Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries
In re M.B.
Appellant the mother of six-year-old M.B., appealed the August 31, 2021 order terminating her parental rights, contending the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services failed to adequately investigate her claim of Indian ancestry through interviews with maternal relatives and the notices sent to the Blackfeet Tribe failed to include the birthdates of M.B.’s maternal grandfather and great-grandfather as required by federal regulations implementing the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) (25 U.S.C. Section 1901 et seq.) and related California law. The Department argued that Appellant’s appeal of the adequacy of its investigation has been mooted by further interviews with maternal relatives and that any omission of required information from the ICWA-030 notices sent to the Blackfeet Tribe was harmless because its post-appeal investigation established ICWA notices were not required. The Second Appellate District affirmed the May 13, 2021 order denying Appellant’s section 388 petition. However, the court conditionally affirmed the August 31, 2021 section 366.26 order terminating Appellant’s parental rights. The court explained that rather than attempt to moot Appellant’s appeal by belatedly conducting the investigation required by section 224.2, the Department’s proper course of action was to stipulate to a conditional reversal with directions for full compliance with the inquiry and notice provisions of ICWA and related California law. Further, the court wrote for its part, the juvenile court failed to ensure the Department adequately investigated M.B.’s Indian ancestry, far more is required than passively accepting the Department’s reports as fulfilling its statutory obligations. View "In re M.B." on Justia Law
State v. City of Seaford
The Court of Chancery granted summary judgment in favor of the State of Delaware and against the City of Seaford in the State's action seeking injunctive relief prohibiting the enforcement of the City's ordinance entitled "Ordinance Relative to Abortion" and a declaratory judgment that the ordinance was invalid, holding that the ordinance was preempted by Delaware law.In 2021, the City enacted the ordinance, which mandates that all fetal remains resulting from an abortion or miscarriage be cremated or interred. In its lawsuit, the State argued that the ordinance conflicted with state law, making it invalid under the doctrine of preemption. The Court of Chancery granted relief, holding that the ordinance conflicted with Delaware's statutory scheme requiring an official record of death before human remains can be cremated or interred. View "State v. City of Seaford" on Justia Law
Doe v. Roe
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the interlocutory order of the district court allowing discovery in a protection from abuse action instituted by Pat Doe against Sam Roe and denying in part Doe's request for a discovery protective order pursuant to Me. R. Civ. P. 26(c), holding that there was no error.Specifically, the Supreme Judicial Court held (1) while discovery is not prohibited in protection from abuse proceedings, when it is appropriate or necessary discovery must take place within strict parameters; and (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining that Roe had met his burden of showing that justice required discovery on thirteen of his interrogatories. View "Doe v. Roe" on Justia Law
Birkhold v. Birkhold
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial court granting both Plaintiff's motion for modification of alimony and Defendant's postjudgment motion for contempt, which resulted in the trial court finding Plaintiff in contempt and awarding Defendant past due alimony and attorney's fees, holding that there was no error.After a hearing, the trial court awarded Defendant past due alimony in the amount of $249,570 and attorney’s fees and costs in the amount of $80,000. The trial court also granted Plaintiff’s motion to modify his alimony obligation and found Plaintiff in contempt for willfully violating the parties' "clear and unambiguous" separation agreement. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court (1) correctly interpreted the parties' separation agreement, and its findings were not clearly erroneous; (2) did not abuse its discretion in awarding alimony; and (3) did not abuse its discretion in finding Defendant in contempt. View "Birkhold v. Birkhold" on Justia Law
Colorado in interest of My.K.M. and Ma. K.M.
