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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Mother’s parental rights to her child pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 22, 4055(1)(A)(1)(a), holding that the court’s findings were supported by competent in the record and were sufficient to support the court’s decision. Specifically, the Court held that the the court’s findings supported the court’s determination that (1) Mother was unable to protect the child from jeopardy and was unwilling or unable to take responsibility for the child within a time reasonably calculated to meet the child’s needs; (2) Mother failed to make a good faith effort to rehabilitate and reunify with the child; and (3) termination of Mother’s parental rights was in the child’s best interests. View "In re Child of Stephenie F." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decree of the Family Court terminating Father’s parental rights with respect to his daughter, holding that that any errors complained of were harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Specifically, the Court held that the Family Court justice (1) did not abuse her discretion by qualifying a certain witness as an expert and relying on her testimony; (2) admitting the child’s letter into evidence pursuant to R.I. R. Evid. 803(4); and (3) taking judicial notice of Form 188, the Disclosure of Permanency Planning form. View "In re Izabella G." on Justia Law

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The Vermont Supreme Court withdrew its July 6, 2018 opinion in this matter, determining the State did not have a statutory right to appeal in this case. Defendant Liana Roy was charged with custodial interference for taking her four-year-old daughter, who was then in custody of the Department for Children and Families (DCF), on a two-day trip out of the state without DCF’s permission. After the State rested its evidence at trial, defendant moved for a judgment of acquittal, arguing the evidence failed to demonstrate that she interfered with DCF’s custody to the degree necessary for 13 V.S.A.2451 to apply. At most, defendant argued, this was just “a visit gone bad.” The court denied this motion, holding that the State established the essential elements of its case. After defendant presented her evidence and the State called a rebuttal witness, the State rested and defendant renewed her motion for a judgment of acquittal. The court again denied the motion. The jury convicted. Defendant subsequently moved to set aside the verdict, V.R.Cr.P. 29(c), or for a new trial, V.R.Cr.P. 33, arguing that nothing in the custody order specifically put defendant on notice that she was acting in violation of the authority of the legal custodian, so the State had failed to demonstrate the requisite intent to deprive or interfere with DCF’s custody. The trial court agreed and issued a written decision in July 2017 granting defendant’s motion for a judgment of acquittal. The court noted that “the jury’s verdict was reasonable” based on the instructions given during the trial. But the court explained that it had erred in not instructing the jury that, to prove custodial interference when DCF is the custodian, the State must produce evidence of “a court order . . . detail[ing] the parent-child contact parameters.” In this amended opinion, the Supreme Court considered whether the State had a statutory right to appeal the trial court’s post-guilty-verdict judgment of acquittal, and, if not, whether the Supreme Court should use its authority pursuant to Vermont Rule of Appellate Procedure 21 to grant the State the extraordinary remedy of reversing the trial court’s ruling and reinstating the guilty verdict. The Court concluded the State did not have a statutory right to appeal in this case, and declined to exercise its authority to grant extraordinary relief. View "Vermont v. Roy" on Justia Law

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A divorced mother and father shared joint legal custody of their son. The mother moved for a modification of legal custody, alleging that the father was failing to cooperate on important issues such as counseling, the selection of a middle school, and medical care; she also moved for a declaration that the parents did not have to mediate their custody disputes before filing a modification motion, as required by their custody agreement. The superior court denied the request for declaratory relief and denied the motion for modification of custody without a hearing. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court agreed with the superior court that the motion for declaratory relief was properly denied, as neither party was seeking to enforce the mediation provision and it presented no actual controversy. However, the Court concluded the mother’s allegations in her motion to modify legal custody made a prima facie showing that the parents’ lack of cooperation was serious enough to negatively affect the child’s well-being, and that the mother was therefore entitled to an evidentiary hearing on modification. The trial court’s order was therefore reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Edith A. v. Jonah A." on Justia Law

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A mother appealed an order modifying custody, which awarded sole legal and physical custody of her three children to the father and limited her to supervised visitation pending the children’s full engagement in therapy. The mother argued the father failed to demonstrate a change in circumstances that would justify a modification of custody and that the resulting modification was not in the children’s best interests. After review of the trial court record, the Alaska Supreme Court concluded the superior court did not abuse its discretion when it determined that the mother’s interference with the children’s therapy amounted to a change in circumstances and that the children’s best interests were served by an award of sole legal and physical custody to the father while therapy took hold. View "Georgette S.B. v. Scott B." on Justia Law

