Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

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A woman's premarital student loan was consolidated with other student loans incurred during marriage. Her husband argued at the couple's divorce trial that he should not be responsible for the consolidated loans because they contained the premarital debt and because his wife had wasted loan proceeds by gambling. The superior court, however, held the parties equally responsible for the loans, finding that it was impossible to extricate the premarital loan from the consolidated loans and that the amounts were all marital debt primarily used to support the family while the wife attended school. It further found that the husband had failed to prove a waste of marital assets. The husband argued on appeal to the Supreme Court that these findings were erroneous and that the superior court was biased against him. Concluding that the court's findings were supported by the evidence and that there was no merit to the bias allegation, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Wagner v. Wagner" on Justia Law

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A mother sought an emergency protection order to keep her soon-to-be ex-husband away from her and their children because, she alleged, he had abused them. The father denied the allegations and sought to cross-examine one of the daughters about her claim that he had repeatedly tried to suffocate her, among other things. Evidence was presented that the daughter was suicidal, was unable to confront her father, and would be significantly traumatized by this cross-examination. The issue this case presented was whether the father had a constitutional or statutory right to question his minor daughter in court before the protection order could be issued. Finding under the facts of this case that he did not, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Aiken v. Aiken" on Justia Law

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In 2004, KGS was born to Father and Mother. In 2013, a neglect petition was filed against Mother and, after a hearing, KGS was placed in the legal custody of the Department of Family Services. The Department later filed a petition seeking termination of Mother’s and Father’s parental rights. After a hearing, the district court entered an order terminating Father’s parental rights. Father appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Department presented sufficient evidence to support termination of Father’s parental rights; and (2) Father failed to show that he was denied due process in this case. View "In re Termination of Parental Rights to KGS" on Justia Law

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Jeffrey E. and Anna M., parents of A.E., share equal custody of the child. After Anna sought a child support award, evidence established that Davis F., Anna's friend and A.E.'s godfather, financially supports Anna and pays her expenses of over $30,000 a month. The court rejected Jeffrey's argument that Davis's financial support should be considered in determining the amount of Jeffrey's child support obligation. The court concluded that regular, recurrent gifts to a parent may be characterized as income to that parent for purposes of calculating guideline child support, but they do not indicate gifts must be so characterized in every case; the trial court has discretion to consider gifts as income when they are a regular, recurrent monetary benefit to the parent; and courts are mindful not to base a child support calculation on monies a parent does not actually have. In this case, the court concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in failing to characterize Davis's gifts to Anna as her income when calculating the child support. The court explained that the evidence was sufficient for the trial court to reasonably conclude the financial support Davis provides Anna does not represent a regular, recurrent monetary benefit fairly representing income for purposes of calculating the child support award. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Anna M. v. Jeffrey E." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and Henry married in 1987 and divorced in 1993. The Divorce Judgment granted Plaintiff one-half of the pension benefits Henry had accrued during the marriage, with full rights of survivorship. Henry was forbidden from choosing a payment option that would deprive Plaintiff of these benefits. Henry worked for Chrysler from 1965 to 1992, and began receiving retirement benefits in 1994, under a “Lifetime Annuity Without Surviving Spouse” option, in violation of the Judgment. Plaintiff’s attorney submitted the Judgment to the Plan administrator, who stated that the Judgment lacked information required by 29 U.S.C. 1056(d)(3)(C) to qualify as a “qualified domestic relations order,” so it could not override ERISA’s anti-alienation provision. Plaintiff did not contact the Plan again until after Henry had died in 2007. The Plan denied her benefits request, noting “the participant does not have a remaining benefit to be assigned.” For six years, Plaintiff unsuccessfully attempted to have the Plan qualify the Judgment. The Plan noted that changing the type of benefit was impermissible under plan the rules. In 2014, plaintiff obtained a nunc pro tunc order, correcting the Judgment. The Plan again denied benefits. Plaintiff filed suit under ERISA. The district court granted Plaintiff summary judgment, reasoning that, to the extent Plaintiff’s claim was based on the 2014, denial of benefits based on the Nunc Pro Tunc Order, it was timely and that the Order relates back to 1993. The Sixth Circuit reversed, finding the claim untimely. View "Patterson v. Chrysler Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2015, Lisa Grimicko (Wife) filed a petition for dissolution of marriage. In it, she petitioned for spousal maintenance and an equitable division of the marital assets and debts. Wife sought information from Nickifor Gromicko's (Husband) employer, International Association of Certified Home Inspectors ( InterNACHI). Wife alleged that Husband founded the company in 2004, and served as InterNACHI's Chief Operating Officer. Although Husband initially indicated he had no objection to making certain InterNACHI records available, he subsequently refused to produce them, contending that he was merely an employee of the company, and had no authority to provide the records. Husband's counsel, who also served as InterNACHI's general counsel, filed a brief on behalf of the company regarding access to the requested records. The trial court made no ruling on the records request. In response, Wife served a subpoena, and InterNACHI moved to quash the subpoena. In its motion, InterNACHI argued that many of the documents were privileged and confidential, and irrelevant to the dissolution proceedings. Wife maintained that the records were relevant to both spousal maintenance and division of marital property. The trial court denied InterNACHI's motion, and ultimately ordered InterNACHI to produce the records. Finding that the trial court did not take an active role in managing Wife's discovery request, the Colorado Supreme Court reversed the trial court's order and remanded for the trial court to make findings about the appropriate scope of discovery in light of the reasonable needs of the case. View "In re Marriage of Gromicko" on Justia Law

