Family Law Prof Blog

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

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Virginia: Outdated Same-Sex Marriage Ban

From WJHL-TV News Channel:

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – An effort to get rid of an outdated ban on same-sex marriage in Virginia cleared its final hurdle of the 2021 General Assembly on Friday.

The provision defining marriage as between a man and a woman was added to the state’s constitution in 2006. While the section is no longer enforceable, some lawmakers say it’s a stain that needs to be removed.

Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), the first openly gay Virginian to win a seat in the General Assembly, introduced the amendment. “It’s to affirm in our Constitution that this is a right that won’t be denied to people and that our state values all people, regardless of who they love,” Ebbin said.

Read more here.

February 28, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Divorce Has Huge Impact on Finances and How to Minimize the Harm

From CNBC:

It is important to understand the implications of all money-related decisions being made, especially the tax implications and retirement accounts when splitting the assets during divorce. 

If you happen to be in the midst of splitting from your spouse or are considering it, be aware that aside from the price tag of divorce — the median is $7,500, per legal website Nolo — there are other parts of the process that can unexpectedly end up costing one spouse.

Some assets appear to have equal values. Yet once you factor in taxes, they may not look so identical. If you have a 401(k) or other workplace retirement account and your soon-to-be-ex is entitled to a piece, it is better to have an attorney drafting a qualified domestic relations order, or QDRO. 

Sometimes, divorcing couples sell the family home and divide the proceeds as dictated in their agreement. Other times, one of the spouses remains in the house.

Read more here.

February 27, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 26, 2021

House Passes Equality Act

From NPR:

The House of Representatives voted on Thursday to pass the Equality Act, a bill that would ban discrimination against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It would also substantially expand the areas to which those discrimination protections apply.

It's a bill that President Biden said on the campaign trail would be one of his top legislative priorities for the first 100 days of his presidency. The House vote was largely along party lines, passing with the support of all Democrats and just three Republicans. The bill now goes to the Senate, where its fate is unclear.

When House Democrats introduced the bill last week, Biden reiterated his support in a statement: "I urge Congress to swiftly pass this historic legislation," he wrote. "Every person should be treated with dignity and respect, and this bill represents a critical step toward ensuring that America lives up to our foundational values of equality and freedom for all."

But it's also controversial — while the Equality Act has broad support among Democrats, many Republicans oppose it, fearing that it would infringe upon religious objections.

Read more here.

February 26, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Parties' Mutual Agreement to A Modification

From JD Supra:

After a divorce or paternity matter ends, one or both parties may want to somehow modify the judgment. In a general sense, modifications occur in cases of child custody, child support, spousal support, or alimony. However, modifications to the property division in a divorce are generally not allowed and depend on the type of modification to seek.

The legal requirements vary by state, but in general, a party has to show a change in circumstance of a substantial and continuing basis to justify the modification. In some jurisdictions, a certain amount of time from the judgment might need to elapse. In other jurisdictions, there is no such requirement if there is a substantial and continuing change.

Ultimately, a trial or evidentiary hearing will need to take place where witnesses testify and evidence is submitted.  In some cases, the judge may decide to modify the judgment. Either way, most judges issue a written judgment explaining whether there was a modification and their findings of fact and conclusions of law.

Read more here.


February 26, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Parenting Program Helps Children Growing Up in Poverty

From News-Medical.Net:

COVID causes childcare programs closed and social distancing measures in place, many children are missing out on opportunities for development. 

Parent education programs such as "the Smart Beginnings Project" and interventions that begin shortly after the birth of a child have shown to significantly impact parenting behaviors that support social and academic engagement for children growing up in poverty.

Smart Beginnings addresses these longstanding challenges by integrating the Video Interaction Project (VIP), reaching families during routine pediatric check-ups, with a second targeted program, Family Check-Up (FCU) during at-home visits for families identified as having additional risks and challenges.

Most recently, VIP has expanded to Flint, Michigan, a community deeply affected by a major crisis when its drinking water was contaminated by lead. The team is prepared for a large-scale implementation of the program nationwide. 

Read more here.


February 25, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Nigeria: Law Favors Father in Custody Cases

From The Conversation CA:

In a divorce, one of the critical decisions is child custody. It matters who a child lives with. And a study of 17 sub-Saharan African countries showed that living with a father alone is detrimental to children’s nutritional status. This may be due to inability to effectively manage work-family conflict.

