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Jailed dad had due process violated

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a South Carolina man who was sent to jail after he was unable to pay his child support was deprived of his 14th amendment right to due process, according to published reports.

South Carolina law allows law enforcement to jail individuals who do not pay child support without providing them legal counsel. The defendant, Michael Turner, was sentenced to up to 12 months in prison for being unable to meet his child support payment and state courts denied that Turner had a right to a court-appointed attorney even though his liberty was on the line.

However, Turner claims he was never told that his ability to pay child support was the reason for his legal woes and said authorities never provided him with financial disclosures forms or any other means to determine whether he could feasibly meet his child support payments. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that state officials must ensure that hearings are “fundamentally fair” to the person facing possible incarceration.

“Under these circumstances, Turner’s incarceration violated the Due Process Clause,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote.

In addition to South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Maine and Ohio also do not provide counsel for those too poor to afford legal assistance in child support cases.

Employment may threaten marriage

A new study suggests that while a woman’s employment status does not usually make or break a marriage, men who are unemployed are more likely to file for divorce compared with those who have a job.

The study, led by Liana Sayer at Ohio State University, found that even though social pressure discouraging women from working outside the home has decreased, there is still considerable pressure on men to fulfill the role of family breadwinner.

According to the research, an employed woman is more likely to initiate divorce than a woman without a job, but only when she is unsatisfied with the marriage. However, even men who are relatively happy in their marriages are more likely to leave if they are not steadily employed.

Researchers suggest that the changing role of women in the workforce may have something to do with the study’s findings. While a woman’s decision to work is no longer seen as violation of marriage norms, society still has negative associations with men who do not work.

“Women’s employment has increased and is accepted, men’s non-employment is unacceptable to many, and there is a cultural ambivalence and lack of institutional support for men taking on ‘feminized’ roles such as household work and emotional support,” the researchers wrote.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports there were approximately 158,000 stay-at-home dads in 2009. Among them, about 59 percent had two or more children and 57 percent had a yearly family income of $50,000 or more.

Children receive less support in college

Among the variety of effects divorce can have on a family, a new study found that the children of divorced parents are likely to receive less financial support during college, even if both their parents remarry.

The study, published in the Journal of Family Issues, found that parents who stay married typically meet about 77 percent of their child’s college tuition costs, compared to 42 percent among divorced couples. In addition, married parents also contribute about 8 percent of their income to their son or daughters college expenses while their divorced counterparts give 6 percent.

“The cost burden of higher education is shifted to the student in families with divorced or remarried parents,” Ruth Lopez Turley, the lead author of the study, told the Wall Street Journal.

Turley added the remarried parents often have different obligations, such as supporting stepchildren, that can eat into what they could contribute to their child’s college fund.

Kids who manage to complete their education even without considerable financial support may find that it can influence their own personal life for the better. A report from the Pew Research Center found that couples with a college education are less likely to divorce compared to those without a degree.

Madoff victim seeks modification of divorce

The New York Supreme Court is currently considering a divorce case that could have wide-reaching implications for people ending their marriages in the Empire State.

Steven Simkin and Laura Blank divorced in 2006 and when their assets were split, Simkin put part of his share in funds managed by convicted Ponzi-schemer Bernie Madoff, while his wife received her share in cash, according to the New York Times.

After the Madoff scheme came to light in 2008, Simkin filed a lawsuit seeking modification to the divorce. Specifically, he wanted to alter the settlement, arguing that he should receive money from Blank to make up for his losses.

According to the news source, Simkin’s suit relies on the doctrine of “mutual mistake.” The news source reports that under the doctrine, contracts can be voided if both parties are incorrect about a vital part of the agreement. Simkin’s divorce attorney said that both parties mistakenly believed that they had an investment account with Madoff, when, in fact, the account was worthless.

Some legal experts say that the ruling in this case could have wide-reaching effects but law professor Lawrence Cunningham told CBS New York that he expects the court to make a narrow ruling in the case.

Massachusetts considers ending lifetime alimony

Lawmakers in Massachusetts are considering a change to an alimony law that allows judges to grant the payments for life.

According to The Associated Press, the state’s current law does not place any time limits on how long the judge can award alimony. Illustrative of some of the problems created by the law is the case of Steve Niro.

The news source reports that Niro got married about 30 years ago and was divorced less than five years later. After the youngest child of that marriage graduated from college, Niro was still required to pay $65 per week to his ex-wife. The woman, not happy with this amount, sought alimony modification and a judge agreed to give her $700 per week, reports the news provider.

“I could be paying alimony for the rest of my life for a 4½-year marriage when I was a kid,” Niro told the AP. “It’s just unfair.”

A divorce attorney told the news source that most states no longer have “lifetime alimony” laws because now it is expected that women will go out and work.

Stephen Hinter, who started a grass-roots campaign named MassAlimony Reform, said that change was needed to protect people from going broke through alimony.

“We want the Legislature to act,” he told the news source. “Every day someone else files for bankruptcy from this. Every day someone else’s life is ruined.”