3 Upcoming U.S. Supreme Court Rulings on Families

In what is already a controversial session amidst the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on many cases in the upcoming months that will have wide reaching effects in American life and families. Here are three decisions you should know about.  

Health Standards: Protecting or Burdening Women?

Whole Women's Health v. Cole 

Pro-lifers across the country will want to pay close attention to this case arising out of Texas. In light of the haunting Kermit Gosnell story in 2013, the state legislature enacted safety measures for abortion clinics. The law would hold abortion clinics to adhere to the same standards as outpatient surgical centers and would require the abortion clinics to have admitting privileges in a hospital within 30 miles should there be health complications for the mother. If currently enforced, approximately three quarters of Texas abortion clinics would close.
Abortion advocates say this law violates the "undue burden" standard of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a doctrine which says any law that places a substantial obstacle to abortion is unconstitutional. In contrast, Texas argues that these are common sense health regulations, and women are not burdened because the would-be remaining abortion facilities are within reasonable driving distances throughout the state.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Texas law saying that it is not the role of the judiciary to consider the extent of a state's health laws have on restricting abortion access. The Supreme Court will determine whether the Fifth Circuit properly used the "undue burden" standard in making its decision.  

Of Nuns & Birth Control

Zubik v. Burwell 

What wins? Freedom of conscience or government interests? In Zubik v. Burwell, religious employers, such as Christian universities and Little Sisters of the Poor, are fighting Obamacare's HHS mandate which requires them to cover the costs of their employees who seek to obtain "all FDA-approved contraceptives" including abortion inducing drugs.

This may sound similar to last year's Hobby Lobby case where the Court ruled the government cannot force employers with longstanding religious beliefs to pay for coverage that violates their conscience. To comply with Hobby Lobby, the Obama administration created an exception for religious employers which exclude the objectionable content in their insurance plans.
However, the federal government is still forcing the employer's insurance companies and other third party administrators to cover the costs of their employees who seek to obtain abortion pills. This means employers are still actively involved in providing drugs in their healthcare plan which violate their conscience.

The Court will weigh whether Obamacare's HHS mandate and it's "accommodation" violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Court's decision will depend on whether the government can prove whether this is the least restrictive way of advancing a compelling public interest.

A Separation between State and Playgrounds

Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Pauley

The state of Missouri prevented pre-school and daycare centers from using a government program which provides recycled tires for safer playground surfaces. The reason? The pre-school is run by a church. Missouri claims that allowing the program to serve a church-run daycare will violate the concept of separation between church and state.

The Court will determine whether excluding churches from an otherwise neutral government program constitutes a violation of the Free Exercise and Equal Protection Clauses. 


All three of these cases will affect families. One way or the other, the Supreme Court of the United States will advance or burden family restoration.


Baby Daddy Drama??

Child Support is something every child needs, and it is in that child’s best interests for parents to provide that support.  You may have heard of Baby Mama Drama, but how about Baby Daddy Drama?  What happens when someone has so many children he cannot support them all? 
This guest post is provided by Regent Law 2017 JD Candidate and current Family Law student, Lyndsi Tallman, who is from Tennessee:
In 2012 Desmond Hatchett made news headlines by seeking a reduction in his child support payments.  Hatchett was described as a unique case because at age 33 he had fathered 30 biological children with 11 different women.  Hatchett is just one of 3 Tennessee men who have fathered large numbers of children with many different women.  
The story of Hatchett broke in 2012 after his most recent girlfriend Latoya Shields found out that her child 4th child with Hatchett was his 24th child.  The mother did not know that Hatchett had other children, let alone that many children and consequently left Hatchett and released the story to the press.  Hatchet was ordered to pay $259 each month for each of Shields' 4 children.  See here and here.
Desmond Hatchett, of Knoxville, has 30 children by 11 different women.  He asked for his child support payments to be reduced-even though his paycheck stretched to just $1.49 per child per month.  He is currently in jail for aggravated assault.  Latoya Shields broke the story in 2012 and has aided in medial attention "exposing him."  The most she has received in support is $9.  Delisha Brown has not received any support, Zenobia Alexandra (3 kids) and Kayla Reed (1 kid) are seeking support.  
        And there are more like Mr. Hatchett…..
Richard M. Colbert, Memphis, has 25 children by 18 different women.  He claims he does not need to pay for any of his children because they are all adults.  He states "he feels lucky.  'everybody's not able to have children".  Another man shares the same name as Colbert and states that he regularly gets calls from women and children asking for money.
Terry Tyrone Turnage, also of Memphis, has 23 children by 17 women in Tennessee and another 3 children by a woman in Arkansas.  He recently filed a petition in court to lower his child support payments, he never showed for the hearing.  One mother stated that Turnage had been ordered to pay $279 each month for her children- but the most she had ever seen was $9.
These three fathers have continued to avoid their duty to the children they bore.  The mothers of their children continue to file petitions seeking payment, and continue to seek adequate remedies.  The courts continue to attempt to find a remedy that will provide the aid that the children need.  The fathers continue to be incarcerated for abuse and failure to pay support.  Incarceration causes a lack of income and therefore no payment of child support which leads to the mothers filing more petitions and the cycle repeats.  When courts are put into cycles with families such as these, protecting the best interest of the children involved becomes even more difficult than normal.  Family Restoration requires responsible parenting to include adequate support from parents to their own children rather than reliance on state resources.


