Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries
Sayler v. Yan Sun
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgments of the district court adjudicating a parental interest and accompanying parenting plan regarding Father's minor child in favor of his non-parent ex-wife (Surrogate), holding that the district court erroneously made a child custody parenting plan determination involving a non-parent without the predicate parental interest implied as a condition precedent to imposition of a best interests-based parenting plan.Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the district court (1) correctly concluded that the preclusive terms of a gestational carrier agreement did not preclude Surrogate from later acquiring or establishing a parental interest and right to the extent independently authorized under Montana law; (2) did not err in finding and concluding that Father voluntarily signed the premarital agreement and that it ws thus a validly formed and enforceable contract; (3) did not erroneously reject Father’s assertion that the parent-child relationship provision was unenforceable as equitably unconscionable; and (4) erroneously adjudicated a non parent "parental interest" in favor of Surrogate without the required predicated finding of fact specified by Mont. Code Ann. 40-4-228(2)(a). View "Sayler v. Yan Sun" on Justia Law
Elisa W. v. City of New York
Plaintiffs-appellants, nineteen children in New York City’s foster care system, filed suit alleging “systemic deficiencies” in the administration of the City’s foster care system in violation of federal and state law. The named Plaintiffs moved to represent a class of all children who are now or will be in the foster care custody of the Commissioner of New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services and two subclasses. As remedies, they sought injunctive and declaratory relief to redress alleged class-wide injuries caused by deficiencies in the City’s administration—and the New York State Office of Children and Family Services’ oversight—of foster care. The district court denied Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the district court erred in its analysis of the commonality and typicality requirements under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a). The Second Circuit vacated the district court’s order denying class certification and remanded. The court held that the district court erred in its analysis of commonality and typicality under Rule 23. The court explained that the district court did not determine whether commonality and typicality exist with respect to each of Plaintiffs’ claims. Instead, it concluded that commonality was lacking as to all alleged harms because “Plaintiffs’ allegations do not flow from unitary, non-discretionary policies.” The court held that this approach was legal error requiring remand. Further, the court wrote that here, the district court largely relied upon its commonality analysis to support its finding that typicality was not satisfied. Thus, the deficiencies identified in its commonality inquiry can also be found in its handling of typicality. View "Elisa W. v. City of New York" on Justia Law
In the Matter of Kauble
Petitioner Brianna Kauble appealed a circuit court order granting the request of intervenor Herbert Novell for grandparent visitation. Because the New Hampshire Supreme Court determined the intervenor lacked standing under RSA 461-A:13 to seek grandparent visitation, the judgment was reversed. View "In the Matter of Kauble" on Justia Law
In re A.B.
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals dismissing Father's appeal of the termination of his parental rights, holding that Father properly invoked the court's jurisdiction, and therefore the court erred in dismissing Father's appeal on jurisdictional grounds.After a joint bench trial and in a single order the trial court ordered termination of both Father's and Mother's rights. Father noticed his appeal to one of two courts of appeals with jurisdiction to entertain his appeal, and Mother noticed her appeal to the other court. Although Father amended his notice to consolidate his appeal into the court of appeals in which Mother's appeal was pending, the court of appeals determined that the amended notice did not vest it with jurisdiction. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding that the merits were properly before the court of appeals at issue, and therefore, the court erred in dismissing Father's appeal for want of jurisdiction. View "In re A.B." on Justia Law
Candelaria v. Kelly
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court declining to backdate the parties' marriage in this case to the date they would have been married but for Nevada's unconstitutional ban on same-sex marriage, holding that "the effective date of a marriage will not predate the solemnized marriage itself for property division purposes in a divorce, even if a party asserts that the couple would have married earlier but for the later-held-to-be-unconstitutional ban on marriage between same-sex couples."Appellant and Respondent formally married in California in 2008, when Nevada did not permit same-sex marriages or recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages. In 2021, in seeking a divorce, Appellant argued that the district court should backdate the start of his marriage to Respondent to the date their relationship became serious. The district court refused to backdate the marriage and relied on 2008 as the date of the marriage. At issue was the retroactive effect of Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644 (2015). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Obergefell does not require Nevada courts to backdate a marriage before the couple solemnized their union; and (2) the district court's order accorded with this Court's holdings. View "Candelaria v. Kelly" on Justia Law
In re S.A.
The Supreme Court dismissed these two appeals involving unrelated juvenile adjudications and dispositions, holding that this Court lacked appellate jurisdiction over S.A.'s and E.B.'s respective appeals.At issue before the Supreme Court was whether the Court had appellate jurisdiction where the juveniles - S.A. and E.B. - failed properly to serve the notices of appeal on their parents. The Supreme Court dismissed both appeals, holding (1) S.A. and E.B. were required to timely serve their parents because parents are parties in juvenile delinquency proceedings; and (2) because both juveniles failed timely to show service of their notices of appeal on all parties, this Court lacked appellate jurisdiction. View "In re S.A." on Justia Law
Marriage of C.D. & G.D.
