Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries
In re K.T.
San Bernardino County Children and Family Services (CFS) removed K.T. (K. or child) from his mother when he was about nine months old. At that time, a nurse noticed that he had an enlarged head. He was placed with distant relatives, Mr. and Ms. B., who were already caring for his older half-brother. Further testing showed that K. had a subdural hematoma. Meanwhile, the B.’s began refusing to communicate with K.’s social worker or her “friends” in the same office, claiming that she had discriminated against them and insulted them. CFS detained K., placed him in a special health care needs foster home, and filed a petition to remove K from the B.'s custody. The B.'s in turn, filed a "changed circumstances" petition for return of the child. The trial court denied the B.'s petition, finding they had not show they were qualified as a special health care needs foster home. It then granted CFS' petition, finding that communication between the B.'s and CFS has broken down. The B.'s appealed; CFS contended the B.’s lacked standing to appeal the trial court's orders, citing In re Miguel E., 120 Cal.App.4th 521 (2004). The Court of Appeal agreed with Miguel E. that, in general, a person from whom a child has been removed under Welfare & Institutions Code section 387 lacked standing to challenge the removal. However, when that person is a relative, the Court disagreed with Miguel E., because under Welfare & Institutions Code section 361.3, a relative has standing to appeal from a refusal to place a child with him or her (an argument that Miguel E. did not consider). Nevertheless, the Court of Appeal rejected the B.'s contentions of error and affirmed the trial court's orders. View "In re K.T." on Justia Law
In re R.L.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Mother's parental rights to her three children, holding that the Department of Health and Human Services, Child and Family Services Division (Department) provided reasonable efforts to avoid removal and to reunify Mother with her children and that the district court did not err in terminating Mother's parental rights to the children. Specifically, the Court held (1) The Department made reasonable efforts to prevent removal of the children and to reunite Mother with the children, but those efforts were hindered by Mother's apathy or active refusal to engage with the Department; and (2) the district court did not err in determining that the conduct or condition rendering Mother unfit, unable, or unwilling to parent was unlikely to change within a reasonable time. View "In re R.L." on Justia Law
Oskerson v. Boudette
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court granting Daniel Boudette's motion to extinguish an Arizona Decree of Dissolution of Marriage that Tammy Boudette registered in Montana under the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act, holding that the court was not required to apply Arizona law in this case. Six years after Tammy registered the Arizona the Arizona judgment in Montana, Daniel moved to extinguish the registered Arizona judgment because Arizona's statute of limitations for enforcing judgments had expired. In response, Tammy argued that Montana's longer statute of limitations applied to foreign judgments filed in Montana. The district court granted the motion to extinguish, ruling that the Full Faith and Credit Clause required that Arizona law be applied. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Montana law allows a registered foreign judgment to be enforced just as a Montana judgment would be, and the principle of full faith and credit does not require forum states to apply foreign rendering states' statutes of limitation for enforcement; and (2) therefore, the Arizona judgment registered in Montana was subject to Montana's statute of limitations. View "Oskerson v. Boudette" on Justia Law
Marriage of McKean
Tanya McKean appealed a trial court’s order granting sole legal and physical custody of her two younger children in favor of their father, Scott McKean. Tanya claimed the court abused its discretion by modifying the parties’ custody order absent sufficient evidence of changed circumstances. Specifically, she argued the court erred when it determined that by granting her sole legal and physical custody of her severely disabled daughter, she was rendered incapable of maintaining joint legal and physical custody of her two younger children. After review, the Court of Appeal agreed with Tanya, reversed the court’s order, and remanded the matter for further proceedings. View "Marriage of McKean" on Justia Law
In re N.R.
