Famous Supreme Court Cases That Changed U.S. Family Law
Family law is an umbrella term for several cases. Family law works with includes marriage rights, custody, and blended families, domestic violence, guardianship, and much more. Parents, married couples, and families are protected thanks to the laws that have been added throughout history. Family law has been rather significant in our nation’s Supreme Court, marking very important points in history. You may be familiar with some of these cases, others not so much. Let’s take a quick look into the history of family law to understand how we got to where we are now.
Griswold v. Connecticut
Estelle Griswold and Lee Buxton—some of the first people to provide contraception—were arrested for providing birth control to women in the state of Connecticut. At the time, state law deemed it illegal to mail or send explicit information, which included contraceptives. The Supreme Court ruled that Connecticut’s law violated marital privacy. Unmarried women would soon gain access to contraception thanks to the case that would follow, Eisenstadt vs. Baird.
Loving v. Virginia
Mildred and Richard Loving were given two choices: either spend one year in jail or be exiled from the state of Virginia for twenty-five years. The newly wedded interracial couple had married legally in Washington D.C., but in the state of Virginia, it was forbidden to partake in miscegenation, which is also known as interracial marriage. Mildred was African-American and Richard was Anglo-American. The Supreme Court would end up ruling in favor of the Lovings, voiding anti-miscegenation laws in sixteen other states.
Obergefell v. Hodges
This is one of the most recent cases regarding the stance on same-sex marriage. A group of same-sex couples formed an alliance against agencies in specific states including Kentucky, Michigan, Tennessee, and Ohio to dispute the ban on same-sex marriage. They used the 14th amendment and claims that were stated in the Equal Protection Clause and Civil Rights Act. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry under the U.S. Constitution.
Anderson v. Gilliland
This case touched on property rights between a married couple and between family members. Before Mrs. Gilliland married Mr. Gilliland, she had property. During their marriage, they spent approximately twenty thousand dollars to build a home on her property. When Mr. Gilliland died, his daughter, Terri Anderson, requested a reimbursement claim for the house to be included in the estate’s inventory. To keep things fair, the Supreme Court held that only one measurement of value for a reimbursement claim would be included on the enhancement in value, whereas Anderson was asking for one-half of the enhancement from improvements.
Arnold v. Leonard
Similar to the previous case we discussed, this case deals with monetary issues between couples and other individuals. Adele Leonard had owned a separate property which she used as a rental space. Adele’s spouse had a judgment debt, which began during their marriage. This debt was owed to Guz Schultz, who was already deceased. The administrator of Schultz’s estate, Gus Arnold, attempted to use rent and other earnings from Adele’s property to pay off the debt. The Supreme Court ruled this illegal because Adele’s property could not be defined the same as her respective land, making the earnings as a payment to the debt invalid.
Owens v. Owens
Mrs. Owens wanted to separate from Mr. Owens for her own reasons. What made the case so significant is that Mr. Owens refused to agree to a divorce, which led to several hearings back to back. Mrs. Owens was not able to divorce Mr. Owens at the time because she failed to meet the legal test which was the Supreme Court’s concern, which took place in 2018. She was able to finally separate from Mr. Owens in 2020 thanks to the Divorce, Dissolution, and Separation Act.
Moge v. Moge
A Polish couple went to trial to determine if the husband needed to continue providing spousal support even after the wife had found a job. The Supreme Court ruled that spousal support should continue but they decreased the amount that was necessary to pay as the husband was originally giving $400 in spousal support. The Divorce Act was implemented to consider the economic status of ex-spouses, which is also based on the amount of time either the husband or wife had to find financial support.
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