Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court vacated the order of the circuit court modifying the disposition of this case to terminate Petitioners' parental rights under W. Va. Code Ann. 49-4-604(c)(6), holding that the circuit court erred in modifying the disposition absent a motion under section 49-4-606 and that the parties were deprived of due process when they were not notified that the circuit court intended to take up a motion to modify disposition.In 2017, the circuit court ordered a "section 5" disposition, concluding that Petitioners were unwilling or unable to provide for B.W.'s needs and that there were no parenting services available specifically tailed to Petitioners' need for reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101 through 12213. The court did not terminate Petitioners' parental rights at that time but dismissed the case from its docket. In 2019, the circuit court held a status hearing and sua sponte modified the case's disposition to terminate Petitioners' parental rights. The Supreme Court vacated the order, holding that termination of Petitioners' parental rights violated the procedure required by section 49-4-606 to modify disposition and denied Petitioners due process. View "In re B.W." on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal is whether the district court abused its discretion when it applied the fugitive disentitlement doctrine to dismiss plaintiff's action against defendant, the father of her two daughters. In this case, plaintiff left the United States against the orders of a Florida family court and could be arrested by Florida officials if she were to return to Florida. Plaintiff filed suit attacking the proceedings of the family court while remaining outside its jurisdiction.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, concluding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by applying the fugitive disentitlement doctrine to dismiss plaintiff's lawsuit. The court explained that because plaintiff remains a fugitive, her lawsuit collaterally attacks the very proceedings from which she absconded, and dismissal prevents her from using the judicial process only when it benefits her. The court denied as moot the motion to dismiss the appeal, the motion to strike part of the reply brief, and the motion to strike the appendix to the reply brief. View "Vibe Ener v. Martin" on Justia Law

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Mother appeals from the juvenile court's jurisdiction and disposition orders, contending that the record lacks evidence sufficient to support those orders. In this case, Nathan E. and his siblings were removed from their parents after DCFS investigated a report of a domestic violence incident.The Court of Appeal found substantial evidence to sustain the juvenile court's jurisdictional and dispositional findings. In this case, the history of domestic violence between mother and father that DCFS outlined for the juvenile court spanned for the entire duration of their marriage. In the same year that they were married, mother stabbed father and was arrested for domestic violence and resisting an executive officer. Furthermore, DCFS's investigation revealed that the parents had their violent altercations in the presence of the children. The court concluded that substantial evidence supports the finding that the parents' ongoing domestic violence issues created a substantial risk of harm to the children; at the time of the dispositional hearing, returning the children to mother's custody posed a risk of substantial danger to them; and there existed no reasonable means of protecting the children other than removing them from mother. View "In re Nathan E." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the juvenile court dismissing this child-in-need-of-assistance proceeding in which the child victim of sexual abuse had been returned to the home with the perpetrator and in which the child's mother refused to believe any sexual abuse occurred, holding that dismissal was improper.When a seven-year-old girl was sexually abused by her stepfather, the State initiated a child-in-need-of-assistance proceeding, and the juvenile court removed the girl from the home. After the stepfather had been prohibited from living there, the child was allowed to return to the home. The girl's mother, however, refused to accept the sexual abuse finding against her husband. The juvenile court eventually permitted the stepfather to run to the home and dismissed the child-in-need-of-assistance proceeding. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the purposes of the child-in-need-of-assistance order were not accomplished, and the continuation of the child's supervision, care, or treatment through continued proceedings was warranted. View "In re D.D." on Justia Law

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In this marriage dissolution case, the issue presented was whether a spouse’s conveyance of his interest in a home through an interspousal transfer deed (“ITD”) automatically overcame the presumption of marital property in the Uniform Dissolution of Marriage Act, (“UDMA”), provided that there was proof that the conveying spouse intended to exclude the property from the marital estate. "[A] party may overcome the marital property presumption in the UDMA only through the four statutory exceptions set forth in section 14-10-113(2) [C.R.S. (2020)]." Because the court of appeals improperly created a new exception to the presumption, the Colorado Supreme Court reversed its judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "In re Marriage of Blaine" on Justia Law

