2011 Conference Program (PDF) - Syracuse University College of Law


2011 Conference Program (PDF) - Syracuse University College of Law

3.7 Culture of Family Law

This paper explores the right to secession in the context of the ‘violent foundation of laws

authority’ as described by Derrida. Increasingly the right to self determine is becoming a

non-instrumental, democratic right rather than a legal imposition following a period of

alegal foundational violence. Using contemporary African examples it is argued that

violence plays a secondary role in the foundation of legal authority in secessionist states.

Danaya Wright

Shelley v. Westbrook: The Role of Public Patriarchy and the Best Interests Standard in

Redefining the Private Sphere

In this paper I explore the fascinating, and little-known, case in which the poet Percy

Bysshe Shelley lost custody of his children. The case marks the beginning of a shift in

English family law in which courts began to base custody determinations on whether a

father is providing an immoral influence or educating his children to be socially

dangerous (reformists, atheists). Although I have positioned the case within the larger

narrative of child custody, guardianship, and family law reform in my other work, this

piece takes a more direct law and literature angle. In particular, I am exploring Shelley’s

attitude toward childhood and patriarchy both from his own experiences as a child and

the experiences of children around him. He was responsible for Lord Byron’s illegitimate

child and took an avid interest in the children and nephews of his close friend Leigh

Hunt. He also wrote about children and childhood in his poetry. My argument is that

Shelley’s case redefined the nature of family law in 1817 because the Chancellor’s fear of

reform and revolution forced into legal channels the dangerous question of moral

upbringing in the private sphere.

Alice Hearst

Deciphering Culture in Custody Decisions

The 'best interests of the child' standard in custody decisions leaves a great deal of

discretion in the hands of family court judges. Increasingly, couples may be at odds in

divorces because the spouses disagree on the cultural standards under which children

should be raised, especially when tensions around racial, ethnic, nationality and religious

have arisen. This paper looks at how family courts are beginning define and evaluate

cultural claims in contested custody cases. It is particularly attentive to how both the

voices of children and cultural communities are heard in this process.

Clifford Rosky

Don't Kiss, Don't Tell: Sexism, Homophobia, and the Construction of Sex

This project examines how gender influences the construction of sexist and homophobic

norms about sex. To provide an empirical basis for the project, I have gathered a

collection of approximately 600 judicial opinions in custody and visitation cases

involving gay, lesbian, and heterosexual parents reported since the 1950s in the United

States. Based on a comparative analysis of these opinions, I argue that lesbian mothers

and heterosexual fathers enjoy more freedom to display affections, bathe with partners,

and sleep with partners than heterosexual mothers and gay fathers do. The differential

application of these intimacy norms can be explained by a complex interaction between

sexism and homophobia that is based on a phallocentric construction of sex.



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