Family Law Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Third Parties Can Have Child Custody Rights Too In Pennsylvania

From JD Supra:

In Pennsylvania, a parent of a minor child may file an action for physical and/or legal custody of the child.  In certain circumstances, this right is also extended to grandparents and third parties who stand in loco parentis to the child.  Therefore, though it is presumed the parent has a right to custody, it may be forfeited if, by convincing evidence, the best interest of the child is served by awarding custody to a third party.

A person who stands in loco parentis has created a parent-like relationship to the child sufficient to warrant providing that individual the right to seek continued contact with the child.  This status can be conferred upon any third party, including, but not limited to, current or ex-spouses or partners, friends, siblings, and distant relatives.

For those grandparents who are unable to prove they stand in loco parentis, Pennsylvania has enacted specific provisions to provide them with alternative means to seek custody.  

Grandparents who do not meet the elements for standing to sue for any form of physical or legal may still have the means to insert themselves into a custody dispute if they meet the elements for standing to sue for partial custody or visitation rights.  This standing is further extended to great-grandparents who do not stand in loco parentis to the child.

Read more here.

March 31, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Pandemic Hit Households Relying on Both Incomes

From NBC News:

The pandemic upended the lives of millions of families who suddenly found themselves without one or both sources of income. Many have gone from enjoying the cultural markers of the middle class — job stability, homeownership and some disposable income — to teetering on the edge of poverty.

Some experts fear the effects could be long-lasting.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 115 million people had experienced losses in employment income from the start of the pandemic in March 2020 through last month.

And according to a Pew Research Center report released this month, more than 4 in 10 adults say they or someone else in their households had lost jobs or wages since the beginning of the pandemic.

Even with unemployment insurance, which struggled with claim delays amid unprecedented demand, and other benefits, the impact could have ramifications for years, economic experts and advocates said.

The Pew Research Center survey found that about half of nonretired adults said the economic impact of the pandemic will make it harder for them to achieve their long-term financial goals. Among those who said their financial situations had gotten worse, 44 percent said they thought it would take them three years or more to get back to where they were a year ago, and about 1 in 10 said they didn't think their finances would ever recover.

Elise Gould, a senior economist with the Economic Policy Institute, a nonprofit research organization, said lower- and middle-income families alike were vulnerable to major economic instability after losses of income.

"It's incredibly destabilizing in the short run," she said. "People just simply don't have the savings to be able to weather job losses or to cut back on hours or furloughs to be able to continue paying their bills," she said.

Losing a home, facing declines in its credit score or the continued inability to get a job could also affect a family long after the pandemic is over, she said.

Accolla said it took six or seven years to build what her family had, "and it went away within the quickness of one year."

Facing credit card debt and having to spend their savings, she wonders just when they will be able to recover.

"Are we going to be able to recover again? Will we get back to a place of comfortability? Will we be able to have a home?" she asked.

Elizabeth Ananat, an economics professor at Barnard College in New York City, said the pandemic led to major workforce declines. Some people are unable to work because of responsibilities such as being caregivers, and others want to work but have given up looking.

Food insecurity has skyrocketed, she said, especially among families with young children.

"They've lost more jobs, and of course those are children who need to be cared for all the time," she said, adding that the income losses have translated directly into "these really severe material hardships," such as evictions or the threats of them and increases in hunger.

The losses have been especially devastating for women, as well as Black and Latino families, she said.

Naomi Cahn, director of the Family Law Center at the University of Virginia School of Law, said the pandemic has had a "disproportionate impact on families of color."

"That's a really, really important part of the story," she said.

In an analysis of data collected last month in the Census Bureau's Household Pulse Survey, the research organization Child Trends found that 24 percent of U.S. adults in households with children, or 1 in 4, reported having limited confidence that they would be able to make their next rent or mortgage payments on time. Among Black households with children, the number was 40 percent.

The Biden administration has said its $1.9 trillion relief package will lift 11 million people out of poverty "and cut child poverty in half."

"That could provide at least some temporary stability for many families," Cahn said.

Read more here.

