Family Law Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Puerto Rico Amends Laws After U.S. Ruling on Gay Marriage

From ABC News:

Thousands of people in Puerto Rico celebrated Friday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling to allow gay marriage as authorities rushed to approve legislation extending marriage rights in the socially conservative U.S. territory.

Just hours after the court's decision, Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla signed an executive order requiring government agencies to become compliant with the ruling within 15 days. As a result, the island's Health Department and other agencies are expected to begin issuing marriage licenses by early next month.

Justice Secretary Cesar Miranda said that while it was not immediately clear whether the ruling also meant that gay couples in Puerto Rico could now adopt, he said he would accept and support the change.

Miranda praised the Supreme Court ruling as "a huge step in the quest for equal rights. You cannot deny people the right to love."

Read more here.

July 1, 2015 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Supreme Court Rules that Constitution Guarantees Right to Same-Sex Marriage

From The New York Times:

In a long-sought victory for the gay rights movement, the Supreme Courtruled by a 5-to-4 vote on Friday that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in the historic decision, said gay and lesbian couples had a fundamental right to marry.

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family,” he wrote. “In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”

The decision, which was the culmination of decades of litigation and activism, set off celebrations across the country and the first same-sex marriages in several states. It came against the backdrop of fast-moving changes in public opinion, with polls indicating that most Americans now approve of the unions.

Read more here.

June 27, 2015 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 17, 2012

"Divorce Court" Judge Speaks on Marriage

An editorial by TV "Divorce Court" judge on HuffPost:

As the judge on "Divorce Court," I am familiar with, if not inundated by, the thematic mistakes made in marriages. Yes, I know the show is a bit extreme, voyeuristic, and, well, often a little silly, but when my husband and I were staring into the marital abyss, I learned a valuable lesson from "Divorce Court" that helped me out at home.

I learned this particular lesson from couples who couldn't figure out how they had gotten to "Divorce Court" in the first place. They had marriages that went awry in such small increments they didn't know what had happened. But before me they were forced to compress years' worth of trouble into a short presentation. Each telling me a different story the other was usually surprised to hear, they often found that they were coming apart not because one or both were wrong, but because of unexamined needs. Seeing that scenario play out before me over and over again helped me figure out what was going wrong in my own home.

Read more here.


September 17, 2012 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Marital Trio in Brazil

From CNN:

(CNN) -- Brazilian public notary Claudia do Nascimento Domingues set off a firestorm by granting Brazil's first civil union to a trio, an act so unprecedented that there isn't a word for it in Portuguese.

Uniao poliafetiva is the label she created. "Polyfidelitous union" is her best guess in English.

The relationship involves three professionals in their 30s -- one man and two women -- who, she says, live together, love one another as equals and are like any other non-married cohabiting couple -- except they are three.

What Domingues did was legally register the trio as a "stable union," a civil union that extends all of the benefits of marriage, though there is debate about what rights the threesome will actually enjoy. In short, it recognizes the trio as a family entity for public legal purposes.

Read more here.


September 10, 2012 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sleeping Beauties

From Orange News:

An art installation in Kiev features five real-life sleeping beauties - who have to marry a man who kisses them if they open their eyes.

The women are to lie 'sleeping' for three days as part of artist Taras Polataiko's installation in the National Art Museum of Ukraine.

As they sleep, men survey and kiss the women, trying to wake them, reports the Daily Telegraph.

Read more here.


Hat Tip: FS

August 29, 2012 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ryznar & Stępień-Sporek: "The Harmonization of Matrimonial Property Regimes"

Margaret Ryznar (Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law) and Anna Stępień-Sporek (University of Gdańsk School of Law) have posted The Harmonization of Matrimonial Property Regimes on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Although family law often differs by jurisdiction, harmonization efforts would make such state laws uniform. In the United States, the major obstacle to the harmonization of family law is the federal system. In the European Union, on the other hand, efforts to harmonize the family laws of member states are increasingly successful. This significant experiment in harmonization offers lessons into the roles of jurisdictional autonomy, cultural relativism, and legal absolutes in society, all of growing importance in an increasingly mobile society and in light of the European Union Commission’s pending proposal for harmonization of matrimonial property regimes.



