Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries
In re: Sause and Schnitzer
This case concerned the parentage of a child conceived through assisted reproductive technology (ART). Jordan Schnitzer wanted to have a son. Because he was single, he planned to use his own sperm, an egg donor, and a gestational carrier. Cory Sause contributed her eggs. A gestational carrier gave birth to a boy, S. Afterward, the gestational carrier, her spouse, and Schnitzer agreed that Schnitzer—and not the gestational carrier or her spouse— was S’s intended parent, and a declaratory judgment was entered to that effect. Schnitzer and Sause, however, disagreed about whether Sause was also S’s parent and about whether Schnitzer could prevent Sause from having a relationship with S. The trial court concluded that Sause was S’s legal parent based on her undisputed genetic connection to S; a divided Court of Appeals reversed. The Oregon Supreme Court disagreed with the trial court and concluded that, in the circumstances of this case, Sause’s genetic connection to S did not establish her legal parentage of S. The Supreme Court also concluded that Sause may have contracted with Schnitzer for certain non-parental rights with respect to S. "The extent of those rights is an issue that the trial court did not reach due to its conclusion that Sause was a parent." The Supreme Court therefore reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings to declare the legal parentage of S and to determine the extent of Sause’s nonparental rights with respect to S. View "In re: Sause and Schnitzer" on Justia Law
Tracey v. Tracey
David Tracey appealed a domestic violence protection order prohibiting him from having contact with Monica Tracey for a two-year period. The petition alleged Monica was in fear of her husband. Monica's testimony described events that led to filing the petition, pertinent here, an argument with her husband that resulted in a physical altercation that occurred in November 2021. Following this incident, Monica left the parties’ house for about ten months. The parties reconciled after this incident, and Monica moved back home for about five months before leaving again. Without providing any specific dates, Monica further testified that in the past, David had told her “no one would care if [she] disappeared.” She took these comments about her disappearing as a threat. Monica stated she was not “comfortable” with David showing up to her home and place of work. David did not cross-examine Monica Tracey or deny the allegation of the physical altercation in November 2021, nor did he deny any other incidents related in Monica's testimony. David argued the district court erred in granting the domestic violence protection order because Monica failed to make a showing of actual or imminent domestic violence and the court failed to make sufficient findings to enable proper appellate review. To this, the North Dakota Supreme Court agreed: Monica's petition was based on fear of imminent harm, but the district court made oral findings based on David's conduct that occurred about one and a half years prior. The court made no other specific findings on how the altercation met the definition of domestic violence or whether David acted in self-defense. "Although the November 2021 incident is relevant to the issue of domestic violence, given the period of time since the conduct occurred, and the on and off again relationship between the parties, it is necessary for the district court to find a contemporaneous actual harm or the infliction of fear of physical harm, bodily injury, or assault." The Supreme Court reversed the two-year domestic violence protection order. View "Tracey v. Tracey" on Justia Law
Z.V. v. Cheryl W.
J.W. was born in 2008. Father died in 2015. J.W.'s paternal Grandmother helped raise J.W. since birth. Mother had denied Grandmother contact with J.W. since Father’s death. The court awarded Mother sole custody and granted Grandmother visitation. In 2021, Mother sought to vacate the visitation order, indicating she had moved to Southern California. Grandmother sought temporary emergency orders to enforce visitation. The court set a long cause hearing. The court provided an oral statement of decision, at Mother's request, at the conclusion of the long cause hearing on April 5, 2022, the existing order to allow one visit every other month, plus summertime visits. On June 15, 2022, the court filed Findings and Orders, reducing its oral statement of decision to writing. Grandmother served Mother with notice of the order on June 23. On May 12, Mother filed a notice and motion to vacate and substitute a new judgment or for a new trial. She filed amended notices and motions on May 27 and June 2022. The written denial was served on the parties on September 6, 2022. On September 21, 2022, Mother filed her notice of appeal, stating the appeal was taken from a June 15, 2022 judgment. The court of appeal dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. Mother filed a notice of appeal beyond the 60-day deadline. View "Z.V. v. Cheryl W." on Justia Law
In re Parentage of R.R.
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court ruling that R.R.'s best interests would be served as naming T.R. the legal father, holding that the district court did not misapply the Kansas Parentage Act (KPA), Kan. Stat. Ann. 23-2201 et seq. in this case.Under the KPA, when competing statutory presumptions of parentage exist based on genetics, adoption, and other circumstances, the court is to decide parentage based on the presumption yielding "the weightier considerations of policy and logic, including the best interests of the child." T.T. sought paternity rights to R.R., his biological son who was conceived and born to Mother during her marriage to T.R. The district court held that T.R. had the weightier presumption and that the relevant factors weighed in favor of T.R. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court applied the correct legal standard; and (2) the district court properly weighed the parties' competing presumptions of paternity by following the KPA's statutory scheme and the guidance set forth in Greer v. Greer, 324 P.3d 310 (Kan. 2014). View "In re Parentage of R.R." on Justia Law
H.R. v. P.J.E.
The Supreme Court declined to accept this discretionary appeal filed on behalf of H.R. and sanctioned the three attorneys representing H.R. for instituting a frivolous appeal.The underlying dispute involved two motions filed by H.R. to modify a divorce decree regarding a spousal support obligation payable by P.J.E. to H.R. The trial court denied H.R.'s motion to continue the hearing on her motions to modify, and the court of appeal dismissed H.R.'s appeal. The Supreme Court dismissed H.R.'s appeal and sanctioned H.R.'s attorneys with paying P.J.E.'s reasonable attorney fees and declaring them to be vexatious litigators, holding that the three attorneys had repeatedly engaged in frivolous conduct. View "H.R. v. P.J.E." on Justia Law
Alaska, Department of Family & Community Services v. Karlie T.