March 30, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hundreds of US families have been trying for a year to adopt children from China. They're still waiting

From CNN:

According to the State Department, about 400 American families' adoptions of children in China were put on hold because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a February 2021 letter to families, the Chinese government said foreign adoptions are suspended due to Covid-19, but did not provide any information on when they might resume.
"Before resuming adoption registration, we will actively cooperate with local civil affairs departments and child welfare agencies by the rehabilitation needs of adoptive families," the letter said.
The US State Department told CNN they "have made clear" to China "the importance of resuming intercountry adoptions as a high priority and as soon as health conditions allow." The department said it is committed to working with China to find a solution.
Read more here.

March 30, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 29, 2021

With More Women In State Office, Family Leave Policies Have Not Caught Up

From NPR:

Seven weeks ago, state Sen. Mallory McMorrow became the second woman to give birth while serving in the state Senate.

Because McMorrow isn't an employee of the state of Michigan – rather an elected official whose pay is written into the state constitution — she doesn't qualify for parental leave. In Michigan, there is no actual parental leave policy for state legislators.

Lawmakers, technically speaking, can take as much or as little time off as they want. The catch: They miss votes, both in committee and on the floor and Michigan is one of about 20% of states that serves on a full-time basis. Aside from a short summer recess, lawmakers work the entire year.

It's not just Michigan. There's no set policy for parental leave in place or mechanism to participate in committees or session remotely for full-time lawmakers in Ohio. And while there are temporary provisions for remote participation in Pennsylvania this year — there isn't a policy in place there either.

These conversations about parental leave policies are new, according to Jean Sinzdak, the Associate Director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. One of the reasons: Three-quarters of all elected officials are still men.

Read more here.

March 29, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Russian Surrogacy Laws

From BioEdge:

“Russia’s liberal surrogacy rules are under threat,” reports The Economist. The country has become a haven for foreigners seeking cheap surrogate mothers. A woman’s services can be purchased for about US$20,000, much less expensive than the United States.

But after bad publicity over the death of a baby who was intended for a Filipino couple, the practice could be banned for foreigners. “Russia is not an incubator,” says Irina Yarovaya, a deputy speaker of the Duma, Russia’s parliament.

The Economist interprets hostility towards surrogacy as hostility towards commissioning parents who are single men or gay and hostility towards a woman’s right to choose surrogacy as an employment option.

It is true that Russia is not a haven for gay couples. Last year, President Vladimir Putin pushed through a new constitution which included a ban on same-sex marriage. “As far as ‘parent number one’ and ‘parent number two’ go…as long as I’m president this will not happen. There will be dad and mum,” he said.

Read more here.

March 28, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Texas's 7 Bills Support Anti-Abortion

From KWTX:

Last week, a Texas Senate committee heard, voted on and passed out of committee seven bills that would limit access to abortion across the state.

Anti-abortion and abortion rights advocates alike have said that the upper chamber is moving quickly — more quickly than it has in previous legislative sessions.

One of the most notable bills is Senate Bill 8 by state Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, which would ban an abortion after a fetal heartbeat had been detected. Another bill fast-tracked by the Senate is Senate Bill 9, which would ban most abortions in Texas if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that found that state laws banning abortions were unconstitutional. Senate Bill 802 would require that women were offered certain pre-abortion resources and create a government database to keep track of that information. Other bills would ban later-term abortions in certain cases and prohibit cities from spending money on various support services related to abortions.

Read more here.

March 28, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Illinois City Workers Now Have Paid Paternity Leave

From FOX Illinois:

After the passage of an ordinance on Tuesday, Springfield city workers will get four weeks of paid maternity and paternity leave.

Ward 8 Alderman Erin Conley pleaded with the council to pass this, saying it will show future mothers and fathers that the city cares about them and their families.

Before this ordinance, city workers had to use their sick, vacation, and personal days for parental leave.

Read more here.

March 27, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Paid Bereavement Leave in NZ

From CNN:

New Zealand will become one of the world's only countries to offer paid bereavement leave for workers who suffer a miscarriage, after lawmakers unanimously approved the motion on Wednesday.

Employees in the country will be entitled to three days' leave after a miscarriage under the law, which is set to gain royal assent after passing its final stage in parliament.
Ginny Andersen, the Labour MP who introduced the bill, said it would make New Zealand only the second country to provide such a benefit to her knowledge. India allows women six weeks of leave after a miscarriage.
"I can only hope that while we may be one of the first, we will not be one of the last, and that other countries will also begin to legislate for a compassionate and fair leave system that recognizes the pain and the grief that comes from miscarriage and stillbirth," she said in parliament during the final reading of the bill.
Read more here.

