Tag Archives: Family Law

The (In)visibility of Motherhood in Family Court Proceedings

Melissa L. Breger

Abstract

Issues of bias in Family Court in the context of race and overrepresentation of people of poverty have been extensively explored in academic literature. There is arguably a parallel overrepresentation of women, and particularly mothers, in our Family Courts. I question whether the Family Court would function as it currently does without mothers as its core litigants. Specifically, I delve into the implicit gender biases inherent in societal expectations of mothers as all-knowing, ever-nurturing, and ever-protective of their children––expectations that often ignore the complexities and nuances of motherhood. To illustrate my thesis, I focus on a case that I was involved in over a decade ago, which was subsequently featured in Professor Dorothy Roberts’ book: Shattered Bonds: The Color of the Child Welfare System. Through this narrative, the Article raises critical questions regarding the influence of implicit gender bias and the construct of motherhood in Family Court proceedings. As a result of its predominance, has the gender of Family Court litigants become virtually invisible? How might we identify, confront, and address this (in)visibility in our family justice system?

View Full Text (PDF)

Cloning and the LGBTI Family: Cautious Optimism

Erez Aloni

Cloning cell-line colonies using cloning rings

Cloning cell-line colonies using cloning rings
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and intersex couples who wish to start a family currently have limited options. These options—adoption, assistive reproductive technology, and co-parenting—require a third party and thus present legal and logistical hurdles. Cloning would offer a unique opportunity for GLBTI parents to bear children who share their genes, with minimal third party involvement.

Currently, the federal government is banned from funding research on cloning. This article argues that such a ban violates the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution. Because the federal government funds fertility research that enables heterosexual couples to bear children who share their genes, banning the most promising technology for helping LGBTI couples achieve the same result amounts to unconstitutional discrimination. Although the Supreme Court has ruled that the legislature is under no obligation to “subsidize the exercise of a fundamental right,” it cannot discriminate in providing funding for the same purpose to different groups.

This article shows why traditional arguments against cloning are fundamentally flawed and argues for government funding of cloning research. As the author demonstrates, heterosexist beliefs about what families should look like motivate most opposition to cloning, though these beliefs may be disguised in neutral or scientific language.

View Complete Article (PDF)

“Ain’t I a Parent?”: The Exclusion of Kinship Caregivers from the Debate Over Expansions of Parenthood

Sacha M. Coupet

Photo Credit: raybanbro66 via flickr (creative commons license)

Abstract

Kinship caregivers-a group disproportionately populated by persons of color, particularly black grandmothers -have historically assumed parental roles, often together with a legal parent. Yet even as kin have increasingly assumed substantial parental responsibilities over the past few decades, they continue to have limited opportunities to carry the title of legal parent. At the same time, in claims involving stepfamilies and same sex partners of parents, and cases involving assisted reproductive technology (ART), family courts have expanded their definition of parenthood to recognize the rights of other caregivers, including those whose parental claims extend beyond the so called “rule of two.” The common element that these groups share is a conjugal tie with the legal parent. The differential treatment of kinship caregivers demonstrates that the concept of parenthood remains inextricably intertwined with the concept of conjugality -whether through legal marriage, quasi-marriage, or the mere capacity to marry or engage in prescribed mating. By privileging conjugal ties, the current framing of the parenthood debate excludes nonconjugal actors, most notably relative or kinship caregivers, from consideration as legal co-parents and from the accompanying discourse around multiple parentage. This article explores parental claims both within and outside of the scope of conjugality. In doing so, it reveals that, while the discourse on expanded notions of parenthood remains marriage-centered, the underlying rationales for extending parental assignment within conjugal relationships apply with equal force to nonconjugal kinship caregiving. Ultimately, it aims to enlarge the space within the community of “legitimate” parents to include kinship caregivers.

View Full Text (PDF)