Family Law Prof Blog

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

Monday, August 31, 2020

National Family Law Moot Court Competition

33rd Annual Domenick L. Gabrielli

National Family Law Moot Court Competition

February 26 – 27, 2021

The Gabrielli National Family Law Competition is held each year at Albany Law School focusing on current issues in the field of family law.  Last year’s problem addressed: (1) whether the changed circumstance rule should apply where the present custody arrangement was entered into pursuant to stipulation of the parties, without an adversarial hearing; and if the rule does apply (2) whether petitioner sufficiently demonstrated a material change in circumstance, where one parent is having the very young child treated with antidepressants, which may be potentially harmful to this child’s health.

Our final round panel of judges traditionally include state and federal judges, as well as, distinguished professors and practitioners in the area of family law.

Key Dates:

11/05/2020      Registration/Postmark Deadline

12/01/2020      Problem released (online)

01/12/2021      Briefs Postmarked

02/26/2021      Preliminary Rounds

02/27/2021      Octofinal, Quarterfinal, Semifinal & Final Rounds

Costs: The registration fee is $300 per team and a law school may register up to two teams consisting of either two or three competitors; payment by check or credit card is accepted.

Awards: The competitors and coaches will receive a t-shirt for participating in the event. All participants are invited to attend a formal dinner where awards will be announced for the teams who display excellence in oral advocacy, brief writing and overall team performance.

To learn more about this event, please visit

To register for this event please click here

Please contact the 2021 Competition Chair, Jenni E. Barra at with any questions.

August 31, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Jones: "Title IX's Substantive Equity Mandate for Transgender Persons in American Law Schools: A Call to Disaggregate SOGI Data"

Joshua Aaron Jones (IU McKinney) has posted to SSRN his new article Title IX's Substantive Equity Mandate for Transgender Persons in American Law Schools: A Call to Disaggregate SOGI Data, 44.3 NYU R. L. Soc. Change 399 (Summer 2020).  Here is the abstract:

SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) data has been routinely studied by federal agencies for several years, including disaggregation of such data. For example, the LGBTQIA umbrella is more specifically analyzed per each of those letters in crime and health surveys. Law schools, despite tremendous gains to provide formal equity for women, pursuant to Title IX, still strive to reach full substantive equity for those women.

Title IX's substantive equity mandate includes transgender persons. Yet, without an on-point ABA Standard or statutory mandate, law schools fail to parse data such that the academy can know how many transgender students or professors are among the ranks. In fact, LGBT data need not be tracked at all. However, to offer diverse students, especially transgender persons, a safe and fully inclusive environment, law schools must know how many persons are impacted by policies and procedures. Law schools should track LGTBQIA enrollment and employment data, and they should disaggregate that data to yield efficient policy development.

August 27, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

New Work by Haksgaard

Hannah Haksgaard (South Dakota Law) has several new family law papers posted to SSRN:

The Homesteading Rights of Deserted Wives: A History, 99 Nebraska L. Rev. __ (forthcoming
2020).  Here is the abstract:

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the federal government of the United States distributed 270 million acres of land to homesteaders. The federal land-grant legislation allowed single women, but not married women, to partake in homesteading. Existing in a “legal netherworld” between single and married, deserted wives did not have clear rights under the federal legislation, much like deserted wives did not have clear rights in American marital law. During the homesteading period, many deserted wives litigated claims in front of the Department of the Interior, arguing they had the right to homestead. This is the first article to collect and analyze the administrative decisions regarding the homesteading rights of deserted wives, offering a unique view of American marriage. After documenting the history of homesteading rights of deserted wives, this Article explores how these unique administrative decisions adopted or rejected the prevailing marital norms in America and how understanding these administrative decisions can aid in our understanding of marriage in American history.

