Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

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Appellant Iris Stacy (Mother) sought certiorari review of an unpublished opinion by the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals (COCA) that affirmed the trial court's judgment terminating her parental rights to I.T.S., I.M.S., and R.E.S. (Children). At issue was the trial court's sua sponte discharge of Mother's court-appointed counsel at the conclusion of the disposition hearing, which left her without representation until State filed its petition to terminate her parental rights over two years later. She argued the trial court's failure to provide her legal representation between the disposition and the filing of the petition to terminate her parental rights (a period of 798 days) was contrary to the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted her petition to address a question of first impression: Upon request by an Indian child's parent for counsel in a deprived child proceeding, and a finding of indigency, whether the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) required court-appointed counsel for the parent at all stages of the deprived child proceeding. The Supreme Court held that section 1912(b) of ICWA required, upon request and a finding of indigency, the appointment of counsel at all stages of the deprived child proceeding. View "In the Matter of I.T.S." on Justia Law

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T.W., the de facto parent of the minor, appealed a juvenile court’s order removing the minor from his and his wife’s care and placing the minor with her maternal relatives. He contended the juvenile court abused its discretion in entering the orders and that placement with the maternal relatives was not in the minor’s best interests. The respondent Sacramento County Department of Child, Family and Adult Services elected not to file an appellate brief, as its position was aligned with appellant’s position at the contested hearing giving rise to this appeal. The respondent minor, who argued in favor of placement with the maternal relatives, contended appellant did not have standing to raise the issue of placement in this appeal and, in any event, the juvenile court did not abuse its discretion in ordering placement with the maternal relatives. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded appellant lacked standing to contest the placement order, and dismissed the appeal. View "In re B.S." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the trial court terminating Mother's parental rights to her three children and terminating the children's two fathers' parental rights to the children, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below.On appeal, Mother's counsel identified three issues that could arguably support an appeal but stated why she believed each of those issues lacked merit. The Supreme Court affirmed as to Mother and both fathers, holding (1) the trial court's orders as to Mother were supported by competent evidence and based on proper legal grounds; and (2) the trial court did not err by concluding that grounds existed to terminate the fathers' parental rights in their respective children. View "In re M.S." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the trial court terminating the parental rights of Mother and Father in their two minor children, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in any issue raised by Parents' appeals.The Supreme Court affirmed the orders below, holding (1) contrary to Father's argument on appeal, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by allowing Father's counsel to withdraw from representing him at the termination hearing; and (2) contrary to Mother's argument on appeal, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by determining that terminating Mother's parental rights would be in the children's best interests. View "In re T.A.M." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the trial court finding that grounds existed to terminate Father's parental rights to his child pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-1111(a)(1), (2), and (5) and that termination was in the child's best interests, holding that Father did not carry his burden to show ineffective assistance of counsel.On appeal, Father's sole argument - raised for the first time on appeal - was that his appointed trial counsel was ineffective, and therefore, the Supreme Court should reverse the portion of the trial court's order concluding that the ground set forth in section 7B-1111(a)(5) existed to terminate Father's parental rights. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Father's ineffective assistance of counsel claim was without merit. View "In re B.S." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the trial court terminating Father's parental rights pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-1111(a)(2)-(3), and (7), holding that the trial court's findings of fact supporting its termination of Father's parental rights were supported by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence.The trial court entered an order concluding that grounds existed to terminate Father's parental rights in his child and that it was in the child's best interests that Father's parental rights be terminated. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court properly terminated Father's parental rights in his child pursuant to N.C. Gen. Laws 7B-1111(a)(3). View "In re J.E.E.R." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the trial court terminating Mother's and Father's parental rights in their two daughters, Elyse and Elizabeth, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in its best interests determination as to Elyse and Elizabeth. On appeal, the parents argued that the trial court abused its discretion in concluding that it was in the children's best interests to terminate the parents' parental rights. Mother only challenged the court's best interests determination as to Elyse. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining that termination of Mother's parental rights was in Elyse's best interests and that termination of Father's parental rights was in Elizabeth's best interests. View "In re E.S." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the trial court terminating Father's parental rights in his minor children, holding that the trial court did not err in finding that there were grounds pursuant too N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-1111(a)(7) to terminate Father's parental rights as to the child.In terminating Father's parental rights to his child, the trial court concluded that five grounds existed for termination and that termination of Father's parental rights was in the child's best interests. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that unchallenged findings of fact, based on clear and convincing evidence in the record, supported the trial court's conclusion that Father willfully abandoned the child, and the ground of willful abandonment was sufficient to support the trial court's order of termination. View "In re I.J.W." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the trial court terminating Mother's parental rights in her two children, holding that the trial court did not err or abuse its discretion.The trial court entered an order concluding that grounds existed to terminate Mother's parental rights in her two children pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-1111(a)(1)-(2) and determining that it was in the children's best interests that Mother's parental rights be terminated. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not (1) abuse its discretion by failing, sua sponte, to conduct an inquiry into whether she should be appointed a guardian ad litem to assist her during the termination hearing; (2) err by concluding that grounds existed to terminate Mother's parental rights in her children; and (3) abuse its discretion in determining that it was in the children's best interests that Mother's parental rights be terminated. View "In re M.S.E." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the trial court terminating Mother's parental rights in her three minor children, holding that the trial court correctly found that Mother's parental rights were subject to termination on the basis of at least one of the grounds set forth in N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-1111(a) and that termination of her parental rights in the children would be in their best interests.In its termination order, the trial court determined that Mother's parental rights were subject to termination on the basis of neglect, section 7B-1111(a)(1), and willful failure to make reasonable progress toward correcting the conditions that resulted in the children's removal to a placement outside the family home, section 7B-1111(a)(2). The court further determined that the termination of Mother's parental rights would be in the children's best interests. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. View "In re Z.R." on Justia Law