Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff Melissa Solomon appealed the dismissal, without consideration of the merits, of her petition for dissolution of a nonresident civil union. Plaintiff and defendant entered into a civil union in 2001 in Brattleboro, Vermont, but both resided in Wake County, North Carolina. The parties were separated by May 2014. The parties had no children. In 2015, they decided to dissolve their civil union and filed an uncontested complaint in Vermont, accompanied by a final stipulation as required by 15 V.S.A. 1206(b). The superior court dismissed the complaint, concluding that the parties failed to produce evidence that they attempted to obtain a dissolution of the civil union in North Carolina. The court expressed concern that if Vermont courts “continue[d] to accept these filings and allow courts in other states to ignore precedent [set by Obergefell v. Hodges, __ U.S. __, 135 S. Ct. 2584, 2608 (2015)], the situation [would] never be resolved.” Because civil marriage and civil unions remained legally distinct entities in Vermont and because "Obergefell" mandated that states recognize only same-sex marriage, uncertainty remained as to whether Obergefell required other states to recognize and dissolve civil unions established in Vermont. The parties here followed the section 1206(b) mandates. Plaintiff contended that the provided affidavit satisfied the “acknowledgment” required by § 1206(b), and thus the court erred when it refused to consider the issue and held that North Carolina was the proper venue for all filings and appeals. The Vermont Supreme Court agreed with plaintiff, and reversed and remanded the trial court's dismissal. View "Solomon v. Guidry" on Justia Law

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Rebekah McCarty and Kenneth Faried had a daughter together but never married and never cohabitated. McCarty later filed a motion for child support. After an evidentiary hearing, the trial court established joint custody and ordered Faried to pay $4,250 a month in child support. The court of appeals, considering the issue a matter of first impression, vacated and remanded the trial court’s award of child support, holding that the amount was arbitrary. The Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the trial court’s order establishing child support, holding that the order was not arbitrary, unreasonably, erroneous, or an abuse of discretion. View "McCarty v. Faried" on Justia Law

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In this case, the natural mother schemed to give away her child without the natural father's consent by falsely claiming in a sworn consent and joinder and in sworn testimony at the adoption proceedings, that she didn't know the child's natural father. The deception caused the court to grant an adoption to a third party based on false, material representations. The natural father discovered the deception and filed a petition to set aside the adoption. The chancellor heard the "independent action" to set aside a "judgment based on fraud." The adoptive parents moved to dismiss the natural father's petition, attacking the father's standing to bring such an action. The chancellor denied the adoptive parents' motion, and finding no error in that denial, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Doe v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Two and a half months before Child’s eighteenth birthday, a private petition for an adjudication of dependency under Fla. Stat. 39.01(15)(a) and (e) was filed on Child’s behalf. The trial court denied the petition, ruling that Child did not qualify as defendant under section 39.01. The Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed. Child appealed, arguing that the Fourth District failed to acknowledge section 39.01(15)(e) as a separate basis for a finding of child dependency. The Supreme Court dismissed the case, holding that the issue of whether Child was a dependent child under section 39.01(15)(e) was moot because Child reached majority age in 2015 and could not now be adjudicated a dependent child under Florida law. View "O.I.C.L. v. Fla. Dep’t of Children & Families" on Justia Law

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A 14-year-old ran away from her mother’s home. Mother asked that she be taken into the custody of Child Protective Services, stating a need for therapy for herself, minor, and her younger daughter. The court ordered reunification services for “the child and to the mother.” At the six-month review the agency recommended that minor remain in out-of-home placement. Minor wanted to return home and participate in therapy. The agency and mother were concerned about minor’s previous molestation of her younger sister. The court ordered reunification services continued. At the 12-month review, the agency recommended and the court ordered that minor remain in out-of-home placement and reunification services be continued. Sister’s treating psychiatrist had recommended that visits between minor and her sister be suspended. At the 18-month review, the agency recommended that minor remain in out-of- home placement and that reunification services be terminated because her sister continued to be “triggered” by minor. The court expressed concern about failure to provide services specifically targeted at resolving the impediment to reunification, minor’s sexual abuse of her sister, and ordered services continued up to 24 months. The court of appeal affirmed. Although significant services were provided, they were not tailored to the family’s particular needs arising out of the unique circumstances. Amendments to Welfare and Institutions Code sections 361.5 and 366.221 did not restrict the court’s section 352 authority to extend reunification services to 24 months upon a showing of good cause. View "In re J.E." on Justia Law