Court-Appointment Compensation and Rural Access to Justice, 14 U St. Thomas J. of Law & Public Policy __ (forthcoming 2020) (for the Inequality of Wealth, Race, and Class, Equality
of Opportunity Symposium).  Here is the abstract:

Hourly rates paid to court-appointed lawyers impact access to justice. Court-appointed lawyers provide necessary counsel in civil and criminal cases, yet hourly rates in many jurisdictions are so low that many lawyers cannot afford to take court-appointed cases. This article argues that low hourly rates cause problems: namely, appointed lawyers will be insufficient in number, inaccessible to their clients, and sometimes even ineffective. These problems are heightened in rural America where they are compounded by the geography of distance and the rural lawyer shortage. This article concludes by suggesting a number of policy solutions.

Traveling for Abortion Services and the Rural Women “We Must Not Forget,” 65 South Dakota L. Rev. 1 (2020) (reviewing ABORTION ACROSS BORDERS: TRANSNATIONAL TRAVEL AND ACCESS TO ABORTION SERVICES by Christabell Sethna & Gayle Davis (2019)).  Here is the abstract:

This is a book review of "Abortion Across Borders: Transnational Travel and Access to Abortion Services" by Christabell Sethna and Gayle Davis (2019). Although "Abortion across Borders" makes many important points, there is one noticeable shortcoming: "Abortion across Borders" lacks an explicit discussion of rural women throughout most of the book. This book review draws common rural-based themes out of the essays and posits that rurality matters when discussing abortion travel. In summarizing the book, the editors make the intersectional argument that “un-even access to abortion services in local healthcare jurisdictions reinforces or exacerbates discrimination by gender, race, class, sexuality, age, and region.” I agree with that statement, but argue that the authors should have included rurality on this list. Missing from much of the book is the fact that rural women face particular barriers in accessing abortion, particularly when travel is involved.

August 26, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

 2020 Summer Update to D. Abrams et al., Contemporary Family Law

 2020 Summer Update to D. Abrams et al., Contemporary Family Law (West Academic, 5th ed. 2019), which is available for downloading.

 Here are some of the highlights:

  1. A round-up of new material from 2019-20, including court cases such as June Medical and Bostock v. Clayton County;
  2. Discussion throughout the update  about the impact of Covid-19 on families and family law;
  3. An edit of Rogers v. Virginia State Registrar, Case No. 1:19-cv-01149, 2020 WL 3246472 (E.D. Va. 2019), in which a federal district court described Virginia’s requirement that persons applying for a marriage license disclose their race as a “vestige of the nation’s and of Virginia’s history of codified racialization” and held that the requirement was unconstitutional under Loving v. Virginia (1967) and other Supreme Court precedents.
  4. Discussion of further post-Obergerfell and post-Masterpiece Cakeshop developments concerning marriage equality and religious liberty.
  5. An appendix, “COVID-19 & #BlackLivesMatter Family and Community Impact,” exploring the impact of the pandemic on Black and Latino families and the intersection of the pandemic with the Black Lives Matter movement.
  6. An appendix with tips and resources for hybrid and online teaching.

See these resources here.

August 25, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 24, 2020

Ryznar: "A Brief Guide to Online Teaching"

Margaret Ryznar (IU McKinney) has recently posted her paper A Brief Guide to Online Teaching to SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

This brief guide to online teaching offers assistance in selecting between the synchronous and asynchronous online format, before proceeding to a brief step-by-step guide on the design elements of both asynchronous and synchronous online courses. The focus remains on content delivery and student engagement, hallmark characteristics of online teaching.

August 24, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 23, 2020

"Less Drama, More Mama"

This is the reason why Kelleyanne Conway is leaving the Trump administration at the end of the month, including to help school her children at home during the pandemic.  Read more here.

August 23, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Grandparents' Childcare

From the Atlantic--should grandparents help with childcare in light of COVID-19?  Read the answer here.

August 23, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Less Help for Child Abuse

From the Washington Post:

Experts warned that closing schools during the novel coronavirus pandemic meant more child abuse would go undetected. A new survey shows that children’s advocacy centers that work with victims who were referred by law enforcement and other government agencies served 40,000 fewer children in the first half of the year than during the same period last year, appearing to confirm those fears.

“What we were dreading did in fact happen,” said Teresa Huizar, executive director of the National Children’s Alliance.

Read more here.



