Family Law Prof Blog

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

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

More Women Paying Alimony

From the Washingtonian:

Her husband was supposed to be looking for a job. He’d promised her over and over: “I’ll work on my résumé, I’ll set up the informational interviews, I’ll reach out to my contacts.” Instead, he sat on her couch and watched made-for-TV Christmas movies.

Michelle* had met John when they were young. They’d reconnected years later—after she and her first husband, with whom she’d had a child, split. Not long after the romance began, John quit his job and moved into her apartment, saying he wanted to help out with childcare. Michelle, an executive, was a little nervous about his being unemployed. Plus, she shared custody with her ex, so she didn’t actually need that kind of help. But she rolled with it, believing that the whole situation was temporary.

She knows how it sounds now. At the time, though, she really had faith in him. They’d been smitten with each other, and John had indeed bonded with her kid. But after they got married, he never found work. He told her he wanted to change professions. “I was like, God, please just get a job,” she says. “Like, anything. Starbucks barista! Work at Harris Teeter!” Instead, he went back to school—out of town. “It was a huge financial burden,” Michelle says, adding that she was paying for her apartment and his place at school. Still, she was cautiously optimistic that he was “working towards something.”

Over winter break, he came back to Washington, ostensibly for some informational interviews. Then Michelle determined that he was actually just binge-watching the Hallmark Channel. “I just felt like the biggest fool,” Michelle says.

“I realized nothing had changed and he was going to be my dependent for the rest of my life and that all of the talk was going to amount to nothing. And it was horrific.”

She told him she wanted a divorce. During the separation, she says, she paid for everything: legal fees, mediation, therapy. She was advised to protect her retirement plan, so she bought John out of the condo they owned. She also did something she’d never expected to do. She agreed to pay him alimony: $1,000 a month for more than a year.

“All I could think to myself was: I divorced my first husband, had his child, and had less than $300 a month in child support from him,” she says. “And I was going to be paying nearly four times as much in alimony to someone with whom I had not had a child and had supported this whole time while I begged him to get a job! I couldn’t believe it.”

The typical narrative around child support and alimony is that, for better or worse, husbands pay it to their ex-wives. But there’s a growing demographic of Washington women who emerge from their marriages as the payers, not the recipients, of this kind of financial restitution. (Some of them have already coined a term for this phenomenon: They joke that they’re paying “galimony.”) And while no one is ever thrilled at the prospect of writing checks to an ex, divorce attorneys around the region report that a rising contingent of these female payers react to the prospect of sending support payments with pure, hot rage.

Read more here.

December 8, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

6-Year-Old in International Custody Battle Returns to Italy From Israel

From The New York Times:

Nearly three months after he was spirited by his grandfather to Israel, setting off an international custody battle, a 6-year-old boy who was the sole survivor of an Italian cable car crash returned to Italy on Friday.

The boy, Eitan Biran, survived a tragic cable car crash in May that killed 14 people including his parents, and his return to Italy caps a months long legal clash in Israel over the boy’s guardianship that will continue in the Italian courts.

[The grandfather] Mr. Peleg argued that Eitan’s parents had always planned to return to Israel, where Eitan was born and had relatives.

However those questions were not at issue in Israeli family court, which considered only whether Mr. Peleg’s taking the boy to Israel violated The Hague Convention’s provisions on the international abduction of minors.

The court ruled in October that it did, and ordered that Eitan be returned to Italy. Mr. Peleg appealed to district court, which upheld the lower court’s decision. Israel’s Supreme Court declined to hear the case last month, clearing the way for Eitan’s flight on Friday.

Read more here. 

December 7, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 6, 2021

Oregon Bar Proposes to Let Paralegals Represent Clients in Some Housing, Family Law Cases

From Oregon Live:

The Oregon State Bar’s board of governors is moving forward on the “paraprofessional licensing program,” which would allow paralegals to handle two main types of cases: landlord-tenant issues and certain family law cases. The plan aims to help deal with the backlog of landlord-tenant cases in courts and to broaden access to legal representation.

The Oregon State Supreme Court will make the final decision on the program, likely early next year. But the state bar is now taking public comment on the potential service.

State judicial records show that . . . 71% [of all parties] are unrepresented in divorce cases . . . .

Read more here. 

December 6, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 5, 2021

The Lawyer Arguing Against Roe

From the Seattle Times:

Soon after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, Attorney General Lynn Fitch took a meeting with her communications team. As Mississippi’s top lawyer, she would be the face of the law that could bring down Roe v. Wade, responsible for crafting and publicizing arguments on behalf of the state. That day in July, they’d gathered to discuss their promotion strategy.

