Monday, June 5, 2000
Widowed are healthier if their former marriage was unhappy
A story published today by the Evansvilles Courier
and Press reports that a surviving spouse from an unhappy marriage is likely to have
fewer, less expensive, health problems than a spouse who loses a partner after a happy
marriage, according to a new study by Yale researchers.
Yearly health expenses for the surviving partners of happy marriages
were 27 percent higher than those surviving troubled marriages.
We found losing a partner in a harmonious marriage puts you at
greater risk of health problems. Your health care costs are lower if you are widowed in a
discordant marriage, said Dr. Holly Prigerson, an assistant professor of psychiatry
at Yale School of Medicine and lead author of the study, published in the June issue of
The Gerontologist, a journal published by The Gerontological Society of America.
Prigerson said the loss for the survivor in a happy marriage is
often so profound that it can be defined as "traumatic grief syndrome - normal
grieving carried to an extreme, such as unusual separation distress, excessive yearning
and pining and extreme emptiness and loneliness.
Other studies shows that people who suffer traumatic grief are more
prone to cancer, heart disease, increased alcohol and tobacco use, weight gain, sleep
disturbances and suicidal thoughts.
The researchers interviewed 694 people who were part of a long-term
study on successful aging and who remained married between the initial survey and a
follow-up interview done three years later. Sixty-one in the study group lost a spouse in
Investigators looked at the health care costs of married people
compared to the widowed, and then at the costs of widows and widowers from happy and
Happiness of marriages was assessed based on questions in the survey
before widowhood, such as degree of marital satisfaction, love and affection, frequency of
thoughts about separation or divorce, frequency of disagreements and upset feelings about
the marriage; the extent to which they would feel lost without the spouse, and
frequency of being pushed, slapped or hit by the spouse.
The study found that annual health costs for widowed persons were
$2,384 for all widowed persons, compared with $1,498 for those who were married. Costs for
survivors of happy marriages were $2,766, compared with $2,100 for those who had been in
Doctors should realize that older widowed people are at
increased risk, specifically those who get along well and those who might depend too much
on their spouses, Prigerson said. Many widowed persons in the study needed
mental health care, but few received it.
California Supreme Court to issue rules for prenuptial agreements
A story published today in the San Francisco
Chronicle reports that the California Supreme Court today will hear arguments in a divorce
case involving the legality of a prenuptial agreement. The justices are expected to spell
out the basic requirements for premarital agreements, which are recognized by most states
but have never been clearly defined or uniformly applied.
"The hope with [this] case is that it will give us some rules
for the first time,'' said Donald King, a retired state appeals court judge and one of
California's leading experts on family law. Right now, he said, "there's nothing at
The court will also rule on whether a the right to spousal support
can be waived in a prenuptial agreement.
The timing of this decision is good. During the past decade, a
growing number of couples have stopped at a lawyer's office before walking down the aisle.
By signing premarital agreements, they keep property and earnings separate and avoid
sharing them under community property laws.
Typically, lawyers draw up contracts for couples in their 30s and
40s who have acquired property while single, people with children from previous marriages
who want to protect inheritances and those who have been through nasty divorces once and
want to avoid future grief.
Occasionally, parents of one spouse-to-be insist on the agreement to
prevent a future in-law from getting a piece of the family business.
Recently, lawyers said they are seeing an increasing number of
couples in their 20s -- many from Silicon Valley -- who want to protect the cash and stock
options they have accumulated from the dot-com industry.
Such an agreement usually states what property will remain separate
and spells out how assets and debts will be re-divided if children are born or the couple
divorces within a certain number of years.
Lawyers say there are few, if any, rules or guidelines governing
premarital agreements. In 1985, California adopted the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act,
which sets out some basic but very general provisions. The act clarifies that agreements
must be voluntarily signed and not the result of any coercion, but it left unanswered many
Only a few courts throughout the nation have interpreted the act.
Most lawyers say that they will not get involved in a prenuptial
agreement unless the other side has a lawyer. And they will not take part in an agreement
unless it is negotiated well in advance of the wedding.
"A week or two before, you're getting into the possibility of
duress,'' said Diane Bessette, a family law attorney who taught a course in community
property at the University of California's Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.
Court curbs grandparents' rights
A story released today by the Associated Press
reports that today the Supreme Court struck down a law that gave grandparents broad rights to seek court-ordered visitation against
"So long as a parent adequately cares for his or her children
... there will normally be no reason for the state to inject itself into the private realm
of the family to further question the ability of that parent to make the best decisions
concerning the rearing of that parent's children," Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote
in the court's main opinion.
The 6-3 vote came in a case from Washington state that resulted in
six different opinions from the nine-member court.
A parent's right to raise their children free from government
interference generally trumps state laws aimed at giving grandparents broad rights to seek
visitation, the court ruled.
The Supreme Court's decision invalidated a state law that allowed
"any person," relative or non-relative, to win a court-ordered right to see a
child any time such visitation was found to be in a child's best interest.
The story says that all 50 states have grandparent-visitation laws
but few are as expansive as Washington's.
"Because we rest our decision on the sweeping breadth of
(Washington's law) and the application of that broad, unlimited power in this case, we do
not consider the primary constitutional question passed on by the Washington Supreme Court
- whether the (Constitution's) due-process clause requires all non-parental visitation
statutes to include a showing of harm or potential harm to a child as a condition
precedent to granting visitation," O'Connor said.
"We do not, and need not, define today the precise scope of the
parental due-process right in the visitation context," she said.
Joining O'Connor were Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.
Justices David H. Souter and Clarence Thomas wrote separate opinions
agreeing with the result of O'Connor's opinion but not necessarily the reasoning she used.
