Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

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In this opinion, the Court of Appeal addressed three consolidated appeals relating to a judgment for the return of a child in an international custody dispute. This case was retried after the Court reversed an earlier judgment marred by due process violations. After remand, the trial court again granted father’s petition under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (the Convention) and the International Child Abduction Remedies Act (ICARA), for return of the child to her father’s custody in Denmark, her country of habitual residence. The court also awarded father his attorney fees and other expenses as the prevailing party under the Convention and ICARA. Mother filed separate appeals of the return order and the fees award and two post judgment sealing orders related to the parties’ use of the transcript of the trial judge’s confidential interview with the child during the trial. The Court of Appeal determined mother’s appeal of the return order was moot because the child was nearly 18 years old, and the Convention did not apply after the child who was the subject of the return petition turns 16. The Court reversed the fees award, because mother had no opportunity for a full and fair hearing on father’s motion for fees. As for mother’s appeal of the postjudgment sealing orders, the Court found no merit to the appeal and affirmed the orders. View "Noergaard v. Noergaard" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the opinion of the Appellate Division concluding that, in appropriate circumstances, N.Y. Dom. Rel. Law (DRL) 111(1)(a) permits a court to approve an adoption even absent the consent of an adult adoptee and held that that discretion was not abused in this case.Petitioners commenced this proceeding seeking to adopt Marian, a sixty-six-year-old woman with a profound intellectual disability. Mental Hygiene Legal Services objected to the adoption on the ground that Marian's consent was required under DRL 111(1)(a) and that Marian lacked the capacity to consent. Surrogate's Court did not find that Marian possessed the capacity to consent but concluded that the guardian ad litem had the implied authority to consent on Marian's behalf. The court then approved the adoption petition. The Appellate Division affirmed, concluding that DRL 111(1)(a) authorizes a court, in the appropriate exercise of its discretion, to dispense with an adult adoptee's consent to the adoption. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the Appellate Division correctly concluded that the statute provided express statutory authority to dispense with Marian's consent and that the court did not abuse its discretion when it determined that her inability to consent should not prevent this adoption. View "In re Marian T." on Justia Law

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In 2001, a Minnesota state court ordered James to pay $89,582.15 in child support arrears to his ex-wife, Rosemary, for their two children. James was then living in California. In 2005 the Minnesota order was registered for enforcement purposes in Santa Cruz County Superior Court under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act. In 2018, in connection with registration in California of a renewed judgment from Minnesota, the Santa Cruz County court stayed enforcement of a portion of James’s child support arrears determined by the 2001 Minnesota order because the children had intermittently lived with James between 1993 and 2002. The trial court found the remainder of the arrears enforceable. The Santa Cruz County Department of Child Support Services, which has assisted in the enforcement and collection of James’s child support arrears, contends that the court lacked authority under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act to stay the arrears owed by James because the 2001 Minnesota order at issue was registered and confirmed in California in 2005, and James did not timely challenge its registration. The court of appeal agreed and reversed the portion of the 2018 order staying enforcement of $28,890 of the arrears, while affirming that the remainder of the arrears ($60,692.15) was enforceable. View "Marriage of Sawyer" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether Vermont had to recognize and register an Alabama order granting plaintiff father, W.H., sole physical and legal custody of juvenile M.P., who resided in Vermont and was in the custody of the Vermont Department for Children and Families (DCF) pursuant to a Vermont court order. The family division concluded that Alabama lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate matters related to M.P.’s custody and denied the registration request. On appeal, plaintiff contended Alabama had jurisdiction under the applicable state and federal laws and that Vermont was therefore obligated to recognize and register the Alabama custody order. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "W.H. v. Department for Children and Families" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the trial court terminating Parents' parental rights in their two children, holding that the court did not err or abuse its discretion.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) a respondent's failure to appeal an adjudication order generally serves to preclude a subsequent collateral attack on that order during an appeal of a later order terminating the respondent's parental rights; and (2) the trial court's failure to make explicit findings establishing jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) did not constitute error because the record unambiguously demonstrated that the jurisdictional perquisites in the UCCJEA were satisfied. View "In re A.S.M.R." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the order of the trial court terminating Mother's parental rights to her minor child, holding that the trial court erred in concluding that Mother's rights were subject to termination under N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-1111(a)(1), (2), and (6) and that the trial court's findings of fact were insufficient to establish that grounds for termination existed under section 7B-1111(a)(7).Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) because the trial court failed to make the second required finding under N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-1111(a)(6), the court erred in finding that Mother's parental rights were subject to termination based on dependency; (2) the trial court's findings of fact affirmatively demonstrated that Mother did not neglect her child by abandonment; and (3) the trial court did not make adequate evidentiary findings to support its ultimate finding that Mother willfully abandoned her child, and the appropriate disposition is to reverse this part of the trial court's order and remand for further proceedings. View "In re K.C.T." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the trial court terminating Parents' parental rights to their two children, holding that the trial court had jurisdiction to enter the termination order and did not abuse its discretion by concluding that termination of Parents' rights was in the children's best interests.The trial court adjudicated that grounds existed to terminate Parents' parental rights due to neglect and willfully leaving the children in foster care for more than twelve months without showing reasonable progress to remedy the conditions that led to the children's removal. The trial court further concluded that terminating Parents' parental rights was in the children's best interests. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court had jurisdiction over the termination action; and (2) the trial court's conclusion that termination of Parents' rights was in the children's best interests was neither arbitrary nor manifestly unsupported by reason. View "In re K.S.D-F." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the trial court terminating Father's parental rights to his three minor children, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion.Father successfully appealed an earlier order that the court of appeals vacated and remanded. On remand, the trial court terminated Father's parental rights on grounds of neglect, pursuant to N.C. Gen. Laws 7B-1111(a)(1). Before the Supreme Court, Father argued that the trial court failed to hear new evidence on remand and, therefore, could not make appropriate findings of fact to justify the termination of his parental rights. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) because, on remand, Father stipulated that the trial court could proceed without receiving new evidence, the stipulation was binding and prevented Father from raising the trial court's failure to hear new evidence as a reason for the Supreme Court to reverse its order; and (2) the trial court's findings reflected reasoned decision-making and supported its conclusion that termination of Father's parental rights was in the children's best interests. View "In re R.L.O." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the trial court terminating Parents' parental rights to each of their six minor children, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion.The trial court found the existence of the ground of neglect and the ground of willful failure to make reasonable progress to correct the conditions that led to the children's removal from the parents' care. The Supreme Court affirmed the termination orders, holding (1) the trial court properly concluded that grounds for termination of both Parents' parental rights were shown to exist by clear, cogent and convincing evidence; and (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that termination of Parents' rights was in the best interests of all six children. View "In re S.M." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the trial court terminating Mother's parental rights in her two minor children, holding that termination was proper in this case.After a hearing, the trial court entered a dispositional order concluding that Mother's parental rights were subject to termination on the basis of neglect and willful failure to make reasonable progress toward correcting the conditions that had led to the children's removal from the family home. The court further concluded that it was in the children's best interests for Mother's parental rights to be terminated. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the findings of fact contained in the trial court's termination orders had ample record support and that those findings supported the court's determinations that Mother's parental rights in her two children were subject to termination on at least one of the grounds delineated in N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-1111(a) and that termination of Mother's parental rights would be in the children's best interests. View "In re G.L." on Justia Law