Presented with several slogans designed to capture their approach to the case, the attorney general immediately selected a winner.

“Empower Women. Promote Life.”

The motto got right to the crux of Fitch’s argument, while alluding to a belief that has shaped her 12-year political career: Empower women, and they will help themselves.

In the opening brief she submitted in July, Fitch asked the Supreme Court to use Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to overturn Roe v. Wade. She argued that abortion prevents women from reaching their full potential. When Roe was decided in 1973, she wrote, the justices maintained that an unwanted pregnancy would doom women to “a distressful life and future.” But nearly 50 years later, Fitch claims “sweeping policy advances” now allow women to fully pursue motherhood and a career, stamping out the need for abortion.

To come up with this argument, which underpins the most important abortion case in decades, Fitch said she drew inspiration from her own life. After she and her husband divorced in 2004, she raised three kids as a single mother while ascending to the highest ranks of state government, becoming the state’s first female attorney general and the first Republican attorney general since 1878. The juggling act wasn’t easy, Fitch said — but with hard work and a color-coded calendar, she pulled it off. Now, she said, abortion bans like the one in Mississippi can help other women “have it all.”

Critics immediately descended on Fitch. Abortion activists called her a hypocrite, highlighting her privilege, while a consortium of 154 economists scrutinized her argument in their own amicus brief to the Supreme Court. They pointed out that the United States is one of the only countries without a national paid family leave policy and the average price of child care, adjusted for inflation, has increased by almost 50% in the past three decades.


Fitch has always relied on her community for help, she said, especially after her divorce. When her kids were young, she benefited from a tightknit network of six other moms, who would swoop in for school drop-offs and football practice pickups when she couldn’t leave her desk. Fitch believes those are the kinds of support every mother needs.

“I always tell people as young people you should make as many friends along the way because you reap the greatest rewards when you do that,” Fitch said.

She said she also paid for day care and a nanny.

One of the economists who countered Fitch’s argument in the amicus brief points out that most U.S. mothers don’t have access to that kind of child care. “People from privilege experience a social safety net they imagine everyone else experiences,” said Kelly Jones, a professor of economics at American University who focuses on gender equality and welfare. When high-income people get pregnant unexpectedly, they can turn to family members or other members of their community, she said — or they can fly out of state to get an abortion. But many pregnant people have no one to fall back on and no money to pay for child care.

Read more here.

December 5, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The End of Roe

From Mary Ziegler (Florida State), writing for the Atlantic:

The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, involves a Mississippi law that bans abortion at 15 weeks. Such a ban is clearly unconstitutional under current law—Roe v. Wade and its successor case, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, recognize a right to choose abortion until fetal viability, which is at roughly 24 weeks. To uphold Mississippi’s law, the Supreme Court’s conservative justices have two options: They can ditch the viability line or get rid of Roe altogether.

Today’s oral argument signaled that the Court is poised to reverse Roe outright when it decides Dobbs, probably sometime in June or early July. That would be one of the most significant reversals of Supreme Court precedent in American history. Roe v. Wade has been the law for 50 years. Even Brett Kavanaugh spent much of his confirmation hearing proclaiming his fidelity to precedent. Today, the attorney for Jackson Women's Health Organization, the abortion provider challenging the Mississippi law, leaned hard on the idea that the Court must respect its own precedents—a strategic choice given that the Court’s conservative majority was never going to be sympathetic to the idea of abortion rights.

Read more here.

December 5, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Terminating Parental Rights When a Child Has Special Needs

From Texas Lawyer:

Parenting a child with special needs can be particularly challenging. Nonetheless, is the standard for terminating their parental rights the same as a parent whose child does not have special needs?

Last month, the Court of Appeals of Texas, First District, Houston, decided In the Interest of O.J.P. (NO. 01-21-00163-CV, September 21, 2021). It held that, “Sufficient evidence supported the trial court’s finding that termination of the mother’s parental rights was in the child’s best interest under Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 161.001(b), because the child had special needs due to autism and the mother did not demonstrate an ability to meet the child’s needs.”

Few areas of family law are as bristling with risk and the potential for appeal as a petition to terminate parental rights. When the child involved has special needs, the child may be particularly imperiled if proper parental supervision is missing. Termination of parental rights is a daunting possibility for any parent. There are times when the failure to terminate those parental rights can be equally frightening for a child with special needs.

Read more here. 

