Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries
BJ v. KM
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court holding that BJ lacked standing bring his petition to establish paternity and dismissing the petition, holding that a man claiming to be the biological father of a child has standing to bring a paternity action when the child has a legally presumed father.Mother gave birth to Child while married to CM, Child's presumed father. Another man, BJ, claimed to be Child's father and brought this action seeking to establish paternity. The district court concluded that BJ lacked standing under Wyo. Stat. Ann. 14-2-802 and dismissed his petition. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) BJ was a "man whose paternity of the child is to be adjudicated" under section 14-2-802(a)(iii); and (2) therefore, BJ had standing to bring his petition to establish paternity even where CM was legally presumed to be Child's father. View "BJ v. KM" on Justia Law
In re J.S.L.
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court dismissing pending abuse and neglect proceedings and placing Mother's two children with Father, their non-custodial parent, holding that the district court did not err.After the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, Child and Family Services Division filed a petition for adjudication of child as youth in need of care and temporary legal custody the district court adjudicated the children as youths in need of care. The district court subsequently entered an order placing the children in the custody of Father and dismissed the abuse and neglect proceedings without prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err by dismissing the abuse and neglect proceedings and placing the children with Father pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 41-3-438(3)(d). View "In re J.S.L." on Justia Law
In re B.W.
The Supreme Court vacated the order of the circuit court modifying the disposition of this case to terminate Petitioners' parental rights under W. Va. Code Ann. 49-4-604(c)(6), holding that the circuit court erred in modifying the disposition absent a motion under section 49-4-606 and that the parties were deprived of due process when they were not notified that the circuit court intended to take up a motion to modify disposition.In 2017, the circuit court ordered a "section 5" disposition, concluding that Petitioners were unwilling or unable to provide for B.W.'s needs and that there were no parenting services available specifically tailed to Petitioners' need for reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101 through 12213. The court did not terminate Petitioners' parental rights at that time but dismissed the case from its docket. In 2019, the circuit court held a status hearing and sua sponte modified the case's disposition to terminate Petitioners' parental rights. The Supreme Court vacated the order, holding that termination of Petitioners' parental rights violated the procedure required by section 49-4-606 to modify disposition and denied Petitioners due process. View "In re B.W." on Justia Law
Vibe Ener v. Martin
At issue in this appeal is whether the district court abused its discretion when it applied the fugitive disentitlement doctrine to dismiss plaintiff's action against defendant, the father of her two daughters. In this case, plaintiff left the United States against the orders of a Florida family court and could be arrested by Florida officials if she were to return to Florida. Plaintiff filed suit attacking the proceedings of the family court while remaining outside its jurisdiction.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, concluding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by applying the fugitive disentitlement doctrine to dismiss plaintiff's lawsuit. The court explained that because plaintiff remains a fugitive, her lawsuit collaterally attacks the very proceedings from which she absconded, and dismissal prevents her from using the judicial process only when it benefits her. The court denied as moot the motion to dismiss the appeal, the motion to strike part of the reply brief, and the motion to strike the appendix to the reply brief. View "Vibe Ener v. Martin" on Justia Law
In re Nathan E.
Mother appeals from the juvenile court's jurisdiction and disposition orders, contending that the record lacks evidence sufficient to support those orders. In this case, Nathan E. and his siblings were removed from their parents after DCFS investigated a report of a domestic violence incident.The Court of Appeal found substantial evidence to sustain the juvenile court's jurisdictional and dispositional findings. In this case, the history of domestic violence between mother and father that DCFS outlined for the juvenile court spanned for the entire duration of their marriage. In the same year that they were married, mother stabbed father and was arrested for domestic violence and resisting an executive officer. Furthermore, DCFS's investigation revealed that the parents had their violent altercations in the presence of the children. The court concluded that substantial evidence supports the finding that the parents' ongoing domestic violence issues created a substantial risk of harm to the children; at the time of the dispositional hearing, returning the children to mother's custody posed a risk of substantial danger to them; and there existed no reasonable means of protecting the children other than removing them from mother. View "In re Nathan E." on Justia Law
In re D.D.
