Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

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L.C. (Mother) appealed a final order of child support covering periods from 2014 to 2019, when Child turned 18. Mother contends the trial court’s child support order had to be reversed because the court calculated child support utilizing a 29 percent timeshare for P.B. (Father) during a period of time when Father had no visitation with the child, purportedly due to Mother’s interference with Father’s visitation rights. Mother also challenged the court’s failure to include certain payments Father received from his parents as income available for child support. After review, the Court of Appeal agreed with Mother’s first contention, that it was improper to attribute nonexistent timeshare in response to Mother’s alleged interference with visitation, and concluded the order should be reversed so that support could be recalculated based on Father’s actual timeshare during the disputed time period, consistent with the statutory guideline under Family Code sections 4050-4076. In all other respects, the order was affirmed. View "County of San Diego v. P.B" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the family division’s decision declining to adjudicate her a de facto parent of J.F. pursuant to 15C V.S.A. 501(b). The family division found that plaintiff had failed to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence four of the seven factors outlined in section 501 to be recognized as a de facto parent, namely that the person seeking de facto parentage: “undertook full and permanent responsibilities of a parent of the child without expectation of financial compensation”; held out the child as their own; “established a bonded and dependent relationship with the child that is parental in nature;” and that “continuing the relationship between the person and the child is in the best interests of the child.” Plaintiff argued on appeal of the Vermont Supreme Court that she proved the above-mentioned factors by clear and convincing evidence. Finding no abuse of discretion or other reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the family division’s decision. View "Lanfear v. Ruggerio & Fennimore" on Justia Law

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Damon Petrie appealed the family division’s denial of his motion to dismiss his ex-wife, Angela Blake’s, attempt to enforce a judgment she obtained in their divorce action. Petrie claimed enforcement of the judgment was barred by the applicable statute of limitations because the judgment was not renewed within the required time. In denying the motion, the family division found Blake had complied with the family division rules for enforcement proceedings and with 12 V.S.A. 506. It then granted Petrie’s motion for interlocutory appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court. The Supreme Court agreed that Petrie’s motion to dismiss should have been granted and therefore reversed and entered judgment in his favor. View "Blake v. Petrie" on Justia Law

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Defendant Raymond Harrington appealed the issuance of a relief-from-abuse order requiring him to have no contact with and stay a hundred feet away from plaintiff Melissa Scheffler (his sister), her residence, and their mother’s home. The trial court issued the order because it concluded that defendant stalked plaintiff, within the meaning of 12 V.S.A. 5131, by driving by her home on multiple occasions and honking his horn, which the court found constituted surveillance. On appeal, defendant argued his actions did not amount to surveillance because surveillance requires “an intent to engage in a close watch or observation.” To this, the Supreme Court agreed and reversed, because, based on the trial court’s findings, there was no evidence defendant was closely watching or observing plaintiff. View "Scheffler v. Harrington" on Justia Law

