NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Family Law Changes

December 3, 2002

"An influential group of lawyers and judges has recommended sweeping changes in family law that would increase alimony and property rights for many divorced women while extending such rights for the first time to many cohabitating domestic partners, both heterosexual and gay," says Robert Pear. The proposals from the American Law Institute would change many aspects of family law. For example, the Institute says:

  • Adultery by a spouse should not affect a judge's decision about alimony or marital property.
  • A parent's sexual orientation should not be a factor in child custody decisions and domestic partnerships should be treated like marriage in many important respects.
  • While some judges will not award custody of children to gay parents, the institute declares, "Homosexual conduct, like heterosexual extramarital conduct, should be disregarded unless shown to be harmful to an individual child."
  • At the end of an intimate relationship, as in divorce proceedings, a domestic partner should be entitled to alimony and a division of property.

One critic, Lynn D. Wardle, a law professor at Brigham Young University, described the report as a radical effort to equalize the legal status of marriage and domestic partnerships involving unmarried people of the same or opposite sex.

The proposals "could undermine the institution of marriage and reflect an ideological bias against family relations based on marriage," Wardle said.

Source: Robert Pear, "Institute Drafts Radical Changes in Family Law," New York Times, November 30, 2002.


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