Each year brings additional changes to family and divorce rules/laws. This year, courts are grappling with some big issues, many of which require changes to laws, rules, or guidelines. Laws typically lag behind the times and judges who accept new legal interpretations open themselves to criticism. However, there is room for improvement in family law and changes are required to acknowledge the reality of modern society.
Same-sex couples have been a hot topic in the legal arena for several years. Though many states do not acknowledge legal marriage of same-sex couples, some are considering whether these couples should be allowed to divorce. If legal recourse is not available, the process may be frustrating, confusing, or even dangerous. Legal divorce for same-sex couples could reduce disputes involving property and child custody.
Historically, the federal government has allowed states to handle family law issues. However, it approved the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, prohibiting same-sex married couples from receiving federal protections and benefits. President Barack Obama declared that his administration would not defend this act in court. As to whether the administration will continue to enforce the law, the answer seems to be yes.
Child custody can be a very contentious issue and when taken to an international level, can become even more complex. International custody issues include denial of visitation rights and child abductions. These situations are in dire need of additional legislation because it can be difficult to return a child to the United States even if the other country is a party to the Hague Treaties. Even basic factors like how parents and children use new technologies to communicate between countries require some legal attention.
Legislators and attorneys are currently dealing with these family law issues and many more. It can be difficult work because both fairness and civility are required. Laws and the people enforcing them must recognize that family is at the heart of these issues. Out-of-court alternatives offer the ability to resolve issues through mediation, arbitration, and collaborative law. In court or out, resolving things as amicably as possible should be the goal.
During the past year, several new family laws have been introduced in California including one pertaining to immigration status and custody. Legislators in Texas are discussing changes to child custody evaluations, grandparent access to grandchildren, and other family issues. Other states are discussion changes to family and divorce rules/laws that will go into effect within the next year, changing the future for many families.