March 27, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 26, 2021

Japan: Same-Sex Marriage Ban is Now Unconstitutional

From Washington Post:

This is the first ruling on same-sex marriage in Japan — and it is groundbreaking.

In 2019, the first lawsuits in Japan were filed in five district courts directly challenging the constitutional violation of not recognizing same-sex marriages. On Wednesday, the Sapporo District Court ruled that the current law, which does not recognize same-sex marriage, is unconstitutional because it violates the principle of equality stipulated in Article 14 of the Japanese constitution.

The ruling highlights the following: The standard of review is strict, the decision was made by indicating to the purposes and essence of marriage, and the Sapporo ruling affirmed that the majority’s understanding or acceptance was not a requirement.

Read more here.



March 26, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Utah: New Legal Battles Over Israel Marriage Rights


In 2020, the Utah County Clerk's Office began offering online marriage license services that later became crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two Utah rabbis joined an administrative petition this week filed against the Israeli Interior Minister and the country's population authority in an effort to lift an order that does not recognize civil marriages for Israeli couples completed through a Utah online system.

In Israel, marriage rights have been a hotly contested debate for years. The country doesn't permit civil marriages and will not allow religious marriages unless certain criteria are met. 

Read more here.

March 25, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

New Zealand: Legislation Bill Proposing the Principle of Child Participation in Family Proceedings


Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa has told Parliament’s Justice select committee it supports the principle of enabling children’s views to be heard in family proceedings, but the lack of an evidence-based model for how that will work in practice means the current legislative reform carries significant risks - including that it will not achieve the fundamental objective of enhancing children’s safe participation and wellbeing.

The New Zealand Law Society’s Family Law Section presented its submission today to the select committee on the Family Court (Supporting Children in Court) Legislation Bill, endorsing the Bill’s objective of enhancing children’s participation in decisions affecting their care and wellbeing.

Without a completion of research, the Law Society believed that the Bill is premature. If Bill is to proceed, however, the Law Society has recommended amendments to ensure greater clarity and consistency with other family law legislation.

Read more here.

March 24, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Australia: Federal Family Court System Remains Control of Family Law Issues

From ABC News:

The federal government has formally rejected a proposal to hand control of the family law system to the states and territories, arguing it would take decades to implement and would expose families to duplication.

The Australia Law Reform Commission's recommendation suggests family courts should be established in all of the states and territories, with the federal family court system eventually abolished.

Senator Stoker said the government had agreed with calls to work with the states and territories to develop a national framework to share information between the family law, family violence and child protection systems.

Read more here.


March 23, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 22, 2021

China: 30-day Cooling Off Period for Uncontested Marriage

From CGTN:

After China adopted its very first Civil Code on January 1 this year, the country added a mandatory 30-day "cooling-off period" for uncontested divorces.

According to officials, the move came as part of efforts to reduce impulsive divorces.

A lot could happen in the 30 days – at the extreme end, this could mean more violence, or it could mean one party chooses to withdraw the divorce decision, regardless of the other one's strong desire to separate.

Read more here.

March 22, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Congress Moves to Reauthorize Violence Against Women Act

From CNN:

The House of Representatives on Monday introduced legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, a landmark bill championed by President Joe Biden that expired in 2018.

The new bill builds upon the previous versions of the VAWA by providing grants and support to various groups that work on issues relating to sexual assault, domestic violence and prevention, among other things.
It also aims to improve access to housing for victims and survivors and eliminates impunity for non-Native perpetrators of sexual assault, child abuse, domestic violence, stalking, sex trafficking, and assaults on tribal law enforcement officers on tribal land, according to a statement from Nadler's office.
Read more here.

March 21, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Vatican Says Catholic Church Cannot Bless Same-Sex Marriages

From NPR:

The Roman Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex marriages, no matter how stable or positive the couples' relationships are, the Vatican said on Monday. The message, approved by Pope Francis, came in response to questions about whether the church should reflect the increasing social and legal acceptance of same-sex unions.

Because of the Vatican's stance on marriage, critics have accused the church of treating LGBTQ people as lesser members of its congregation. In an apparent response to those concerns, the Vatican said on Monday that its declaration is not meant to be "unjust discrimination."

