Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

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G.V. (Father) appealed a juvenile court’s judgment terminating his parental rights as to his newborn daughter (E.V.) and selecting adoption as the permanent plan. He argued the court and the Orange County Social Services Agency (SSA) failed to adequately inquire into the child’s Indian ancestry under the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 SSA conceded there were two errors with respect to duties under ICWA, but they were harmless. Alternatively, SSA moved the Court of Appeal to receive additional new evidence (that was not previously presented to the juvenile court) that allegedly rendered the appeal moot, or at least demonstrated any inquiry errors as to ICWA had to be deemed harmless. The Court denied the motion, and found that under In re A.R., 77 Cal.App.5th 197 (2022), all cases where the ICWA inquiry rules were not followed mandated reversal. Judgment was conditionally reversed and the matter remanded for compliance with ICWA. View "In re E.V." on Justia Law

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Defendant entered a no contest plea to Welfare and Institutions Code section 300, subdivisions (b)(1) (failure to protect) and (c) (serious emotional damage) related to all three of her children. After hearing the evidence of Defendant's untreated mental health issues and her abuse of her oldest daughter, C.S., the court immediately terminated dependency jurisdiction over C.S. The court entered a juvenile custody order granting sole physical and legal custody of C.S. to the child's father with monitored visitation for Defendant in a therapeutic setting when C.S.'s therapist thought that she was ready. Defendant appealed.On appeal, Defendant claimed that the juvenile court erred in terminating jurisdiction after it granted sole physical and legal custody to C.S.'s father without first providing services that attempted to repair the relationship between Defendant and C.S. and that the court's order impermissibly delegated the authority to C.S.'s therapist.The Second Appellate District affirmed. At the point when the juvenile court determined that Defendant posed a risk to C.S. and the court's decision to allow monitored visits resolved that issue. Thus, there was no reason for the court to retain jurisdiction over the case. Because C.S. remained with her father, Defendant did not have a right to reunification services. Regarding Defendant's impermissible-delegation claim, the court held that it was one of two viable options, the other being to deny visitation altogether. Here, C.S.'s therapist does not have any discretion about whether visits would be allowed, only when they should commence. View "In re C.S." on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from the dismissal of a stepfather’s petition for custody and support of a child filed three years after the stepfather and mother divorced. The stepfather based his petition on the underlying divorce and the Idaho Supreme Court’s decision in Stockwell v. Stockwell, 775 P.2d 611 (1989). The magistrate court ultimately dismissed the stepfather’s petition for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, reasoning that the stepfather, who never adopted the child, had brought a common law custody claim under Stockwell, which was specifically prohibited in Doe v. Doe, 395 P.3d 1287 (2017). The Idaho Supreme Court agreed with the magistrate court’s decision and affirmed the judgment of dismissal. View "Glatte v. Hernandez" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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