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Parents appealed the termination of their rights in A.M. and G.M., ages five and four. Parents struggled with substance abuse and were incarcerated periodically during the underlying proceedings. In January 2018, the Department for Children and Families (DCF) filed a petition alleging the children were in need of care or supervision (CHINS) based on parental neglect, including squalid living conditions, and parental substance-abuse concerns. The children were initially placed with their maternal grandmother pursuant to a conditional custody order (CCO), and then with mother pursuant to a CCO. In April 2018, with parents’ agreement, custody of the children was transferred to DCF. Parents stipulated that the children were CHINS, and following a June 2018 disposition hearing, the parties stipulated to continued DCF custody and to DCF’s disposition case plan, which contemplated reunification by November 2018 or adoption. Parents were required to take various action steps to achieve reunification. The children did not see mother after June 2018 and they stopped seeing father before that time. As of September 2018, the children were placed together in the same foster home. Appealing the ultimate termination of the parental rights to their children, Parents challenged the trial court's treatment of voluntary guardianship petitions filed during the pendency of the juvenile proceedings. Mother also argued the court erred in terminating her rights. Finding no abuse of discretion or other reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed termination. View "In re A.M. & G.M." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment entered by the district court terminating Mother's parental rights to three of her children, holding that the court did not clearly err in finding at least one ground of parental unfitness by clear and convincing and did not abuse its discretion in concluding that termination was in the children's best interests.The district court terminated Mother's parental rights to three of her children pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 22, 4055(1)(A)(1)(a), (B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(iv). The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the express findings the court made were sufficient to support its determination to terminate Mother's parental rights. View "In re Children of Loretta M." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court terminating Parents' parental rights to their four children, holding that the trial court did not err in admitting drug test reports on the grounds that the reports properly fell under the records of a regularly conducted activity exception to the hearsay rule pursuant to Ind. R. Evid. 803(6).During the termination hearing, the trial court admitted Parents' drug test results into evidence. Parents appealed, arguing that the drug tests did not meet the regularly conducted activity exception under Ind. R. Evid. 803(6). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in admitting the records over Parents' objections. View "In re Matter of the Termination of Parent-Child Relationship of K.R." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying Grandmother's motion to intervene in the abuse and neglect proceeding regarding her infant grandchild, holding that, under the specific facts of this case, a remand was necessary for an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the preference for grandparent placement was in the child's best interest.When the Department of Health and Human Services filed a petition for immediate custody of the child Grandmother requested that she be allowed to intervene in this matter and that the child be placed in her custody. The circuit court denied the motion to intervene and ordered that a foster care placement be maintained regarding placement and custody until further order of the court. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding (1) the circuit court did not err by denying Grandmother a meaningful opportunity to be heard under W. Va. Code 49-1-601(h); (2) the grandparent preference statute provides that adoption by a grandparent is presumptively in the child's best interest; and (3) under the facts of this case, a remand was required for the circuit court to hold an evidentiary hearing in which Grandmother is allowed to fully participate and address whether placement with Grandmother was in the child's best interest. View "In re P.F." on Justia Law

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In this case, the dependency petition was filed, and the juvenile court assumed jurisdiction, after the family court had entered a final judgment awarding Todd T. sole legal authority to make healthcare decisions for his daughter, Anna T. After the juvenile court terminated its jurisdiction a year later, it expressly declined to issue a juvenile court custody order pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 362.4, reverting back to the original family law decision. The juvenile court nonetheless ordered Anna to continue in treatment with a therapist selected by Anna's mother to be paid by Todd until the therapist determined a change would not interfere with Anna's treatment. The juvenile court also prohibited Todd from returning Anna to two healthcare providers who had previously seen her.The Court of Appeal held that the challenged orders, not having been made as part of a juvenile court custody order pursuant to section 362.4, had no continuing effect after the juvenile court terminated its jurisdiction. In this case, although the juvenile court plainly recognized its ability to issue a juvenile court custody order pursuant to section 362.4, the juvenile court believed it unnecessary to do so. The court vacated the orders, and stated that any ongoing issues regarding Todd's authority to make healthcare decisions regarding Anna are properly addressed to the family court. View "In re Anna T." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the disposition order of the circuit court that terminated Mother's parental rights to her two children, holding that the circuit court erred by failing to address Mother's alleged status as a "battered parent."The circuit court adjudicated Mother as an abusive and neglectful parent and terminated Mother's parental rights, finding no reasonable likelihood that the conditions of neglect and abuse could be substantially corrected in the near future. On appeal, Mother argued that the circuit court erred by finding that she was abusive and neglectful based upon Father's domestic violence. The Supreme Court vacated the disposition order, holding that, given the circuit court's failure to make findings of fact and conclusions of law regarding Mother's alleged status as a "battered parent," the case must be remanded for a new adjudicatory hearing. View "In re H.L." on Justia Law