Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

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The Department of Health and Human Services filed a petition to terminate Father’s parental rights to his two minor children, a girl and a boy. After a termination hearing at which Father failed to appear, the district court terminated Father’s parental rights, concluding that reasonable efforts made been made given the need to protect the children’s health and safety. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court correctly determined that the Department made reasonable efforts to prevent the necessity of removing the two children, as required by Mont. Code Ann. 41-3-423. View "In re A.G." on Justia Law

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After ending their marriage, Ex-Wife and Ex-Husband commenced proceedings in the Moscow Court for division of marital assets. In the Russian Dispute, Ex-Wife claimed that Ex-Husband was concealing and dissipating marital assets through and with the assistance of “offshore companies” around the world. In the United States, Ex-Wife sought information from Gabriella Pugh and her employer in Atlanta, Georgia - Trident - that she expected would reveal Ex-Husband’s beneficial ownership of Bahamian corporation, Tripleton. On referral, the Magistrate Judge granted Ex-Wife's ex parte Application for Judicial Assistance and authorized service of two subpoenas. In these consolidated appeals, Trident challenges the district court's order allowing discovery pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1782 (Appeal No. 15-13008 (“First Appeal”)) and imposing contempt sanctions (Appeal No. 15-15066 (“Second Appeal”)). The court agreed with the district court that the location of responsive documents and electronically stored information - to the extent a physical location can be discerned in this digital age - does not establish a per se bar to discovery under section 1782; having rejected the Extraterritoriality Argument, the court agreed with the district court that significant “circumstantial evidence” established that Trident Atlanta had “control” over responsive documents in the physical possession or custody of Trident Bahamas; and therefore the court affirmed as to the First Appeal. The court rejected Trident Atlanta's frivolous jurisdictional argument; the Contempt Order is supported by the evidence; and therefore the court affirmed the Second Appeal. View "Sergeeva v. Tripleton Int'l Ltd." on Justia Law

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Respondent Christopher Ross appealed a circuit court order dismissing his petition for a fault-based divorce and the final divorce order from petitioner Danielle Ross. He argued that the trial court erred: (1) in granting petitioner’s motion to dismiss based upon the defense of recrimination; (2) in failing to award him more than half of the marital estate; and (3) in failing to retroactively modify temporary support orders based upon petitioner’s allegedly understated income. Because the Supreme Court held that a party’s actions after the divorce petition has been filed could be used as a basis for the defense of recrimination, and that respondent withdrew his request to modify the temporary support orders, the Court affirmed. View "In the Matter of Ross" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed from a Domestic Violence Prevention Act (DVPA), Fam. Code, 6200 et seq., restraining order prohibiting him from harassing or contacting respondent and compelling him to stay at least 500 yards away from her person, residence, and workplace. The court concluded that substantial evidence supports the trial court’s express finding that a dating relationship existed; substantial evidence supports the trial court's finding that defendant disturbed the peace of plaintiff, which is an act of abuse under the DVPA; and, even if the First Amendment issue were properly before the court, the court would reject defendant's argument that his ability to continue to engage in activity that has been determined after a hearing to constitute abuse under the DVPA is the type of "speech" afforded constitutional protection. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment (DVPA restraining order). View "Phillips v. Campbell" on Justia Law

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Mother and Father divorced pursuant to a decree that granted Mother full custody of the parties' two daughters, with regular visitation for Father. Almost a decade later, Mother filed an application to modify visitation. Father counterclaimed, seeking full custody of the parties’ children on the ground that Mother’s current spouse resided with and had unsupervised access to the children and is a registered sex offender due to a felony involving his minor stepdaughter. The district court denied Mother’s application to modify and denied Father’s counterclaim. Father filed a petition for further review. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Mother met her statutory burden to produce evidence that her spouse was not a significant risk to the girls; and (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion by finding that the girls were not at significant risk. View "Hopkins v. Hopkins" on Justia Law

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Husband appealed a final divorce order, arguing that the Family Division: (1) inequitably divided the marital assets; (2) committed reversible errors of fact; and (3) issued a decision based on impermissible bias. Finding no reversible error in the Family Division's order, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Casavant (Allen) v. Allen" on Justia Law

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Respondent Coralee Beal appealed a circuit court order awarding petitioner Deborah Munson what Beal contended to be eighty-eight percent of the value of the marital estate. The court awarded Beal the remaining twelve percent and alimony. Beal argued that the circuit court erred by failing to consider the parties’ approximately fifteen-year period of premarital cohabitation when it determined the provisions of the decree. After review, the Supreme Court held that the trial court could consider premarital cohabitation when formulating an equitable distribution of marital property. Accordingly, the Court vacated both the property distribution and alimony award and remanded for further proceedings. View "In the Matter of Munson and Beal" on Justia Law

