Analysis and Commentary on Family Law

Misnomers: The Law and Practice of Child Naming

Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman discusses a case in which the Nebraska Supreme Court held a five-year-old boy should keep his original surname despite petitions by each of his unmarried parents to change it. Grossman describes how the case reflects the many tensions over child naming aggravated by unwed parenting, divorce, and remarriage.

Is It Arbitrary to Distinguish Incest From Homosexuality?

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb differentiates state bans on incestuous marriages from bans on same-sex marriages by looking at the governmental interests the bans purportedly serve and the harm done to their targets. Colb argues that the U.S. Supreme Court can, if it wishes, use this distinction to strike down bans on same-sex marriages without also having to rule on bans on incestuous marriages.

Two New Rulings Unmask the Weakness of the Case Against Marriage Equality

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf comments on two recent rulings on state bans on same-sex marriage—one by the U.S. District Court for the District of Louisiana upholding that state’s ban and the other by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit striking down bans in Indiana and Wisconsin. Dorf explains how a comparison of these two rulings reveals weaknesses in the case against marriage equality.

Mommy and Momma: Determining Parentage in the New Family

Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman comments on a recent decision by the Supreme Court of New Hampshire recognizing that both women who raised a child (while they were in a relationship together) are legal parents, despite that only one is the biological mother. Grossman describes how that decision and others like it indicate an evolving understanding of parentage and how families are created.

Federal Appellate Court Rules Utah’s Ban on Marriage by Same-Sex Couples Unconstitutional

Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman discusses a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit upholding a lower court’s invalidation of a Utah ban on same-sex marriage. Grossman points out that while state same-sex marriage bans have been invalidated in sixteen different rulings across the country, this decision marks the first time a federal appeals court has so ruled.

The Legal Price of Adultery Goes Down: North Carolina and West Virginia Abandon Heartbalm Actions

Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman and Stanford University law professor Lawrence Friedman discuss the erosion of “heartbalm” laws—legal claims against the extramarital lover of one’s spouse—in North Carolina and West Virginia. Grossman and Friedman describe the history of these causes of action and their decline over time. They explain the reasoning behind two different courts’ rulings—a lower court in North Carolina and the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia—independently striking down their respective state’s remaining heartbalm actions.

Will the Lower Court Consensus on Same-Sex Marriage Influence the Supreme Court?

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf discusses how the lower courts’ consistent rulings in favor of same-sex marriage might influence a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. Dorf observes that every single judge to rule on the question has relied on the Court’s 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor for the conclusion that SSM bans are unconstitutional. He concludes that while the lower courts’ decisions have no binding effect on the Supreme Court, they might serve as a legal barometer of what is legally plausible and as conduits of public opinion.

Meet our Columnists

Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan, an economist and legal scholar, holds the James J. Freeland Eminent Scholar... more

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is the C.S. Wong Professor of Law at Cornell University. Colb teaches courses in... more

John Dean
John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973.... more

Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He... more

Joanna L. Grossman
Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School... more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

MARCI A. HAMILTON is the Robert A. Fox Leadership Program Professor of Practice, and Fox Family... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of... more

Anita Ramasastry
Anita Ramasastry

Anita Ramasastry is the UW Law Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Washington School... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

Lesley Wexler is a Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law. Immediately... more