Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

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Lee Queen appealed a judgment awarding him and Kimber Martel equal residential responsibility of their minor child and ordering child support. Queen argued he should have been awarded primary residential responsibility and the district court erred in calculating his child support obligation. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court failed to make sufficient findings of fact under best interests factor (j). The Supreme Court retained jurisdiction and remanded for further proceedings. View "Queen v. Martel, et al." on Justia Law

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Desiree Horton served Andrew Horton with an Amended Complaint for Divorce in December of 2016. On June 15, 2017, in lieu of a trial, Desiree and Andrew entered into an oral stipulation on the record specifying how their community property would be divided between them. Because Desiree was employed as a teacher in Italy by the United States government and Andrew was a member of the United States military on active duty, the decree of divorce required specific language to be enforceable as to their respective retirement accounts. The magistrate court stated that, due to this specific language, it would “retain jurisdiction” with respect to the parties’ retirement accounts. A written judgment and decree of divorce was entered on February 26, 2018, and dated nunc pro tunc to June 15, 2017, the date of the parties’ oral stipulation. After later motions and hearings on behalf of both parties, an amended judgment and decree of divorce was entered on October 18, 2018. The later amended judgment and decree did not indicate it was being issued nunc pro tunc. Andrew appealed the decision to enter the amended judgment and decree of divorce to the district court. After oral argument, the district court agreed the magistrate court abused its discretion: (1) by deciding to remove the nunc pro tunc language from the initial judgment entered on February 26, 2018; (2) by requiring Andrew to obtain “Survivor Benefit Coverage” for Desiree; and (3) by excluding, over Andrew’s objection, language related to Desiree’s Federal Employee Retirement System account. The district court ordered that the amended judgment and decree of divorce entered in October 2018, be vacated and the case remanded to the magistrate court for various findings of fact and conclusions of law. Desiree appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court found only that the district court erred in concluding the magistrate court abused its discretion in deciding to reject Andrew’s requested language regarding the FERS account in the Amended Decree. The judgment was thus affirmed in part, reversed in part and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Horton v. Horton" on Justia Law

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The State of Vermont appealed a family division’s denial of its request to extend an order placing seventeen-year-old D.K. in the conditional custody of his mother. After review, the Vermont Supreme Court agreed with the court’s conclusion that it lacked authority to extend a conditional custody order (CCO) for a third six-month period under 33 V.S.A. § 5320a(a), and therefore affirmed. View "In re D.K." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and in part reversed and remanded the judgment of the district court finding that Appellant was in contempt of court of orders contained in a divorce decree from Appellee, holding that the court erred in several respects.The district court found that for the tax years 2014 and 2019 Appellant willful violated the dependency tax exemption provisions of her marital dissolution decree and the order in modification. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the order finding Appellant in contempt for taking tax exemptions for the 2014 tax year but affirmed with respect to her filing for 2019, holding that Appellant was not in contempt of the decree when she took a dependency tax exemption for 2014; (2) vacated the award to Appellee for tax year 2014, holding that Appellee he was not harmed in 2014; (3) vacated the damages awarded to Appellee for a lost coronavirus relief payment for the 2019 tax year for lack of proof; and (4) reversed the award of attorney fees to Appellee. View "Yochum v. Yochum" on Justia Law

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The parties divorced in 2016. On June 3, 2020, Jennifer Bryant filed a motion in which she asked the chancellor, pursuant to Section 17 of the property settlement agreement (which was incorporated into the divorce decree) to determine which school the three minor children should attend: Hernando or Lake Cormorant. The father, Kenneth Bryant, wanted the children to go to school at Lake Cormorant because his wife, Alicia Bryant, was a teacher there. The chancellor decided that it was in the children’s best interest to go to school in the Hernando public school district. Kenneth Bryant appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the chancellor’s decision. The Court of Appeals determined that the language of the property settlement agreement authorized the chancellor to reevaluate the matter and that “[a] property settlement agreement cannot deprive the court of its authority to modify support and educational needs of a child.” After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals and affirmed. View "Bryant v. Bryant" on Justia Law

