Studies on predictors of divorce abound. Among the more recent is a study exploring a connection between the intensity of one’s smile—as memorialized in a yearbook picture—and the likelihood of divorce. Individuals who smiled the least in their photos were five times more likely to divorce when compared with those who smiled the most intensely.
Recent studies are shedding new light on the impact of divorce on society and the individual. According one study, based on data collected beginning in 1948, divorce may be “contagious” and that having a friend who is divorced dramatically increases one’s chances of divorce. And, another study found that divorced people were two times more likely to die from the most-preventable causes of accidents than their married counterparts.
Recent statistics from the United Kingdom show a drop in family mediation referrals, which have fallen an average of 26 percent from April to June 2013, compared to the same period last year. A number of possible reasons have been given to account for this drop, including a cut in legal aid funding for family law cases, following which courts have reported a substantial increase in cases filed.
Drawing attention to the costs of high-end divorce, Justice Matthew Cooper of the New York Supreme Court recently refused to go along with longstanding legal precedent that assigns responsibility for attorneys’ fees in divorce cases to the party with the most assets. Justice Cooper made his ruling in the three-year divorce case of hedge fund manager George Sykes, which has accumulated approximately $1 million in legal fees to-date.
On September 3, the Resource Center for Separating and Divorcing Families at the University of Denver opened its doors to metro-area families. The Center is a model for providing interdisciplinary, out-of-court solutions to separating and divorcing families. This IAALS “out-of-court model” is part of an international trend towards less adversarial separation and divorce processes.
The new Resource Center for Separating and Divorcing Families at the University of Denver is open for business. Media buzz around the first-of-its-kind Center, based on the model developed by IAALS, continues to grow. Listen to the interview with Rebecca Love Kourlis and Melinda Taylor.
The Honoring Families Initiative has released a white paper on the role of courts and communities in separation and divorce. Designed to spark national conversation and encourage collaboration between different disciplines, the paper sets the stage for our work in the years to come. Central to the premise of the paper is that the needs of children and families effected by divorce or separation have changed drastically, the system has not been able to keep pace, and the needs of children and families are increasingly not being met.
In the latest edition of Unified Family Court Connection, IAALS Honoring Families Initiative Advisory Committee members William J. Howe, III and Justice Paul J. DeMuniz highlight Oregon’s efforts to better serve children and families dealing with divorce and conflict. Included in its efforts is an Informal Domestic Relations Trial that IAALS helped the Oregon State Family Law Advisory Committee develop. The authors also discuss the model for Resource Centers for Separating and Divorcing Families, which was developed by the Honoring Families Initiative.
The Delaware Legislature recently passed a resolution requesting a study to examine the possibility of opening Family Court proceedings to the public. Delaware’s legislature has shown a long history of interest in opening such proceedings, beginning in 1992. The review must be complete by February 15, 2014.
At the direction of the Montana Legislature, the Montana Law and Justice Interim Committee met last month with the objective of finding ways to improve the Montana family court and domestic relations proceedings. To facilitate their analysis, the committee plans to examine three issues in particular: the current cost and efficiency of the Montana family court system, family law models successfully used in other states, and measures needed to improve the administration of justice and the non-adversarial resolution of family court matters in Montana.
A recent article in the Washington Post suggests that our current concept of marriage needs to adapt to the high divorce rate in the United States. As a solution, the author borrows a concept from property law and suggests that couples enter into “wedleases”—agreements in which couples commit to one another for a set period of years. The article argues that “wedleases” provide a practical option for couples to part ways at the end of a bad relationship without going through a messy divorce process.
This summer, the Brooklyn Family Court Child Support Study hopes to improve the quality of legal assistance to self-represented litigants in child custody proceedings. Observers will track whether magistrates explain to self-represented litigants the reason for the hearings, explain the courtroom proceedings, and/or exhibit irritation with the litigants. Then, the observers will follow up with the litigants in a brief interview to discern whether the litigants found the proceeding to be fair and whether they understood what took place in the courtroom.