In many Nigerian patriarchal cultures, women bear and raise children but the children ‘belong’ to the man. This is hinged on the overarching principle of customary law that denies a mother’s lineage and strongly upholds patrilineage. If the couple divorce, the mother leaves the children for the ‘owner’ – the father. These religious and cultural traditions influence the awarding of child custody in sharia and customary courts.

Sole custody was granted to the man in six cases. Joint custody was granted in five cases. In four of those five, the custody of the child awarded to the woman was temporary because the child was underage or the man had no income. Sole custody to the woman was granted in only one of the 12 cases.

Read more here.

February 24, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Australia: Former Judges' Opinion of Family Court Merges with the Federal Circuit Court

From ABC News:

The government bill passed through the Senate on Wednesday, with the support of One Nation and independent senator Rex Patrick. A legislation to merge the Family Court combined with the Federal Circuit Court.

The Federal Circuit Court has jurisdiction over a broad range of matters, including bankruptcy, copyright, migration and family law. It was established to alleviate the strain on the Federal Court and Family Court, by dealing with less complex cases. Today, around 90 per cent of the court's workload is in the area of family law.

The move was opposed by Labor and some within the legal profession. Former judges say they do not think it will make the system more efficient.

Read more here.

February 23, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 22, 2021

Aloni: "Compulsory Conjugality"

Erez Aloni (University of British Columbia) recently posted to SSRN his article Compulsory Conjugality, Connecticut Law Review, Vol. 53, No. 1 (2020).  Here is the abstract:

What happens when the state changes the default rules that govern financial obligations between unmarried partners from opt in to opt out? Most states have an opt-in rule: unmarried partners do not take on financial obligations of one another unless they agree to do so with a contract. Nevertheless, advocates argue that an opt-out system puts the burden in the right place: unmarried couples who want to avoid default obligations should bear the burden of making contracts. A scholarly debate over the opt-in/opt-out model has raged for twenty years, but the issue is now coming to a head. Yet no research, until now, examines the actual impact of opt-out rules on affected couples.

This Article offers a new analysis based on an original qualitative study with interviews of thirty unmarried couples in an opt-out jurisdiction. The study reveals that most cohabiting couples do not know that the law considers them spouses. For those who know, either they do not realize that they can opt out, or they face difficulties trying to do so. Moreover, if couples do not opt out, the terms of the default contract the state imposes are not particularly popular—only about half of interviewees would have chosen these terms if they had thought to bargain. Further complicating things, the research shows that sometimes the opt-out law has an expressive effect: it communicates values of conjugality and commitment. Using this data, and relying on contractual theories, this Article contends that the opt-out scheme is choice-decreasing because it makes defaults highly sticky. Yet, contrary to the traditionalist view, an opt-out approach does not undermine the institution of marriage. Instead, this approach aligns with the neoliberal ambition to shift dependency-related responsibilities from the state to the family. Finally, this Article proposes that for opt-out regimes to avoid mimicking the problems of opt-in schemes, defaults must be better known to couples, be better tailored to diverse populations of unmarried couples, and adopt accessible methods of opting out.

Read more here.

February 22, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Importance of Mental Health in Family Law Court System

From Ottawa Citizen:

The old terminology of custody and access is being jettisoned, in favour of “parenting time” and “decision-making responsibility.” There is a consensus amongst family law lawyers that the old custody/access terminology aggravates disputes, making litigation more protracted and painful than necessary.  Parents who are losing “custody” feel like they are losing their children. Having “access” feels to parents like they are spending time with children who do not really belong to them. New change also target mobility. There are now mandatory notice provisions for parents who wish to move residences in a way that would have a significant impact on their children.

In light of changes in family law court system, individuals who go through the process of resolving family issues in the legal field often face frustration and anxiety.

If we want to see a real change in our family court system, we will need to see a strengthening of social supports in the realm of mental health.

Read more here.


February 22, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Parents Who Refused Cancer Treatment For Son Should Lose Custody, Nebraska Supreme Court Rules

From the Omaha World-Herald:

Physicians at Children’s Hospital in Omaha had informed the parents that the child had a 60% chance of “relapse-free, long-term survival” from alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma with the recommended course of treatment: 66 weeks of chemotherapy, as well as radiation treatments and possible surgery.

During a four-day trial in Lancaster County Juvenile Court, there was no evidence presented that the parents had sought a second medical opinion, nor that Prince had received any treatments from Oct. 2 to 26, 2019. Neither parent raised a religious or cultural objection to the treatments.

