Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

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Wang initiated the dissolution of marriage proceedings against Zhou. The parties have a daughter, born in 2013 in China. Daughter lived primarily in China with Zhou but made frequent, extended trips to the U.S. to visit Wang, who worked in California. The court assumed emergency jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA, Fam. Code 3400): Daughter would return to China with Zhou, and then return to California for extended periods. The parties agreed they would either register the California order or create an identical order in China "so that there will be a fully enforceable order in both jurisdictions.”In 2018, Zhou sought to register a Chinese judgment. Zhou had alleged to the Chinese court that Wang “tricked” her; that court denied Wang’s request to implement the California judgment and determined that Zhou should have sole custody. Wang opposed the registration of the order and asked the court to order Zhou to return Daughter to the U.S. for visitation. Wang had participated in the Chinese proceedings and was appealing the Chinese judgment. The court ordered Zhou to comply with the 2016 order and denied Zhou’s request to register the Chinese judgment.The court of appeal affirmed. The trial court did not explicitly rule that it had UCCJEA jurisdiction, nor did Wang argue that the court had superior jurisdiction over the Chinese court regarding child custody. The court properly denied registration because Wang established that the Chinese court, as a court with jurisdiction, stayed the judgment. View "Marriage of Wang & Zhou" on Justia Law

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Father appealed the dismissal of his motion to vacate the family court’s order terminating his parental rights to son C.L.S. In his motion, father argued the termination order had to be set aside under Vermont Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) because he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The family court determined that it lacked jurisdiction under 33 V.S.A. 5103(d) because father filed the motion after C.L.S. was adopted, and dismissed the motion. After review, the Vermont Supreme Court concluded the family court correctly interpreted section 5103(d), and that its application of the statute did not deprive father of his rights to due process or equal protection. View "In re C.L.S., Juvenile" on Justia Law

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Thomas Kaspari appealed when the district court ordered him to pay spousal support in his divorce from Jean Kaspari until her death or remarriage. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court erred as a matter of law because its award of spousal support was for an unlimited period of time. The Court vacated the spousal support portion of the judgment and remanded for the district court to reconsider the issue in light of the Supreme Court's opinion. View "Kaspari v. Kaspari" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal vacated the juvenile court's jurisdictional finding as to Father and reversed the dispositional order removing J.N. from Father's custody. The court agreed with father that the jurisdictional finding and removal order were solely based on Father's incarceration and criminal record and that such evidence is insufficient to support either jurisdiction or removal. In this case, substantial evidence does not support an actual nexus between this criminal history and any specifically identified, substantial, current risk of serious physical harm to J.N. Furthermore, the record does not contain substantial evidence to support removal of J.N. from father.Father also challenges the trial court's denial of reunification services based on a detrimental finding under Welfare and Institutions Code section 361.5, subdivision (e). The court concluded that section 361.5 is inapplicable and that Father was not entitled to reunification services, regardless of any potential detriment to J.N. therefrom. The court nevertheless vacated the trial court's detrimental finding because it could prejudice Father in future dependency proceedings. View "In re J.N." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying Petitioners' motion to intervene in an abuse and neglect matter, holding that Petitioners had a right to a timely evidentiary hearing to determine their suitability for temporary placement.Soon after G.S., their grandchild, was born, Petitioners filed their petition for guardianship supported by written agreements signed by both parents purporting to transfer custody to Petitioners. The circuit court dismissed the petition. Thereafter, the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) filed an abuse and neglect petition against G.S.'s parents. Petitioners moved to intervene, but the circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Petitioners had a right to be heard at a preliminary hearing to determine their suitability for temporary placement. View "In re G.S." on Justia Law

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The Alaska Office of Children’s Services (OCS) took custody of three Indian children after reports of substance abuse and domestic violence in their mother’s home. For two years OCS was unable to contact the children’s father, who also struggled with substance abuse issues. Once OCS did contact the father, both he and the mother consented to temporarily place the children with a guardian. OCS then reduced its efforts to reunify the children with their father. Then the children’s mother died. The father was incarcerated for several months; he completed classes and substance abuse treatment. After he was released, he maintained his sobriety and began limited contact with OCS and with his children. Approximately four years after taking custody of the children, OCS moved to terminate the father’s parental rights. After the superior court terminated his rights, the father appealed, arguing OCS failed to make active efforts to reunify him with his children as required by ICWA. To this the Alaska Supreme Court concurred, and reversed the termination of his parental rights. View "C.J. (Father) v. Alaska, DHSS, OCS" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court terminating the parental rights of Father to his child and denying the State's petition to terminate Mother's parental rights and instead entering a permanency order appointing Grandmother of one of the boys as the guardian for both, holding that the juvenile court should have terminated Mother's parental rights.Father appealed the termination of his rights, but his notice of appeal was untimely filed. Mother appealed the permanency order, asking the Court to direct the State to continue reunification efforts. The State also appealed, challenging the juvenile court's disposition as to Mother. The Supreme Court reversed as to Mother and otherwise affirmed, holding (1) as to Mother, guardianship was not a proper permanency plan, and the juvenile court erred in denying termination; and (2) because Father's late filing of an appeal was beyond his control, this Court addresses his appeal, and the juvenile court did not err in terminating Father's parental rights. View "In re W.M." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the termination of parental rights as to Mother but not as to Father, holding that the juvenile court erred in finding each required element for a termination of Mother's custody under Iowa Code Ann. 232.116(1)(f) and (h).At issue was the termination of the parental rights of Mother to her three children and the termination of the parental rights of Father of one of the children. Both parties appealed, but Father filed his petition two days late. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) this Court recognizes delayed appeals in termination of parental rights cases under certain limited circumstances; (2) the State did not meet its burden of proving that the children could not be returned to Mother's custody at the time of the adjudication; and (3) the juvenile court properly terminated Father's parental rights as to his child. View "In re A.B." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the juvenile court's jurisdiction findings and disposition orders declaring mother's 16-year-old daughter J.S. and her 12-year-old son M.S. dependents of the court pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 300 and removing J.S. and M.S. from her custody under section 361, subdivision (c). Mother also contends the juvenile court and the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (Department) did not comply with the inquiry and notice requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act and related California law.In the published portion of the opinion, the court held that the Department conducted an appropriate further inquiry, as required by section 224.2, subdivision (e), and California Rules of Court, rule 5.481(a)(4), into the children's possible status as Indian children, including with respect to the paternal relatives' ancestry.com results showing "Native American" ethnic origin. In this case, substantial evidence supported the juvenile court's findings that there was no reason to know that the children were Indian children and that the ICWA did not apply. View "In re J.S." on Justia Law

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In this writ proceeding, the Supreme Court concluded that EDCR 5.518 required the district court, on remand from an earlier appeal and upon the request of Lynita Nelson, to reinstate a joint preliminary injunction (JPI) over the parties' respective spendthrift trusts.During their marriage, Lynita and Eric Nelson created two irrevocable self-settled spendthrift trusts. When the parties divorced, the district court issued a JPI. On remand, the Supreme Court vacated portions of the divorce decree regarding awards against the trusts. On remand, Lynita filed a motion under ECCR 5.518 to reinstate the JPI. The district court granted the motion in part and imposed a JPI over two trust properties. Lynita petitioned for a writ of mandamus directing the district court to impose a JPI under EDCR 5.518 over all property subject to a clam of community property interest. The Supreme Court granted the petition, holding that trust may be parties to a divorce action and that EDCR is mandatory, does not require the requesting party to make a prima facie showing of community interest, and applies on remand. View "Nelson v. Eighth Judicial District Court" on Justia Law