Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

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RSA 461-A:11, I(a) permits a court to modify a parenting plan only when the parties agree to specific modification terms. Because the parties here disagreed about specific modification terms, they did not “agree to a modification,” and the trial court did not have authority to modify the parenting plan pursuant to RSA 461-A:11, I(a). Accordingly, because RSA 461-A:11, I(a) did not empower the trial court to modify the parenting plan, and because the record contained insufficient findings to permit the New Hampshire Supreme Court to determine whether the trial court properly modified the plan pursuant to RSA 461-A:11, I(c), the trial court’s order was reversed to the extent that modification of the parenting schedule was ordered pursuant to RSA 461-A:11, I(a). The Supreme Court also vacated the order to the extent that modification of the parenting schedule was ordered pursuant to a different subparagraph of RSA 461-A:11, I, and remanded for further proceedings. View "In the Matter of Kelly & Fernandes-Prabhu" on Justia Law

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After discovering methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia in the home of Mother, Mother’s three children were removed from the home. The State initiated abuse and neglect proceedings against Mother, an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe (Tribe). More than one year later, the Tribe and Mother submitted motions to transfer the proceedings to the Tribe’s jurisdiction. The circuit court denied the motions. Following a final dispositional hearing, the court terminated Mother’s parental rights. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Mother was entitled to an evidentiary hearing on the question of whether good cause existed to deny the motions to transfer jurisdiction to the Tribe, and therefore, the circuit court abused its discretion by denying the motions. View "In re Interest of A.O." on Justia Law

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The parties ultimately agreed to an irreconcilable differences divorce, with the chancery court to decide certain issues: child custody, visitation, equitable division of property and attorney fees. The bulk of Candice Ballard’s appeal centered on the court’s order denying her custody of the parties’ three minor children based upon the chancery court’s determination that both Candice and Marshall Ballard were “unfit” and that neither should be awarded custody pursuant to Mississippi Code Section 93-5-24-(9)(a)(ii) (the “family-violence presumption”). The chancery court awarded custody to the Mississippi Department of Human Services but placed the children with Marshall’s parents. Candice challenged the custody decision, arguing the chancellor relied strictly on hearsay to establish her “unfitness” and history of family violence. She also argued the chancery court erred in dividing the marital estate and awarding attorney’s fees. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed and remanded with respect to the issues of custody and division of the marital estate; with respect to fees, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Ballard v. Ballard" on Justia Law

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Leslie Shumake appealed a Chancery Court judgment that found him in contempt for failure to pay his alimony obligations, denied his motion to modify alimony, and placed an equitable lien on his law practice to secure the payment of future alimony. Shumake argued that the chancellor erred by imposing the equitable lien, abused his discretion by failing to grant the motion to modify alimony, erred by rejecting his inability-to-pay defense to the contempt action, erred in the award of attorney fees, and erred by awarding Ms. Shumake the unpaid balance of the arrearage on the parties’ former first mortgage. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed on all issues except the chancellor’s award of attorney fees for Ms. Shumake’s successful contempt action. The Court reversed the attorney fee award and remanded for the chancellor to subtract the fees attributable to Ms. Shumake’s defense of Mr. Shumake’s modification action. View "Shumake v. Shumake" on Justia Law

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Upon the divorce of Thomas Jones and Kimberly Miller the circuit court entered a final order awarding Kimberly a $20,687.75 judgment against Thomas. The circuit court issued a writ of execution directing the sheriff to take possession and sell four vehicles owned by Thomas to satisfy Thomas’s indebtedness to Kimberly. Ollye Mae Jones, who was not married to Thomas at the time, unsuccessfully moved to intervene in the action. Ollye Mae and Thomas later filed a petition for replevin seeking possession of the four vehicles, asserting that the vehicles had been wrongfully taken from them. The circuit court dismissed the replevin action, concluding that the petition was barred by the doctrines of law of the case, res judicata, and collateral estoppel; that Ollye Mae and Thomas lacked standing; and that the petition failed to state a cause of action upon which relief can be granted. The Supreme Court summarily affirmed the circuit court’s dismissal of the replevin action because Ollye Mae and Thomas did not challenge all the grounds that the circuit court relied on in making its decision. View "Jones v. Miller" on Justia Law

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Upon their divorce, Wife and Husband entered into a marital dissolution agreement (MDA) that contained a provision entitling the prevailing party to an award of appellate attorney’s fees in subsequent legal proceedings. The MDA was incorporated into the parties’ final divorce decree. Wife later filed a relocation motion seeking to modify the parties’ parenting plan. Wife then filed a motion for judgment against Husband for reimbursement of uncovered medical expenses. After a hearing, the trial court granted both motions filed by Wife and awarded Wife attorney’s fees based on the MDA. The court of appeals affirmed but declined Wife’s request for an award of fees and costs on appeal. Wife appealed, arguing that she was entitled to appellate attorney’s fees. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Wife was entitled to an award of appellate attorney’s fees incurred before the court of appeals under the parties’ MDA. View "Eberbach v. Eberbach" on Justia Law

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Two former sheriff's deputies were terminated for violating the Sheriff's Code of Conduct because they moved in with each other's wife and family before getting divorced from their current wives. The district court held that the Code policies invoked against the deputies were supported by the rational grounds of preserving a cohesive police force and upholding the public trust and reputation of the Sheriff's Department, and that the Code was not unconstitutionally vague as written or enforced. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of defendants, holding that the district court made no reversible error of fact or law. The court explained that Obergefell v. Hodges does not alter applicable law, and did not create "rights" based on relationships that mock marriage. View "Coker, v. Whittington" on Justia Law

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Husband appealed from a district court judgment awarding child support and primary residence of the parties’ children to Mother. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the portion of the judgment related to the health insurance component of Husband’s child support obligation and affirmed the judgment in all other respects, holding (1) the district court did not err by awarding primary residence of the children to Mother; but (2) the district court committed clear error in its factual findings regarding the calculation of Father’s obligation to pay for the children’s health insurance. View "Pyle v. Pyle" on Justia Law

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As part of their 2010 marital settlement agreement, respondent Misti Janes (Wife) was awarded $113,392 from the retirement account of appellant Tim Janes (Husband). In 2014, the money was still in the retirement account. Wife sought the amount of the award, plus and gains or losses resulting from that money sitting in the account. The family court granted Wife’s request for a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) reflecting Wife was entitled to $113,392 and the resulting gains or losses dating back to the date of separation. Husband appealed, arguing: (1) the family court lacked jurisdiction to modify the 2010 judgment of dissolution by awarding the gains and losses to Wife; and (2) the family court erred by dating the gains and losses back to the date of separation, rather than the date of the dissolution judgment. Finding that Husband failed to explain why he was entitled to gains earned on the$113,392, the Court of Appeal was unpersuaded by Husband's interpretation of the agreement. The trial court did not modify the agreement by its award, nor did it err by dating the gains or losses earned on the award back to the state of the 2010 judgment. View "Marriage of Janes" on Justia Law

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In this divorce matter, the parties agreed to divide the husband’s retirement benefit based on its present value and implemented the division with a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). In 2014, after the husband received an updated benefit projection that calculated the wife’s share of the benefit using his salary at retirement instead of at divorce, he sought to modify the QDRO. He asked the court to require that her benefit be based upon the same salary data used in a 2006 calculation. The superior court denied the motion. Because the settlement did not contain clear language establishing the use of the earlier salary the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court's judgment. View "Thomson v. Thomson" on Justia Law