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Cases and Resources

Unit 5

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CHAPTER 29 Law and the American Family
Law From Birth To Death
What Is a Family?

Law From Birth To Death
Start learning about family law by reading about some of the general topics of this field. What types of family law have affected you personally?

Read the full text of the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Will you visit Wills FAQ to learn more about wills? If you do, this page will help you answer some of those questions on page 358 of the text.
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What Is a Family?
Read this definition of a family. Read a case where the definition of a family determines the outcome. Do you agree with this definition? How would you define a family

Find out the latest statistics on families at the U.S. Census Bureau's Households and Families page. Hint: click on "Report" for the best information. Based on these statistics, what are the typical types of living arrangements?
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CHAPTER 30 Marriage
Getting Married Financial Responsibilities
Legal Aspects of Marriage Decisions in a Marriage
Common-Law Marriage Spouse Abuse

Getting Married
Marriage is a recognized legal relationship. Read an overview of marriage and some of the landmark cases involving marriage.

Are you wanting to get married? Read about marriage licenses, blood tests, and ceremonies at the Procedures and Ceremonies page.

What are the marriage requirements in your state?
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Legal Aspects of Marriage
What? You're too young to get married? You can still learn about marriage requirements at the American Bar Association Division for Public Education, to be prepared for the future. What are the advantages of having these requirements? Which requirements do you agree/disagree with?

There is a debate surrounding the current laws that only allow a marriage between a man and a woman. The Defense of Marriage Act is meant to prevent federal recognition of marriage between same-sex people. However, several states and the District of Columbia have passed laws allowing same-sex couples to marry. Recently the Department of Justice released this statement on litigation involving the Defense of Marriage Act. What does the Attorney General say regarding the Department of Justice’s position on defending DOMA? What do you think this means for the future of same-sex marriages in the U.S.?

Marriages can be annulled for several reasons. Marriages can be annulled if the marriage occurred just to allow one spouse to become a U.S. resident.

Someone who marries more than one person, while still married to one or more other people, is a polygamist. If you try to marry somebody and you are already married, it is as if the later marriages never happened. Read the facts about polygamy.

Read Loving v. Virginia either in long form, or short form. You can also listen to the oral arguments.
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Common-Law Marriage
Is someone calling you "my husband" or "my wife"? Read this FAQ at FindLaw to learn about common-law marriages.

Do not be fooled into thinking common-law marriage can happen very easily. Common-law marriages have strict legal definitions that must be met before two people are considered married. Read the different state statutes. Do we still need common-law marriages?
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Financial Responsibilities
Should married couples only worry about basic, minimum responsibilities? Visit laweasy.com and scroll down to Financial Tips to read 'Newlywed Financial Planning Tips" and learn about financial concerns such as insurance, investing, and retirement.

Who owns what? Read about property rights. What concerns do married couples have about property rights?

Read more about marital money matters including property, community property, debt, taxes, and credit.

Explore questions and answers about debts and taxes during marriage.

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Decisions in a Marriage
Learn more about prenuptial agreements at Nolo. Do you think it's a good idea to use such an agreement? What emotional issues are involved in writing a prenuptial agreement?

For some couples, making the decision of changing names or keeping pre-marital names is a very meaningful step. What are the laws in your state about name changes?

Read the definition of privileged communications. Why do you think it is so important to apply this concept to marriage?

In almost all states, you cannot disinherit a spouse in your will. Why do you think the law would force someone to leave something to a spouse? Read the North Carolina laws that deal with spousal inheritance.
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Spouse Abuse
Read this article on domestic violence to understand more about the meaning of spousal abuse and how to prevent it.

What kind of behavior is considered domestic violence? What actions do you consider to be domestic violence and what kinds of situations do you consider normal conflicts?

Take action against spouse abuse. Read this section from the Chicago Bar Association about what to do if you or someone you know is being abused by a spouse.

Read the factsheet on the Violence Against Women Act. Some people are arguing for a new Violence Against Women Act. Do you think we need new legislation? How would you draft the Violence Against Women Act?

Visit the National Organization for Women's violence against women page for legislative updates, statistics, and more. Pick an issue and write out the arguments on both sides.

Read the Intimate Partner Violence statistics for the latest trends on homicides against men and women in marriages and other relationships.

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CHAPTER 31 Legal Rights of Single People Who Live Together
Palimony
Paternity
Same-Sex Partners

Palimony
What do unmarried couples need to think about when they decide to live together and share property?

Some people argue that almost all unmarried couples should have a cohabitation agreement.
Do you agree?

