Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

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Appellant appealed from juvenile dependency jurisdiction and disposition orders concerning his daughter. The juvenile court removed Daughter from her parents’ custody; ordered Daughter suitably placed; denied Mother reunification services pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 361.5, subdivisions (b)(10)-(11); and granted reunification services for Father. Father appealed the jurisdiction findings and disposition order. The sole issue raised in his opening brief was whether the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (the Department) complied with its obligations under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and related California law.   The Second Appellate District dismissed the appeal finding that it is moot. The court explained that two courts have recently held—in appeals from orders terminating parental rights—that additional ICWA-related inquiry or notice efforts by a juvenile court or child welfare agency while a case is on appeal will not moot deficiencies in an ICWA inquiry at the time a notice of appeal is filed. However, the opinions do not concern the procedural posture here: an ICWA appeal at the jurisdiction and disposition stage where there will necessarily be further dependency proceedings in the juvenile court (at which continuing ICWA duties apply) and a basis for a later appeal if for some reason the remedial ICWA investigation the Department is now undertaking falls short in Father’s view. The juvenile court must direct that process, at least in the first instance. View "In re Baby Girl M." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court rejecting Wife's action against Husband seeking half of his retirement account or, alternatively, an equitable portion of the account, holding that the parties' omission of their largest asset from the dissolution decree made it impossible for the district court to determine whether the settlement was equitable.After the parties' marriage was dissolved through a joint petition for marriage dissolution Wife filed this action seeking half of Husband's retirement account. In objecting, Husband argued that he and Wife had intentionally omitted his retirement account from their joint petition pursuant to an unwritten side agreement. The district court concluded that the relief Wife sought was beyond the scope of a ** proper enforcement of clarification order and was time-barred to the extent it sought to reopen the decree. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) district courts have the power to address omitted assets that fall outside the scope of the grounds set forth in Minn. Stat. 518.145, subd. 2 for reopening a dissolution decree; and (2) the parties' omission from the decree of their largest asset rendered it impossible for the district court to determine whether the settlement was equitable. View "In re Marriage of Pooley" on Justia Law

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Without notice to appellant A.I. (mother of the minor R.O.), the juvenile court followed its usual practice of converting what was scheduled as a contested jurisdictional confirmation hearing into an uncontested jurisdictional hearing because mother did not appear as ordered. It did so over mother’s counsel’s objection. The Court of Appeal concluded this routine practice denied mother her due process rights. The Court therefore reversed and remanded the matter for a new jurisdictional hearing. View "In re R.O." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the district court distributing the marital estate and calculating child support upon the dissolution of Wife's marriage from Husband, holding that while the district court committed some errors, Wife failed to demonstrate that a new trial was required.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the marital estate included Wife's interests in her family business and Husband's retirement earnings up to the date of the parties' dissolution; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion calculating child support; and (3) Wife did not demonstrate that the errors committed by the district court in this case were due to the district court's adoption of Husband's proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law such that they require a new trial. View "In re Marriage of Frank" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal was a question of the due process rights of an unwed biological father who had established a relationship with his two-month-old child through frequent visits before the child’s maternal grandfather filed a petition to adopt the child. Under Idaho Code sections 16-1504 and 16-1513, the magistrate court determined that the grandfather’s filing of the adoption petition permanently and irrevocably barred the father from establishing paternity or objecting to the adoption. The Idaho Supreme Court vacated the magistrate court's decision because the father’s relationship with his child may have been sufficient to confer parental rights protected by the due process provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, and the statutes relied upon in the magistrate court’s decision unconstitutionally risk termination of these rights without due process. View "Jane Doe I & John Doe I" on Justia Law

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Defendant (mother), who appealed the order terminating parental rights to her minor child J.K. with a permanent plan of adoption contends the juvenile court erred in finding ICWA did not apply because Santa Barbara County Child Welfare Services (CWS) and the juvenile court failed to ask J.K.’s extended family members about his possible Indian status. Defendant asked the Second Appellate District to order that the matter be remanded so these duties can be satisfied.   The Second Appellate District conditionally affirmed the judgment. The court concluded the juvenile court erred in finding ICWA does not apply where, as here, the record does not establish that the expanded duty of initial inquiry set forth in section 224.2, subdivision (b), has been satisfied. The court also concluded that a conditional affirmance with a limited remand for full satisfaction of the duties of inquiry and notice is necessary and appropriate because (1) CWS and the juvenile court have “an affirmative and continuing duty” to inquire into J.K.’s potential Indian status and (2) the record on appeal does not “affirmatively reflect that the protections intended to be afforded through the exercise of that duty have been provided.” View "In re J.K." on Justia Law

