Texas law that was virtually identical to the one in Louisiana.

Read more here.

June 29, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Coronavirus Hurts Wedding Industry

From the Economist:

HEATHER QUINLAN and Adam McGovern, a couple from Parsipanny, New Jersey, intended to marry in October, amid family and friends. But as covid-19 outbreaks swept through America, that looked unrealistic. “We decided that, since we had no idea when the actual, traditional ceremony would take place, there was no time like the present,” says Ms Quinlan, a writer who, fittingly, has just finished a book about pandemics. Looking for alternatives, they settled on Zoom, the video-calling software that in lockdown has facilitated everything from work meetings to birthday parties. Mr McGovern contacted Parsippany’s mayor, Michael Soriano, who in turn spoke to New Jersey’s governor. He signed an executive order allowing civil marriages to happen remotely. The marriage license was then mailed back-and-forth to witnesses. The couple were married in their home on May 20th by Mr Soriano, dialling in from his office.

In normal times, weddings are big business. Worldwide, the industry is estimated to be worth $300bn a year. Each wedding feeds a constellation of businesses, from caterers and photographers to florists and entertainers. International “destination weddings”, as well as stag and hen parties, are a boon to the travel industry. Those in the wedding business often boast that it is “recession-proof”: people will always want to celebrate getting married. But it is not pandemic-proof. Couples have been forced to choose between delaying their nuptials and finding new ways to wed.

Read more here.

June 28, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Divorce Linked to Early Death

From Yahoo!:

Divorce makes up one of three social or behavioural factors linked to an early death, research suggests.

Scientists from the University of British Columbia looked at more than 13,000 adults over 22 years.

Out of 57 lifestyle factors, divorce, smoking and alcohol abuse were most closely linked to the study’s participants dying during the follow-up period.

Perhaps surprisingly, never getting married was also in the top 10.

Read more here.


June 27, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 26, 2020

Romanian Children Neglected Decades Ago

From the Atlantic:

This past christmas day was the 30th anniversary of the public execution by firing squad of Romania’s last Communist dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu, who’d ruled for 24 years. In 1990, the outside world discovered his network of “child gulags,” in which an estimated 170,000 abandoned infants, children, and teens were being raised. Believing that a larger population would beef up Romania’s economy, Ceaușescu had curtailed contraception and abortion, imposed tax penalties on people who were childless, and celebrated as “heroine mothers” women who gave birth to 10 or more. Parents who couldn’t possibly handle another baby might call their new arrival “Ceauşescu’s child,” as in “Let him raise it.”

To house a generation of unwanted or unaffordable children, Ceauşescu ordered the construction or conversion of hundreds of structures around the country. Signs displayed the slogan: the state can take better care of your child than you can.

At age 3, abandoned children were sorted. Future workers would get clothes, shoes, food, and some schooling in Case de copii—“children’s homes”—while “deficient” children wouldn’t get much of anything in their Cămine Spitale. The Soviet “science of defectology” viewed disabilities in infants as intrinsic and uncurable. Even children with treatable issues—perhaps they were cross-eyed or anemic, or had a cleft lip—were classified as “unsalvageable.”

After the Romanian revolution, children in unspeakable conditions—skeletal, splashing in urine on the floor, caked with feces—were discovered and filmed by foreign news programs, including ABC’s 20/20, which broadcast “Shame of a Nation” in 1990.

Read more here.

June 26, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Father's YouTube Videos

From CNN:

When Rob Kenney's father left his family during his teenage years, Kenney committed himself to being a present and loving dad to his own children. His love for being a dad led him to create the "Dad, how do I?" YouTube channel, which has seen more success than he ever dreamed.

See more here.

June 25, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Child Care Centers Closing

From ABC News:

Nationwide nearly half of child care providers completely closed their facilities during the COVID-19 shutdowns, according to a survey by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Of those that stayed open, 85% are operating with less than half of their usual child enrollment.

The outlook for the industry is grim: an analysis by the Center for American Progress found that roughly half of U.S. child care capacity is at risk of disappearing.

"There is no way that the economy will be able to open completely without child care being fully supported and stable," Taylor told ABC News.


More than 90% of the nation's 1.2 million child care workers are women. Some experts say that is a key reason the industry is undervalued and taken for granted.

"It is something that people just assume will always be there," said Katie Hamm, the vice president for early childhood policy at the Center for American Progress.

Read more here.

