Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

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When Mother and Father divorced, Mother was awarded custody of the parties’ twin boys, and Father was awarded visitation. Both parties later sought an award of primary custody, and Mother requested permission to relocate with the children to Florida. After a hearing, the court entered its “Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law,” which included construing an agreed order as creating a joint custody arrangement and denying Mother’s request to relocate. The resulting order was entered on August 27, 2015. Mother filed a notice of appeal. The court of appeals found that the notice of appeal was fatally deficient as to the custody issues for failing to designate the August 27 final custody order. The Supreme Court vacated the opinion of the court of appeals and remanded, holding that the notice of appeal substantially complied with Ark. R. App. P.-Civ. 3(e) and therefore was not fatal to appellate jurisdiction. View "Emis v. Emis" on Justia Law

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Victor and Deanna Zandi's were divorced in 2009. Their dependent daughter, T.Z., incurred approximately $13,000 in medical bills when she had a kidney stone removed while traveling outside her medical insurer’s, Kaiser Permanente, network. The superior court ordered Victor Zandi to pay 7 5 percent of the cost and Deanna Zandi to pay the remaining 25 percent. The Court of Appeals reversed, finding that the superior court abused its discretion by modifying the parties' 2009 order of child support, which required Victor Zandi to pay 100 percent of "uninsured medical expenses." This case presented an issue of whether out-of-network health care costs qualified as "[u]ninsured medical expenses" under RCW 26.18.170(18)(d). The Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals: the legislature defined "[u]ninsured medical expenses" as costs not covered by insurance. WAC 388-14A-1020 clarified that this included costs "not paid" by insurance, even if those costs would be covered under other circumstances. Because the health care expenses in this case were unambiguously within the scope of RCW 26.18.170(18)(d), financial responsibility was allocated by the 2009 order and may not be modified absent evidence of changed circumstances or other evidence consistent with the requirements of RCW 26.09.170(6)-(7). View "In re Marriage of Zandi" on Justia Law

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Mother and Father divorced pursuant to a stipulated divorce decree that granted Mother custody of the children, subject to Father’s right to liberal visitation. When Mother advised Father that she intended to move to another city with the children, Father filed a petition to modify the custody, visitation, and support provisions of the divorce decree. After a trial, the district court granted custody of the children to Father. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err when, six months prior to trial, it granted Father temporary physical custody of the children upon offers of proof and argument, rather than after holding a full evidentiary hearing; (2) the court did not abuse its discretion by allowing the children’s counselor to testify as an expert witness at trial; (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding custody of the children to Father after a full evidentiary hearing; and (4) the court did not violate Mother’s constitutional rights to interstate travel and to associate with her children when it modified custody in favor of Father. View "Tracy v. Tracy" on Justia Law

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The Department and the child challenged the dismissal of a juvenile dependency petition after an adjudication hearing under Welfare and Institutions Code section 300. The petition was the result of allegations of neglect, including the child falling out of a second story window of the apartment in which the child was then living with the father. The court concluded that the juvenile court abused its discretion in denying the motions to amend the petition where it failed to acknowledge that the record was replete with facts well-known to the parents, and that recognizing this circumstance by granting leave to amend to conform to proof, would not have misled the parents to their prejudice. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment. View "In re Marcus C., Jr." on Justia Law

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Sandra Hoverson appeals a district court order resolving a parenting time dispute. She argued the district court improperly modified parenting time without a formal motion filed by either party. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the district court's order did not modify the amended judgment and affirmed. View "Hoverson v. Hoverson" on Justia Law

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C.D.G.E. was born in 2010. Since 2014, J.E. had primary residential responsibility of the child. A.P. was obligated to pay monthly child support payments. J.E. petitioned the district court to terminate A.P.'s parental rights. With his petition, he submitted an affidavit from A.P. in which she consented to terminating her parental rights. The petition referenced N.D.C.C. 14-15-19, which applied only "in connection with an adoption action," which was never contemplated here. All further proceedings, including J.E.'s proposed default order, J.E.'s argument at the hearing on the petition, and motion to reconsider, were considered by the parties and the district court under N.D.C.C. 27-20-45, which governed termination of parental rights where no adoption was pending. At the parental-termination hearing, J.E. argued that A.P. had both: (1) abandoned her child; and (2) consented to terminating her parental rights. The district court denied the petition without finding on the record whether A.P. had abandoned the child. In denying J.E.'s petition, the district court found that A.P. had not validly consented to terminating her parental rights. Ultimately, the district court denied the father's petition, concluding the child's welfare would not be served by terminating A.P.'s parental rights. J.E. appealed. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed, concluding the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying the petition where it was not established that denying the petition would seriously affect the child's welfare. View "Matter of C.D.G.E." on Justia Law

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Samuel Rathbun appealed a district court order modifying his child and spousal support obligations. Samuel argued the district court erred by not modifying his child support. The Supreme Court concluded a district court erred when it fails to correctly apply the child support guidelines when imputing income to an obligor. The district court's order and judgment was reversed and this case was remanded with instructions that it calculate child support consistent with the child support guidelines. View "Rathbun v. Rathbun" on Justia Law

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This case was the result of a long history between Jon Norberg and Alonna Knorr. Once married, they divorced after Knorr alleged Norberg sexually abused her after drugging her with Propofol. Knorr's allegations resulted in criminal charges against Norberg, and a jury acquitted him of all charges in 2012. Norberg appealed the district court order denying his motion for judgment as a matter of law or new trial. He argued collateral estoppel established as a matter of law Knorr's liability for his abuse of process, malicious prosecution, and defamation claims, and it should not have been redecided by the jury. He further argued Knorr's dismissal of her lawsuit prevented her from raising affirmative defenses to his claims. Concluding collateral estoppel precluded relitigation of matters previous determined, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a new trial. View "Norberg v. Norberg" on Justia Law

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Shanda Horning was eligible for healthcare from the Indian Health Service (IHS) because she was an Alaska Native. Donovan Horning had unvested post-retirement healthcare benefits through the military’s TRICARE program. When the superior court divided the marital estate after the couple’s divorce trial, it did not classify, value, or distribute either party’s healthcare, finding instead that each had “an equal benefit that [was] in essence a wash for the purpose of dividing the marital estate.” Shanda appealed, arguing her eligibility for IHS healthcare was separate property, that Donovan’s TRICARE benefit was marital property, and that it was therefore error for the superior court to use her separate property to offset Donovan’s marital property. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court agreed, vacated the superior court’s property distribution order and remanded for further proceedings. View "Horning v. Horning" on Justia Law

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The first required element a termination petition must allege establishes three waiting periods to give parents a time to reunify with their children and bars the Department of Child Services (DCS) from seeking termination until one of those three periods has passed. Here, DCS petitioned for termination of Mother’s and Father’s parental rights to their two daughters. DCS’s petitions alleged that two of the three waiting periods had passed. The trial court granted DCS’s terminations, finding that DCS proved both the six-month and fifteen-month waiting periods. Father and Mother appealed the termination of their rights as to their daughters. The court of appeals affirmed, determining that neither of the waiting period allegations in the petitions were true but finding the error harmless. Father sought transfer. The Supreme Court granted transfer, thus vacating the court of appeals opinion, and reversed, holding (1) DCS failed to prove the waiting periods it alleged and failed to allege the waiting period it could have proved; and (2) therefore, the trial court erred in terminating Father’s parental rights, and the error was not harmless. View "D.B. v. Indiana Department of Child Services" on Justia Law