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H.C. was born in 2010. His parents separated in 2011 and divorced in 2014. Wife claims that violence was a factor but did not raise that issue in the divorce proceedings. Husband denies those allegations. In 2013, wife began a relationship with her childhood acquaintance, “Deleon,” who resided in New Jersey. She obtained a visa for H.C. to travel to the U.S. with husband’s consent. She visited Deleon by herself and married him in 2014. She did not tell husband about the marriage but indicated that she intended to bring H.C. to the U.S.to live; he refused to consent. Wife filed a domestic violence complaint in Guatemala and obtained a TRO. She took H.C. to the U.S., then sent a message informing husband she was there with H.C. She did not disclose their address “[o]ut of fear.” Husband filed an Application for Return of the Child with the Guatemala Central Authority, which forwarded that application to the U.S. State Department. About 16 months later, having discovered that the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction required him to file where H.C. lived, he filed a Petition in New Jersey. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of relief under the Convention and the International Child Abduction Remedies Act (ICARA). While ICARA’s one-year filing requirement is not subject to tolling, the delay in filing did not eliminate husband’s remedies under the Convention; the court recognized but declined to exercise its independent authority to order H.C.’s return. There was sufficient evidence that H.C. was well settled in the U.S. View "Castellanos-Monzon v. De La Roca" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court modified and affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals dismissing Defendant’s appeal from a trial court order changing venue, holding that Defendant’s appeal from this order was interlocutory and not subject to immediate review. Plaintiff filed a complaint in Union County seeking child custody, child support, and equitable distribution. Apparently before he was served with Plaintiff’s action, Defendant filed a complaint in Pitt County seeking child custody. Defendant then filed in Union County a motion to change venue to Pitt County. The trial court granted the motion based upon the convenience of witnesses, determining that Defendant’s motion challenging venue was proper because it was equivalent to an “answer.” Plaintiff appealed. The Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal as interlocutory. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding (1) while Defendant’s filing was not an “answer” under the Rules of Civil Procedure, the trial court had the authority to enter the discretionary order changing venue; and (2) Plaintiff’s appeal from the order was interlocutory and warranted dismissal. View "Stokes v. Stokes" on Justia Law

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Dalyn Vollrath appealed a district court order requiring him to pay Pembina County, North Dakota $5,000 for guardian ad litem fees. Because the order was issued after the conviction was final and the issue was not preserved, the North Dakota Supreme Court found the district court lacked jurisdiction to amend the sentence. The Court, therefore, vacated the order requiring payment of guardian ad litem fees. View "North Dakota v. Vollrath" on Justia Law

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Shane Martin appealed an order denying his N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b) motion for relief from default judgment. Martin was the biological father of Cheri Poitra's child, I.R.P. Martin and Poitra were unmarried tribal members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. In August 2017, Poitra began receiving services from Bismarck Regional Child Support Unit (BRCSU). The State sought to establish a child support obligation from Martin and served him with a summons and complaint. Martin completed a financial affidavit and returned it to BRCSU on October 8, 2017, but did not file an answer or other responsive pleading. On November 7, 2017, the State filed a N.D.R.Ct. 3.2 motion for default judgment. More than 21 days had passed since Martin was served and he had appeared but had not filed an answer or other responsive pleading. On November 17, 2017, Martin filed a notice of special appearance. The notice of special appearance did not contain an accompanying affidavit, motion, request for action, or response to the allegations. Instead, the notice stated only that Martin's attorney was entering a special appearance to contest "both subject matter and personal jurisdiction." Included with the notice was a copy of a summons and a petition for custody filed by Martin with the Turtle Mountain Tribal Court on November 16, 2017. A hearing on the "notice of special appearance" was held January 2018. During the hearing, the district court stated numerous times that the notice was not a motion on which the court could act and instructed Martin to file a motion. In February, 2018, the district court entered its findings of fact, conclusions of law, and order for judgment finding Martin in default. Judgment was entered February 21, 2018. Martin argues that his return of the financial affidavit and filing of a notice of special appearance was sufficient to preclude a default judgment under N.D.R.Civ.P. 55(a) and thus the district court erred in denying his Rule 60(b) motion. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed: the district court did not err in denying a Rule 60(b) motion for relief from judgment where Martin was properly provided notice and served with the motion for default judgment. View "North Dakota v. Martin" on Justia Law

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Chad Schultz appealed a final judgment and decree of divorce entered on January 17, 2018 dissolving his marriage to Kelli Schultz. Chad and Kelli were married in September 2008 following a one and one-half- year period of cohabitation. In February 2016, after approximately seven and one-half years of marriage, the parties separated and Chad moved out of the marital home. Chad appealed the district court's valuation of marital assets and the allocation of the marital estate. The parties agreed that Chad would receive the farmland in the property distribution, but disagreed whether a reciprocal value should be allocated to Kelli. Chad argued that when considering the length of the marriage and that he inherited the property prior to marriage, the property should be allocated to him without a reciprocal allocation of value to Kelli. Kelli requested an equal division of the farmland's value through post-judgment payments to her from Chad. The district court's property division allocated a reciprocal value to Kelli and ordered a series of post- judgment equalization payments from Chad to Kelli. The post-judgment payments included an interest rate of 4%.The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, finding no reversible error. “There is no bright-line rule to distinguish between short and long-term marriages.” When a distribution of property includes periodic cash payments from one spouse to another, a district court has broad authority to provide for the payment of interest in order to achieve an equitable distribution of the property. View "Schultz v. Schultz" on Justia Law