June 24, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 22, 2020

Child-Care Deserts

From the Washington Post:

The first-of-its-kind nationwide portrait shows that, on average, middle-income areas — considered areas where typical households have a combined annual income of about $75,000 to $85,000 — are most likely to be in child-care deserts, along with areas with heavily Latino populations.

Rural families nationwide had the fewest child-care slots relative to demand across all categories, the researchers found.

“The number one takeaway for me was that areas with enough child care tend to be your higher-income, highly educated communities, whether it’s in urban metros or suburban enclaves,” said CAP’s Rasheed Malik, a senior analyst for early childhood policy who worked with the Minnesota researchers.

The analysis comes as the coronavirus pandemic has upended an already tenuous child-care landscape. Industry groups predict that one-third to half of child-care programs may close permanently without significant public investment, and many economists warn as much as $50 billion may be needed to assist the industry as parents attempt to return to work.

Read more here.

June 22, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Schools During COVID-19 in Sweden

From Business Insider:

Sweden is compelling parents to keep sending their children to school — including students with conditions that some evidence suggests may make them more at risk of catching COVID-19 — as part of its policy to avoid a fullscale lockdown in response to the coronavirus.

While school systems in other countries have ceased or greatly restricted in-person learning, Sweden says that anyone under 15 should keep going to school. There are almost no exceptions.

Some parents have refused to comply, sparking a stand-off with state officials.

They worry this could eventually end with their children being taken away — the ultimate reprisal from the government — though officials stress that this would only happen in extreme scenarios.

Read more here.

June 22, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 21, 2020

HSAs and FSAs Now Cover Menstrual Products

From the Street:

Individuals, thanks to new rules under the Cares Act, can now use their health savings accounts (HSAs) or health care flexible savings accounts (FSAs) to pay for over-the-counter (OTC) drugs as well as menstrual care products, according to David Speier, a managing director at Willis Towers Watson.


Spier says these much-needed changes will be welcomed by millions of Americans feeling the financial stress of COVID-19 related economic conditions. Many individuals, he says, have emergency savings in their HSAs, and now have the freedom to spend those savings on additional items if needed. The extended deadline may also be valuable to individuals who can afford to set aside more dollars for emergencies or long-term savings.

Read more here.


June 21, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Sanga & McCrary: "The Impact of the Coronavirus Lockdown on Domestic Violence"

Sarath Sanga (Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law) & Justin McCrary (Columbia University - Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)) have recently posted to SSRN their paper The Impact of the Coronavirus Lockdown on Domestic Violence. Here is the abstract:

We use 911 call records and mobile device location data to study the impact of the coronavirus lockdown on domestic violence. The percent of people at home sharply increased at all hours, and nearly doubled during regular working hours, from 45 to 85 percent. Domestic violence increased 12 percent on average and 20 percent during working hours. Using neighborhood-level identifiers, we show that the rate of first-time abuse likely increased even more: 16 percent on average and 23 percent during working hours. Our results contribute to an urgent need to quantify the physical and psychological burdens of prolonged lockdown polices.

June 20, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 19, 2020

Ding: "Medical Decision-Making on Behalf of Children in China: A Multi-dimensional Analysis of Parental Authoritarianism"

Chunyan Ding (City University of Hong Kong - School of Law; City University of Hong Kong (CityUHK) - Centre for Chinese & Comparative Law) has recently posted to SSRN her paper Medical Decision-Making on Behalf of Children in China: A Multi-dimensional Analysis of Parental Authoritarianism.  Here is the abstract.

The issue of medical decision-making on behalf of children has attracted extensive attention due to the English cases of Charlie Gard or Alfie Evans. Although there are close to 400 million children in China, the following issues have not been much discussed among scholars and the public in the country: Do Chinese children have the right to patient autonomy? Given the developing autonomy of children associated with their age and maturity, to what extent should they participate in medical decision-making? How should disagreements between minor patients, their guardians and medical practitioners be solved? How should their parents or guardians as legal representatives make proxy medical decisions when children are unable to decide for themselves? What are the proper roles of the state (the judiciary in particular) in protecting children in cases involving medical decision-making on behalf of children? Had cases similar to those of Charlie Gard or Alfie Evans occurred in China, would courts intervene in parental decisions? And if so, how? Under Chinese law, as children lack full legal capacity to make medical decisions, it is their guardians (in most cases parents) as legal representatives who make a proxy decision on their behalf. Although Chinese law explicitly requires guardians to exercise their responsibilities of guardianship in accordance with the child’s best interests and also requires the child’s will to be respected in the light of the child’s age and intelligence when making a proxy decision, in reality, the parents retain authoritarian power and there has been no case of judicial intervention even when the parental medical decision appears prejudicial to the child. This paper reports a multidimensional analysis of the gap between the law and the practice of medical decision-making on behalf of children in China. A number of factors combine to contribute to parental authoritarianism, including the medical care insurance system, the sociolegal responsibility for protecting child welfare, utilitarian familism, the strained patient–doctor relationship, and the civil procedure law. It also argues that the Chinese government (through the judiciary in particular) should meet its responsibilities and serve as a safety valve to protect children when medical decisions are made on their behalf.