June 17, 2012 in Divorce (grounds), Marriage (impediments), Property Division, Scholarship, Family Law | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

North Carolina Voters Approve Gay Marriage Ban

North Carolina voters approved a constitutional amendment Tuesday night banning gay marriage, but the measure also goes one step further by not allowing civil unions.

The state becomes the last in the South to approve an anti-gay marriage amendment and joins 30 others with similar measures. Incomplete returns Tuesday night showed the amendment passing by 60 percent of the vote.

The amendment, also known as Amendment One, would make marriage the only legal domestic union valid in the state. Opponents said the measure was unnecessary because a state statute has banned gay marriage in North Carolina since 1996. They also argued that domestic partners – both straight and gay – and their children could lose health benefits under the amendment, but advocates for the new measure claim that will not happen.

Read more here.


May 9, 2012 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Too Poor to Marry?

The New York Times recently ran an article suggesting that marriage is largely for the rich, here.  Read the response of the National Review online here.


February 22, 2012 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Loving v. Virginia--in a Valentine's Day HBO Movie

HBO is showing a wonderful movie documenting the Lovings' struggle leading up to the famous Supreme Court case regarding interracial marriage--on Valentine's Day:




Hat Tip: RL

February 13, 2012 in Film, Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Modern Common Law Marriage

From the Huffington Post:

When live-in lovers decide to call it quits, the parties' relationship is not always severed by a simple division of their furniture. If romantic partners have been cohabitating for a lengthy period of time and have commingled their assets and debts, their break-up in any jurisdiction may quickly give rise to disputes about the division of home equity, bank accounts and/or the payment of credit cards and other debts. However, when cohabitating parties end their relationship in a state which recognizes common law marriage, broken hearts are sometimes followed by a legal dispute which goes to the very heart of the matter. In divorce court, the parties' case begins with their conflicting responses to the critical question, "Are you married?"

Common law marriage is fully recognized in nine states and the District of Columbia. In seven additional states, common law marriage is only recognized for limited purposes or if the marriage arose prior to a certain date.

Read more here.


January 14, 2012 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

RI Legislature Passes Civil Unions Bill

From CNN:

Less than a week after New York became the nation's sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage, Rhode Island state lawmakers on Wednesday voted in favor of a bill that permits civil unions between gay and lesbian couples.

The measure, which passed the state Senate by a count of 21-16, is widely seen as a compromise intended to provide same-same couples with added rights and benefits, while also preventing an expanded legal definition of marriage.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an independent, is expected to sign the bill into law, according to his spokesman, Michael Trainor.

If signed, the law would take effect on July 1, making Rhode Island the fifth state in the union to allow civil unions between same-sex couples.

Such unions are currently permitted in New Jersey and Illinois, and will be allowed in Delaware and Hawaii beginning January 1, 2012.

Three West Coast states -- California, Oregon and Washington -- plus Nevada, also allow for "comprehensive domestic partnerships," largely considered an equivalent to their civil union counterparts.

Read the full article here.


June 29, 2011 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 27, 2011

New York Prepares for Same-Sex Marriage Onslaught

From the New York Times:

From City Hall in Manhattan to rural hamlets upstate, New York officials began to prepare on Saturday for a surge in gay couples expected to flood clerks’ offices next month seeking to marry.

The state’s same-sex marriage law, which was signed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo just before midnight on Friday, will go into effect in 30 days, meaning that gay couples can marry here beginning on July 24.

Gay couples from out of state will also be allowed to apply for wedding licenses and hold nuptials in New York.

Roughly 45,000 gay couples live in New York State, according to census estimates. No exact projection is available for how many will marry here, but officials are readying for thousands, especially in the first week.

“We are training our staff to be prepared for a very large number of people on the first day,” said Michael McSweeney, the New York City clerk, who oversees the marriage bureau. “We are going to be part of history.”