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Amy Winterfeldt appealed the denial of her request for primary residential responsibility and the granting of Bruce Gomm’s motion for modification of parenting time. Winterfeldt also filed a motion to dismiss this appeal and vacate the underlying proceedings, arguing the district court and the North Dakota Supreme Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because Gomm failed to properly register the existing foreign orders in North Dakota. The North Dakota Supreme Court denied the motion to dismiss and affirmed the district court. View "Gomm v. Winterfeldt, et al." on Justia Law

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Child foster care systems in this country are administered by state governments. The federal government reimburses states for “foster care maintenance payments” that the state makes to certified foster caregivers who meet federal-eligibility requirements. In Ohio, there are also foster caregivers (typically relatives) whom the state does not certify as meeting those federal requirements. Ohio withholds payments for those caregivers and provides these non-certified caregivers with less generous payments through a separate state program. The plaintiffs, foster caregivers whom Ohio has considered ineligible to receive the higher foster care maintenance payments, sued. The district court dismissed, finding that the caregivers did not have to meet the same licensing standards as licensed caregivers in Ohio and thus were not “foster family homes” as required by federal law.The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. 671 (a), requires that all foster family homes eligible for payments under federal law meet the same licensing standards; the plaintiffs are subject to different standards than “licensed” caregivers are not “foster family home,” and are not eligible for the higher payments. View "T.M. v. DeWine" on Justia Law

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After appellant Paul Laubach (father), and the appellee Maria Laubach (mother) divorced, the mother sought approval from the trial court to move across the state with their children. The father objected. Among the numerous orders issued by the trial court in this case was a minute order filed April 17, 2018. After the father's appeal culminated in two consolidated cases, the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals dismissed a portion of the appeals when it held that the April 17, 2018, minute order was an appealable order which was appealed out of time. Consequently, it dismissed the portion of the father's appeals which transpired from that order. The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari for the limited purpose of addressing whether written instruments titled "court minute," "minute order," "minute," or "summary order," could ever serve as an appealable order, so as to trigger the time to appeal. To this, the Court held that they did not. Consequently, the Supreme Court vacated the Court of Civil Appeals opinion, and remanded this case to the Court of Civil Appeals for further proceedings. View "Laubach v. Laubach" on Justia Law

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Brandon and Brandi Kelly married on April 20, 2015, and had a child on June 9, 2015. Brandon filed for divorce on May 30, 2017. This appeal primarily concerned their disputes regarding the division of property and attorney fees. Prior to marriage, Brandon and Brandi entered into a prenuptial agreement (“the PNA”) seeking to establish their rights to various items of property. Brandi and Brandon were represented by separate counsel during the negotiation and execution of the PNA. Before signing the PNA, Brandi reviewed Brandon’s 2014 tax return. Brandi’s attorney requested changes to the PNA’s definitions of separate and community property, which were made. Brandi expressly waived her right to review other financial documentation concerning Brandon’s assets and signed the PNA. During the pendency of the divorce action, and relevant to this appeal, Brandon filed four motions for partial summary judgment and Brandi filed two motions for partial summary judgment, each of which required interpretation of various provisions of the PNA. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed in part, and reversed in part, certain district court decisions with respect to the parties' PNA. The Supreme Court found the district court erred (1) in affirming the magistrate court’s decision that the PNA barred Brandi from requesting attorney fees for child custody, visitation and support matters; (2) in affirming the magistrate court’s summary judgment decision concluding that Brandon’s payments from EIRMC were his separate property; and (3) when it failed to vacate the award of attorney fees to Brandon for his contempt motions, but did not err when it affirmed the magistrate court’s other deductions from Brandi’s separate property award. View "Kelly v. Kelly" on Justia Law

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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