June 19, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Free Marriage Licenses in Cincinnati if Expired During Coronavirus

From Local 12 News:

Couples in Hamilton County [Cincinnati] whose marriage license became invalid due to the pandemic -- take heart.

This started back when orders issued by the Ohio governor and the Department of Health postponed ceremonies and celebrations. Couples must get married within 60 days of getting their marriage license.

On Friday, Probate Court Judge Ralph Winkler announced that beginning Monday, any couple issued a marriage license between Jan. 1, 2020 and May 31, 2020 whose license became invalid due to the COVID-19 pandemic will not have to pay to get a new license.

Read more here.

June 18, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

More on Social Bubbles in England Amid COVID-19

From BBC:

When Boris Johnson announced the new rules allowing single people who live alone in England the option of creating a bubble with one other household from this weekend, he created a real dilemma for some - who to share a bubble with?

I'm in the category that is permitted to make that choice as I live alone. Single parents with children under 18 are also given the option of "bubbling up" with someone else. The new rule allows unlimited visits, and even overnight stays, between the two homes without the need for social distancing.

But if anybody in the bubble gets coronavirus symptoms, everyone in those households will be forced into self-isolation for 14 days - even if they had limited themselves to brief bubble visits rather than staying over.

Once you make your choice you have to stick with it. You cannot bounce from one bubble to another. Some families are facing yet more heart-breaking decisions. But as a single man without children, I can be more relaxed about choosing my bubble - so what are my options?

Read more here.

June 17, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

More on Employment Protection for Gay and Transgender People

From Naomi Cahn (GW), writing for Forbes:

June is the month for groundbreaking Supreme Court opinions on the basis of sexual identity, and that’s true of June 2020.

Gerald Bostock was a child-welfare-services coordinator in Clayton County, Georgia – until he was fired. He was gay and had begun to participate in a gay recreational softball league. Aimee Stephens presented as a man when she was hired, but then, several years later,  she told her employer, R. G. & G. R. Harris Funeral Homes that she intended to “live and work full-time as a woman.” Stephens was then fired. 

Bostock and Stephens sued, claiming that 1964 federal civil rights law – Title VII - protected them from being fired based on sex. The case made its way to the Supreme Court, which considered whether the more than 8 million LGBTQ+ workers would be protected under federal law against discrimination.

In its June 15, 2020 opinion, the Supreme Court agreed with Bostock and Stephens. Justice Neil M. Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion, and he was joined by five other Justices: Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. In plain, simple words, Justice Gorsuch wrote: “If the employer intentionally relies in part on an individual employee’s sex when deciding to discharge the employee—put differently, if changing the employee’s sex would have yielded a different choice by the employer—a statutory violation has occurred.” That means that the law’s “message for our cases is equally simple and momentous: An individual’s homosexuality or transgender status is not  relevant to employment decisions.”

The Court rejected the arguments of lawyers for employers and the Trump administration, who had argued that the correct understanding of sex discrimination was bias against women or men when Title VII was enacted in 1964; that understanding did not include discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Instead, the Court accepted the arguments of the workers, who explained that discrimination based on sex included discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status.

Read more here.

June 16, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 15, 2020

Gay and Transgender Workers Receive Some Protections in Today's U.S. Supreme Court Ruling

From Newsweek:

Gay and transgender employees cannot be fired from their jobs solely because of their LGBT status, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday.

The court found for the first time that federal civil rights law prohibiting workplace discrimination on the basis of sex also protects employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The 6-to-3 ruling, led by Justice Neil Gorsuch, largely turned on the meaning of the word "sex" within Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it unlawful for an employer to "discriminate against any individual" because of their sex.

There was little dispute that Congress did not intend to protect LGBT employees when it passed that landmark civil rights-era legislation. But over 50 years later, lawyers at the hight court tussled over whether sex-based protections must include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity by consequence.

Gorsuch—whose vote was anticipated due to his preference for emphasizing the text of the law itself over lawmakers' intent—was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and the court's four liberal-leaning members: Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.

