Family Law Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Grandparent Rights to Child Custody in PA

From JD Supra:

When Act 21 passed into law in Pennsylvania in 2018, it changed how and when grandparents can seek custody of their grandchildren.
PA Act 21 expanded grandparent custody and third party custody categories and added to those able to request custody of a child through its courts.

As shown by recent statistics, the opioid epidemic has hit Pennsylvania hard, creating new trends in family structure. Prior to July 3, 2018, if a child’s parents became suddenly unavailable due to death or otherwise, only a grandparent, or a person already historically assuming a parenting role, could file for custody. Now, under Pennsylvania’s new law, other relatives or willing third parties may file for child custody so long as they have a sustained, substantial and sincere interest.

Aside from the right to file for primary physical custody, Pennsylvania law also permits qualifying grandparents the right to request partial physical custody (aka visitation).

Read more here

November 9, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 8, 2021

Abu Dhabi To Allow Non-Muslim Civil Marriage Under Family Law Shakeup

From Reuters:

Non-Muslims will be allowed to marry, divorce and get joint child custody under civil law in Abu Dhabi according to a new decree issued on Sunday by its ruler, state news agency WAM said.

It is the latest step in the United Arab Emirates -- where personal status laws on marriage and divorce had been based on Islamic sharia principles, as in other Gulf states -- to maintain its competitive edge as a regional commercial hub.

A new court to handle non-Muslim family matters will be set up in Abu Dhabi and will operate in both English and Arabic.

Read more here. 

November 8, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Vaccine Custody Disputes In Light Of Approval Of Vaccine For Children

From Forbes:

The FDA recently approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children which the distribution is calling. Whether to mandate such vaccine for children is unclear. Some local or state schools started to mandate the action.

On September 9, the Los Angeles board of education voted to mandate COVID vaccine for in-person student ages 12 and up. This move has received criticism. Similarly, a bill in New York, if passed, requires all New York students to be vaccinated in order to attend school.  The concern of religious exemptions expands on the situation of child vaccination. 

Courts are starting to weigh in on the issue regarding parents' differences on whether or not to vaccinate their children. Delta variant along with uneliminated COVID virus vs a religious or cultural belief as well as a parent's primary duty to protect children has emerged as a complex matter for the courts to decide.

Read more here.

November 7, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Singapore: Option To Divorce By Mutual Agreement

From CNA:

In Singapore, the option for couples to mutually agree to divorce was introduced as a proposed amendment to the Women's Charter on November 1. If successful, a mutual agreement between the couple can dissolve the marriage.

Irretrievable breakdown is a prerequisite for dissolution of marriage to be granted currently. Five facts to be considered are adultery, unreasonable behavior, desertion, separation of three years with consent, or separation of four years without consent. Having introduced the divorce by mutual agreement indicates the existence of a sixth fact to show irretrievable breakdown. 

Parties who file for divorce citing mutual agreement will have to submit to the court reasons for the breakdown of the marriage, efforts made to reconcile, and considerations for their children and financial affairs, said MSF in the release. The court may then order further mediation, counseling, or programs.

Read more here.

November 6, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 5, 2021

Mississippi: Low-income Parents May Keep Child Support Payments

From Mississippi Today:

New Mississippi policy allows low-income single parents to keep child support payments with qualification. In Mississippi, most single parents who qualify for most public assistance programs are women. They must sue their children's non-custodial parent for child support payments. However, if they have received cash assistance through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, that means fathers are simply paying to the state without mothers directly receiving those child support money.

But in November, Mississippi will start allowing a child support “pass-through” of $100, according to a report by the Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review released Wednesday. It’s a policy the agency was able to enact itself without legislative approval.

The new pass-through means a separated parent who has been on welfare will receive the first $100 in child support that comes in each month before the state takes the rest. Additionally, the state will not count the $100 as income, so it shouldn’t affect the parent’s eligibility for public assistance.

Read more here.

November 5, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Ohio May Follow Texas' Abortion Ban

From Forbes:

Republican lawmakers in Ohio introduced legislation Tuesday that mimics Texas’ controversial abortion law—but goes a step further by banning all abortions. The Ohio legislation, similar to Texas’ Senate Bill 8 (SB 8), would be enforced by private citizens suing anyone who facilitates any abortion, who can receive at least $10,000 in damages if they’re successful.

Lawmakers in states including Mississippi, North Dakota, and Indiana have expressed interest in copying SB 8. If SB 8 holds up in court, it may not be just abortion bills that other state lawmakers try to pass. Opponents of the abortion bills have warned SB 8’s lawsuit provision deputizing private citizens to enforce the law could extend to other issues, such as gun control or same-sex marriage.