Adequate training is vital in preparing judicial officers for the challenges of being on the bench. While this is true regardless of docket type, judicial education/training is especially important for domestic relations matters. The Honoring Families Initiative is undertaking research on how domestic relations training for judicial officers is provided in states across the country, and we would love to hear from you.
A recent study shows that divorce in early childhood has an impact on the relationship that children have with their parents at a young age and continuing after adolescence. The study analyzed two surveys, which revealed that children of divorce were more likely than others to view their relationships with their parents as “unreliable.” Those behind the study suggest that these findings help place the way individuals trust and rely on others in the context of their childhood experiences.
A group of twenty teenagers in the United Kingdom who have been affected by separation or divorce are banding together to create a service that will help teens cope with divorce. The website will provide mentoring and support to children between the ages of twelve and sixteen who are experiencing difficulty due to changing family dynamics. And, the support and mentoring services will be provided to the teens by other young people.
In 2012, the divorce rate in China exceeded the marriage rate. According to China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs, 2.87 million people applied for divorce in 2012, a seven percent increase from the year prior. Thirteen million couples married in China in 2012, representing an increase of 1.6 percent from 2011.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl. The case presented the issue of whether the Indian Child Welfare Act, a law meant to minimize the involuntary removal of Native American children from their homes and tribes, precluded a young girl’s adoption by non-Native American parents. The Court sided with the adoptive parents, finding that the young girl’s biological father explicitly gave up parental rights before her birth.
You may have noticed a new voice in our Honoring Families blog posts. Natalie Knowlton has been with IAALS since 2006 and joined the staff full time in 2008, working first as a Research Analyst across initiatives and then as Manager of the Quality Judges Initiative. Now, she will make significant contributions to our Honoring Families Initiative as its Director.
A one-day divorce program that launched this spring in the Sacramento Superior Court is streamlining the process for self-represented litigants who have filed a dissolution of marriage case before the Court and are ready for a final judgment. According to the court, law students are playing “a vital role” in the success of the program, meeting with litigants and gathering intake data; the program is also benefiting from the assistance of volunteer attorneys who serve as Judges Pro Tem.
Following its 2009 decision in Varnum v. Brien overturning the state ban on same-sex marriage, the Iowa Supreme Court recently held that the state must allow same-sex couples to have both their names listed on the birth certificate of their newborn child. Justice David Wiggins reasoned that same-sex couples “enjoy the same benefits and burdens of parenthood” as heterosexual parents and, therefore, are entitled to the fundamental right of parenthood at the moment of birth.
According to U.S. News, separating spouses should plan for the future education of their children together and, in the process, pay special attention to funds saved prior to the divorce settlement and the shape that funding such accounts will take into the future. The article highlights several options for doing so and emphasizes that both during and after a divorce, communication between parents is paramount.
Colorado Magistrate Judge Simon Mole recently penned a blog post in which he comments on IAALS’ study and analysis of data from Colorado pilot programs that instituted proactive case processing in family law cases. Magistrate Judge Mole suggests that the study deserves more than just academic interest, especially “at a time when the ATJ community looks to simplify civil procedure for self-represented litigants.”
Bob Emery is one of the preeminent national experts on issues related to children and divorce. In this video excerpt, he captures the essence of the problem: almost all of the systems that relate to divorce and separation are geared around the parents, lawyers, or judges. Very few systems are geared to the needs of the children. At the Resource Center for Separating and Divorcing Families, which will debut on campus at the University of Denver this fall, there is a specific role for the voice of the child.
Last week, in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments to decide whether custody rights of a three-year-old girl should go to her adoptive parents or her biological father, who is a member of the Cherokee Nation. While state courts usually hear such custody disputes, this case has made its way to the Supreme Court because it involves the Indian Child Welfare Act