August 22, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 21, 2020

1/3 of Millennials Keep Finances Separate in Marriage

From Business Insider:

If you're getting married, it's probably been a long time since your first money conversation as a couple.

But as you get more serious, the topic of combining finances will likely come up. These days, it's common for couples to keep finances separate. A Business Insider and Morning Consult survey of about 2,000 Americans in 2019 found that about 37% of millennials kept their finances separate after marriage. 

Read more here.

August 21, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Pre-Marriage Discussion Topics

From Yahoo!:

A young woman is causing a stir on Twitter after sharing all of the things she believes couples should discuss before they get married.

On July 23, 21-year-old Twitter user cxkenobxkerry — who was previously engaged — created a thread of all the things people should talk about before they tie the knot.

In the thread, she warned people to discuss things like debt, children and STDs before getting married and settling down with someone for good.

Read more here.

August 20, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

New Report from the Congressional Joint Economic Committee

From Deseret News:

Children raised in homes where their parents are happily married are more likely to do well across a wide swath of measures, from academic achievement to less criminal activity to future prosperity and good health.

They also have better relationships with their parents — especially their fathers — and are less likely to suffer abuse or exhibit aggressive behavior, compared to children raised in less stable environments, according to a Social Capital Project report published by the Joint Economic Committee, called “The Demise of the Happy Two-Parent Home.

But U.S. policies sometimes penalize married couples and those should be changed, according to Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who chairs the committee.

“The data tell us that the single biggest indicator of a child’s success across a wide spectrum of metrics involves whether that child has been raised by two parents. Typically, that is more likely to happen in a marriage than outside of a marriage relationship,” Lee said, though he noted other factors also contribute to a child’s healthy future.

He called the report an “opportunity to generate ideas about where we might be doing harm as a government,” including looking at social policies that penalize couples for being married. His list includes safety net benefit programs, the Earned Income Tax Credit and others.

Read more here.

Read the report here.

August 19, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Paltrow Reflects on Her Term “Conscious Uncoupling"

From Gwyneth Paltrow, writing for Vogue:

I had never heard of the phrase “conscious uncoupling”. Frankly, the term sounded a bit full of itself, painfully progressive and hard to swallow. It was an idea introduced to us by our therapist, the man who helped us architect our new future. I was intrigued, less by the phrase, but by the sentiment. Was there a world where we could break up and not lose everything? Could we be a family, even though we were not a couple? We decided to try. 

When we made a commitment to approach our separation this way, and about a year before we introduced the phrase to the world, we put it to the test. It was hit and miss. We had great days and terrible days. Days when we couldn’t stand each other, but forced ourselves to remember what we were aiming for. Somehow finding a way to smile and hug, and take the kids out for brunch like we had planned. We had just moved to LA and were navigating a lot of change. Looking back, it was probably the most challenging year of my life. I felt ruled by fear. I worried about my children integrating into a new life, new school, new family structure. I worried about the world finding out that we were no longer together before we were ready to say it. And how to say it? What to say? 

The day came. With a plan in place, we published a newsletter on Goop, simply called “conscious uncoupling”. It was our announcement to the public that we were ending our marriage. I remember trembling on the phone to Elise Loehnen, our content chief, giving the green light to send. We knew that the piece would generate a lot of attention – a celebrity couple ending their relationship always does – but I never could have anticipated what came next. The public’s surprise gave way quickly to ire and derision. A strange combination of mockery and anger that I had never seen. I was already pretty tattered from what had been a tough year. Frankly, the intensity of the response saw me bury my head in the sand deeper than I ever had in my very public life. 

Read more here.

August 18, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 17, 2020

Marriage Is for the Privileged Even Now

From the Atlantic:

While the pandemic has made things harder for just about everyone, being married seems to have made the new normal more manageable. Yet a declining share of Americans enjoy the perks of wedlock. In 2018, the number of adults getting hitched reached its lowest point in more than a century, and the coronavirus threatens to depress these numbers further. As the poor face disease, unemployment, and eviction, and as the risk of infection keeps many single people from pursuing new relationships, marriage in the United States will probably become an even more unlikely and unequal institution.