Visit this site for an overview of California "palimony" law and more information on Marvin v. Marvin (text page 377). What do you think of palimony? In what situations is it necessary/not necessary?

After reading this section, read through some legal issues that affect unmarried couples. What do you think are some important things to think about before unmarried couples live together?
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Paternity
Paternity suits are meant to force the father of a child to fulfill his legal obligations to financially support that child. Read an explanation of a father's legal rights and responsibilities.

Read the short form of the Family Support Act of 1988  (text page 378).

Learn about DNA paternity tests (text page 378). In what situations would fathers need to take paternity tests?
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Same-Sex Partners
Read about the history of the law on same-sex marriages. Now read the position of Senator Rick Santorum, who opposes the idea of same-sex marriage. What arguments are used to support his position? (Focus on the Family) and one in support of it (Lambda Legal).

Read a summary and the text of the Defense of Marriage Act. This legislation is meant to prevent the legalization of marriage between same-sex couples. What are the strongest arguments for this bill? What are strongest arguments against this bill?

Read a personal essay of a woman who discusses same-sex partners and the debate over same-sex marriages.
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CHAPTER 32 Parents and Children
Responsibilities Between Parents and Children
Child Abuse and Neglect

Responsibilities Between Parents and Children
The National Parenting Center  can tell you everything you could possibly want to know about what it takes to raise children. Which parental duties are legal obligations and which are just the actions of good parents?

Find out what's happening to American families. What problems do families face in caring for their children? How have families changed over time?

What are the emancipation laws in your state? Why might a minor choose to be emancipated?

Some states require that children or relatives care for an elderly parent. Even if you are not required legally to care for an elder, you may be interested in knowing the signs of someone in need and the options available.

For information about educating individuals with disabilities take a look at available information from the Department of Education web site. Here you will find the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act along with recent amendments and news articles related to the act.

Do you want your living room to be your classroom and your parents to be your teachers? Read about home schooling  (text page 385). What are the advantages/disadvantages of home schooling?

Do you have a behavior problem? If so, have your parents read Discipline: A Parent's Guide  (text page 386). Your parents may also be held accountable for your behavior or criminal problems. Do you think this is fair?

Read the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Read a general overview of the IDEA and talk about what it means.

Read the Family and Medical Leave Act or a fact sheet about the act (text page 388). What are the goals of this act? Do you think the act will achieve or has achieved its purpose?
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Child Abuse and Neglect
Preventing and ending child abuse starts with understanding the definitions of child maltreatment. Read the effects of abuse of children who are maltreated.

Get the latest information from the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse to supplement the chart on page 390 of the text. For more statistics and a general description of the problem of child abuse and neglect, visit the Children's Bureau Page. What are the various types of child abuse? What do you think the long-term effects of child abuse are on a child?

Find out the symptoms of child sexual abuse by following this link.

The How to Report Suspected Abuse page has telephone numbers listed by state for reporting abuse.

Child abuse is clearly illegal. If specific people (like a teacher or a doctor) knows a child is being abused and do not report it, that may be illegal as well. Know the resources available in your area to help abused children.

Parents who use drugs in the home may be convicted of child abuse. Read an extensive government report on parent substance abuse and child maltreatment. Pregnant women who use drugs may also be guilty of child neglect. Do you think this is fair?
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CHAPTER 33 Foster Care and Adoption
Read about foster care and adoption statistics. How old is the average child in foster care? What are the typical goals of placing children in foster care? How long do children stay in foster care? What is the average age and gender of a child adopted through a public adoption agency?

So You Want to Be a Foster Parent?  The National Foster Parents Association has some things to tell you about what being a foster parent involves. What are the difficulties that foster families face? Do families that adopt children face similar challenges? Be sure to read the list of foster parent responsibilities. Which responsibilities apply to all families?

Adoption is a legal process, making a non-biological adult the legal parent of another child or adult. Read some of the state laws regarding adoption. What does the law for your state say?

Read statistics about adoption. What are the trends? Compare these to the foster care statistics. Read more facts about adoption and foster care.

The controversy over keeping adoption records open or closed, between protecting the anonymity of the birth mother or giving information to the adopted child, is still being fought. Some states will allow the records to be opened after a certain age. Read this discussion and form your own opinion.

Is surrogacy allowed in your state? Check out the Legal Overview of Surrogacy Laws by State to find out. What do you think the surrogacy laws should be?
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CHAPTER 34 Separation, Divorce, and Custody
Marriage Problems Child Custody
Separation and Divorce Alimony, Property Division, and Child Support

Marriage Problems
What are the biggest problems that families deal with? What are the reasons people choose divorce? Read some ways that families can try to work through their problems.