Justices John Paul Stevens, Antonin Scalia and Anthony M. Kennedy
each wrote dissenting opinions.
The case, pitting a state's desire to promote children's best
interests against parental rights, has been one of the most closely watched and
emotionally charged in recent Supreme Court history. Sixty million Americans are
grandparents, including six of the court's members.
A survey by AARP found about one in nine American grandparents above
the age of 50 helps care for at least one grandchild. The survey showed that 8 percent
provide day care regularly, and 3 percent function as parents, raising a grandchild.
The decision comes at a time of decline for nuclear families and a
rise in the number of nontraditional families.
The case is Troxel vs. Granville, 99-138. The decision is on the
net. Go to: http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/
and then lick on "This month's decisions."
June 4, 2000
New film on families shows how
'different' is really normal
A story published today in the San Francisco Examiner
reports that a new video has been produced which will show school children that modern
families come in different shapes and sizes. Diversity is normal.
The San Francisco-made teaching film called is "That's a
The 30 minute video is intended to be shown in elementary and middle
school classrooms. It's the latest release by Women's Educational Media and its producers,
Debra Chasnoff and Helen Cohen, and was made with support from the San Francisco Arts
Commission, Board of Supervisors, and San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland schools.
"That's a Family!" is designed for children, and it is
children who tell a story about living in families that are so-called different. The focus
is not on families headed by gays and lesbians, in couples or alone, but they are
Children watching "That's a Family!" will see kids like
them in their various families. Some have parents of different races or religions. Some
have parents who divorced. Some have single parents. Some were adopted. Some are being
raised by a grandparent or guardian.
Glimpses of almost 50 family types make the point that in the United
States today, family diversity is the norm.
A fact sheet that will be part of curricular materials circulated
with the video contains statistics supporting that thought: Only 28 percent of American
children live with their married, biological parents; as many live with one parent; more
than one million kids a year have parents who divorce; two to
four percent of families have an adopted child; an estimated six million to 10 million
Americans, including adults, have at least one gay, lesbian or bisexual parent.
Clips show the families at home, eating, getting ready for school.
In their own words, the kids talk about their lives, and what they'd like other kids to
know about their families. And they show how it's possible to talk about their feelings
about such personal issues.
Federal judge dismisses
challenge to Utah's sodomy and fornication laws
A story published today by the Salt Lake Tribune
reports that a federal judge has upheld an earlier magistrate's decision to dismiss an
8-year-old lawsuit that alleged Utah's sodomy and fornication laws violate a
constitutional right to privacy.
Last year, U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Boyce recommended dismissing
the lawsuit, noting Salt Lake District Attorney David Yocom had said his office has not
used these laws to prosecute anyone.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart agreed with Boyce's
recommendation, calling it "well reasoned."
The case was filed in 1991 by civil-rights attorney Brian Barnard on
behalf of a plaintiff known only as "W.N.J.," and other Utah residents, who also
challenged the law anonymously. The suit claimed unmarried couples are discriminated
against by the sodomy and fornication laws because such practices are legal for married
W.N.J., who was unmarried at the time of the filing, said he had
engaged in fornication and sodomy, and had planned to do so in the future. He said he
feared criminal prosecution, and sought to overturn the law because he said it was
But Boyce had responded: "It is apparent the Utah fornication
and sodomy statutes are not being enforced in Salt Lake County by the . . . Salt Lake
County district attorney [who was named as a defendant]. . . . The injury to plaintiffs is
purely hypothetical and not concrete."
Barnard's lawsuit only addressed "noncommercial,
non-prostitutional, consensual and heterosexual" private relations. It did not raise
the issue of homosexual physical relationships.
Under Utah law, sodomy includes any sex act involving the
"genitals of one person and mouth or anus of another person, regardless of the sex of
either participant." Married couples are exempt from the statute. Fornication is an
act of sexual intercourse between unmarried adults.
June 3, 2000
Gore suggests ways to increase child support payments
A story published today in the New York Times reports
that Vice President Al Gore called yesterday for measures to encourage dads to pay child
support. Gore described absent fathers as "the No. 1 cause of child poverty in
At a conference on fatherhood, Gore cited statistics showing that
children in single-parent families are more likely to be poor, to drop out of school, to
go to jail or to commit suicide. He called for government policies that would "lift
up the institution of marriage.''
Most child support payments for children whose mothers are on
welfare goes to state governments, which use the money to defer the cost of benefits.
Under Gore's proposal, some of those payments would go into accounts
that would become available to families when they went off welfare. Gore said more parents
would pay child support if they knew it would go to their families instead of the
He said it would cost the federal government $2.3 billion over 10
June 1, 2000
New website offers single parents
information and support
A story released today by Business Wire reports that
single parents in search of support groups and social service programs can now go online
to find the information they need, thanks to Single Parent Resource Project.
Created as a free service of Single Parent Central, Single Parent
Resource Project is a national, not-for-profit online clearinghouse of single parent
support groups and programs.
Single Parent Resource Project lists only non-profit support groups
and programs for single parents and their families. The resource listings include state
childcare agencies, state child support enforcement offices, and single parenting
resources such as parenting groups, classes and social service programs focused on single
parenting. Some states also list programs for children of single parents.
The site accepts no advertising and does not list for-profit
businesses or daycare centers.
"This is strictly a not-for-profit effort," Taylor says.
"Organizations pay nothing to be included, and visitors aren't charged for accessing
the site. Our goal is to make necessary information readily available to single parents
across the U.S."
Single Parent Resource Project currently provides resource listings
for twenty states.