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the juvenile court dismissing this child-in-need-of-assistance proceeding in which the child victim of sexual abuse had been returned to the home with the perpetrator and in which the child's mother refused to believe any sexual abuse occurred, holding that dismissal was improper.When a seven-year-old girl was sexually abused by her stepfather, the State initiated a child-in-need-of-assistance proceeding, and the juvenile court removed the girl from the home. After the stepfather had been prohibited from living there, the child was allowed to return to the home. The girl's mother, however, refused to accept the sexual abuse finding against her husband. The juvenile court eventually permitted the stepfather to run to the home and dismissed the child-in-need-of-assistance proceeding. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the purposes of the child-in-need-of-assistance order were not accomplished, and the continuation of the child's supervision, care, or treatment through continued proceedings was warranted. View "In re D.D." on Justia Law
In re Marriage of Blaine
In this marriage dissolution case, the issue presented was whether a spouse’s conveyance of his interest in a home through an interspousal transfer deed (“ITD”) automatically overcame the presumption of marital property in the Uniform Dissolution of Marriage Act, (“UDMA”), provided that there was proof that the conveying spouse intended to exclude the property from the marital estate. "[A] party may overcome the marital property presumption in the UDMA only through the four statutory exceptions set forth in section 14-10-113(2) [C.R.S. (2020)]." Because the court of appeals improperly created a new exception to the presumption, the Colorado Supreme Court reversed its judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "In re Marriage of Blaine" on Justia Law
Colorado in Interest of A.M.
A.M. was placed with her Father’s stepsister (“Aunt”) after A.M. tested positive for heroin at birth and after both of A.M.’s parents tested positive for illegal drugs. The trial court subsequently adjudicated A.M. dependent and neglected as to both parents and adopted appropriate treatment plans. The State ultimately filed a motion to terminate the rights of both parents, alleging that they had not complied with their treatment plans, that no modifications to the plans could be made to enable them to regain parental fitness, that no less drastic alternatives to termination existed, and that termination of the parent-child legal relationship was in A.M.’s best interests. The trial court denied the State's motion, holding that “the best interest of the child would be served by termination; however, permanent custody is a less drastic alternative.” The State appealed. A divided panel of the court of appeals held a trial court had to deny a motion to terminate parental rights that has been proven by clear and convincing evidence if a less drastic alternative to termination exists even though it is not in the child’s best interests. The Colorado Supreme Court found the panel departed from well-established jurisprudence regarding the best interests of the child standard in termination cases; that a trial court was not required to make express less drastic alternative findings, "though it is certainly the better practice to do so;" and that the majority substituted its judgment for that of the trial court. The appellate court's judgment was reversed and the matter remanded. View "Colorado in Interest of A.M." on Justia Law
Keading v. Keading
Lucille and Lewis Keading created a trust for the benefit of their children, Kenton and Hilja. During their lifetimes, they provided financial assistance to Kenton but not to Hilja. Kenton had been imprisoned for nine years. In 2015, Hilja returned to her parents’ home to care for them, clean their house, and organize their finances. Lewis died a few months after Lucille. Days after Lewis died, Kenton recorded a deed, transferring the property from the trust to him and his father as joint tenants. He sold Lewis’s car and kept the proceeds.After discovering that Kenton had represented himself as their father’s attorney-in-fact and had executed the deed, Hilja filed suit. A court-appointed trustee joined Hilja’s suit. The court found the transfer invalid, set aside the deed, and vested title to the property with the trustee. Meanwhile, Kenton sued Hilja for libel. The court granted Hilja’s anti-SLAPP motion, concluded Kenton was liable for elder abuse and that the property transfers resulted from elder abuse.The court of appeal affirmed the judgment that found Kenton liable for elder financial abuse through undue influence and ordered him to pay $1.5 million in damages and upheld a prejudgment right to attach order. Probate Code section 859 authorizes an award of double damages for the commission of elder financial abuse without a separate finding of bad faith. The court also upheld the dismissal of Kenton’s libel action. View "Keading v. Keading" on Justia Law
Orwig v. Orwig
Mary Orwig appealed and Steven Orwig cross-appealed a divorce judgment distributing the parties’ property and awarding Mary spousal support. Mary argued the district court erred in determining the value of certain property, distributing the parties’ assets, and failing to award her permanent spousal support. Steven argued the court erred by ordering him to pay Mary's attorney’s fees. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s property division and spousal support award, but reversed its attorney’s fees award. The matter was remanded for reconsideration of fees. View "Orwig v. Orwig" on Justia Law