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Petitioner-appellee Tracey Childers (wife) and Respondent-Appellant Kelly Childers (husband) were divorced pursuant to a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage that distributed their marital estate. The husband appealed the Decree, and the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. It concluded that the trial court's valuation of the marital estate was against the clear weight of evidence. It also ordered the trial court to rule on the husband's request for attorney fees on remand. The three dispositive questions presented for the Supreme Court's review were whether: (1) the trial court's valuation of the parties' marital estate was against the clear weight of evidence; (2) the trial court's distribution of the parties' marital estate was just and reasonable; and (3) the trial court's order that each party pay its own attorney fees was an abuse of discretion. The Court held that the trial court's valuation of the parties' marital estate was not against the clear weight of evidence, that its distribution of the parties' marital estate was just and reasonable, and that its order that each party pay its own attorney fees was not an abuse of discretion. View "Childers v. Childers" on Justia Law

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Catherine Brochu and Richard McLeod were married in 1970 and had two children. In 1977, the parties executed a separation agreement setting forth McLeod’s child and spousal support obligations. McLeod, who was in the United States Marine Corps, went into hiding after executing the separation agreement. From 1977 to the time of this case, McLeod never made a child or spousal support payment. In 1979, the court issued a divorce judgment incorporating the settlement agreement. After locating McLeod in 2014, Brochu filed a motion to enforce the nearly forty years’ overdue support payments. McLeod moved to dismiss the complaint based on the affirmative defense of laches. The district court granted the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order of dismissal to the extent that the court’s conclusions are founded upon the application of the doctrine of laches, holding (1) the doctrine of laches may be asserted as a defense to spousal support arrearages but is inapplicable to child support arrearages; and (2) the court did not properly apply the doctrine of laches to the spousal support arrearages in this case. View "Brochu v. McLeod" on Justia Law

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Petitioner challenges the district court's denial of his petition for return of his children to Venezuela pursuant to the Hague Convention. The court concluded that the district court applied the correct legal standard in determining the children’s habitual residence, and its shared intent determination was not clearly erroneous. In this case, the record demonstrates that respondent, the children's mother, and petitioner's last shared intent was to abandon Venezuela permanently as the children’s habitual residence. There was a meeting of their minds to abandon Venezuela as the children’s habitual residence. The court also concluded that petitioner cannot meet his burden to show that the children were wrongfully removed from Venezuela or retained in the United States because Venezuela was abandoned as the children’s habitual residence. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Delgado v. Osuna" on Justia Law

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Father appealed the juvenile court's order on his petition under Welf. & Inst. Code 388 giving his minor son sole discretion whether Father will have visits with him. The court concluded that where, as here, the juvenile court has not ordered reunification services because, under section 361.5, subdivisions (b)(1) and (d), the parent’s whereabouts were unknown for more than six months after the child’s out-of home placement, the parent has no right to visitation. Nonetheless, the court concluded that the juvenile court may order visitation in the exercise of its discretion under section 362, subdivision (a), on a finding that such visitation will serve and protect the child’s best interests. But, as is the rule when visitation is ordered as part of a reunification plan, the court concluded that the juvenile court cannot give the child sole discretion to determine whether such visitation will occur. Rather, once the juvenile court determines that visitation is in the child’s best interests, the juvenile court must, as part of its duty to protect and serve those interests, ensure that such visitation occurs under terms set by the juvenile court. Otherwise, the court concluded that, by placing sole discretion whether visitation will occur in the hands of the child, the juvenile court will have ceded to the child the determination whether visitation is in the child’s best interests. Accordingly, the court reversed the order and remanded for reconsideration. View "In re Korbin Z." on Justia Law

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In 2015, the State filed a motion to terminate Mother’s parental rights to her minor child. After conducting a termination hearing, the juvenile court terminated Mother’s parental rights, finding by clear and convincing evidence that the State proved grounds for termination under Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-292(2),(6), and (7) and that termination was in the child’s best interests. On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the State failed to adduce clear and convincing evidence that terminating Mother’s parental rights was in the child’s best interests. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the State adduced clear and convincing evidence that termination was in the child’s best interests. Remanded. View "In re Interest of Alec S." on Justia Law