The court ruled that the child lacked proper parental care by reason of the “fault or habits” of both parents.

The Supreme Court, in upholding the lower court’s decision, cited previous rulings that “proper parental care” included providing for the “health, morals, and well-being” of a child, and not placing them “in situations dangerous to life or limb ...”

Read more here.

February 21, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 20, 2021

New Law Legalizes Paid Surrogacy in New York; Opens Up Options for Families

From Long Island Newsday:

Women in New York can be compensated for carrying babies that are not biologically their own under a law that goes into effect Feb. 15. Previously, intended parents had to go to other states to seek such help to grow their families.

The law was passed by the State Legislature on April 2, 2020, as part of the New York State budget and signed into law by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, capping a 10-year-effort by a coalition of New York attorneys, fertility organizations and LGBTQ rights groups, said Denise Seidelman, a Rockland County attorney who helped write the law. New York was one of only three states that fully banned compensated gestational surrogacy; the others are Louisiana and Michigan, she said.

The law requires that the baby not have any genetic relation to the carrier; in other words, it must be an intended mother’s egg or an egg or embryo from a donor, said Amy Demma, an East Hampton-based assisted reproductive technology attorney. The law sets out a Surrogates' Bill of Rights that ensures the surrogate is represented by her own attorney, has health insurance paid for by the intended parents and retains the ability to make decisions for the pregnancy.

Read more here. See a press release on the Act from New York Attorneys for Adoption and Assisted Family Formation (NYAAFF) here.

February 20, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 19, 2021

During the Pandemic, Telemedicine Abortions Become Crucial Resource for Women

From the Oregonian:

Since 2016, Oregon women have had the option to end their early pregnancies at home with an abortion through TelAbortion, a telemedicine program that allows women to bypass many of the traditional in-person clinical visits and consultations needed to get an abortion.

TelAbortion is a research study sponsored by Gynuity Health Projects, a nonprofit reproductive health organization based in New York. It began operating in Oregon, Washington, New York, and Hawaii in 2016 and has expanded to 16 states, adding five as the pandemic exploded. At the start of February, the program has conducted 3,327 screenings and mailed 1,654 packages nationwide.

 Studies have shown telemedicine abortion is as safe and effective as medicine abortions conducted in-person.

For now, TelAbortion remains the only avenue for women to access abortions by telemedicine. It’s limited to women in their first 10 weeks of pregnancy, as the medications are less effective after that period of time.

Read more here.

February 19, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Romance Fraud

From the Wall Street Journal:

Love is a mystery. And in the age of Covid-19, it’s increasingly a fraud.

Romance scams—in which fraudsters pretend to be a love interest to bilk unassuming partners—have surged during the pandemic, compliance officers and regulators say. The scenario is putting some companies on high alert for suspicious financial transactions.

About 32,800 romance scams were reported last year, up nearly 31% from 2019, according to Federal Trade Commission data released last week. Consumers reported losing a record $304 million to the scams, an almost 51% increase, the FTC said.

Romance scammers often build fake online personas to develop relationships with victims through online dating apps or social media platforms. They keep their distance, though, making excuses about why they can’t meet in person. Sometimes it is a phony military deployment, other times a made-up assignment on an offshore oil rig, said Monica Vaca, an associate director at the FTC. As a virtual relationship strengthens, scammers make requests for money, often disappearing once the cash is in hand.

Read more here.

February 18, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Marriages & Divorces Down

From AP:

Overall, people have become more cautious amid the pandemic, said sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia.

“This caution is making them less likely to get divorced, less likely to get married, less likely to have a child,” he said.

Comprehensive national statistics on marriage and divorce during the pandemic won’t be compiled for many months, but the numbers available thus far from a few states suggest there’s a notable decline in each category.

In Oregon, divorces in the pandemic months of March through December were down about 24% from those months in 2019; marriages were down 16%. In Florida, for the same months, divorces were down 20% and marriages were down 27%. There also were decreases, though smaller, in Arizona.

One reason for fewer divorces: In many states, access to courts for civil cases was severely curtailed during the pandemic’s early stages. Another reason, according to marriage counselors, is that many couples backed off from a possibly imminent divorce for fear it would only worsen pandemic-fueled financial insecurity.

The Rev. Russ Berg, who runs a faith-based marriage counseling ministry in Minneapolis, tries to encourage that kind of hesitancy among the couples he advises.

Read more here.

