Family Law on the Multistate Essay Exam: Highly Tested Topics and Tips

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Here, we give you an overview of Family Law on the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE). We will reveal some of the highly tested topics and give you tips for approaching a Family Law MEE question.

Note that Family Law is regularly tested on the Multistate Essay Exam. It is tested, on average, about once a year.

In this post, we give you tips for approaching Family Law on the Multistate Essay Exam and we reveal some of the highly tested issues in Family Law questions.

Family Law on the Multistate Essay Exam

1. First, be aware of how Family Law is tested

Family Law is tested about once a year. It used to be tested much more frequently when the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) wrote 7–9 essays for states administering the MEE to choose from. (You can read about that here if you are interested.) Now that Multistate Essay Exam states no longer have a choice about which six essays to administer (because the NCBE only administers six!) Family Law has appeared less frequently.

Family Law generally is tested on its own. However, occasionally it will “crossover” with a Conflict of Laws issue.

2. Be aware of the highly tested Family Law issues

The Examiners tend to test several of the same issues repeatedly in Family Law Multistate Essay Exam questions. You can maximize your score by being aware of these highly tested issues. (We have a nice summary of these in our MEE One-Sheets if you want to see all of them and have them all in one place.)

We note that a lot of commercial bar review courses spend a lot of time on topics that are not highly tested (for example, general requirements of marriage, defenses to fault-based divorce, intra-family tort immunity, marital rape, family privacy, donor eggs, gestational agreements, etc.). As a result, some examinees spend a lot of time on topics that they are unlikely to see on the exam. Focus instead on the highly tested topics and past Multistate Essay Exams.

Some of the highly tested Family Law Multistate Essay Exam issues include: 

Child custody and support

Child custody and support is regularly tested on the Multistate Essay Exam. Here are a few topics that have been tested:

  • Custody: custody is determined by looking at the best interests of the child.
  • Child support: All states employ numerical guidelines and establish a rebuttable presumption that the award that results from applying the guidelines is correct. The guidelines must be applied in all cases, regardless of the parents’ marital status. The court will look at factors like income and earnings of the parents, the number of children and their ages, and any special needs of the children.
  • Modification: custody or support can be modified if there is a substantial change in circumstances.
  • Rights of the biological father: Biological fathers generally have rights. However, the state may make the parent exercise his rights within a specific time (e.g., two years).
  • Business records: A record of “acts, events, conditions, opinions, or diagnoses” is admissible if it is made “at or near the time” of the event recorded by a “person with knowledge” of the event. Further, the making of the record must occur in the course of a regularly conducted business activity, and it must be the regular practice of the business to make such a record.

Property division and alimony

A few tested topics are the following:

  • Marital vs. separate property: Marital property is property acquired during the marriage and is subject to division. Separate property includes (mnemonic = BIG): property acquired before the marriage, an inheritance, or a gift to one party. Most states do not count professional degrees earned during the marriage as marital property. Separate property is generally not subject to division.
  • Premarital agreement: A court will enforce a premarital agreement so long as it is voluntarily made, substantively fair, and if full disclosure of assets and obligations was made. A court will not, however, enforce a premarital agreement regarding child custody or support if it is not in the best interests of the child.
  • 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.

Other Family Law issues

  • 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) generally are 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.

3. Be aware of how certain Family Law topics are tested

Certain topics tend to be tested in specific ways. For example:

  • When common law marriage is tested (as it has been five times now since 1995), in general, the parties are not able to prove that a common law marriage exists. It is difficult to prove the existence of a common law marriage, so usually, the parties fail. (The February 2017 exam was an exception where there was arguably a common law marriage.)
  • Retroactive modification of support has been tested regularly—and if you remember that federal law forbids retroactive modification of child support (absent circumstances like fraud), you will answer this question right when it is tested. The outcome is always the same on the MEE!
  • When the UCCJEA is tested, generally the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA) is also mentioned. It is very similar to the UCCJEA and the result is virtually always the same, but it doesn’t hurt to mention that “the result would be the same under the PKPA” if you see a UCCJEA issue tested.

These are just some examples of how specific topics are tested. The best way to master these topics is to practice past MEEs!

4. Practice!

Practice is critical if you want to master Family Law on the Multistate Essay Exam. You will get exposed to the kinds of issues the Examiners like to test as well as how they tend to be tested.

Here are some links to (free) Family Law MEE questions and NCBE point sheets. (If you would like to purchase a book of Family Law MEE questions and NCBE point sheets from 2000 to the present date, check out our MEE books here. You can also see some additional exams on the NCBE website for free here.)

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