November 28, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 27, 2021

UN, Foundation Launch Foster Care for Migrant Kids in Mexico

From AP News:

The U.N. Commission on Refugees and a private foundation announced a sort of foster-care program Friday to place about 120 unaccompanied minor migrants with Mexican families for up to two years.

Foster families of the type known in the United States don’t generally exist in Mexico; adoption laws are extremely strict and children in shelters or orphanages are almost always placed with relatives.

Mexico has seen refugee and asylum applications shoot up this year to over 108,000; about 18,000 are children and around 1,000 were not accompanied by a relative.

Read more here. 

November 27, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 26, 2021

New Study Examines Effects of Divorce on Children as Separation Rates Rise Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

From KMOV4 St. Louis:

A new Washington University study is taking a closer look at the emotional toll divorce has on children, as some studies suggest the divorce rate nationwide grew 34 percent in 2020.

The Child Affect and Resilience to Experiences study marks the fist study to look at changes in the brain and biological system of children experiencing parental divorce, separation or conflict. In doing so, researchers study how the child's brain and biological system interacts with supportive caregiving during the stressful event, such as a divorce. Researchers believe some children who experience parental divorce are more likely to struggle with mental health problems when they get older.

Read more here. 

November 26, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Divorced Parents Are Going to Court Over COVID-19 Vaccines For Their Children

From Today:

For many separated or divorced parents, the COVID-19 vaccine for children isn't a relief, but rather another source of co-parenting contention.

More and more co-parents are going to court over COVID-19 vaccines for children.

"There has been a significant increase" in court cases, lawyer Hillary Moonay, a partner at Oberymayer law firm's family law department, tells TODAY. "Now... disputes are creeping into flu vaccine concerns as well. I believe this is primarily because parents who do not want their child to get the COVID-19 vaccine believe it helps their position if they now claim they do not want their child to get the flu vaccine either."

"Most commonly, judges are not deciding whether a child should receive the vaccine but, instead, awarding one parent sole legal custody to make that decision," Moonay explains. "Judges are primarily relying upon the recommendations of the children’s pediatrician or family doctor to reach a decision. Additionally, judges are considering whether a child has had other childhood vaccines without the objection of either parent."

Dr. Amanda Craig, PhD, LMFT, a marriage and family therapist practicing in New York City . . . adds that arguments surrounding the Covid-19 vaccine are, frequently, not about the vaccine at all, but about deeper issues within the co-parenting relationship.

Read more here. 

November 25, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Philadelphia Reaches $2 Million Settlement With Catholic Foster-care Agency

From the Pittsburg Post-Gazette:

Philadelphia’s four-year legal battle with a Catholic foster care agency over its refusal to work with same-sex parents officially ended quietly this fall with the city agreeing to pay $2 million in legal fees and to renew the agency’s contract.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rejected Philadelphia’s decision to terminate a contract with Catholic Social Services over its refusal to consider same-sex married couples as potential foster parents. That decision sent the dispute back to the appellate court. But ultimately the city decided not to pursue further legal challenges and came to a resolution approved by the U.S. Court of Appeals on Oct. 1 but not previously made public.

Under the agreement, the city paid the law firm that represented Catholic Social Services, Beckett Law, $1.95 million in legal fees. Another $56,000 was paid to Catholic Social Services.

Read more here. 

November 24, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

My Child’s Adoption is Finalized, What Do I Do Next? Five Steps to Take After Your Child’s Adoption is Finalized

From JD Supra:

Though finalization will seem like the end of a very long road, there are aspects that still need to be completed after the finalization to make sure your adoption is complete.

Once your adoption is complete and you obtain a Final Decree of Adoption, you can apply for an amended birth certificate for the child that has your name(s) as parents and the child’s new legal name after the adoption. 

Once you receive your amended birth certificate, you can apply for a social security number for the child at any Social Security Office.

Make sure you know what is expected of your family regarding post-adoption contact with the biological family.

There is a federal adoption tax credit that adoptive parents are eligible for the year after they finalize their adoption. Some states also have their own adoption tax credits or reimbursements.

It is important to check with your employer and human resources department to see if you qualify for any adoption and/or legal service reimbursement.

Read more here. 

November 23, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 22, 2021

In Afghanistan, Climate Change Drives an Uptick in Child Marriage

From Undark Magazine:

Child marriage is not a new phenomenon in South Asia, and despite attempts to legislate against it, the practice remains common across Afghanistan. Reports suggest a spike in such marriages, spurred by the violence that preceded the Taliban takeover, and by the effects of climate change on this agrarian country. Over the past half century, temperatures here have risen nearly twice the amount they have globally, speeding up evaporation and leading to extended droughts. This, experts say, has decreased crop yields and plunged many Afghans into poverty as they are no longer able to make a living from the land. With few viable employment options, some families are turning to a traditional wedding custom known as toyana, whereby money is given to the family of the girl. With little time to spare, these families say, the best available option is a heart-wrenching one: to marry their daughters while the girls are still young. 

