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The superior court terminated a father’s parental rights to his son, finding that the child was in need of aid because of abandonment, neglect, and the father’s incarceration and that the Office of Children’s Services (OCS) had satisfied its statutory obligation to make reasonable efforts to reunify parent and child. The father appealed, arguing these findings were unsupported by the evidence. The Alaska Supreme Court agreed with the father: the record showed he initiated efforts to visit the child, who was already in OCS custody, as soon as he learned of his possible paternity; that during the father’s subsequent incarceration he had visitation as often as OCS was able to provide it; and that OCS never created a case plan to direct the father’s efforts toward reunification. The Supreme Court concluded it was clear error to find that the child was in need of aid and that OCS made reasonable efforts toward reunification, and reversed the termination decision. View "Duke S. v. Alaska, Dept. of Health & Social Services, Office of Children's Services" on Justia Law

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Two young siblings were removed from their biological parents’ home and placed with a foster family. The maternal biological grandparents remained involved in the children’s lives and sought to adopt them, as did the foster parents. The grandparents and foster parents entered into a formal settlement agreement, which was incorporated into the ultimate adoption decree. Under the agreement the grandparents waived their right to pursue adoption in exchange for several specific guarantees and assurances, including that the foster parents would comply with a visitation agreement and facilitate a relationship between the children and the grandparents. When the grandparents were later denied post-adoption visitation, they moved to enforce the agreement and then to vacate the adoption. The superior court vacated the adoption after finding that the foster parents made material misrepresentations throughout the pre-adoption process, including specific misrepresentations about their intent to comply with the visitation and relationship agreement. The superior court placed the children back in state custody to determine a suitable adoptive placement. The foster parents appealed, arguing that the grandparents’ sole remedy was enforcement of the visitation agreement. The Alaska Supreme Court found that an adoption could be vacated due to material misrepresentations, and because the adoptive parents did not challenge the court’s factual finding that they never intended to comply with the settlement agreement’s visitation and relationship provisions, the Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s decision vacating the adoption. View "In Re Adoption of E.H. and J.H." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court terminating Father’s parental rights to his biological child, I.K., holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that termination was in the best interests of I.K. The district court terminated Father’s parental rights to I.K. for failure to comply with an appropriate court-approved treatment plan and because Father had been incarcerated for more than one year. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s judgment, holding that the district court’s finding that termination was in I.K.’s best interests was supported by clear and convincing evidence and that the court did not abuse its discretion when it found that termination of Father’s parental rights was in I.K.’s best interests. View "In re I.K." on Justia Law

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The wife in a married couple (defendants C.P. and J.P., wife and husband) conceived a child with a coworker (plaintiff C.A.), but hid that fact from wife’s employer and initially, from husband. The marriage remained intact and wife and husband parented the child. For the first three years of the child’s life, the couple allowed plaintiff to act in an alternate parenting role, and the child bonded with him and his close relatives. Defendants excluded plaintiff from the child’s life when he filed the underlying petition seeking legal confirmation of his paternal rights. The trial court found that wife misled the court at an interim custody hearing, prolonging what the court later viewed as an unwarranted separation. Despite this period of separation, the court found the child was still bonded to all three parents and found this to be a “rare” case where, pursuant to statutory authority, each of three parents should have been legally recognized as such, to prevent detriment to their child. Defendants appealed, but finding no abuse of discretion, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "C.A. v. C.P." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating the parental rights of Mother and Father to their child pursuant to me. Rev. Stat. 4055(1)(A)(1)(a) and (B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(iv), holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion. Specifically, the Court held (1) the district court did not err in its parental unfitness finding as to Father; (2) the district court did not deny Father due process of law when it based its findings of unfitness, in part, on Father’s unprescribed use of prescription drugs as stimulants; and (3) the district court did not err in determining that termination of Mother’s parental rights, with a permanency plan of adoption, was in the best interest of the child. View "In re Child of Troy C." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Mother’s and Father’s parental rights to their child pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 22, 4055(1)(A)(1)(a) and (B)(2)(a), (b)(i)-(ii), (iv), holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion. Specifically, the Court held (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Mother’s motion to continue the termination hearing and appoint a guardian ad litem; and (2) the evidence was sufficient to support the district court’s determinations that Father was an unfit parent within the meaning of the child protection statutes and that termination was in the child’s best interest. View "In re Child of Mercedes D." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Willis S. Sheldon, individually as the father of Dezirae Sheldon, and as administrator of the Estate of Dezirae Sheldon, appealed the grant of summary judgment to defendant Nicholas Ruggiero, an administrative reviewer with the Vermont Department for Children and Families (DCF). Plaintiffs argued that defendant negligently failed to report an allegation that Dezirae’s stepfather Dennis Duby abused Dezirae, eventually leading to Dezirae’s murder at Duby’s hands. Plaintiffs presented alternative theories for defendant’s liability under: (1) Vermont’s mandated-reporter statute, which they argued created a private right of action; (2) common-law negligence; or (3) negligent undertaking. After review, the Vermont Supreme Court concluded that even if the mandated-reporter statute creates a private right of action, or alternatively, even if defendant had a common-law duty to report suspected abuse, plaintiffs’ negligent-undertaking claim failed because defendant acted reasonably and prudently in his role as a DCF administrative reviewer. In addition, the Court concluded that defendant never undertook DCF’s statutory obligation to investigate all potential sources of Dezirae’s injuries. View "Sheldon v. Ruggiero" on Justia Law

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A divorcing couple disputed custody of their child and division of their marital property. The wife alleged for the first time during trial that the husband had engaged in a pattern of domestic violence. The court found her testimony credible, applied the statutory domestic violence presumption, and awarded her primary physical and sole legal custody of the child. The husband filed a motion to reopen the evidence regarding domestic violence and substance abuse more than a month after the court’s oral decision. The court denied his motion. The court divided the marital property 60/40 in favor of the wife, awarded all of the real property to the husband, and ordered him to make an equalization payment. The husband appealed the denial of his motion to reopen the evidence and the property division. Because the husband waived any argument that he should be allowed to present additional evidence and the court did not abuse its discretion in its property division, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment. View "Burns-Marshall v. Krogman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s finding that the State had a lien on an appearance bond deposit assigned to a debtor’s former attorney, holding that appearance bond funds are not personal property “registered” with a “county office” as required for a lien under Neb. Rev. Stat. 42-371. This appeal related to an order in garnishment enforcing a statutory lien by the State for $18,000 in past-due child support against an appearance bond deposit in the amount of $4,500 held by the clerk of the court in a criminal case unrelated to the child support matter. For payment for the attorney’s services the debtor had assigned to his attorney his contingent right to a return of the bond deposit. During the garnishment proceedings, the attorney filed a motion to quash, arguing that depositing a bond is not “registering” and that the county court is not a “county office” under section 42-371. The district court disagreed and ordered that the bond funds being held by the court be credited against the debtor’s child support arrears. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the bond deposit was not “registered personal property” under the statute. View "State v. McColery" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Appellant’s parental rights to his son, holding that the court did not err or abuse its discretion in finding that the factors supported termination and that termination of Father’s parental rights was in the child’s best interest. Specifically, the Supreme Judicial Court held that the court did not err or abuse its discretion in finding (1) Father was unwilling or unable to protect the child from jeopardy and that those circumstances were unlikely to change within a time reasonably calculated to meet the child’s needs under Me. Rev. Stat. 22, 4055(1)(B)(2)(a), (b)(i); and (2) termination of Father’s parental rights was in the child’s best interest. View "In re Child of Matthew R." on Justia Law