This termination of parental rights case concerned the “active efforts” required under the Indian Child Welfare Act (“ICWA”) to provide remedial services and rehabilitative programs to assist a parent in completing a court-ordered treatment plan. A division of the Colorado court of appeals reversed a juvenile court’s judgment terminating Mother’s parent-child legal relationship with her two Native American children, holding that the Denver Department of Human Services (“DHS”) did not engage in the “active efforts” required under ICWA to assist Mother in completing her court-ordered treatment plan because it did not offer Mother job training or employment assistance, even though Mother struggled to maintain sobriety and disappeared for several months. The Colorado Supreme Court held that “active efforts” was a heightened standard requiring a greater degree of engagement by agencies, and agencies must provide a parent with remedial services and resources to complete all of the parent’s treatment plan objectives. The Court was satisfied the record supported the juvenile court’s determination that DHS engaged in active efforts to provide Mother with services and programs to attempt to rehabilitate her and reunited the family. The appellate court’s judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for that court to address Mother’s remaining appellate contentions. View "Colorado in interest of My.K.M. and Ma. K.M." on Justia Law
Wright v. Dropik
A man filed suit against a former romantic partner to resolve disputes about property acquired during their relationship. The superior court ruled the parties had been in a domestic partnership (a marriage-like relationship) with implications for division of the parties’ property when the relationship ended. It then determined the woman owed the man for his contributions toward a Wasilla property they jointly bought and improved, an out-of-state property acquired in his name that was later sold at a loss, and veterinary bills charged to the man’s credit card. Although the Alaska Supreme Court determined it was error to determine the parties were in a domestic partnership without making predicate factual findings, this error did not affect the superior court’s ruling on the Wasilla property or veterinary bills, and the superior court’s decision on those points was affirmed. But the Court concluded the error could affect the ruling on the out-of-state property, so the case was remanded for additional proceedings on that issue. View "Wright v. Dropik" on Justia Law
Sanborn Savings Bank v. Connie Freed
Defendant and her then-husband bought a condo for $525,000 with the intention of making it their primary residence. To finance the purchase, the couple took out a mortgage with the Plaintiff bank. Defendant did not sign the note but consented to her husband doing so. The mortgage contained a "future advances" clause, which granted Plaintiff a security interest in the Mortgage covering future funds Defendant's husband might borrow.Four years later, Defendant's husband borrowed additional funds from Plaintiff to keep his business afloat. Defendant did not sign the note. A few months later, Defendant's husband filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and the condo was sold for $650,000, approximately $250,000 of which was deposited in escrow. The couple divorced and Defendant moved out of the state.In Defendant's husband's bankruptcy case, the court held a portion of the escrowed sale proceeds must pay down his business notes pursuant to the mortgage’s future advances clause and that he could not claim a homestead exemption. Plaintiff was granted summary judgment on its claims that Defendant's proceeds were also subject to the future advances clause and that Plaintiff could apply those proceeds to Defendant's husband's business note.Defendant appealed on several grounds, including unconscionability, contract formation, and public policy, all of which the court rejected, affirming the district court's granting of summary judgment to Plaintiff. View "Sanborn Savings Bank v. Connie Freed" on Justia Law
Bramlette Holland Browder v. Moree
In this lawsuit affecting the parent-child relationship, the Supreme Court denied Petitioner's motion for rehearing and disapproved the court of appeals' holding that after the trial court has denied a party's demand for a jury trial the party must also object to that ruling to preserve the issue for appellate review.Petitioner sought conservatorship and possession of Kelly, the biological daughter of Respondents, and filed a written demand for a jury trial. The trial court denied the demand. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that Petitioner failed to preserve the jury issue for appellate review because he failed to object in the trial court. The Supreme Court affirmed on other grounds, holding (1) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in ruling that Petitioner's jury demand was untimely; but (2) the court of appeals erred in its ruling on preservation. View "Bramlette Holland Browder v. Moree" on Justia Law
Mayberry v. Janosky
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed in part and remanded in part a judgment awarding parental rights and responsibilities entered in the district court as to Father's four children with Mother, holding that the court's judgment failed to include a required statement.The judgment in this case granted Mother sole parental rights and responsibilities and primary physical residence and denied Father rights of parent-child contact. The Supreme Court held (1) the court did not abuse its discretion in denying Father rights of parent-child contact, and any other error was harmless; and (2) the court's judgment failed to include a required statement governing parental access to records relating to the children. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the matter for the district court to amend the order. View "Mayberry v. Janosky" on Justia Law
In re Vada V.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of the trial court terminating Parents' parental rights pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 17a-112(j), holding that Parents were not entitled to relief on their three unpreserved constitutional claims relating to the virtual nature of the termination of parental rights trial.On appeal, Parents argued (1) the trial court violated their rights under Conn. Const. art. I, 10 and art. V, 1 by conducting the termination trial virtually rather than in person; (2) the trial court violated their constitutional right to due process by denying them the right to physically confront and cross-examine the witnesses against them at the virtual trial; and (3) the constitutional rights were violated when the trial court did not provide them with their own exclusive devices and internet connection to participate both visually and by audio in the trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Parents were not entitled to relief on their unpreserved claims of error. View "In re Vada V." on Justia Law