Child marriages are not usually documented in Afghanistan and data collection is limited. However, several nongovernmental organizations have observed a rise in child marriages, corresponding with increased periods of drought. In 2018, for example, the worst Afghan drought in a decade affected two-thirds of the country and displaced more people than the growing conflict between the Taliban rebels and the Afghan government. A report from UNICEF that same year noted that “drought has exacerbated the practice of child marriage affecting at least 161 children” from two provinces.

Read more here. 

November 22, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Missouri: Proposed Law Would Make Drunk Drivers Liable For Child Support

From KWTV:

Surviving children of parents who were taken away by other drunk drivers need care and support. A woman in Missouri proposed a law to require drunk drivers to pay child support when an accident they cause kills a parent or parents.

This woman lost three loved ones including an infant grandson in a recent accident involving an allegedly drunk driver. While pushing Missouri legislators to support this proposed law, she named the law after a surviving grandson called "Bentley's Law."

Currently, Missouri State Representative plans to introduce "Bentley's Law" during the next legislative session. It is believed that proposed law could deter drunk drivers. At the same time, surviving children without parents need some help.

Read more here.

November 21, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 20, 2021

China: Percentage Of Newly Married Couples Dropped Since 2019

From Global Times:

Both in cities and countryside, young people's willingness to get married is declining from the fact that the number of newly married couples in the first three quarters has dropped by 17.5%. According to statistics from China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs, there were 5.88 million newly married couples in the first three quarters of 2021. Another study shows that from 2013 to 2020, the number of marriage registrations fell from 13.47 million couples to 8.13 million.

The director of population development said that the fall indicates a decrease of married women of child-bearing age, and this may likely decrease the number of newborn babies. Whether living in urban or rural areas is not a factor. Young people from countryside do not consider marriage as inevitable and women had the lowest willingness to get married. Many factors contribute to the outcome, such as more stress from living cost and longer period of education to be received.

China's cabinet decided in late September to repeal three administrative regulations related to family planning policies, including regulations on technical services for family planning, social maintenance fees and family planning work for the migrant population.

Read more here.


November 20, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 19, 2021

National Campaign Launches New PSAs To Encourage Adoptions Of Teens In Foster Care

From WFMZ Allentown:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Administration for Children and Families (ACF), AdoptUSKids, and the Ad Council today launched a new series of public service advertisements (PSAs) that encourage prospective parents to adopt teens from foster care. The new PSAs are inspired by true stories of teens adopted from foster care who went through the adoption process.

Teens (13–18 years of age) comprise 21% of the children/youth waiting to be adopted in the foster care system, but account for only 10% of those adopted. Teenagers in foster care can face a particularly challenging time getting adopted and may wait up to twice as long to achieve permanency than younger children.

The campaign's newest work launches following the release of a six-episode podcast, Navigating Adoption: Presented by AdoptUSKids. This series allows prospective adoptive families to learn about the rewards of adoption through heartfelt interviews with adopted youth, their parents and experts in the field. Episodes cover everything from separation, loss, and trauma to how families can create support networks.

Read more here.



November 19, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Canada: The Issue Of Parent's Unvaccinated Status And His Parenting Time Rights

From Law Times:

The issue of a parent's unvaccinated status and his parenting time rights has been resolved in the U.S. Similarly, the Ontario Court of Justice has decided in cases involving the same issue. The ruling is that a father's decision to remain unvaccinated against COVID does not deprive him of parenting time. This decision relies on the analysis of what is in the best interest of the child.

The mother in the case sought an order that the father's parenting time be supervised due to the concern of his unvaccinated status. The father responded by claiming that he had no intention to get vaccinated for this action is contrary to his Rastafarian beliefs. However, the father agreed to take safety precautions during his parenting time, including wearing a mask. He also attested that the paternal grandmother who would be supervising the visit is fully vaccinated and he is comfortable with taking the child to her home. In addressing this matter, court weighed whether it is in the best interest of the child.

The court concluded that despite the unvaccinated status of child's father, it is still in the best interest of the child to have a meaningful relationship with her father. The court continued and noted that if the restrictions of protecting child from the likelihood of infection are violated, the mother may suspended father's in-person parenting time.