The Best Interest of the Child or simply the Adults’ Interest?

This guest post is from Regent 2L law student and current Family Law student Brittany Jones:
Two young girls stripped from the only homes they have ever known. The reason: one girl was kidnapped, and the other because she part American Indian. One was moved because of government compulsion; the other because her adoptive parents were seeking her best. Nuahua was kidnapped in north-western China in 2010, and was adopted by a couple who were unable to have children. Her adoptive parents were told that she was an unwanted second child. However, she was very much wanted. Her kidnapping propelled her father on a pursuit that cost him his job and his wife. Once her father found her, Nuahua's adoptive parents did the brave thing and voluntarily reunited her with her biological father in February of 2016. (See the whole story at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/peoplesdaily/article-3431788/Heartbreaking-moment-adoptive-father-hugs-daughter-hands-biological-parents-discovering-kidnapped-six-years-ago.html).
Lexi, an American child, was removed from her biological parents when she was seventeen months old because they were unfit to care for her.  She has been cared for by a single foster home for the last four years. However, she has now been forcibly removed from her foster family because she is of Native American descent and her distant relatives decided to adopt her. This removal is predicated upon the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) which seeks to keep children of American Indian descent within tribal homes. This move is reuniting her with her biological sister and relatives that appear to have formed some relationship with her. (See more of the story at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/03/24/keep-lexi-home-a-foster-familys-wrenching-fight-for-a-6-year-old-choctaw-girl/).
When state family law courts evaluate the best interest of the child, reuniting the child with blood relatives and ethnicity can be a consideration. (See why at Tracing the Foundations of the Best Interest of the Child Standard in American Jurisprudence).  Only under ICWA, however, are they ever considerations. ICWA allows tribes to override a state family court's ability to evaluate all the relevant factors that would promote the child's best interest. Both sides on this issue claim that they are acting in the child's best interest.  But in little Lexi's story, are any of the adults truly thinking about the child? From news reports it is hard to say, but as a general rule it is time for the grown-ups in America to start acting like grown-ups and learn a lesson from Nuahua's adoptive family in China. Children are not pawns to be used to promote a political, economic, or emotional agenda. They have real feelings, attachments, and needs. As Christians we are called to protect the least of these and that means doing the right thing even when we feel like we might lose "our" child. More fundamentally, we are told to put others before ourselves. This should especially apply to those who do not have voice like little Lexi.


Human Trafficking Destroys Families

This guest post is from author Renee Knudsen, Regent Law 3L and current Family Law student:
In the past several years, the issue of human trafficking has gained much attention. At both the state and federal level, there are new task forces all around the nation dedicated to fighting this crime. Yet, even with all of the effort exerted to fight this crime, many studies indicate that more people are enslaved today than ever before in the course of human history. As recently as 2012, President Obama stated that “[the] fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time . . .”[1] While this fight is being fought from the White House, this fight should also be fought in every house.
The woe of human trafficking destroys families. It destroys both the home of the trafficked as well as the trafficker. In the worst of cases, studies reveal situations where a trafficker enslaves his or her own family members. While the fight against human trafficking is far more than a family law wrong, there are remedies that family law attorneys can help to provide. For more information on the fight against human trafficking and the legal landscape for combating this crime, please see my article entitled “From Second Class To Certified Class: Using Class-Action Lawsuits To Combat Human Trafficking,” which is available at http://www.regent.edu/acad/schlaw/student_life/studentorgs/lawreview/onlineissues/v28n1.cfm.

[1] https://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/foreign-policy/end-human-trafficking.