Some marriage advocates hope that COVID-19, in the long run, will inspire more people to trade vows as a kind of insurance against uncertainty. “I think every family affected by this will recognize the merits of having two parents instead of one,” W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociology professor at the University of Virginia and the director of the National Marriage Project, told me. He predicts that the crisis will lead couples to reassess their priorities and work harder to create stable homes for their children. “The whole adult-centered, me-first model of family life died on March 13th. What will emerge is a kind of family-first model of marriage, where kids and kin are paramount.”

Talk of fortifying unions and sturdy kinship bonds might sound pragmatic at a time when the government and the economy have failed so many Americans. But pointing to the stability of married couples to highlight the benefits of marriage makes a fundamental mistake of causation. In America today, people aren’t more privileged because they’re married; they’re married because they’re more privileged.

Read more here.

August 17, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Osbourne Marriage at Center of New Film


Sharon Osbourne has never been one to hold back, and she certainly didn’t in a new interview about the upcoming biopic about the earlier years of her relationship and marriage to Ozzy Osbourne.

Sharon, Ozzy and Jack Osbourne talked about the film with Rolling StoneJack’s production company is behind the project, and he says the film will cover Ozzy and Sharon’s relationship “…from 1979 to 1996.”

Read more here.

August 16, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Child Marriage's Link to Climate Change

From Time:

[C]hild marriage has been prohibited in Kenya since 1990, when the country ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a United Nations human rights treaty between nations to protect children from a number of abuses. Additional Kenyan laws, including the Children’s Act of 2001, the Sexual Offences Act of 2006 and the Marriage Act of 2014 (which explicitly prohibits the marriage of children under 18), further criminalized this practice. In 2013, Kenya’s Ministers of Health and Education committed, along with Ministers from several other African nations, to ending child marriage by the end of 2020. Kenya’s efforts have worked to some extent: the share of young women between 20 and 24 years of age who were married before their 18th birthday dropped from 34% in 1994 to 23% in 2016, the most recent year for which accurate data are available. But the target date of 2020 for completely eliminating child marriage is fast approaching, and the country is still far from meeting that goal.

In part, that’s because of climate change, which have given rise to a resurgence of child marriage in northern Kenya in the last five years, experts say. Here, increasingly frequent droughts and a plague of locusts linked to climate change have depleted water and grazeland, and the livestock that are the economic backbone of pastoralist communities like Bubisa are dying of hunger, thirst and disease. To cope, desperate families are increasingly pulling their daughters from school and marrying them off in exchange for dowries—typically comprised of new clothes, drums of fresh milk and several camels. (Camels are highly valued for their milk and meat, and their use in transporting people and goods across long distances in Kenya’s northern desert land.)

While there aren’t widely agreed-upon figures, a growing body of research suggests that climate change is increasingly putting more girls at risk of being married off at a young age. For example, a January 2020 report released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the United States Agency for International Development and a June 2020 report released by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) found that globally, dowry practices are exacerbated in times of crisis and displacement, such as drought, and contribute to higher prevalence of child marriage. Mohamed Abdullahi, the head of the United Nations International Children’s Fund Kenya’s northeast office, says that cases of child marriage have increased in the country as a result of “man-made and natural disasters, specifically drought.”

Read more here.

August 15, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 14, 2020

Outcry Over Bill In Somalia

From ABC News:

An outcry is rising in Somalia as parliament considers a bill that would allow child marriage once a girl's sexual organs mature and would allow forced marriage as long as the family gives their consent.

The bill is a dramatic reworking of years of efforts by civil society to bring forward a proposed law to give more protections to women and girls in one of the world's most conservative countries.

The new Sexual Intercourse Related Crimes Bill "would represent a major setback in the fight against sexual violence in Somalia and across the globe" and should be withdrawn immediately, the United Nations special representative on sexual violence in conflict, Pramila Patten, said in a statement Tuesday.

The bill also weakens protections for victims of sexual violence, she said.

Read more here.