What is marriage counseling? Who are marriage therapists? Why would someone need a marriage therapist? Answer these questions using the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Web site.
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Separation and Divorce
How does an annulment differ from a divorce? When are married people considered separated? Read about the legal effects of divorce.

Click on the different states to see how they differ in their grounds for divorce. This page will help you answer the questions on page 402 in your text. What do you think states should require for couples to get divorced?

What are the divorce laws in your state? Visit the Legal Information Institute and click on one of the summary tables to compare various divorce laws in different states.

Learn more about covenant marriages. Now read about mandatory waiting periods before divorce can be filed. What do you think of these laws?
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Child Custody
What are the different types of custody and custody agreements and custody arrangements? Which arrangements do you think are best for the children?

What is the process of determining custody and visitation? What factors do courts take into account when deciding who gets custody of children? Are there any factors that you would add to the equation?

Custody battles during marital problems or divorce can result in parental abduction of children. It may seem strange that parents can kidnap their own children, but one parent cannot take a child away from another parent, especially when it violates a court order. Read more about the efforts made to recover these children.
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Alimony, Property Division, and Child Support
Learn more about alimony. What are the alimony laws in your state?

How is property divided at divorce? Read about property and debt division. What do you think is the most fair way to divide property at divorce?

Who is responsible for financially supporting children? Read Who Must Pay?  Who do you think should be responsible for supporting children? Read about the child support guidelines and applications in your state.

How is child support established and calculated? Is this a fair system?

How can we ensure that parents pay child support? Read Enforcement of Child Support Orders. Can you think of any additional ways to force parents to pay child support?
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CHAPTER 35 Government Support for Families and Individuals
Economic Benefits for Individuals and Families
Health  Benefits
Educational Benefits

For extensive statistics on poverty, visit the U.S. Census Bureau's poverty page and be sure to read the "Highlights" for the latest year. Who are the American poor?

Economic Benefits for Individuals and  Families
Learn more about social security and how this program benefits you. Read the list of some frequently asked questions to enhance your understanding. Now look at the teen site for information directed at adolescents.

Have you heard in current news that there is an effort to "save social security"? What are the problems this system is facing? How do some people want to fix these problems?

Read Understanding Social Security to get a basic understanding of the issue.

Read facts and figures about Social Security. How do you think we should ensure the future of the Social Security system? You can borrow some ideas from Reform Proposals for Social Security. Don't forget to go to the ultimate authority and find out what the Social Security Administration has to say about the future of Social Security. How can people prepare in case there is no Social Security when they become senior citizens?

Read a summary of The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA). Do you agree or disagree with this legislation?

Learn about TANF work requirements and read a recent history of welfare reform. What were the various competing policies in the welfare reform debate? How does TANF differ from AFDC? You can read a comparison of prior law and the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996  to help answer this question.

Learn about how PRWORA affected food stamps and nutritional programs. Why are there separate programs for food needs?

Read about Electronic Benefits Transfer. What are the advantages or disadvantages of this system?

Read about the earned income tax credit and earnings supplements. What are the various ways the government can ensure that low-income earners have the money they need?

Taxes can be very confusing. There are tax programs that allow families to reduce the amount of money they must pay to the government if they have dependent children. Read about tax credits for families with children.

The government has numerous housing assistance programs for people who cannot afford their own housing. Visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and read about some of these assistance plans. Read statistics about the housing situation in the U.S.

Read the Internal Revenue Service's publication on mortgage interest deductions.
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Health Benefits
The fact that so many Americans do not have health insurance is a problem that many politicians and organizations are trying to solve. Medical care is a huge industry in the U.S. Read about the issues faced by health care reformers.

Visit the official U.S. government site for Medicare information and read What is Medicare? Who is eligible for Medicare and how can people enroll?

Check out the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service's overview of the Medicaid program. What are states responsible for and what is the federal government's role? How does your state set up its Medicaid program? Read Medicaid: State by State Descriptions & Plans. Do you agree with your state's system? Why or why not?
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Educational Benefits
In every state, there is a time period where young people must attend school. What are the compulsory education laws in your state? The federal, state and local governments put great amounts of money into education. Look at a chart that shows spending over the last 80 years.

Read about Federal Student Aid, a loan program for college or university students in the U.S.

Read the Department of Education's overview of programs and services. How does the Department of Education try to improve education in America?
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Cases and Resources
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