by
L.P. and E.P. were half-siblings who lived with their maternal grandmother until her sudden death. The Department of Health & Welfare filed a petition for custody of the children under the Child Protection Act (CPA) and placed both children in the home of the Does, E.P.’s paternal grandmother and step-grandfather. The Department submitted a permanency plan identifying the goal of termination of parental rights and adoption by relative. Early in 2015, the magistrate court approved the permanency plan. After several months of tension between the Does and L.P., the Department acceded to the Does’ request that L.P. be removed from their home. The Department did not inform the magistrate court of the change in circumstances for several months. Following a trial on issues of neglect, abandonment, and consent, the magistrate entered an order terminating the parental rights to both children. The Department was designated as guardian of both children. The Does moved to intervene in the CPA case. The magistrate judge denied the motion. The court then entered an order prohibiting the Department from removing E.P. from the Does’ home without court approval. In early 2016, the Department filed a report and an expert’s sibling assessment that concluded the children should be placed together because of the strong attachment between them. In September 2016, the Department filed a post-termination permanency plan that requested a change in the permanency goal from adoption by relative to adoption by non-relative. Due to factual deficiencies, the magistrate judge rejected that amended permanency plan. In January 2017, the Department filed a second amended permanency plan that sought to move forward with adoption of both children by L.P.’s non-relative foster parents. After a comprehensive review of the case, the magistrate court rejected the amended permanency plan with regard to E.P. but approved it with regard to L.P., removed the Department as guardian of E.P., and appointed Jane Doe as E.P.’s guardian. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the magistrate court abused its discretion by disregarding the sibling placement priority and the Department’s primary role when considering the permanency plans. Furthermore, the Court determined the magistrate court abused its discretion by preventing the Department from removing E.P. from the Does’ home and terminating the Department's guardianship over E.P. All magistrate court orders with regard to E.P. were vacated, and on remand, this case was ordered to be assigned to a new magistrate judge for further proceedings. View "Dept. of Health & Welfare v. Does I" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Mother’s and Father’s parental rights to their children. The Court held that the findings of the lower court were sufficient to support the court’s determination that both parents were unwilling or unable to protect the children from jeopardy and that these circumstances were unlikely not change within a time reasonably calculated to meet the children’s needs and that both parents were unwilling or unable to take responsibility for the children within a time reasonably calculated to meet their needs. Further, the findings were sufficient to support the court’s finding that Mother failed to make a good faith effort to rehabilitate and reunify with the children and that termination of both parents’ rights was in the children’s best interests. View "In re Children of Amber L." on Justia Law

by
After having an affair, David petitioned to dissolve his 15-year marriage to Joannie. Joannie resisted and the parties attempted reconciliation, in connection with which the trial court would later conclude David gave “conflicting messages.” Meanwhile, Joannie heard David’s phone and saw a picture of the mistress. David walked in and confronted Joannie, who slapped him, scratching his neck, and in a subsequent confrontation grappling for the phone, shoved him. David moved for a domestic violence protective order. Following a lengthy hearing in which the court heard from seven witnesses, the court denied the request. The court of appeal affirmed. The Domestic Violence Prevention Act, Family Code 6340(a) gives courts discretion to deny a protective order even when abuse has been proven.” The court upheld findings that Joannie did not commit an act of abuse as defined in section 6203; Joannie’s discussion with her confidants was not unlawful harassment; denial of David’s request will not jeopardize his safety within the meaning of section 6340(a); and denial of David’s request will not impact the safety or welfare of the children. View "Fischer v Fischer" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicially Court partially vacated the judgment of the district court granting Anne McBride’s motion to enforce Jeffrey Worth’s spousal support obligation pursuant to the parties’ divorce judgment, granting Worth’s motion to enforce McBride’s obligation to refinance the marital home, and granting Worth’s motion for division of omitted property because the judgment misstated Worth’s ongoing spousal support obligation, and the court’s intent regarding the amount to be withheld from Worth’s earnings to enforce his spousal support and arrears obligations was unclear. The Court remanded the case to the trial court for clarification and affirmed the judgment in all other respects. View "McBride v. Worth" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Mother’s parental rights to her daughter pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 22, 4055(1)(A)(1)(a) and (B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(ii), holding that there was sufficient evidence to support the court’s finding of parental unfitness and its determination that termination was in the child’s best interest. Specifically, the Court held that given the lower court’s findings of fact, all of which were supported by competent evidence in the record, the court did not err in its finding of parental unfitness or in determining that termination of Mother’s parental rights, with a permanency plan of adoption, was in the child’s best interest. View "In re Child of Portia L." on Justia Law