August 14, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Apply Now for 13th Season of "Married at First Sight"

From Preview at the Houston Chronicle:

“Married at First Sight” is currently accepting applicants for its 13th season. And it’s looking for Houstonians.

The Lifetime reality TV series pairs contestants with the help of its expert matchmakers. Couples have to marry each other the first time they meet, and are then followed on their journey by relationship specialists.


To apply, Houston hopefuls must fill out an application on The form has 62 questions that cover identity, appearance and lifestyle as well as preferences for a mate.

Read more here.

August 13, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Noticing Child Abuse While Teaching Online

From Angelina Jolie, writing for the Los Angeles Times:

We now know that many schools in California and other states won’t reopen for in-person classes this year. While this is judged necessary to slow the spread of the coronavirus, it has frightening implications for the psychological and physical well-being of vulnerable children.

School closures have led to a dramatic fall in reports of child abuse across the country since educators account for more than a fifth of reports of child abuse and neglect — more than any other category of reporter. One analysis found that monthly state totals of child abuse reports were an average of 40.6% lower in April and 35.1% lower in May compared with reports in those same months in 2019.

If schools remain physically closed, teachers may need training and support in identifying signs of abuse online. Family members and friends need to know that they are now the only in-person witnesses. As hard as it is for anyone to accept that someone they know or love is abusive, friends and families must have the moral strength to identify abuse and put the health and safety of a child above all else.

Read more here.

August 13, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Fathers More Involved Now

From the Milken Institute Review:

It’s hard to discern a silver lining in the Covid-19 crisis, but let me give it a shot. The social distancing demanded by the virus has fundamentally changed the dynamic of families with children living at home — and has created a grand experiment in father-child relationships. Will increased paternal caregiving and involvement have a lasting effect on behavior and attitudes, or will it melt away with the pandemic?

In the olden days — that is, before mid-March — a small, but growing number of fathers in America were stay-at-home dads, whether because they wished to be or lacked other employment opportunities. Moreover, there’s some evidence that the ranks of fathers who take a truly equal role in child-rearing has been increasing, albeit slowly. Now millions more are, thanks to the pandemic. They are distracting their toddlers at bath time with rubber duckies, introducing Dr. Seuss to their kindergartners and trying to remember what a logarithm is so they can help their 10th graders with homework.

According to a new survey by Promundo, a non-profit dedicated to advancing gender equality, the numbers suggest the shift is pretty impressive. Nearly two-thirds of men who were forced to stay home by the pandemic — whether because they are teleworking or have been laid off or furloughed — say that they are spending at least two hours more time caring for their children and homes. Yes, women still spend more time than men, and mothers’ proportion of time devoted to childcare hasn’t changed, but the fact that men are spending more time in absolute terms does show that fathers can take greater responsibility for their children.

Not everyone is popping the champagne corks. Naomi Cahn of George Washington University is cautious: “Although I hope the pandemic results in fathers increasing the time they spend on childcare once we are on the other side of this, it’s worth noting that research shows men often overestimate how much time they are engaged with their children.” More important, forced proximity is almost certain to mean more instances of family violence — in particular, men harming spouses and children.

Read more here.

August 12, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

A Tale of Two Mothers

From CNN:

The way these two women's stories landed in the press provides an interesting opportunity to pause and reflect on where our society is when it comes to our expectations for women.
[Actress Cameron] Diaz's decision—leaving the career behind and turning to motherhood at 47—had a largely gentle reception, applause even from some, for a popular movie star who left a life-sucking (though lucrative) job to have a home and family.
But a number of articles about [Actress Ellen] Pompeo's choice of motherhood and 17 seasons spent at the same job led with her desire for a reliable paycheck—and even rated a snarky slapdown-of-a-headline in Vulture: "Cash Rules Everything About Ellen Pompeo Staying on Grey's Anatomy."
The idea that home should trump career is a philosophy many women (and men) share--including the 27% of American moms who, according to the Pew Research Center, stay at home to care for their children. Different choices, like Pompeo's, while completely relatable and necessary to many women, can still come in for an odd disapprobation.
Read more here.

August 11, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)