Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated in part and remanded in part the divorce judgment entered by the district court on Husband's complaint, holding that the judgment was improper was to the property division and attorney fees.Specifically, the Supreme Judicial Court held (1) delineation of Wife's employment retirement accounts as marital or nonmarital property must be calculated pursuant to a three-step process for division of property in a divorce matter; (2) the relevant date for determining the marital and nonmarital portions of Husband's retirement accounts was the date of the entry of the divorce judgment; (3) the trial court erred by double counting Wife's Vanguard retirement accounts; and (4) because the property division portion of the judgment must be vacated, the trial court's denial of Wife's request for attorney fees also must be vacated. View "Moran v. Moran" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellee and attorney Jessica Peck represented parents and other family members in child abuse cases in Colorado juvenile courts. She brought suit against Defendant-Appellants, Colorado Executive Director of Health Services Michelle Barnes and Second Judicial District Attorney Beth McCann, to challenge the constitutionality of § 19-1-307 of the Colorado Children’s Code Records and Information Act (“Children’s Code”). Peck alleged Section 307 violated her First Amendment rights by restricting her disclosures and thereby chilling her speech on these matters. The district court agreed and struck down both of Section 307’s penalty provisions. The Tenth Circuit thought Section 307(1) and Section 307(4) had different scopes due to their distinct language and legislative histories. As a result, the Court found Peck could challenge Section 307(4)’s penalty as unconstitutional, but has not properly challenged Section 307(1). The Court thus reversed the district court’s order insofar as it invalidated Section 307(1). View "Peck v. McCann, et al." on Justia Law

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In this post divorce dispute over child support and alimony, the Supreme Judicial Court held that a provision of the Alimony Reform Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 208, 53(c)(2), allows for the concurrent award of child support and alimony and that several of the judge's rulings relating to the divorce judgment and calculation of child support constituted error.In this dispute, both parties sought a modification of the child support order issued as part of the divorce judgment and Mother sought alimony for the first time in the proceedings. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated certain portions of the judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding (1) the judge abused her discretion by not considering an award where alimony was calculated before child support and denied without consideration of the mandatory statutory factors set forth in section 53(a); (2) the judge erred in interpreting the language in the separation agreement as to the parties' obligations for the youngest son's schooling; and (3) the judge abused her discretion in excluding certain interest and capital gains on transactions other than those related to real and personal property in calculating Father's gross income for the purposes of child support. View "Cavanagh v. Cavanagh" on Justia Law

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Defendant Jerry Vang was convicted by jury for multiple crimes against two different victims, including: kidnapping first degree felony murder with a special circumstance, infliction of corporal injury on a cohabitant, making criminal threats with firearm allegations, and firearms possession by a felon. Defendant had a long history of domestic violence, had an argument with his wife. After she fled in her car, defendant followed, eventually forced her to stop, and coerced her (through force or fear) into his vehicle. As defendant was driving away, his wife opened the door and jumped from the moving vehicle, resulting in her death. Defendant argued the trial court erred by permitting the prosecution to proceed on a legally inadequate theory of felony murder. He contends that under the current felony-murder rule, as amended by Senate Bill No. 1437 (2017-2018 Reg. Sess.), he could be liable for felony murder only if he was proven to be the “actual killer.” Because the evidence showed that his wife jumped from the vehicle of her own volition, defendant contends he was not the actual killer and therefore his conviction for first degree felony murder with a special circumstance rested on a legally invalid theory. To this, the Court of Appeal agreed, and reversed that conviction as to first degree felony murder. The judgment and convictions were affirmed in all other respects. View "California v. Vang" on Justia Law

