Family Law On The Multistate Essay Exam

Tips for Family Law On The Multistate Essay Exam

This time in our MEE tips series we address Family Law.  When thinking about Family Law on the Multistate Essay Exam, consider two questions. How is it tested, and how often is it tested?  In the last 10 years (20 administrations), we’ve seen Family Law on the Multistate Essay Exam a total of 11 times.  Family Law began that stretch as virtually certain to appear, showing up on 7 MEEs in a row.  It has been relatively more uncommon since then and is certainly not a guarantee on every MEE exam. (If you are curious about the evolution of the MEE and why family law is tested less now, read this article.) However, because Family Law is regularly tested (even if it is not tested every exam) it is important to have an understanding of the topic on teh MEE.

Tips for Family Law On The Multistate Essay Exam

Standard disclaimer: make sure you are preparing for all of the subjects!  Statistics regarding the frequency we see Family on the Multistate Essay Exam should be used in determining how much to study for the subject, not whether to study for it at all.  Spend the most time on the subjects that are the most likely to come up.  But do not ignore any subject!

Here are the most commonly tested topics in Family Law on the Multistate Essay Exam:

Child Custody and Support

If you see a custody determination case in Family Law on the Multistate Essay Exam, remember that this requires an analysis of the best interests of the child factors.  The court will only modify custody if there has been a substantial change in circumstances.  The same is true if one is requesting a modification of child support.  There is a separate list of factors that must be considered when determining a child support award.

Property Distribution

Although marriage and divorce law are not heavily tested in Family Law on the Multistate Essay Exam, the division of property in the event of a divorce is.  In a majority of states, marital property is divided at divorce but separate property is not.  Under the majority approach, marital property is property made during the marriage.  Separate property includes property acquired before the marriage, an inheritance, or a gift.  A premarital agreement that includes a division of property will be honored so long as it is voluntarily made, not unconscionable, and if full disclosure of assets and obligations was made.

Spousal Support (aka Alimony)

Alimony can be permanent, temporary, or granted in a lump sum.  All states consider many factors, with the parties’ financial resources and needs, marital contributions, and marital duration being relevant in almost all jurisdictions.  These awards are not final and can be modified if there has been a substantial change in circumstances.

Jurisdiction and Binding Court Orders

A court does not need jurisdiction over both spouses to issue a divorce decree.  If the plaintiff spouse is domiciled in the forum state, or the state has some long-term connection between at least one of the parties to the marriage, then that state will have jurisdiction.  However, a court must have jurisdiction over the defendant spouse in order to issue a binding property division or support order.

In Family Law on the Multistate Essay Exam questions, both the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) are generally applied.

  • The UIFSA governs child support.  Once a child support order is registered, it may be enforced by any state.  The state that originally issued a child support order has exclusive jurisdiction to modify the order if the state remains the residence of the obligee, the child, or the obligor, and at least one of the parties does not consent to the use of another forum.
  • The UCCJEA governs child custody orders.  This statute incorporates various tests.  Under the Home State test, the “home state” has exclusive jurisdiction to modify a decree.  A home state is a state where the child has lived with a parent or person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months immediately before the commencement of the child custody proceeding.  A home state continues to have exclusive jurisdiction to issue a custody order for six months after a child leaves the state, so long as a parent (or person acting as a parent) still lives in the state.  The Significant Connections test applies if a child has no home state.  Under this test, a state may exercise jurisdiction based on (1) significant connections with the child and at least one parent; and (2) the existence of substantial evidence relating to child custody in the forum jurisdiction.
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