C.D. (Mother) appeals from the trial court’s post-judgment order granting a request from G.D. (Father) that she enroll their minor daughters in public school. Mother contends the order must be vacated because, without a change in custody, Father has no decision-making authority regarding their daughters’ education. The Second Appellate District agreed with Mother and vacated the order. The court explained that A parent with “sole legal custody” has “the right and the responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child.” Here, Father requested a say in his daughters’ education by asking the trial court to order Mother to enroll them in public school. But because Mother has sole legal custody of the girls, Father has no right or responsibility concerning their education. To obtain those, Father had to secure joint legal custody by showing a significant change in circumstances. The court explained that the trial court erred when it granted Father’s request for an order directing Mother to send their daughters to public school. Prior to issuing such an order, the trial court was required to find that Father demonstrated a change in circumstances warranting modification of its initial custody order. Not making that finding was an abuse of discretion. View "Marriage of C.D. & G.D." on Justia Law
In re Jerry R.
A.R. (Father) and S.R. (Mother) appealed from the juvenile court’s orders terminating their parental rights to three of their children, under Welfare and Institutions Code section 366.26.1. Father’s sole claim, joined by Mother, is that because Stanislaus County Community Services Agency (agency) failed to conduct a proper, adequate, and duly diligent inquiry into whether the children are or may be Indian children, the juvenile court erred when it found that the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) did not apply. The Fifth Appellate District conditionally reversed the juvenile court’s finding that ICWA does not apply. The court explained that Section 224.2, subdivision (b), imposes on the county welfare department a broad duty to inquire whether a child placed into the temporary custody of the county under section 306 is or may be an Indian child. The court explained that at issue is whether a child taken into protective custody by warrant under section 340, subdivision (a) or (b) falls within the ambit of section 306, subdivision (a)(1). The court explained that based on the plain language of the statutes, it agrees with Delila D. that the answer is yes and, therefore, the inquiry mandated under section 224.2, subdivision (b), applies. The court further concluded that the juvenile court erred in finding the agency conducted a proper, adequate, and duly diligent inquiry and that the error is prejudicial, which necessitates a conditional reversal of the court’s finding that ICWA does not apply and a limited remand so that an inquiry that comports with section 224.2, subdivision (b), may be conducted. View "In re Jerry R." on Justia Law
Marriage of C.D. & G.D.
G.D. (Father) appealed the judgment approving the dissolution of his marriage to C.D. (Mother), granting her full custody of their minor daughters and barring all visitation. Father contends the custody and visitation orders attached to the judgment should be vacated. Father contends the custody and visitation orders should be vacated because there was insufficient evidence that he sexually abused F.D. and S.D. To him, only an evaluation conducted pursuant to section 3118 could provide the evidentiary basis necessary to permit the trial court to find that he abused his daughters. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that There are several problems with Father’s contentions. First, the trial court’s decision not to order a section 3118 evaluation was made, at least in part, at Father’s behest. Second, even if Father had not invited any error, he could not show prejudice. Third, no section 3118 evaluation was required here. If a trial court appoints a child custody evaluator and “determines that there is a serious allegation of child sexual abuse,” it must order a section 3118 evaluation. The court explained that the trial court below did not determine there had been a serious allegation of child sexual abuse. It was thus not required to order a section 3118 evaluation. Fourth, Section 3118 requires a trial court to order an evaluation when it appoints a child custody evaluator and determines there has been a serious allegation of child sexual abuse. But section 3118 also grants a court the discretion to order an evaluation when abuse allegations arise in other contexts. View "Marriage of C.D. & G.D." on Justia Law
Colorado in interest of H.J.B.
A-J.A.B. tested positive at birth for methamphetamine. H.J.B. (“Mother”) admitted methamphetamine use during her pregnancy. In March 2020, less than a month after A-J.A.B.’s birth, the Adams County Human Services Department (“the Department”) filed a petition in dependency and neglect concerning A-J.A.B. The Department’s petition noted that it had no information indicating that A-J.A.B. was an Indian child or eligible for membership in an Indian tribe, although the petition did not identify what efforts, if any, the Department took to determine whether A-J.A.B. was an Indian child. At the shelter hearing, Mother’s counsel informed the court that Mother may have “some Cherokee and Lakota Sioux [heritage] through [A-J.A.B.’s maternal great-grandmother].” However, Mother was uncertain if anyone in her family was actually registered with a tribe and acknowledged that she “probably [wouldn’t] qualify” for any tribal membership herself. The juvenile court ordered Mother to “fill out the ICWA paperwork,” but the court did not direct the Department to exercise its due diligence obligation under section 19-1-126(3). At the next hearing, Mother, who had not filled out the ICWA paperwork, again stated that she had “Native American heritage” through A-J.A.B.’s maternal great-grandmother. Because of these assertions, the juvenile court found that the case “‘may’ be an ICWA case.” By December 2020, the Department moved to terminate Mother’s parental rights. At the pretrial conference, Mother’s attorney informed the court that she spoke with A-J.A.B.’s maternal grandmother, who stated that she “thought that the heritage may be Lakota.” Mother’s attorney told the court “it doesn’t sound like there’s a reason to believe that ICWA would apply” and acknowledged that neither Mother nor A-J.A.B. were enrolled members of any tribe. The juvenile court subsequently concluded that “there [was] no reason to believe that this case [was] governed by [ICWA].” The juvenile court terminated Mother’s parental rights. Mother appealed, arguing the juvenile court erred in finding that ICWA did not apply because the court had a reason to know that A-J.A.B. was an Indian child. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded the Department satisfied its statutory due diligence obligation under section19-1-126(3), and affirmed in different grounds. View "Colorado in interest of H.J.B." on Justia Law