by
The Idaho Supreme Court reversed the magistrate court in an expedited appeal regarding the termination of John Doe (2017-32)'s parental rights. John Doe is the father of minor children KB and AB (the “Children”). The Children entered the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s (“IDHW”) custody in December 2014 after the Twin Falls Police declared them to be in imminent danger. The Children were in their mother’s (“Mother”) care when the police arrested her for possession of a controlled substance. Law enforcement described the condition of Mother’s home at this time as “filthy, cluttered, and containing numerous safety hazards, including raw sewage being present in the basement.” An Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) case plan, filed January 2015, included number of enumerated tasks for both Doe and Mother to complete in order for them to reunite with the Children. The case plan sought to provide Doe and Mother a framework to address “stable housing, sanitary living conditions, the need to obtain controlled substance abuse treatment, to remain clean/sober, and [to] stay out of jail.” Mother relapsed within weeks of a December 2016 order and was arrested for felony possession, kicked out of Drug Court, and went to prison. IDHW sought to terminate Doe and Mother’s parental rights. Doe had not completed his required drug treatment regimen by a first trial, he became more actively involved in his treatment plan by the time of a second trial. Doe showed other encouraging signs between the first and second trial as well, including significant progress on his case plan. However, the magistrate court noted that, despite progress, Doe still had not completed his case plan nor reunified with his children in the intervening period between the first and second trial. The court issued a Memorandum Decision granting termination of Doe and Mother’s parental rights on October 2, 2017, and entered a corresponding judgment ten days later on October 12, 2017. Mother did not appeal, but Doe timely filed his notice of appeal. The Supreme Court found the magistrate court’s December 2016 order stating that termination was not in the Children’s best interest was irreconcilable with IDHW’s first official recommendation following that order that termination “remains” in the Children’s best interest. The magistrate court’s October 2017 decision following the second trial highlighted Doe’s failure to reunify with the Children as a substantial factor in his ultimate decision to terminate. The magistrate court’s procedural error in not entering judgment for Doe and dismissing the petition upon finding that termination was not in the Children’s best interest affected Doe’s fundamental rights in this case. View "Dept. of Health & Welfare v. John Doe (2017-32)" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the order of the district court granting Father’s petition to modify the parties’ divorce decree. The Court held that the district court (1) did not err in concluding that Father had established a material change in circumstances to reopen the visitation provision of the decree and then modifying the decree to extend Father’s summer visitation; (2) did not have the authority to modify the original decree’s provisions regarding medical payments; and (3) abused its discretion by allowing Father to claim the children as dependents for tax purposes every other year. View "Meehan-Greer v. Greer" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s decree dissolving the marriage of Jennifer Westwood and Cheryl Darnell and dividing their marital estate. After a trial, the district court awarded each party the personal property and automobile in her possession, her separate retirement account, and any bank accounts in her own name. Westwood was also ordered to make an equalization payment to Darnell. Westwood appealed, asserting three assignments of error. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in its division of the parties’ marital property. View "Westwood v. Darnell" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the the circuit court’s classification and division of property in this divorce case in all but one respect as regards a clerical issue, which the Court remanded for clarification. Husband and Wife held most of their assets separately throughout their eighteen-year marriage. In granting them a divorce, the circuit court classified most of their assets as marital property and divided them equally. The Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in classifying the parties’ separately held assets as marital property; and (2) Wife was not entitled to relief on her arguments relating to the circuit court’s division and valuation of property with the exception of her argument that the circuit court erred in failing to divide and allocate three liabilities. Because the court’s failure to allocate these debts may have been a clerical error, the Supreme Court remanded the issue for the circuit court’s classification. View "Arendt v. Chamberlain" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court ordering Eryn Winegeart to sell real estate she owned jointly with her former spouse, Weston Winegeart, holding that the court did not err by ordering Eryn to sign a purchase agreement signed by a third party. After the parties underwent mediation, Weston signed an agreement with a real-estate agent to list the jointly owned real estate, and the listing agreement included a commission for the realtor. After the third party signed the purchase agreement, Eryn refused to sign it, asserting that during mediation Weston had orally agreed to sell the property without paying for a realtor. The circuit court found that the parties had not entered into an enforceable oral agreement in regard to realtor fees and ordered Eryn to sign the purchase agreement. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err by entering its order requiring Eryn to sign the purchase agreement. View "Winegeart v. Winegeart" on Justia Law