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Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Pass the Popcorn

Almost everything has been written about the three recent family law cases in the U.S. Supreme Court (Perry/Windsor, Baby Girl, and Chafin), except for one thing: how exciting it was for family law professors to take their turn closely watching the Court.  It rarely happens that the Court agrees to hear more than one family law case per term, and it got me wondering: are we seeing an increasing federalization of family law?

My answer, for now, is probably not.  There has always been an element of constitutional law to family law, most notably in the realms of family privacy and equal protection/due process (often for fathers in custody disputes and those in same-sex marriages).  In fact, some family law professors choose to teach with a heavy con law angle.  There are also a few international treaties dealing with child custody and child support, the latter being an area that has seen a lot of federal attention in recent years in order to maximize child support.

Last term's family law Supreme Court cases fell squarely into these well-established federal territories.  The same-sex cases dealt with the question of equal protection/due process principles.  Chafin addressed the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and whether there was appellate jurisdiction when a child was returned to a foreign country.  Finally, Baby Girl was a familiar race-in-adoption issue that has been seen many times on the national stage, including in the 1970's and 1980's movements against transracial adoption.

So, at least for now, there is no need for family law professors to invest in a popcorn maker...

Posted by Margaret Ryznar on September 3, 2013 at 10:07 PM | Permalink

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