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A.M. was placed with her Father’s stepsister (“Aunt”) after A.M. tested positive for heroin at birth and after both of A.M.’s parents tested positive for illegal drugs. The trial court subsequently adjudicated A.M. dependent and neglected as to both parents and adopted appropriate treatment plans. The State ultimately filed a motion to terminate the rights of both parents, alleging that they had not complied with their treatment plans, that no modifications to the plans could be made to enable them to regain parental fitness, that no less drastic alternatives to termination existed, and that termination of the parent-child legal relationship was in A.M.’s best interests. The trial court denied the State's motion, holding that “the best interest of the child would be served by termination; however, permanent custody is a less drastic alternative.” The State appealed. A divided panel of the court of appeals held a trial court had to deny a motion to terminate parental rights that has been proven by clear and convincing evidence if a less drastic alternative to termination exists even though it is not in the child’s best interests. The Colorado Supreme Court found the panel departed from well-established jurisprudence regarding the best interests of the child standard in termination cases; that a trial court was not required to make express less drastic alternative findings, "though it is certainly the better practice to do so;" and that the majority substituted its judgment for that of the trial court. The appellate court's judgment was reversed and the matter remanded. View "Colorado in Interest of A.M." on Justia Law

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Lucille and Lewis Keading created a trust for the benefit of their children, Kenton and Hilja. During their lifetimes, they provided financial assistance to Kenton but not to Hilja. Kenton had been imprisoned for nine years. In 2015, Hilja returned to her parents’ home to care for them, clean their house, and organize their finances. Lewis died a few months after Lucille. Days after Lewis died, Kenton recorded a deed, transferring the property from the trust to him and his father as joint tenants. He sold Lewis’s car and kept the proceeds.After discovering that Kenton had represented himself as their father’s attorney-in-fact and had executed the deed, Hilja filed suit. A court-appointed trustee joined Hilja’s suit. The court found the transfer invalid, set aside the deed, and vested title to the property with the trustee. Meanwhile, Kenton sued Hilja for libel. The court granted Hilja’s anti-SLAPP motion, concluded Kenton was liable for elder abuse and that the property transfers resulted from elder abuse.The court of appeal affirmed the judgment that found Kenton liable for elder financial abuse through undue influence and ordered him to pay $1.5 million in damages and upheld a prejudgment right to attach order. Probate Code section 859 authorizes an award of double damages for the commission of elder financial abuse without a separate finding of bad faith. The court also upheld the dismissal of Kenton’s libel action. View "Keading v. Keading" on Justia Law

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Mary Orwig appealed and Steven Orwig cross-appealed a divorce judgment distributing the parties’ property and awarding Mary spousal support. Mary argued the district court erred in determining the value of certain property, distributing the parties’ assets, and failing to award her permanent spousal support. Steven argued the court erred by ordering him to pay Mary's attorney’s fees. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s property division and spousal support award, but reversed its attorney’s fees award. The matter was remanded for reconsideration of fees. View "Orwig v. Orwig" on Justia Law

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Shannon Belgarde appealed an order denying her motion to vacate a divorce judgment, which was entered pursuant to a stipulation. Shannon Belgarde (formerly Paulson) and Kristofor Paulson married in 2013. They divorced on December 4, 2019 based on a stipulated settlement agreement signed by both parties and filed with the district court on November 12, 2019. Neither party was represented by counsel during the drafting or execution of the settlement agreement. Belgarde moved to vacate the divorce judgment under N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b), arguing the judgment should be vacated on the grounds of duress, newly discovered evidence, fraud, misrepresentation, misconduct, and because the divorce stipulation was so one-sided as to be unconscionable. Belgarde argued she relied on Paulson’s statements regarding future reconciliation when she signed the settlement agreement. She stated she did not realize these statements were false until she discovered evidence of an alleged affair. Belgarde also argued the divorce stipulation was so one-sided as to be unconscionable. Belgarde submitted affidavits and several exhibits in support of her motion. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Paulson v. Paulson" on Justia Law

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Cory Davis appealed a district court order denying his motion for Rule 60(b), N.D.R.Civ.P., relief from a judgment. In September of 2019 Tracy Davis served Cory with a summons and complaint for divorce. Cory did not prepare or serve a formal answer. On October 14, 2019, the district court issued an order for mediation. The parties attended mediation without final resolution of their case. After a mediation closing form was filed the court issued a scheduling order and notice of bench trial for January 23, 2020. On December 13, 2019, Tracy filed a motion for default judgment. That same day she served Cory with the motion by mail. On December 23, 2019, the district court issued an order granting default judgment, along with judgment by default. On January 8, 2020, Cory filed an answer and counterclaim, notice of motion for relief from judgment, and brief in support of motion for Rule 60 relief, arguing he did not receive the time required under N.D.R.Ct. 3.2 to respond to Tracy's motion for default. On appeal of the denial of relief, Cory argued the court erred in denying his motion because the judgment was entered prior to the expiration of his time to respond under N.D.R.Ct. 3.2(a). After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court reversed and remanded with instructions to vacate the default judgment and provide Cory an opportunity to respond consistent with N.D.R.Ct. 3.2(a)(2). View "Davis v. Davis, et al." on Justia Law