Read more here.


November 18, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

California Plans To Become The Nation's Abortion Provider

From Los Angeles Times:

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders have asked a group of reproductive health experts to propose policies to prepare it for more patients and abortion provides are grinding for a surge in demand.

Recent Texas abortion ban caused more and more out-of-state patients coming to the Planned Parenthood of California. The medical director of Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino counties said that three or four of those patients visit her clinics each day.Planned Parenthood clinics in California say they already serve about 7,000 out-of-state patients a year and are expecting a surge of new ones, especially in travel hubs like the Los Angeles area.

If the strict abortion rights are banned nationally, California's clinics expect to 50 out-of-state patients a week. Clinics start to make plans to expand the appointment capacity in order to accommodate everyone. 

Read more here.

November 17, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Many Children Are Released From Detention During COVID


Detention of children has been difficult when there is an increasing risk of contacting COVID in confined and overcrowded spaces. Immediate released of children from detention is demanded. Since April 2020, at lease 84 countries have released thousands of children from detention.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of children are deprived of their liberty according to the reports released ahead of the World Congress on Justice with Children. UNICEF Executive Director promotes the child friendly justice solutions. 

Children in detention – including in pre- and post-trial custody, immigration detention, held in relation to armed conflict or national security, or living with parents in detention – are often held in confined and overcrowded spaces. They lack adequate access to nutrition, healthcare and hygiene services, and are vulnerable to neglect, physical and psychological abuse, and gender-based violence. Many are denied access to lawyers and family care, and unable to challenge the legality of their detention.

Since COVID has profoundly affected justice for children, child friendly justice can be a possible way to help resolving the issues.

Read more here.

November 16, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Cahn's Review of Damaske

From Family Law JOTWELL:

In the early days of the pandemic, the unemployment rate reached close to 15% , and the number of families that had at least one unemployed person doubled, to almost 10%. Those unemployment rates vary by race and gender: Black and Hispanic families were more likely to have one unemployed person than white or Asian families, and, several months into the pandemic, the US Census reported that women were more than twice as likely as men not to be working because of child care issues.

These statistics suggest profound impacts on the family. Enter sociologist Sarah Damaske’s new book, The Tolls of Uncertainty: How Privilege and the Guilt Gap Shape Unemployment in America (2021). The Tolls of Uncertainty explores the intersections between unemployment and family obligation through interviews with 100 people in urban and rural Pennsylvania. Damaske debunks various myths about the unemployed, such as that they are lazy or clearly differ from the employed, and shows that although men may face expectations to be the breadwinners, ”women appear to bear much higher levels of guilt and shame for losing their jobs.” (P. 14.) And the book proposes policies that support not just the unemployed but also their families.

The story of unemployment unfolds in the book’s three major sections, the first on losing a job, the second on the consequences, and the final section on the struggles people face in returning to work. Damaske began her research in 2012, just after the Great Recession, but during a time of economic growth. Although situated during a particular time period, the book offers enduring lessons about unemployment and the family, regardless of the national economic picture – and, as Damaske explained in a May 2021 New York Times article, the pandemic provides yet another example of how job loss affects men and women differently.

Read more here.

November 16, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 15, 2021

Poor Regulation of Fertility Industry

From Naomi Cahn (UVA) and Dena Sharp (UC Hastings), writing for the Conversation:

When embryologist Joseph Conaghan arrived at work at San Francisco’s Pacific Fertility Center on March 4, 2018, nothing seemed awry. He did routine inspections of the facility’s cryogenic tanks, which store frozen embryos and eggs for clients who hope to someday have biological children.

But what he found was not routine; it was an emergency. Almost all of the liquid nitrogen inside Tank 4 had drained out. Conaghan and his staff tried to save 80 metal boxes of frozen reproductive material, but it was too late. The contents had warmed, damaging or destroying 1,500 eggs and 2,500 embryos.

Some belonged to a couple who traveled cross-country from their farm in Ohio, hoping to build their family from frozen embryos. A single woman in her early 40s was hoping to soon use her preserved eggs with “Mr. Right.”

For many, infertility is a significant challenge: In 2018, 12.7% of American women sought infertility services, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. As experts on regulation of the fertility industry, we are concerned about protecting those who need these interventions. There is little oversight in the U.S. of the industry, with no requirement that clinics report problems – including tank failures. As Professor Dov Fox of the University of San Diego Law School told a reporter: “These tanks specifically, they’re not regulated any better than kitchen appliances or farm tools.”

Read more here.

November 15, 2021 | Permalink | Comments (0)