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In 2004, Livia was born to Marissa Levesque and Anthony Bucci. In 2013, Levesque and Derek Gray filed a petition for termination of Bucci’s parental rights and for the adoption of Livia by Gray. After a trial, the trial justice (1) terminated Bucci’s parental rights, deeming Bucci unfit based on abandonment grounds; and (2) granted Gray’s petition for adoption, finding it in Livia’s best interests. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice’s determination that Bucci abandoned Livia rested on sufficient factual findings and credibility determinations, which were supported by legally competent evidence. View "In re Livia B.L." on Justia Law

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A mother appealed an order reducing the amount of child support the father was required to pay. She argued that the superior court relied on incorrect income calculations from the Child Support Services Division (CSSD) and that it erred in finding a material change in circumstances sufficient to warrant a reduction in child support. She also argued that the court should have required the father to submit an income affidavit, and that its failure to do so improperly shifted to her the burden of proving the father’s income. After its review, the Supreme Court agreed that CSSD's income calculations were incorrect, that it was error for the court to adopt them, and that the father should have been required to submit an income affidavit. View "Shanigan v. Shanigan" on Justia Law

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In its order of dissolution for the marriage of respondent Colleen McLain and appellant Bruce McLain, the family court: (1) ordered Husband to pay Wife $4,000 per month in spousal support; (2) awarded Wife $5,500 in attorney’s fees; and (3) denied Husband’s request for reimbursement of alleged separate property contributions used to construct a house. Husband appealed, arguing the family court: (1) erred in its spousal support order by concluding Wife had a right to retire; (2) erred in awarding attorney’s fees; and (3) erred he did not sufficiently tract his separate property, thereby erring by denying his request for reimbursement on that separate property. Finding no errors, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "In re Marriage of McLain" on Justia Law

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Mother appealed a superior court decision denying her motion to set aside a previous order terminating her parental rights to her daughter, P.K. Mother voluntarily relinquished her parental rights in the same proceeding in which she entered into a postadoption-contact agreement with P.K.’s paternal grandmother, with whom the child had been placed by the Department for Children and Families (DCF). After DCF removed P.K. from the paternal grandmother’s home and placed her with another pre-adoptive foster family, mother moved to set aside the termination order. The trial court found that mother agreed, at the termination hearing, that "all parties agreed that it was in P.K.’s best interest that custody be transferred to DCF, without limitation as to adoption." Mother argued on appeal to the Supreme Court that the superior court erred by not employing available legal remedies to safeguard her ongoing relationship with P.K., which the court necessarily found to be in P.K.'s best interest in approving the postadoption-contact agreement. She contended that relief was available based on changed circumstances, in this case, the changed circumstances of the paternal grandmother's removal as a preadoptive parent. Finding no reversible error in the superior court’s denial of mother’s motion, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "In re P.K." on Justia Law