The Associated Press notes the Ohio bill already has the support of more than half of the Republican caucus in the Ohio House, giving it potentially enough momentum to pass, though it’s unclear whether it could also pass the state Senate.

Read more here.

November 4, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Texas: Buckner's Children And Family Services Helps Families Impacted By COVID-19

From Marshall News Messenger:

Texas has seen nearly the highest number of deaths in primary caregivers for children due to COVID-19, according to a recent study, and an official with Buckner International says some of those children have been helped at its Longview facility.

Families dealing with loss are at risk because loss can destabilize families leading to a large impact on children. Single-parent families and foster care or adoptive families need community support to help care for children dealing with trauma.

Buckner offers several programs in East Texas that help children and families in crisis. Kinship foster care and placement focuses on trying to keep children with biological family with the hope of possible future reunification. Family Hope Centers offer services and training to help strengthen families with a goal to keep them together. The Family Pathways program helps single parents with a goal to help them overcome barriers to better care for their children.

Read more here.

November 3, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Religious Divorce Oversea Is valid? Reflection On A Tax Decision

From Forbes:

A tax decision from the United States Tax Court addressed a tax matter in which marital status is an important factor. In the Estate of Semone Grossman, Semone Grossman, a successful businessman in New York whose gross taxable estate was around $87 million left the bulk of it to his third wife Ziona and for each of his six children from the three marriages. He left two hundred thousand to his first wife Hilda.

IRS disputed over the marital deduction making for a deficiency by arguing that Semone was not actually married to Ziona. Semone married Hilda and obtained a divorce in Mexico. He then married Katia in a civil ceremony in New Jersey. Hilda filed an action in New York and obtained a ruling that Mexican divorce was invalid and she was the lawful wife.  Semone, as a New York resident, regularly traveled to and married Ziona in Israel. In order to be legally married in Israel, they need a religious divorce - a get. Hilda cooperated in the process and marriage in Israel was successful. The tax court recognized the marriage in Israel and Hilda's cooperative divorce was valid.

Family law attorney sees the problem with this ruling. A family law attorney mentioned that Semone and Hilda's religious divorce had no civil significance in New York. The get process is so one-sided in favor of men. This tax decision, according to her, misapprehended multiple issues of New York State's law and constitutional mandate that there be a separation between church and state.

Read more here.

November 2, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 1, 2021

Alimony Is Written To Be Gender Neutral

From New York Times:

The Supreme Court ruled that alimony is gender neutral in 1979. But, to some, women having to pay spousal support to men sounds oddly.

Unequal earnings is one of the main reasons. In our society, according to a sociology professor at Harvard, is influenced by the notion that men to be the primary breadwinners and women to be the primary childcare providers for child rearing. Another reason why men receiving spousal support from women comes as a surprise is because it does not happen that often in reality. According to a 2019 study of census data by the Urban Institute, a nonprofit research group, half of United States households are headed by women, on average. However, a New York attorney said that despite an increase in stay-at-home husbands, far more women than men seek and receive spousal support.

Judges often scrutinize men more harshly during their bid for support, reflecting the bias that assumes men are, or should be, breadwinners, said a Chicago-based lawyer. “Judges may also ask for a job diary, to prove that the husband is trying to earn what he did formerly, or even a living wage,” he said.

Recent changes in family law have further disrupted the balance of alimony payments. After President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 went into effect, alimony ceased being tax deductible for the paying spouse. Instead, the recipient now receives support as tax-free income.

Read more here.

November 1, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 31, 2021

A Gay Music Teacher Got Married. The Brooklyn Diocese Fired Him.

From The New York Times:

Matthew LaBanca is bringing attention to a legal loophole that allows religious institutions to exclude people in same-sex civil marriages from jobs by deeming them ministers.

October 31, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 30, 2021

With Proposed Reauthorization of Federal Child Abuse Legislation, Researchers Make the Case to Better Help Substance-exposed Infants

From University of Connecticut Today:

The proposed reauthorization of the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, also known as CAPTA – the foundational child abuse prevention legislation in the United States – has the potential to drastically and positively impact infants exposed to drugs and alcohol in utero.

But according to researchers at the University of Connecticut, the University of Southern California, and the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, policymakers and administrators will need to focus on CAPTA’s implementation to correct the shortcomings of the past and to achieve a public health approach to addressing the needs of substance-exposed infants.

The last revisions of CAPTA provisions concerning substance-exposed infants happened in 2010 and 2016, but were underfunded and slowed state-level adoption. 

[W]hile placing children in foster care should be avoided whenever possible, the number of infants and young children removed from their families for parental substance use has increased over the past decade, suggesting that additional changes are needed to CAPTA to help support families.

