Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

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The Court of Appeal reversed the juvenile court's dispositional orders as to father only, entered on May 4, 2015, including the denial and termination of reunification services for father only. The court also vacated the juvenile court's April 30, 2019 order terminating parental rights. The court held that the department failed to show that the inadequate notice error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, and that father has shown a miscarriage of justice through the denial of his right to appear and his right to counsel. The court remanded with instructions to appoint counsel for father and to conduct a new dispositional hearing under sections 358 and 360, taking into account any evidence developed after the May 4, 2015 hearing that may bear upon the issues to be decided at the new dispositional hearing. View "In re A.J." on Justia Law

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Blaine Konkel appealed an amended judgment entered after the district court denied his request to modify his parenting time with the child he has with Courtney Amb, and clarified the location of the parenting time exchanges. Konkel argued the district court erred by finding a material change in circumstances did not exist, and also by amending the parenting plan without finding a material change in circumstances. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Konkel v. Amb" on Justia Law

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Matthew and SummerLee Thomas were married in 2008 and had two children, H.M.T. and C.M.T. In 2018, a divorce was initiated and following trial in February 2019, the district court issued a judgment, granting the parties joint residential responsibility of the children. Matthew appealed the judgment and argued the court erred in applying the best interest factors. Matthew argued factors (a) and (c) were not supported by the evidence. He also argued the court erred in applying factor (j) by not applying a pattern of domestic violence. He additionally argued the court erred by failing to include all of the stipulated parenting plan or make findings that the terms were not in the children’s best interests. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the court’s finding on factors (a) and (c), but remanded with instructions for the court to further specify its reasoning on factor (j) and to include the stipulated parenting plan or make findings that the terms were not in the best interests of the children. After the district court made amended findings and conclusions in accordance with the instructions, Matthew appealed again, arguing there were additional errors in the amended findings and conclusions. The Supreme Court affirmed, as modified, with instructions. View "Thomas v. Thomas" on Justia Law

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Chris and Anna Cook were divorced in 2016 under the terms of a stipulated judgment which awarded Anna residential responsibility for their minor children and granted Chris parenting time subject to certain conditions. Chris was also ordered to pay child support. Three months after judgment was entered, Chris was found in contempt for failing to comply with provisions of the divorce judgment and was ordered to pay Anna's attorney fees and costs. During summer 2018, Anna petitioned the juvenile court to terminate Chris' parental rights, but voluntarily dismissed the petition. Continued disagreements between the parties ultimately resulted in competing motions to hold the other in contempt. Chris appealed the denial of his request to hold Anna in contempt of court for violating the parties’ divorce judgment. Because the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Cook v. Cook" on Justia Law

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Warren Runyan appealed a judgment granting Heather Presswood’s request for divorce while reserving division of the parties’ property and allocation of the parties’ debt. Runyan argued the district court erred in granting the divorce because Presswood failed to file a brief in support of her motion and he was denied due process by the court’s failure to rule on his objection to Presswood’s motion. The North Dakota Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, concluding the judgment was not final and was not appealable. View "Presswood v. Runyan" on Justia Law

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James Aldinger appeals from a second amended judgment modifying his child support obligation for the child he has with Marcella Aldinger. In October 2010 the amended judgment was entered, ordering James to pay $427 in child support for the child. On April 17, 2019, the State moved to modify James' child support obligation, requesting an increase to $748 per month. On April 26, 2019, James answered, and filed a second answer on May 1, 2019, moving to dismiss the motion, and contending his employment changed and the State disregarded the change. The distict court modified the support order, calculating the correct child support for James' income was $701 per month. A second amended judgment was entered. James argued to the North Dakota Supreme Court that the district court abused its discretion by failing to dismiss the State’s motion to modify when it determined that different income calculations were appropriate. He also argued the court did not have jurisdiction to modify the child support obligation because he no longer lived in North Dakota and the court erred as a matter of law by applying the North Dakota child support guidelines. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the second amended judgment. View "Aldinger v. Aldinger" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the family court directing the donation of cryopreserved embryos to another couple following the parties' divorce, holding that the parties' agreement directing the disposition of the embryos did not grant the family court discretion in awarding the embryos but, rather, directed donation of the embryos. After Husband petitioned for divorce he asked that the couple's seven viable cryogenically preserved embryos be donated to another couple. The family court found that the "Embryo Cryopreservation & Embryo Disposition" agreement entered into by the parties did not resolve whether either party should get the embryos or whether they should be donated. The court balanced the parties' interests and concluded that Husband's right not to be compelled to be a parent outweighed Wife's right to procreate and directed that the embryos be donated to another couple. The Supreme Court affirmed but on different grounds, holding that the agreement required donation of the embryos and did not grant the family court discretion to make either a unilateral award or direct donation. View "Terrell v. Torres" on Justia Law

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Jessica Wrigley brought a negligent investigation claim against the Washington Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) based on the placement of her son, A.A., with his biological father, Anthony Viles, during dependency hearings. Within three months of the placement, Viles killed A.A. The superior court dismissed Wrigley’s claim on summary judgment, finding the duty to investigate was never triggered. The Court of Appeals reversed, finding the “trigger” was Wrigley’s prediction that Viles would harm A.A. The Washington Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals, finding a report predicting future abuse absent evidence of current or past conduct of abuse or neglect did not invoke a duty to investigate under RCW 26.44.050. View "Wrigley v. Washington" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of divorce in this case, holding that there was no merit in Husband's arguments concerning a premarital agreement and a 401(k) plan Husband created during the marriage and that any error in the district court's consideration of the value of Husband's non marital property in its property distribution was harmless. On appeal, Husband argued that the district court (1) erred by interpreting the parties' premarital agreement as not applicable to the 401(k) plan and by failing to consider his testimony that the 401(k) plan was funded in part with nonmarital property, and (2) abused its discretion by making contradictory findings regarding its consideration of his nonmarital real estate and the debt associated with that property. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the court did not err in concluding that the 401(k) plan was marital property; and (2) any error in the manner of the court's consideration of the value of Husband's nonmarital real property was harmless. View "Dow v. Billing" on Justia Law

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A husband and wife each requested sole custody of their minor child during divorce proceedings. Trial was held and following a hearing, sole custody of the parties' minor child was awarded to the father. Mother appealed. After review, the Oklahoma Supreme Court found the parties had an opportunity at trial to present their evidence and make a complete trial court record and a complete appellate record. But Mother failed to preserve her challenge to the trial court's conclusion it was in the child's best interests for custody to be awarded to Father. Therefore, the district court's judgment was affirmed. View "Duke v. Duke" on Justia Law