Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries
In re Guardianship of J.W.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the juvenile court dismissing an attorney's pro se petition to establish an involuntary guardianship of J.W., holding that the juvenile court did not abuse its discretion under the unique circumstances of this case.J.W. was the nine-year-old daughter of Mother, Attorney's former client. Attorney had represented Mother in prior custody disputes involving the child over which he sought to be named the guardian. The juvenile court dismissed the petition on the grounds that Attorney violated his duties to Mother as a former client under the Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the juvenile court erred in order dismissal as a remedy for any purported ethical violations. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals and affirmed the juvenile court's judgment, holding that dismissal was not clearly untenable. View "In re Guardianship of J.W." on Justia Law
Posted in: Family Law, Iowa Supreme Court
DS v. State
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the juvenile court to change the permanency plan for the two minor children of Father and Mother from family reunification to adoption, holding that there was no error.After a hearing, the district court found that the Department of Family Services made reasonable efforts to reunify the family because neither parent made little to no progress and that it was in the best interests of the children to change the permanency plan. Both parents appealed in two separate appeals. The Supreme Court affirmed as to both parents, holding (1) the juvenile court did not abuse its discretion when changing the permanency plan to adoption; and (2) there was sufficient evidence for the juvenile court to determine that it was not in the children's best interest to return home to Mother. View "DS v. State" on Justia Law
Posted in: Family Law, Wyoming Supreme Court
Lefors v. Lefors
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court in this divorce action, holding that there was error in the division of the parties' marital property and in the spousal support award.After seventeen years of marriage Husband commenced a divorce against Wife. Wife filed a counterclaim seeking separate maintenance and requesting that the divorce be postponed until she began eligible to receive lifetime TRICARE health care coverage. The trial court granted made an equitable division of marital property, granted Wife a decree of separate maintenance, and awarded her permanent alimony. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by denying the entry of a divorce decree until after twenty years of marriage and by granting a decree of separate maintenance; (2) the circuit court lacked the authority to enter an equitable division of the marital property in the separate maintenance proceeding; and (3) on remand, the circuit court should consider the question of spousal support in light of the property division. View "Lefors v. Lefors" on Justia Law
Posted in: Family Law, South Dakota Supreme Court
Kelly v. Kelly
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting Father's petition to modify a child custody order after Mother moved to Tennessee with the parties' child, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it modified custody.The divorce decree between the parties awarded Mother primary physical custody of the parties' child, AFK. Later, Mother notified Father of her plans to move to Tennessee with AFK. Father filed a petition to modify custody, visitation, and support, alleging that the proposed move was a material change in circumstances. The district court found that a material change in circumstances had occurred and concluded that custody and visitation should be modified. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it granted Father's petition to modify custody. View "Kelly v. Kelly" on Justia Law
Posted in: Family Law, Wyoming Supreme Court
In re Markus E.
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court terminating the parental rights of Parents, the parents of an infant (Markus) who suffered more than twenty rib fractures, holding that the evidence in the record did not clearly and convincingly show that Parents' failure to protect Markus from the non-accidental rib fractures was "knowing."Tenn. Code Ann. 37-1-102(b)(22)(A)(i) defines several child abuse as "knowing" failure to protect a child from abuse or neglect likely to cause serious injury or death. In the instant case, the trial court terminated Parents' parental rights on the ground of severe abuse. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the evidence did not clearly and convincingly show that both parents were aware of facts, circumstances, or information that would alert a reasonable parent to take affirmative action to protect the child and yet they failed to act; and (2) the trial court erred in terminating Mother's parental rights based on substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan. View "In re Markus E." on Justia Law
Posted in: Family Law, Tennessee Supreme Court
In re Ja.O.
A.C. (Mother) challenged a juvenile court’s dispositional finding that the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 did not apply to the dependency proceedings to her five children. Mother contended that San Bernardino County Children and Family Services (CFS) failed to discharge its duty of initial inquiry under Welfare and Institutions Code section 224.2 (b). After review of the juvenile court record, the Court of Appeal concluded that Mother’s argument lacked merit and therefore affirmed. View "In re Ja.O." on Justia Law
In re I.E.