The city has struck an agreement to increase the number of state judges available to perform same-sex marriages. Their workload could swell; John Feinblatt, a top adviser to the mayor, said judges could be bombarded by requests to circumvent the 24-hour waiting period.

Read the full article here.


June 27, 2011 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Celebrity and Minor Marriage

From the NY Daily News:

Age ain't nothing but a number - just ask 51-year-old actor Doug Hutchison.

Hutchison, whose film and TV credits include "The Green Mile," "Lost" and "24," said "I do" to 16-year-old aspiring country star Courtney Alexis Stodden on May 20 in Las Vegas.

While the couple's 35-year age difference has already raised many eyebrows, the newlyweds insist they are truly in love.

According to the Clark County, Nevada Marriage Bureau, applicants wanting to obtain a marriage license must be at least 18 years of age. Since Stodden, a former beauty pageant queen, is considered a minor, the only way her marriage could be considered legal is if one of her parents gave consent.

And by the sound of it, Stodden had both her father and mother's blessing.

"Every father can only pray to have such a man behind their daughter," dad Alex Stodden told

"Courtney is one of the most level headed girls out there and I'm not just saying that because she's my daughter. Doug is the nicest man I've ever met in my life," he said.

"We are totally supportive of this marriage," the blond beauty's mom, Krista Stodden, also told Radar. "Doug is a wonderful man and we love him."

Read more here.


June 21, 2011 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 4, 2011

"When Lady Gaga Knows Your Name"

I just love this New York Times story about what happens when Lady Gaga asks fans to pressure legislators on same-sex marriage.


April 4, 2011 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 11, 2011


The concept of work-spouses has seem to become established--is it a form of cheating?

From CNN:

Forty-five-year-old Patty Lewis and 37-year-old Tom Brister know a thing or two about this. The technology consultants each have their own legally married spouses, but have considered themselves "spouses" at work for nearly four years.

"From a psychological and emotional perspective, he is the person I can tell anything to, and share any perspective with, no matter how mean-spirited or politically incorrect," said Lewis.

"Patty hears many of the same things reserved for my spouse, including who is annoying me at work, my true assessment of some of the projects at work and my current satisfaction level with my job," said Brister.

The pair met four years ago at their company in Northbrook, Illinois, and say they know each other so well that they can finish each other's sentences in the context of work -- and know details about each other like how they like their coffee and what they like to eat when ordering at a restaurant.

The work spouse team said their friendship has helped them with their careers and is "not just a water-cooler relationship" used to pass the time at work.

Read more here.


March 11, 2011 in Current Affairs, Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Maryland Same Sex Marriage Debate

From the Baltimore Sun:

The state senate has just one bill on its agenda Wednesday: The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Act.

"We've cleared the desk," Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller told senators Tuesday morning. "We have nothing else to do tomorrow aside from that bill."

Debate on the contentious measure to allow same-sex couples to marry is expected to run into Wednesday evening and carry over to the following day. Miller has told senators to clear their weekend schedules in case an expected filibuster extends into Saturday.

The bill, which would repeal Maryland's definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, is widely expected to clear the senate — but there are no guarantees. Twenty-four senators have declared their support for the measure, the minimum needed for final passage.

Advocates in the House of Delegates say they are close to having the votes for final passage in that chamber, and Gov. Martin O'Malley has said he will sign the bill if it passes.

Opponents had seven amendments prepared as of Tuesday morning, and were considering others.

Discussion about them could take hours, but might not be as lengthy as many have predicted. Typically, opponents gearing up for a major floor fight will prepare hundreds of amendments.

Read more here.


February 23, 2011 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Best Marriages

The New York Times ran an interesting piece on marriage recently:

The notion that the best marriages are those that bring satisfaction to the individual may seem counterintuitive. After all, isn’t marriage supposed to be about putting the relationship first?

Not anymore. For centuries, marriage was viewed as an economic and social institution, and the emotional and intellectual needs of the spouses were secondary to the survival of the marriage itself. But in modern relationships, people are looking for a partnership, and they want partners who make their lives more interesting.

Read more here.


January 12, 2011 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Civil Unions Over Marriage?