Read more here

October 30, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 29, 2021

Americans May Finally Get Paid Family Leave. Here's What to Know

From CNN:

The United States currently has no federal paid family or sick leave benefit, making it an outlier among developed countries.
It is the only nation that does not offer some paid leave to new mothers among the 38 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Policies vary among the countries in that group, but the average is 18 weeks of paid maternity leave. 
A proposal put forth by House Democrats would allow workers whose employers don't already offer paid family or medical leave to apply directly to the Treasury Department for the benefit when they need it.
Those eligible would include parents welcoming new children through birth, adoption or foster care and workers recovering from serious illnesses or caring for seriously ill family members. They would receive partial pay, the percentage of which is based on a sliding scale, so that the lowest-income workers would receive 85% of their regular pay and the highest-earning would receive 5% -- leaving out those earning more than $250,000 a year.
The federal government would pay for the benefits and would partially reimburse employers who already offer paid family and sick leave.
Read more here. 

October 29, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Indiana Asks For Court of Appeals Review in Lawsuit Seeking Change in Foster Care System

From Indy Star:

The state of Indiana is asking the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to weigh in on a district court’s decision to deny its motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the practices of the state’s foster care system.

The class-action lawsuit was filed in 2019 filed and alleges the state failed to address documented issues within the Indiana Department of Child Services that placed children in “serious and unconstitutional danger.” Furthermore, the lawsuit alleges the state’s flawed child welfare system “inflicts further trauma upon an already vulnerable population” and does not adequately meet the needs of the children it serves.

As relief, the lawsuit demands the agency make sweeping changes to its policies and practices. In doing so, attorneys for the plaintiffs asked the federal court to assert jurisdiction — which is the crux of the state's argument as it seeks appeal. 

Read more here

October 28, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

The Aftermath of Gray Divorce For Men, Women, and Their Adult Children

From Institute for Family Studies:

From certain angles, “gray divorce,” usually defined as divorces involving couples over 50, doesn’t seem like such a big deal. 

But the reality is that gray divorce, whose rates have doubled since 1990 and now represents a quarter of all divorces in the U.S., does have individual and social costs worth pondering, especially in an aging society. Much of what we know about the subject has come through the work of a team of sociologists from the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University over the past decade or so. 

What sets the study apart from earlier work on gray divorce is its long view into the aftermath, particularly its impact on the relationships between older divorcing parents and their adult children. 

So, what happens to relations between parents and adult children after gray divorce? . . . Mothers increase their involvement with their adult children; . . . . For men, it’s the opposite; . . . . 

Read more here

October 27, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Adopting A Baby Is Harder Than Ever

From The Atlantic:

Adopting a baby or toddler is much more difficult than it was a few decades ago. Of the nearly 4 million American children who are born each year, only about 18,000 are voluntarily relinquished for adoption. Though the statistics are unreliable, some estimates suggest that dozens of couples are now waiting to adopt each available baby. Since the mid-1970s—the end of the so-called baby-scoop era, when large numbers of unmarried women placed their children for adoption—the percentage of never-married women who relinquish their infants has declined from nearly 9 percent to less than 1 percent.

In 2010, Bethany Christian Services, the largest Protestant adoption agency in the U.S., placed more than 700 infants in private adoptions. Last year, it placed fewer than 300. International adoptions have not closed the gap. The number of children American parents adopt each year from abroad has declined rapidly too, from 23,000 in 2004 (an all-time high) to about 3,000 in 2019.

At a glance, this shortage of adoptable babies may seem like a problem, and certainly for people who desperately want to adopt a baby, it feels like one. But this trend reflects a number of changing social and geopolitical attitudes that have combined to shrink the number of babies or very young children available for adoption. 

For much of American history, placing a child for adoption was an obligation, not a choice, for poor, single women.

As international adoptions have declined, parallel cultural changes have led to a reduction in American babies who would, in an earlier era, likely have been relinquished. 

To adoption reformers, the practice is now largely seen as a way to provide families for older, special-needs children rather than a way to provide healthy babies to people who want to parent. The result is often a difficult, expensive process for couples who want to adopt a baby or toddler. Adopting a newborn can cost $45,000 or more. 

And in addition to rethinking international adoption, some groups are also reconsidering whether single, poor American women should be encouraged to place their babies for adoption. They seemed to have absorbed the growing concern that people of color are surrendering their children to white adoptive parents, the bad press about families who weren’t equipped to raise their newly adopted children, and the idea that “families belong together” should apply to poor people too. 

Read more here. 

October 26, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 25, 2021

Court Clarifies Unusual Expenses for Support Guidelines Deviation


The Pennsylvania Superior Court helped clarify what warrants a deviation from the child support guidelines in the recent matter of Thompson v. Thompson, 2021.