Read more here.

June 15, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Divorce Cooling Off Period in China

From the Bangkok Post:

China has passed a law establishing a cooling-off period for couples who want to dissolve their marriage in an effort to lower the country's soaring divorce rate.

From next year, couples ready for a divorce-by-agreement must wait 30 days to rethink their decision, according to a new Civil Code law passed by the National People's Congress on Thursday.

People can withdraw their divorce application within this time. After the waiting period, those who go to the civil affairs authority and still want to divorce will receive their official documents.

The clause does not apply to families with a history of domestic violence or extramarital affairs since these couples usually divorce through lawsuits, legal experts said.

Read more here.

June 15, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Updated NYC Guidance on Sex During Coronavirus

From Buzz Feed News:

On Monday, [New York] city updated its advisory, and among its new recommendations are masks, glory holes, and Zoom orgies.

"Wear a face covering or mask," advised health officials. "Maybe it’s your thing, maybe it’s not, but during COVID-19 wearing a face covering that covers your nose and mouth is a good way to add a layer of protection during sex. Heavy breathing and panting can spread the virus further, and if you or your partner have COVID-19 and don’t know it, a mask can help stop that spread."

"Make it a little kinky," they suggested before alluding to something that can only be construed as a glory hole. "Be creative with sexual positions and physical barriers, like walls, that allow sexual contact while preventing close face to face contact."

For those who like to hook up with people they meet online, the city says you should consider keeping sex in a virtual space. "Video dates, sexting, subscription-based fan platforms, sexy 'Zoom parties' or chat rooms may be options for you," officials advised.

The previous guidance urged people to "avoid group sex," but that recommendation has disappeared now in favor of having as few partners as possible and ensuring they are people you trust. "Limit the size of your guest list. Keep it intimate," advised officials, urging people to "pick larger, more open, and well-ventilated spaces" for any group sex.

Obviously, you should still avoid sex if you're not feeling well. But if you're not experiencing any coronavirus symptoms and you do want to meet people for sex, ask them about COVID-19 just as you would talk about safe sex, such as their use of condoms or PrEP.

Read more here.

June 14, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 13, 2020

New Book on New Presidential Prenup

From Vanity Fair:

When Melania Trump stayed behind in New York as her husband assumed the presidency in 2017, the public rationale was that the newly-minted First Lady was hanging back to allow their son, Barron, to finish the school year. But according to a new book, there was another reason she was slow to relocate to Washington: After a campaign that unearthed new instances of her husband’s alleged infidelity and degrading comments toward women, Melania apparently used the move as leverage to renegotiate her prenuptial agreement with Donald Trump.

In the forthcoming tell-all about the First Lady, The Art of Her Deal, the Washington Post’s Mary Jordan reports that Melania Trump did not immediately join her husband at the White House after he was inaugurated so she could “amend her financial relationship” with him. Surely at least somewhat aware of Trump’s behavior, as he’d been a cartoonish sleaze for the whole of his public life, Melania was nevertheless caught off guard during the campaign, learning new details about her husband with the emergence of an Access Hollywood tape in which he describes his ability to “grab [women] by the pussy” and his affair with Playboy model Karen McDougal. Remaining in New York after Inauguration Day gave her time to cool off, Jordan writes, and gave her added bargaining power to improve what had initially been an unfavorable prenup, thanks to the supposed “calming effect” she had on her husband.

“She wanted proof in writing,” according to Jordan, “that when it came to financial opportunities and inheritance, Barron would be treated as more of an equal to Trump’s oldest three children.”

Read more here.

June 13, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Boris Johnson Pledges to End the Rough Sex Defense

From the Guardian:

More than 60 victims have been forced to go to court over the past decade to deny that they consented to strangulation, assaults or violence, according to the campaign to end reliance on the “rough sex” defence.

Figures for the number of such court appearances have been collected by the organisation We Can’t Consent to This, which supports amendments to the domestic abuse bill being considered by MPs on Thursday.

The lobby group is one of several calling for changes to the law to prevent defendants blaming victims – almost invariably women – for the violence inflicted on them by alleging they had consented during “sex games”.

On Wednesday, Boris Johnson repeated his commitment to end the rough sex defence. During prime minister’s questions, he was challenged by the Conservative MP Laura Farris who asked: “When men who kill their partners in appalling acts of sexual violence establish in court that ‘she asked for it’ and avoid a murder conviction, does [he] agree that the time is now to end the rough sex defence?”

Read more here.

June 13, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)