The Alaska Office of Children’s Services (OCS) took emergency custody of a child within days of her birth. OCS then filed an emergency child in need of aid (CINA) petition seeking an order confirming probable cause to believe the child was in need of aid and granting OCS temporary custody of the child pending further proceedings. The superior court held an evidentiary hearing and concluded that OCS had not shown probable cause to believe the child was a child in need of aid, and dismissed the CINA case. The superior court later denied OCS’s reconsideration motion, and OCS then appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court reversed the superior court’s decision in a short summary order (with an opinion to follow), remanding to reopen the CINA case and conduct further proceedings in the normal course. The Court explained its order in this opinion. View "Alaska, Department of Family & Community Services v. Karlie T." on Justia Law
Ward v. Belden
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court holding Nicole and Andy Ward in contempt for failing to comply with a visitation order and then issuing an order modifying Brett and Isabel Beldens' visitation to better accommodate the parties' needs and obligations, holding that there was no error.In 2019, the Beldens, the grandparents of the children of their deceased son, were granted visitation after their relationship with Nicole soured. In 2022, Andy the children's stepfather, adopted the children. Thereafter, the Wards informed the Beldens that they would no longer comply with the order of grandparent visitation. The Beldens filed a motion to enforce the visitation order, and the Wards filed a petition to modify the visitation order. The district court (1) held the Wards in contempt for their failure to comply with the original visitation order; and (2) modified the Beldens' visitation after finding that good cause existed to amend the order. View "Ward v. Belden" on Justia Law
Marriage of V.S. & V.K.
V.S. and V.K., both born in India, met in 2009 in Illinois, where they both lived. In 2010, during a trip to India, they participated in the Phera Hindu marriage ceremony. In 2013, the couple had a civil marriage ceremony in Illinois. In 2019, V.S. petitioned for the dissolution of the marriage, identifying the date of marriage as December 2010. Although V.K. in his response, likewise indicated the date of marriage as December 2010. He later argued that the date of marriage was the date of the Chicago civil ceremony.The court of appeal affirmed that the 2010 Phera was not legally binding under the Hindu Marriage Act and that the parties were not married until their U.S. civil ceremony. An out-of-state marriage is “valid” in California if it “would be valid by laws of the jurisdiction in which the marriage was contracted” (Family Code 308). The court upheld a determination that the Phera was not legally binding on V.K., who was not domiciled in India and did not voluntarily submit to be bound by the Act. The court properly did not treat V.K.’s initial admission that the parties were married in 2010 as a judicial admission of fact; the date of the parties’ marriage is a predominantly legal conclusion not susceptible of judicial admission as a disputed fact. Substantial evidence supports the determination that V.S. was not entitled to treatment as a putative spouse after the Phera. View "Marriage of V.S. & V.K." on Justia Law
Scott v. Foster
Petitioner Derrick Scott filed a petition to establish paternity. Respondent-Mother Candice Foster moved to dismiss, asserting that title 10, section 7700-609(B) required a party to commence an adjudication of paternity within two years of an acknowledgment of paternity. The district court granted Mother's motion to dismiss and ordered Petitioner to pay substantial attorney fees. Petitioner appealed and the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, overturning the district court's order regarding attorney fees. The Oklahoma Supreme Court previously granted certiorari to address whether the Court of Civil Appeals properly affirmed the district court in dismissing Petitioner's claim. The Supreme Court responded in the negative: "Contrary to COCA's recitation of the 'undisputed facts before the court,' the record does not show that Scott firmly believed that he was the biological father when Child was born. Rather, the record before this Court fails to show when the relationship between Scott and Mother actually took place or concluded, when Scott learned of Mother's pregnancy or childbirth, when he first thought that he was Child's father, when he became aware of the Acknowledgment of Paternity, or when he came to believe Mother committed fraud. The district court erred in granting summary judgment based on its determination that section 7700-609 is a statute of repose and erred in dismissing Scott's claim." View "Scott v. Foster" on Justia Law
In re Kayla W.
Kayla (born in September 2017) came to the attention of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) after Defendant (mother) was arrested in May 2019. After mother’s arrest, officers found one-year-old Kayla in a motel room, alone. Mother, who was born in California, told an officer and a social worker that she had been living in Nevada since 2017 but had just moved back to California in May 2019 to find work and a place to live. Defendant appealed from an order terminating parental rights to her child, Kayla W. Mother contends that that Nevada’s relinquishment of jurisdiction was conditioned on Kayla being placed with maternal grandfather, so once Kayla was removed from maternal grandfather in December 2021 and placed with another caregiver, the court had to contact Nevada so that it could reassert jurisdiction. Mother argued that the court failed to comply with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA, Fam. Code, Section 3400, et seq.) The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court first held that mother forfeited the UCCJEA issue because she never objected to Nevada’s declination of jurisdiction, California’s acceptance of jurisdiction, or raised any jurisdictional issue when Kayla was removed from maternal grandfather’s care. Further, the court explained that Nevada did not and could not impose a jurisdictional condition precedent. Moreover, Sections 3429 and 3422 did not require the court to consult Nevada. View "In re Kayla W." on Justia Law