From the NY Times:

Some are divorced and disenchanted with marriage; others are young couples ideologically opposed to marriage, but eager to lighten their tax burdens. Many are lovers not quite ready for old-fashioned matrimony.

Whatever their reasons, and they vary widely, French couples are increasingly shunning traditional marriages and opting instead for civil unions, to the point that there are now two civil unions for every three marriages.

When France created its system of civil unions in 1999, it was heralded as a revolution in gay rights, a relationship almost like marriage, but not quite. No one, though, anticipated how many couples would make use of the new law. Nor was it predicted that by 2009, the overwhelming majority of civil unions would be between straight couples.

It remains unclear whether the idea of a civil union, called a pacte civil de solidarité, or PACS, has responded to a shift in social attitudes or caused one. But it has proved remarkably well suited to France and its particularities about marriage, divorce, religion and taxes — and it can be dissolved with just a registered letter.

“We’re the generation of divorced parents,” explained Maud Hugot, 32, an aide at the Health Ministry who signed a PACS with her girlfriend, Nathalie Mondot, 33, this year. Expressing a view that researchers say is becoming commonplace among same-sex couples and heterosexuals alike, she added, “The notion of eternal marriage has grown obsolete.”

France recognizes only “citizens,” and the country’s legal principles hold that special rights should not be accorded to particular groups or ethnicities. So civil unions, which confer most of the tax benefits and legal protections of marriage, were made available to everyone. (Marriage, on the other hand, remains restricted to heterosexuals.) But the attractiveness of civil unions to heterosexual couples was evident from the start. In 2000, just one year after the passage of the law, more than 75 percent of civil unions were signed between heterosexual couples. That trend has only strengthened since then: of the 173,045 civil unions signed in 2009, 95 percent were between heterosexual couples.

“It’s becoming more and more commonplace,” said Laura Anicet, 24, a student who signed a PACS last month with her 29-year-old boyfriend, Cyril Reich. “For me, before, the PACS was for homosexual couples.”

As with traditional marriages, civil unions allow couples to file joint tax returns, exempt spouses from inheritance taxes, permit partners to share insurance policies, ease access to residency permits for foreigners and make partners responsible for each other’s debts. Concluding a civil union requires little more than a single appearance before a judicial official, and ending one is even easier.

It long ago became common here to speak of “getting PACSed” (se pacser, in French). More recently, wedding fairs have been renamed to include the PACS, department stores now offer PACS gift registries and travel agencies offer PACS honeymoon packages.

Read the full article here.


January 9, 2011 in Current Affairs, Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Illinois Becomes 11th State to Adopt Civil Unions

Illinois legislation passed yesterday will make civil unions possible effective June 1, 2011:

Illinois next year will become the 11th state to sanction same-sex couples, after the Legislature's passage Wednesday of a "civil union" bill that supporters say is a landmark human rights advancement and opponents say is an attack on traditional marriage.

The law will take effect June 1, after it's signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn, a vocal supporter.

Its passage, after years of debate, spawned political and religious showdowns around Illinois Wednesday — including a rare public tiff between the governor's office and the Catholic Church.

The bill specifies that it doesn't create a new class of marriage. But it will allow unrelated adults, regardless of gender, to share "the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits as are afforded or recognized by the law of Illinois to spouses."

Among the practical applications will be the same health insurance rights for partners as those now extended to spouses; the right to make medical decisions for an incapacitated partner; and estate and property rights after the death of a partner or dissolution of a relationship.

The bill passed the Senate 32-24-1 after passing the House by a one-vote margin a day before.

Read more here.


December 2, 2010 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Marriage Rates

From the Wall Street Journal:

Marriage rates among young adults have been dropping for decades. But data released Tuesday by the Census Bureau show that for the first time the proportion of people between the ages of 25 and 34 who have never been married exceeded those who were married in 2009—46.3% versus 44.9%, according to an analysis by Mark Mather, a demographer at the Population Reference Bureau, a non-profit research organization in Washington.

According to the article, “High divorce rates, rising co-habitation and a tendency to delay marriage are main factors,” read it here




October 4, 2010 in Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)