In this abuse and neglect case the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the circuit court's dispositional order placing three children in the legal and physical custody of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), holding that the circuit court erred by not terminating Mother's and Father's parental rights. Upon finding that Mother and Father were unable to adequately care for their three children the circuit court entered a final dispositional order placing the children in the custody of the DHHR. The guardian ad litem and DHHR appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred by not terminating the parents' parental rights. The parents also appealed, contending that the circuit court failed to comply with the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), 25 U.S.C. 1901 to -1923. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the circuit court for entry of a dispositional order terminating Mother's and Father's parental rights, holding (1) there was no violation of the ICWA in this case; and (2) the best interests of the children required termination of Mother's and Father's parental rights pursuant to W. Va. Code 49-4-604(b)(6). View "In re N.R." on Justia Law
Green v. Howser
Jack and Angela Howser decided that Angela’s estranged daughter, Jade, was failing to provide a suitable home for Jade’s four-year-old daughter, E.W. After unsuccessfully attempting to blackmail Jade, they enlisted the local police, the sheriff’s office, the county prosecutor, and a private investigator to help them. The group agreed that they would arrest Jade while Jade’s husband (Josh) was out of the house so that the Howsers could take the child. After midnight on Sunday night, a caravan of the sheriff, a deputy, the Howsers, and the private investigator set out for Jade’s home to arrest her for writing Angela a $200 check that had bounced. Once Jade was in handcuffs, an officer gave Jack the all-clear to come inside. The sheriff did not allow Jade to designate a custodian for E.W. or obtain her consent to giving E.W. to the Howsers. Jade sued the Howsers under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for conspiring with state officials to violate her due process right to make decisions regarding the care, custody, and control of her child. A jury returned a verdict in her favor. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, finding sufficient evidence to support the verdict and upholding the magistrate judge’s pretrial decision to exclude unfavorable information about Jade and Josh. The court upheld an award of $970,000 in damages. View "Green v. Howser" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Family Law, US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
Netter v. Netter
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court dismissing an out-of-state subpoena proceeding as moot, holding that the circuit court properly dismissed the proceedings. During a divorce proceeding in Connecticut between Donald Netter and Stephanie Netter, Stephanie served an out-of-state subpoena duces cecum on South Dakota Trust Company LLC (SDTC) seeking information from certain South Dakota trusts administered by SDTC. Stephanie later filed a motion for a protective order and scheduled a hearing with the South Dakota circuit court because the SDTC and Stephanie were unable to reach an agreement concerning the terms of a protective order for the information sought. SDTC requested additional protections. Before the hearing, Stephanie sought to withdraw the subpoena and the motion for protective order, indicating that the subpoena was no longer necessary. The circuit court allowed Stephanie to withdraw her motion for protective order and dismissed the action for lack of jurisdiction and on mootness grounds. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because the dispute relating to the out-of-state subpoena was the sole controversy before the circuit court and because Stephanie withdrew her subpoena, there was no longer a dispute before the circuit court, and the matter was moot. View "Netter v. Netter" on Justia Law
Cooper v. SCDSS
Zachariah and Amie Lord Cooper, and Arlene Palazzo were foster parents of three sibling children placed in their care by the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS). The Coopers fostered one of the children, and Palazzo fostered the other two children. DSS initiated removal actions in the family court. The Coopers and Palazzo filed private actions seeking termination of parental rights (TPR) and adoption of their respective foster children. This consolidated appeal stemmed from the family court's order denying several motions made by Foster Parents. The South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed the family court's denial of Foster Parents' motions for joinder. The Supreme Court reversed the family court's denial of Foster Parents' motions to intervene. The matter was remanded for further consideration of Foster Parents' motions for consolidation. View "Cooper v. SCDSS" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Family Law, Government & Administrative Law, South Carolina Supreme Court
In re T.M.
In this abuse and neglect proceeding the Supreme Court reversed the dispositional order of the circuit court giving primary custody of two children to Father following his successful completion of an improvement period, holding that the circuit court failed to give proper consideration to the custodial, decision-making and limiting factors set forth in W. Va. Code 48-9-206, 207, and 209. In awarding primary custody to Father the circuit court found that the award was in the children's best interests based upon their preference to reside with Father and the court's conclusion that Father provided a more stable environment for the children. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the matter for consideration of the appropriate statutory factors, holding that the circuit court erred in deferring to the children's purported preference, as expressed by third parties, to reside with Father because the court failed to give due consideration to the factors set forth in section 48-9-206, 207, and 209 in making its custodial allocation. View "In re T.M." on Justia Law
County of Los Angeles v. Christopher W.
After the County commenced an action against biological father to establish his paternity and his obligation to provide child support for M.D., biological father successfully moved to join mother's boyfriend as a party in the action, asserting that mother's boyfriend, not he, was M.D.'s father under Family Code section 7611, subdivision (d). The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's determination that mother's boyfriend was M.D.'s father, holding that clear and convincing evidence of biological father's biological paternity rebutted, as a matter of law, any presumption under section 7611 subdivision (d) that mother's boyfriend was M.D.'s father. Because the presumption did not apply, biological father's only defense against the County failed. View "County of Los Angeles v. Christopher W." on Justia Law