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Jennifer Monegan was the birth mother of a child born in 2011, and Scout Monegan was the child’s adoptive father. Gregory and Julie Husby were the child’s maternal grandparents and lived in Oregon. Jennifer and her child lived with the Husbys for a time after the child’s birth; the Husbys provided childcare and were significantly involved in the child’s life until he was two and a half years old. However, Jennifer’s relationship with the Husbys began to deteriorate after she started dating Scout. After Jennifer and Scout married in 2013, the Husbys petitioned for visitation in Oregon, where all of the parties lived at the time. Jennifer and the Husbys came to a mediated agreement providing, among other things, that the Husbys would have visitation with the child one weekend per month for 32 hours, as well as unlimited written and telephonic contact.The Monegans moved to Alaska in March 2018. In-person visits occurred less frequently after the relocation: between March 2018 and August 2019 the Husbys visited the child seven times. The Husbys tried to maintain their relationship with the child through letters, gifts, and weekly phone calls, and claimed they were able to do so through the summer of 2019. In September 2019 the Monegans filed a complaint in the superior court to terminate the Husbys’ visitation rights, alleging it was not in the child’s best interests to continue visitation. The Husbys counterclaimed for modification of the stipulated order to allow “reasonable visitation” with the child. The Husbys then moved to enforce the stipulated visitation order. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded AS 25.20.065(a) governed the motion to modify the grandparents' visitation, and when a grandparent seeks visitation over a parent’s objection, the grandparent must show clear and convincing evidence that the parent was unfit or that denying visitation will be detrimental to the child. If the court awards visitation rights to a grandparent, and the parent later moves to modify the grandparent’s visitation rights, so long as the parents were protected by the parental preference rule in the proceedings resulting in the grandparent’s visitation rights, the "parental preference rule" does not apply in later proceedings to modify those visitation rights. Having clarified the applicable legal standards, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded the superior court’s order in this case because it was error to decide the motions to modify the grandparents’ visitation rights without first holding a hearing on disputed issues of fact. View "Husby v. Monegan" on Justia Law

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In 2017, Dennis and Linda Nelson, the maternal grandparents of C.E., S.E., and A.E., filed a petition at magistrate court relying on Idaho Code section 32-719 to establish visitation rights after Stephanie and Brian Evans, the granddaughters’ parents, terminated contact between the children and the grandparents. Although the magistrate court initially dismissed the petition in its entirety, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed the dismissal, concluding that “Idaho Code section 32-719 does not restrict when a grandparent may petition a court for visitation rights” and that “there [wa]s a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the Evanses’ decision to terminate all contact between the Nelsons and their children was in their children’s best interests.” On remand to the magistrate court, the Evanses moved for a determination that Idaho Code section 32-719 unconstitutionally interfered with their fundamental parental rights. The magistrate court denied the motion, and the matter proceeded to trial. After a three-day trial, the magistrate court found that, while the Evanses were fit parents, their decision to terminate all contact between the children and the grandparents was not in the best interests of the children. However, the magistrate court also found that Linda’s actions on the whole had not been in the best interests of her granddaughters and that her actions had undermined the Evanses efforts to parent their children. The magistrate court nevertheless imposed a visitation schedule. The magistrate court ordered that the Nelsons attend counseling to address the issues it identified before the Nelsons could exercise their visitation award. This appeal followed. The Idaho Supreme Court found that “[p]arents have a fundamental right to maintain a familial relationship, and to the ‘custody, care and control’ of their children; this right is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. ... Because section 32-719 does not limit standing or provide meaningful guidance for how to apply the best interests test, it is not narrowly tailored. As a result, section 32-719 does not pass constitutional muster. We hold that Idaho Code section 32-719 is facially unconstitutional." The magistrate court's visitation order was reversed and the case was dismissed without remand. View "Nelson v. Evans" on Justia Law

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Tuwanda Williams and John Williams, Jr., filed a “Joint Motion to Dismiss Fault Grounds and Consent to Divorce on Grounds of Irreconcilable Differences” and submitted for review a judgment of divorce based on irreconcilable differences and a divorce agreement. Shortly thereafter, Tuwanda changed her mind. She withdrew her consent to the divorce agreement and also withdrew her consent to the divorce based on irreconcilable differences. John moved to enforce the divorce agreement. The chancellor found that Tuwanda timely withdrew her consent to the irreconcilable-differences divorce but that the divorce agreement was an enforceable contract binding on both Tuwanda and John. The chancellor granted John’s motion to enforce the divorce agreement and entered what he called a “final judgment” incorporating the agreement. Tuwanda appealed. Because the order entitled “final judgment” was not a final, appealable judgment, the Mississippi Supreme Court lacked jurisdiction to review the appeal. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed. View "Williams v. Williams" on Justia Law

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In this marriage dissolution case, the Supreme Court held that the appropriate method of establishing the marital community's interest in separate property should begin with trial judges using the "Drahos/Barnett formula" and then adjust the calculation to account for the community's overall contribution of labor and funds to the separate property along with the market appreciation of the property.At issue before the Supreme Court was whether the formula laid out in Drahos v. Rent, 149 Ariz. 248 (App. 1985) and refined in Branett v. Jedymak, 219 Ariz. 550 (App. 2009) (the Drahos/Barnett formula) was the appropriate method of establishing the marital community's equitable lien on a spouse's separate property, in order to provide for a fair division of the separate property’s increase in value proportionate to the amount the community contributed to the property. The Supreme Court held that the Drahos/Barnett formula is an appropriate starting point for courts to calculate a marital community's equitable lien on a spouse's separate property, thus affirming the trial court's judgment in this case. View "Saba v. Khoury" on Justia Law