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Appellant made deferred cash payments to his ex-wife, Appellee, pursuant to a marriage termination agreement (MTA) that Appellee “waives any right to . . . permanent spousal maintenance.” At issue is whether those payments were nonetheless “spousal maintenance” payments under Minn. Stat. Section 518.552.The Eighth Circuit concluded that the answer is clearly no and therefore affirm the decision of the United States Tax Court denying Appellant deductions under now-repealed alimony provisions of the Internal Revenue Code for $51M in cash payments he made to Appellee during his 2012 and 2013 federal income tax years.The court concluded that that Minnesota law unambiguously establishes that the MTA was not a spousal maintenance agreement. Rather, it was a contractual division of marital property. Contractual obligations under a divorce agreement fall under the general rule that causes of action survive their personal representatives. Minn. Stat. Section 573.01. That being so, Minnesota law unambiguously provides that the payments in question were not deductible because Appellant’s liability to make the payments would survive Appellee’s death. This is consistent with the stated purpose of Section 71(b)(1)(D). View "Andrew Redleaf v. CIR" on Justia Law

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In this dissolution action governed bay a premarital agreement the Supreme Court affirmed the decree in all respects with the exception of the court's itemization of a truck as part of the marital estate, which the court vacated, holding that there was largely no error in the proceedings below.The district court imposed a constructive trust over certain limited liability companies titled solely in Wife's name so that, under the agreement, they were considered additions to the marital estate. On appeal, Husband argued, among other things, the court abused its discretion in allowing Wife to amend her pleadings to include the issue of the constructive trust and that the evidence did not support the constructive trust. The Supreme Court largely affirmed, holding (1) there was no error in the court's imposition of a constructive trust; (2) the truck owned at the time of filing should not have been calculated as part of the marital estate; and (3) Husband's remaining assignments of error were without merit. View "Simons v. Simons" on Justia Law

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Nicki Erickson appealed a judgment awarding her and Tim Faber equal residential responsibility of their three children. Erickson argued the district court clearly erred by awarding the parties equal residential responsibility of the children, and erred in determining the parties’ two youngest children were of sufficient age and maturity to testify about their preferences relating to residential responsibility. After review of the trial court record, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err by allowing the children to testify on their preferences; however, the court erred by awarding Erickson and Faber equal residential responsibility of their oldest child. View "Ex rel. Erickson v. Faber" on Justia Law

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Tim Hamburger appealed an order denying his motions for relief from the divorce judgment and to amend his motion for relief. He argued the district court erred by finding there was no agreement or acquiescence to a change of residential responsibility, denying him an award of child support, denying him an evidentiary hearing, and failing to award him attorney’s fees. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the judgment. View "Hamburger v. Hamburger" on Justia Law

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Connie and Kevin Sailer are the paternal grandparents of E.D.S. and E.R.S. Justin and Natasha Sailer are the children’s parents. When the parents divorced, they stipulated that Natasha would have primary residential responsibility of the children, with Justin having parenting time until 2022. After 2022, the judgment provides the parties share residential responsibility if Justin has no alcohol-related incidents. In July 2020, an altercation occurred between the grandparents and the parents. While the parties differed in their accounts of what occurred, it was undisputed that the children witnessed the altercation. The children have not had contact with their grandparents since the altercation, apart from the grandparents having attended some of the children’s sporting events. The grandparents filed a petition for nonparent visitation, which was opposed by Natasha Sailer. The district court dismissed the grandparents’ petition for failure to plead a prima facie case, finding they did not plead sufficient facts to establish that they have a substantial relationship with the children or that denial of visitation would result in harm to the children. The grandparents appeal the court’s order dismissing their petition. Finding no reversible error in dismissing the petition, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Sailer, et al. v. Sailer, et al." on Justia Law

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B.C., by and through his parent Michelle Cox, appealed from a district court judgment affirming the Department of Human Services (“Department”) decision to deny autism voucher program funding for a gazebo. B.C. argued the Department’s rationale for rejecting the Administrative Law Judge’s (ALJ) recommendation was insufficient, its interpretation of its regulation was unreasonable, and its conclusions of law were not supported by its findings of fact. After review of the agency and trial court record, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the agency unreasonably interpreted the regulation, and its conclusions of law were not supported by its findings of facts. The Supreme Court reversed the district court judgment affirming the Department’s denial of the autism voucher program funding for the gazebo. View "B.C. v. NDDHS" on Justia Law