It called on Catholics "to welcome with respect and sensitivity persons with homosexual inclinations."

The Vatican also said that its refusal to give religious approval to same-sex marriage does not preclude giving blessings to homosexual people. But it added that the church "does not have, and cannot have," the power to bless same-sex relationships.

Read more here.

March 20, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 19, 2021

Abortion Is Now Legal in Argentina, But Opponents Are Making It Hard to Get

From The New York Times:

For the first time in more than a century, women in Argentina can legally get an abortion, but that landmark shift in law may do them little good at hospitals like the one in northern Jujuy Province where all but one obstetrician have a simple response: No.

Argentina’s abortion law represented a big shift for reproductive rights in Latin America, which has among the strictest such laws in the world, galvanizing movements to expand access to safe abortion in Colombia, Mexico and Chile.

The law, which went into effect on Jan. 24, allows pregnancies to be terminated in the first 14 weeks. Before then, abortion, which was outlawed when Argentina adopted its first criminal code in 1886, was legal only in cases of rape or if the pregnancy posed a threat to the mother’s health.

The law faces widespread opposition among doctors in rural areas, particularly in northern provinces where Catholic and evangelical churches have considerable influence.

Read more here.

March 19, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Women Gained More Legal Rights in 2020 Despite Pandemic Setbacks: World Bank

From Global Citizen:

A total of 27 countries reformed laws or regulations to give women more economic equality with men in 2019-20, said the report, which grades 190 nations on laws and regulations that affect women's economic opportunities.

While countries in all of the world's regions made improvements in the new index — with most reforms addressing pay and parenthood — women on average still have only about three-quarters of the rights granted to men, the report found.

Notably, nearly 40 countries brought in extra benefit or leave policies to help employees balance their jobs with the extra childcare needs created by coronavirus restrictions.

The report also noted separate data from a United Nations tool tracking gender-sensitive pandemic responses, which found 70% of such measures addressed violence with just 10% targeting women's economic security.

Read more here.

March 18, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Poland to Ban Gays From Adopting, Even As Single Parents

From Reuters:

People living in same-sex couples will be barred from adopting children in Poland even as single parents, under a new law announced on Thursday by a nationalist ruling party which has made anti-gay policies a major part of its governing platform.

The announcement is likely to intensify a clash between Poland and the European Union over LGBT rights, which the EU says must be respected in all member states, but which Poland calls a threat to its Roman Catholic culture and a purely domestic issue.

Poland already allows only opposite sex couples or single people to adopt children. The change announced on Thursday would require the authorities to vet single people seeking to adopt, and bar them if they are cohabitating with someone of the same sex.

Read more here.

March 17, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Domestic Violence and the Focus on Coercive Control

From The National Law Review:

Professionals who work with domestic violence (DV) issues have known for years that abuse encompasses much more than physical violence, and they have been trying to educate survivors, police, attorneys, judges/referees, batterer intervention groups, legislators and anyone who will listen.

Controlling behaviors such as belittling, berating, withholding of funds, etc. break down a person's self-esteem over time and are often the precursors to the physical acts that lead to hospitalizations or even death. In addition to education of this concept, many advocates are pushing to formally include coercive control as a component of DV statutes.

Read more here.

March 16, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 15, 2021

Ryznar & Stępień-Sporek: "The Legal Framework of Cohabitation, Handbook on Family Policy"

Margaret Ryznar & Anna Stępień-Sporek have posted to SSRN their book chapter The Legal Framework of Cohabitation, Handbook on Family Policy (Oxford University Press) (forthcoming).  Here is the abstract:

Legal responses towards cohabitation are different even in countries belonging to similar legal traditions, showing the dynamic nature of family law. Indeed, cohabitation has encountered a wide range of social, legislative, and judicial reactions. This chapter examines the legal framework of cohabitation in the U.S. and Poland as representative approaches. Both countries, like many around the world, do not extend legal protections to cohabitants by default; such an approach stems from the traditional preference for marital relationships. This chapter also considers the few countries that do provide some legal protection to cohabitants in various ways—for example, New Zealand and Australia recognize cohabitations as de facto partnerships and provide them potential judicial remedies at the end of a cohabitation. With the rate of cohabitation continuing to rise, it is important to consider these various legal approaches to cohabitation, particularly that governing the end of a cohabitation.

March 15, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)