Early childhood development is a robust and vibrant focus of study in multiple disciplines, from economics and education to psychology and neuroscience. Abundant research from these disciplines has established that early childhood is critical for the development of cognitive abilities, language, and psychosocial skills, all of which turn, in large measure, on the parent-child relationship. And because early childhood relationships and experiences have a deep and lasting impact on a child’s life trajectory, disadvantages during early childhood replicate inequality. Working together, scholars in these disciplines are actively engaged in a national policy debate about reducing inequality through early childhood interventions.
On April 16, 2009, seven-year-old Gabriel Myers locked himself in the bathroom of his Florida foster home and took his own life. Just three weeks prior, Myers was prescribed Symbyax, a combination of antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) for use in children. Myers’s Department of Children & Families (“DCF”) records document a tragic history of neglect, allegations of sexual abuse, and movement between at least four foster care placements after removal from his mother’s care. Diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, mood disorder, and possibly depression, Myers took several medications including Lexapro and Vyvanse. After his death, DCF appointed a Work Group to assess Myers’s case as well as the use of psychotropic medication for other children in state foster care. While the Work Group determined that safeguards in Florida existed, the “core failures in the system . . . stem[med] from lack of compliance with [such safeguards] and . . . failures in communication, advocacy, supervision, monitoring, and oversight.”
Giovan Bazan was only six-years-old when he was first treated with medication for hyperactivity. Years later, while taking Ritalin at a double dosage, he was prescribed an antidepressant after another physician saw him “so mellowed out that he barely reacted.” Twenty-year-old Bazan is now free of all medications and recognizes that “[t]hey start you on one thing for a problem, then the side effects mean you need a new medicine . . . [a]s a foster kid, I’d go between all these doctors, caseworkers, therapists, and [it] seemed like every time there was a new drug to try me on.”
Responding to Courtney G. Joslin, Protecting Children (?): Marriage, Gender, and Assisted Reproductive Technology, 83 S. Cal. L. Rev. 1177 (2010).
In her article, Courtney G. Joslin persuasively argues that the children born via assisted reproductive technology (“ART”) are placed at a serious financial disadvantage under the law. Joslin is right to point out that parentage provisions that apply only to children born to heterosexual married couples disadvantage nonmarital children of ART financially as well as emotionally and developmentally. Joslin’s solution is to propose extending to such children what she terms the “consent = legal parent” rule, meaning that “any individual, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or marital status, who consents to a woman’s insemination with the intent to be a parent is a legal parent of the resulting child.” Such a rule removes a period of time during which a child is unprotected by the lack of legal recognition of a parent. This response identifies an ambiguity in and proposes a clarification of Joslin’s consent = legal parent rule with regard to conception, and with regard to consent during the period after conception and before birth.
The Supreme Court has declared that children should not be penalized based on the circumstances of their birth. In the context of assisted reproductive technology (“ART”), however, parentage provisions that apply only to children born to heterosexual married couples continue to be the rule rather than the exception. Many of the policymakers resisting the calls for reform have been influenced by the debate currently playing out in the same-sex marriage context regarding the causal connection (or lack thereof) between marriage and gender, on the one hand, and positive child welfare outcomes, on the other.
This Article approaches this increasingly contentious debate in a novel way by focusing on an issue on which both sides converge—the desire to protect the well-being of children. Using this lens, the Article accomplishes two things. First, this Article offers a doctrinal analysis of an issue that, until now, has remained almost entirely unexplored. Specifically, the Article demonstrates that, contrary to the asserted child welfare goals of marriage-preference proponents, marriage-only ART rules harm the financial and, in turn, the overall well-being of nonmarital children. Second, the Article considers how to reform the inadequacies of the current regime. After assessing a range of potential normative solutions, the Article concludes by proposing a new theoretical framework for determining the legal parentage of all children—both marital and nonmarital—born through ART.
This Article revisits the liberal dilemma and suggests that one plausible version of liberalism can, at least in principle, combine wide diversity and freedom in family life with equal opportunity for children. But this conclusion arrives with two caveats. First, the theoretical compatibility of the family and equality of opportunity rests on three interpretations which remain contested even within liberal theory: the scope of parental autonomy, the meaning of equality of opportunity, and the functions ascribed to the liberal family. Second, the legal changes necessary to reconcile the family with equality would face practical and political difficulties. An egalitarian regime would require new redistributive programs and tax increases to fund them. A commitment to children’s equality would also require revision of constitutional and state law doctrines that prize parental authority and family economic self-sufficiency and disclaim positive obligations of the state toward children.
Should the law recognize an individual’s right not to be a genetic parent when genetic parenthood does not carry with it legal or gestational parenthood? If so, should we allow individuals to waive that right in advance, either by contract or a less formal means? How should the law’s treatment of gestational and legal parenthood inform these questions? Developments in reproductive technology have brought these questions to the fore, most prominently in the preembryo disposition cases a number of courts have confronted—disputes over the use of stored frozen preembryos that couples have fertilized in the course of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)— but other examples abound.
Over the last quarter-century, the definition of the American family has transformed from a clearly defined image of mother, father, and natural offspring to a kaleidoscopic vision of adoptive families, extended families, gay and lesbian families, stepparent families, and single-parent families. Although a vast body of law limits the state’s ability to impinge on the parental decisionmaking of intact, biological families, nontraditional families are finding that their legal right to select the persons with whom their children associate is far less protected and even subject to state court review.
The family, which was once a standardized structure, has diversified substantially because of liberal no-fault divorce rules, social acceptance of nonmarital sexuality and cohabitation, and tolerance of same-sex relationships. Detractors assert that America is in the midst of a social breakdown; however, the structure of the American family, rather than disintegrating, is merely evolving into something new.
Joint client representation is a practice that is fundamentally important to the legal system. The cost of obtaining private legal services has been rising over the past decade. This trend poses a serious problem: while the cost of these services has skyrocketed, the ability of large segments of the population to pay for them has not matched pace. Often times, due to the economic constraints faced by an ever-growing segment of our society, parties in need simply cannot afford to obtain independent legal representation. To these individuals, joint representation constitutes one of the most viable and accessible methods of obtaining adequate legal representation.
Divorce litigation is one area where an overwhelming demand for legal representation exists and where the problem of unmet legal needs is particularly pervasive. One particular subset of divorce cases, the so-called friendly divorce, appears to be an ideal candidate for joint representation. In these cases, the couple has reached agreement on the majority of marital settlement issues and requires only limited legal assistance.
In 1958 in Pakistan, Parveen Chaudry’s parents introduced her to Hanif Chaudry, the man they had chosen to be her husband. In accordance with Islamic tradition, Parveen’s parents negotiated the terms of her marriage contract with Hanif, consenting to and even signing the contract on Parveen’s behalf. According to Islamic law, Parveen’s marriage contract included a mahr provision, or dower, in the amount of 15,000 rupees (approximately $1,500), to protect Parveen if Hanif suddenly divorced her. Islamic law provides that couples retain their assets before, during, and after marriage, and because Parveen would likely not be permitted to work outside the marriage home without her husband’s permission, the mahr was a nest-egg in case the marriage soured.