C.E. (mother) appealed an order terminating her parental rights to I.E. (the child) and freeing the child for adoption. Mother’s sole claim on appeal was that the juvenile court erred by ruling the parental benefit exception to termination of parental rights did not apply. The Court of Appeal found the record, especially the child’s consistent and compelling statements that she wished to be adopted, "amply supported" the juvenile court’s conclusion that termination of mother’s parental rights would not be detrimental to the child. Because the Court found no abuse of discretion, judgment was affirmed. View "In re I.E." on Justia Law
Posted in: California Courts of Appeal, Civil Procedure, Family Law
In re S.F.
After mother was released from a section 5150 hold, the Agency and mother agreed to a safety plan whereby 11-month-old S.F. would remain in maternal grandmother’s care. Mother violated the safety plan. Father was then residing in New York but was providing monetary assistance to mother and minor. Mother and her boyfriend alleged she received threatening text messages from father. The Agency detained S.F. and filed a petition alleging failure to protect under Welfare and Institutions Code 300(b)(1), alleging that “father has anger management issues and “reported that he used to abuse crack cocaine and alcohol but that he is about 2 years sober.” Father desired to take custody and was willing to move to California. He alleged that he and his sister had been “physically present” and helped care for minor until minor was three months old.The juvenile court adjudicated S.F. a dependent of the court. The court of appeal reversed in part. The jurisdictional findings, the dispositional order removing S.F. from father’s custody, and the orders requiring father to engage in substance abuse testing and treatment are not supported by substantial evidence. The juvenile court adequately complied with the Indian Child Welfare Act, 25 U.S.C. 1901. The Agency had a reason to believe, but did not have sufficient information to determine there was a reason to know, S.F. was an Indian child. View "In re S.F." on Justia Law
Posted in: California Courts of Appeal, Family Law, Juvenile Law
In re A.H.
Newborn A.H. was placed in a foster home. The Agency reported that it had denied a request for placement by J.B., a “nonrelative extended family member” (NREFM, Welf. & Inst. Code 362.7). J.B. filed a “Relative Information,” requesting that A.H. live with her. The Agency objected on the ground that J.B. was not a relative for purposes of the proceedings. The juvenile court agreed, stating that it independently considered placement with several relatives or with J.B. and denied placement with those individuals “for the reasons stated in the Social Worker’s Report.” J.B. filed a section 388 “Request to Change Court Order.” The juvenile court summarily denied J.B.’s petition, finding that the request did not state new evidence or a change of circumstances, and did not promote A.H.’s best interest. J.B. filed a notice of appeal. The Agency reported that in the dependency case of A.H.’s half-sibling, J.B. “created a division” between the Agency and the parents, falsely accusing the caregiver of neglect. The juvenile court terminated parental rights, selecting adoption as the permanent plan.The court of appeal dismissed J.B.’s appeal from the denial of her petition, the refusal to consider her relative information form, and the placement order. Although J.B. may have an “interest” in A.H. that is sufficient for filing a section 388 petition, she does not have a legally cognizable interest in A.H.’s placement such that she has standing to challenge the juvenile court’s placement decision. View "In re A.H." on Justia Law
Posted in: California Courts of Appeal, Civil Procedure, Family Law, Juvenile Law
In re Guardianship of L.R.T.S.
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting guardianship over L.S. and A.S. to David Sammons, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion.In granting guardianship, the district court concluded that L.S.'s and A.S.'s welfare and best interests would best be served if Sammons was appointed as their sole respective guardian. On appeal, Mother argued that the court incorrectly applied the "best interest" standards set forth by Mont. Code Ann. 40-4-212 and -291 and the standards set forth by Mont. Code Ann. 40-4-228 for appointing a temporary guardian. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no basis for the conclusion that the district court acted arbitrarily, without conscientious judgment, or in excess of the bounds of reason in appointing temporary guardianship of L.S. and A.S. to Sammons. View "In re Guardianship of L.R.T.S." on Justia Law
Posted in: Family Law, Montana Supreme Court