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Appellant Tammy Cole was the biological grandmother of N.B. and J.B. In May 2012, DCYF filed a petition alleging that N.B. and J.B. had been neglected by their biological parents. The court appointed CASA to serve as the children’s guardian ad litem. After the court made a finding of neglect and awarded DCYF legal custody, DCYF removed N.B. and J.B. from their parents’ home and placed them in Cole’s physical custody. In November 2013, the biological parents sexually abused N.B. and J.B. during an unsupervised visit. The court subsequently terminated the biological parents’ parental rights, and the abuse and neglect case was closed. In May 2014, Cole and her husband adopted the children. In July, Cole filed a motion in the circuit court seeking to copy the court’s records relating to the children’s abuse and neglect case. Cole also notified DCYF and CASA that N.B. and J.B. had potential negligence claims against these agencies based upon the abuse that occurred while the children were in the legal custody of DCYF. DCYF and CASA objected to Cole’s motion and each requested a protective order. DCYF and CASA argued that Cole was not entitled to make a copy of the court record, and CASA requested that the court grant a protective order limiting Cole’s inspection of the records to review at the courthouse and limiting disclosure of the court file. After a hearing, the court granted Cole’s motion to copy records and also granted CASA’s request for a protective order, in part. Cole only appealed the part of the circuit court's order required that any future case be filed as confidential and the pleadings filed under seal. She argued that this constituted a prior restraint on free speech that violated her rights under the New Hampshire and United States Constitutions because it was neither narrowly tailored nor did it serve a compelling State interest. Further, she asserted that it impermissibly placed the burden upon her, instead of on the parties seeking nondisclosure, and that it unfairly restricted her disclosure while allowing others to disclose the same information. Because the New Hampshire Supreme Court found that the court’s ruling constituted an unconstitutional prior restraint on speech, it reversed this part of the order. View "In re N.B." on Justia Law

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Blumenthal jointly owned her Chicago home with Brewer, her domestic partner since 1981. In 2010 Blumenthal sought partition of the residence when the relationship ended. Brewer counterclaimed for common-law remedies, including an interest in Blumenthal’s ownership share in a medical group so that their overall assets would be equalized. Blumenthal moved to dismiss the counterclaim under the Illinois Supreme Court’s 1979 Hewitt decision, which rejected a woman’s suit to divide assets she accumulated with a man during a long-term relationship in which they lived together, had children together, but never married. Brewer argued that it was “particularly irrational” to apply this principle to her because she and Blumenthal could not marry at the time their relationship ended because same-sex marriage was not recognized in Illinois. The counterclaim was dismissed; the partition action proceeded to final judgment. The appellate court vacated the dismissal, calling Hewitt “outmoded and ill-considered.” The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the trial court decision. The legislature intended marriage to be the only legally protected family relationship under Illinois law. Permitting unmarried partners to enforce mutual property rights might “encourage formation of such relationships and weaken marriage as the foundation of our family-based society.” Marriage is a legal relationship that all individuals may or may not enter into, Illinois does not act irrationally or discriminatorily in refusing to grant benefits and protections under the Marriage and Dissolution Act to those who do not participate in that institution. View "Blumenthal v. Brewer" on Justia Law

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In September 2015, the Trinity County Department of Health and Human Services (Department) filed a juvenile dependency petition as to then eight-year-old S.N. The petition alleged that mother "failed to protect [S.N.] in that she drove under the influence of alcohol with [S.N.] in the vehicle, resulting in a single car collision into the embankment, causing [S.N.] to suffer serious physical and emotional harm." The petition further alleged that mother "failed to provide [S.N.] with adequate medical care in that [S.N.] had ligature marks and abrasions on her chest as a result of a vehicle accident which were not immediately treated due to the mother telling [S.N.] she was not 'hurt enough' to require medical care." C.N., mother of minor S.N., appealed the juvenile court’s orders taking jurisdiction and later terminating jurisdiction after awarding custody to father at disposition. She contended the court failed to obtain a valid waiver of her right to a contested jurisdictional hearing. Mother further contended that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel at the jurisdictional hearing. In the published portion of the Court of Appeal's opinion, the Court concluded the trial court failed to obtain a valid waiver. Because this error was found as harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, the Court of Appeal affirmed the juvenile court’s orders nevertheless. View "In re S.N." on Justia Law