Prof. Joanna Grossman Receives National Endowment for Humanities Grant for Her Work on Parentage Law

Joanna L. Grossman, Sidney and Walter Siben Distinguished Professor of Family Law and Hofstra Research Fellow

Joanna L. Grossman, the Sidney and Walter Siben Distinguished Professor of Family Law, has received a National Endowment for the Humanities 2016 Summer Stipends award for her project “The Mother (and Father) of All Questions: Who Is a Parent?”

The project has two goals: a book on parentage law that would appeal to both scholars and lay readers and a companion website designed to aid academic research and inform families of the law that might govern their choices.

In the book, Professor Grossman plans to consider the historical development of parentage law; the social changes that have led to new questions and challenges; the growing gap between people’s expectations about their legal rights and obligations as parents (or gamete donors or gestational carriers) and the law’s actual assignment of those rights and obligations; and whether, given the wide variety of family forms today, it is possible to develop a unified or predictable theory of parentage.

Specific topics that the book would address in depth are surrogacy, sperm and egg donation, posthumous conception, de facto parentage, adoption, unwed fatherhood, paternity misrepresentation, third-party visitation, and parentage by contract.

The website would provide comprehensive information about parentage law and its impact on non-traditional families, serving as an essential resource for academics and nonacademics.

Parentage law has been a focus of Professor Grossman’s research, teaching, and pro bono work. In her previous family law book, Inside the Castle: Law and the Family in 20th Century America (Princeton University Press 2011), which won the David J. Langum Prize in Legal History, she and her co-author devoted a chapter to parentage law. Professor Grossman has also addressed parentage law issues in her biweekly online column for Justia’s Verdict.

She has also written amicus briefs in leading family law cases, served as an expert witness in family law trials (including in Obergefell v. Hodges, the same-sex marriage case), done outreach work for low-income families affected by parentage law, and taught specialized seminars on the law governing the nontraditional family.

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