February 17, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

More on Daughters Causing Parental Divorce

From the Economist:

Daughters have long been linked with divorce. Several studies conducted in America since the 1980s provide strong evidence that a couple’s first-born being a girl increases the likelihood of their subsequently splitting up. At the time, the researchers involved speculated that this was an expression of “son preference”, a phenomenon which, in its most extreme form, manifests itself as the selective abortion or infanticide of female offspring.

Work published in the Economic Journal, however, debunks that particular idea. In “Daughters and Divorce”, Jan Kabatek of the University of Melbourne and David Ribar of Georgia State University, in Atlanta, confirm that having a female first-born does indeed increase the risk of that child’s parents divorcing, in both America and the Netherlands. But, unlike previous work, their study also looked at the effect of the girl’s age. It found that “daughter-divorce” risk emerges only in a first-born girl’s teenage years (see chart). Before they reach the age of 12, daughters are no more linked to couples splitting up than sons are. “If fathers were really more likely to take off because they preferred sons, surely they wouldn’t wait 13 years to do so,” reasons Dr Kabatek. Instead, he argues, the fact that the risk is so age-specific requires a different explanation, namely that parents quarrel more over the upbringing of teenage daughters than of teenage sons.

Read more here.

February 16, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 15, 2021

Singles Awareness Day

From CNN:
The number of American men and women who have never been married, are divorced or are living alone has been on an upward trend for several years, according to the US Census Bureau.
Despite the fact marriages or relationships are less common these days, being single continues to have stigma and feelings of loneliness attached, no more so than on Valentine's Day. Feelings of loneliness among singles not yet having found "the one" still abound.
However, recent research shows that some people view singlehood as a happy destination rather than a stop on the journey to marriage.
[I]f you're single, you can redefine the concept for yourself, according to Elyakim Kislev, an assistant professor at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem: You don't have to be lonely, and you're not a failure. Being single can be an advantage instead of a source of agony, he believes.
Kislev analyzed US and European databases and conducted interviews to examine trends in singlehood and what made some singles happy — finding that for some, happiness was a choice lifestyle or something they came to accept.
Read more here.

February 15, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Women's Labor Participation Now Lowest Since 1988

From CNBC:

In January, another 275,000 women dropped out of the labor force, accounting for nearly 80% of all workers over the age 20 who left the workforce last month, according to a National Women’s Law Center analysis of the latest jobs report.

This brings the total number of women who have left the labor force since February 2020 to more than 2.3 million, and it puts women’s labor force participate rate at 57%, the lowest it’s been since 1988, according to NWLC. By comparison, nearly 1.8 million men have left the labor force during this same time period.

Many of these women, says Emily Martin, VP for education and workplace justice at NWLC, have been forced to leave the workplace due to ongoing closures of schools and day care centers. These women, she explains, are not included in the calculated unemployment rate, which is already disproportionately high for women of color.

Read more here.

February 15, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Happy Valentine's Day

Image result for valentine's day free clip art

February 14, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Teleworking Parents Face Difficulties In Child Care Duties

From World Economic Forum:

Over the course of the pandemic, there has been an increase in the share of working parents who say it is difficult to handle child care responsibilities. At the same time, many working parents have experienced professional challenges while trying to balance their work and family responsibilities, according to a new analysis of a Pew Research Center survey conducted in October 2020.

Among working parents who are married or cohabiting, child care responsibilities are more challenging for those who have a spouse or partner who is also employed.

Working moms more likely than working dads to say work-family balance has gotten harder.

It is a particular challenge for teleworking parents with children under 18 at home and who have child care duties while working from home. About six-in-ten of these parents (63%) say it’s been difficult for them to get their work done without interruptions since the pandemic started. 

Read more here.

February 14, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 13, 2021

NY Repeals Anti-Loitering Law

From NPR:

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill Tuesday that repeals a state anti-loitering law, commonly called the "walking while trans" ban, that critics say police used to harass and arrest law-abiding trans people, in particular.

The new measure effectively takes off the books a 1976 law that sought to prohibit loitering for the purpose of prostitution. Politicians and LGBTQ advocates say the law resulted in decades of discrimination by law enforcement.

"Repealing the archaic 'walking while trans' ban is a critical step toward reforming our policing system and reducing the harassment and criminalization transgender people face simply for being themselves," Cuomo said in a statement.

Advocates for repealing the anti-loitering law said it had previously been used with a broad definition that police used to justify the arrest of someone because of the clothes they wore or where they stood on the street.

Read more here.

February 13, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)