The support order entered in favor of the father was according to the standard Pennsylvania child support guidelines based on the respective incomes of the parents. The mother appealed this order to the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

On appeal, the mother argued that the trial court erred in not granting her a deviation (downward) from the Pennsylvania child support guidelines. Per 23 Pa.C.S.A. Section 4322(a), deviations from the child support guidelines are permitted for “unusual needs, extraordinary expenses and other factors …” Similarly, Pa.R.C.P. 19101-16-5(b)(1) says “the trier of fact shall consider unusual needs and unusual fixed obligations …” 

The mother argued that “unusual” should refer to the “amount” of her expenses as well as a more obvious definition meaning “weird, bizarre or unheard of …” In other words, her contention was that if a particular expense an obligor has to pay is particularly large as compared to her income, or result in the obligor living paycheck-to-paycheck, then, the mother asserted, this should be considered “unusual.”

[T]he court first noted that there is a rebuttable presumption that the amount of child support derived from the Pennsylvania child support guidelines is correct, and in reviewing the support order at issue in this case, the court “discerned nothing unjust or inappropriate …”

The court rejected the mother’s novel definition of the word unusual. The court believed that the mother’s interpretation would undermine the point of the guidelines, and result in the case-by-case analysis for support that the guidelines were designed and purposed to obviate.

This does not mean, of course, that deviations for unusual needs and expenses would or could never be allowed, but the mother did not present any such need or expenses.

Read more here

October 25, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Quebec: Regulation Of Use Of Surrogate Mother In New Family Laws

From Toronto Sun:

The provincial government intends to recognize and regulate the use of surrogate mothers as part of its overhaul of Quebec’s family laws. Quebec Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette announced on Thursday that Bill 2 will modernize the province’s body of family laws to recognize new social realities. At this moment, criminal code prohibits the use of women to carry a child if payment has been made. By contract, no criminal liability if no payment has been made.

Bill 2 would create a framework for resorting to surrogate mothers by obliging the conclusion of a surrogacy agreement before the onset of pregnancy. It would also require obtaining, after the birth of the child, the consent of the person who gave birth that their parentage never existed. The surrogate mother would have to be at least 21 years old, and still could not be paid, but can be compensated for loss of work income and for several expenses. She would be able to change her mind and terminate the contract at any time without risking a lawsuit.

Bill 2 would also amend the province’s Act Respecting Parental Insurance and Act Respecting Labour Standards to take into account, among other things, surrogacy when it comes to providing leave and benefits. The bill also adds to the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms the right to learn about one’s origins for anyone whose procreation involved the contribution of a third party.

Read more here.

October 24, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 23, 2021

China: Punishing Parents For Child's Misbehavior

From CNN:

Parents in China whose young children exhibit "very bad behavior" or commit crimes could face punishment under proposed new legislation. In the draft of the family education promotion law, guardians will be reprimanded and ordered to go through family education guidance programs if prosecutors find very bad or criminal behavior in children under their care.

The draft family education promotion law, which will be reviewed at the NPC Standing Committee session this week, also urges parents to arrange time for their children to rest, play, and exercise.

In recent months, the Education Ministry has limited gaming hours for minors, allowing them to play online games for one hour on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday only.

Read more here.

October 23, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 22, 2021

Foster Care And Adoption Became Second Nature

From National Review:

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is the Supreme Court case about Mississippi’s abortion law. Foster care and adoption came up frequently. A foster-parent training run by Project 1.27, launched by a pastor and now run by a woman who is both a foster mother and an adoptive mother. Those volunteering as foster parents through Project 1.27 complete 20 hours of training, though only twelve are required by the state. 

Project 1.27 and groups like it that are part of the “More than Enough” movement associated with the Christian Alliance for Orphans, which both motivate and equip families to welcome into their home children who often have experienced severe trauma.  The goal is to get more families to be involved in foster care.

This Dobbs moment could be a rallying cry for children — so that the hearts of this nation might be softened to find solutions for children and families who will love them, in communities who love the children as well. 

Read more here.

October 22, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Issue Over Online Resources For LGBTQ Youth

From The Texas Tribune:

Texas’ child welfare agency removed a webpage that offered resources to LGBTQ youth following complaints by one of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s GOP primary challengers, according to internal agency communications.

On Aug. 31, Republican former state Sen. Don Huffines released a video on Twitter claiming that DFPS is “promoting transgender sexual policies to Texas youth” through a webpage titled “Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation.”

In each of the four legislative sessions this year, legislation targeting transgender youth has been a top priority for Republican lawmakers. During the third special session, legislation prohibiting transgender youth from playing on sports teams that correspond with their gender identity has passed in the Senate and has passed out of committee in the House.

Read more here.


October 21, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)