Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries
State v. Walter Taylor, III
In this case decided by the State of Vermont Supreme Court, the defendant, Walter Taylor, III, appealed his convictions for aggravated assault, attempted domestic assault, assault and robbery, and obstruction of justice, arguing that the trial court erred in denying his request for a voluntary intoxication instruction and his motion for a judgment of acquittal on the obstruction-of-justice charge. The court affirmed the convictions.The case centered around an event in July 2021 where the defendant had an argument with his ex-girlfriend, which escalated into physical assault, and subsequently attacked a neighbor who was recording the incident on her phone. The defendant claimed that he was intoxicated at the time of the incident and argued that this should have been considered in his defense, as it could have affected his ability to form the necessary mental state for the charged crimes.However, the court held that the evidence did not establish a nexus between alcohol consumption and an effect on the defendant’s mental state. The court noted that there was no evidence regarding the size of the containers of the beverages that defendant had consumed, the timeframe in which they were consumed, or their alcohol concentration. The court found that the evidence of intoxication was insufficient to call into question whether defendant was capable of forming the required intent or whether he actually formed the required intent.On the charge of obstruction of justice, the defendant argued that his conduct could not be considered obstruction as there was no ongoing investigation at the time of the alleged assault. The court disagreed, ruling that the existence of a pending judicial proceeding is not required to prove obstruction of justice. The court concluded that the defendant's conduct, which included assaulting a person who appeared to be recording his conduct after being informed that the police were on their way, fell within the language of the obstruction of justice statute.Therefore, the court affirmed the defendant's convictions for aggravated assault, attempted domestic assault, assault and robbery, and obstruction of justice. View "State v. Walter Taylor, III" on Justia Law
Holm v. Holm
In the State of North Dakota, Joshua Holm appealed from a district court's decision to issue a disorderly conduct restraining order preventing him from contacting Heidi Holm for six months. The couple's marriage had deteriorated and they agreed to separate; however, Heidi alleged that Joshua had taken money from her safe and joint checking accounts, attempted to force her into sex, and had weapons, causing her to fear him. The Supreme Court of North Dakota reversed the decision, stating that the district court had abused its discretion by issuing the restraining order without finding that Joshua intended to adversely affect Heidi's safety, security, or privacy. The court noted that while Joshua had admittedly visited the marital home against Heidi’s wishes, this alone did not establish reasonable grounds for a restraining order. The court concluded that Heidi, as the petitioner, bore the burden of proving Joshua acted with adverse intent, which she failed to do. The restraining order was, therefore, reversed. View "Holm v. Holm" on Justia Law
Albertson v. Albertson
In the State of North Dakota, the Supreme Court was asked to review a lower court's decision to grant a disorderly conduct restraining order. The petitioner, Hattie Albertson, had filed for this restraining order against the respondent, Trent Albertson. The District Court of Bottineau County had granted the restraining order in favor of Hattie Albertson and their minor child, C.W.A., for a period of one year. This decision was appealed by Trent Albertson, and the Supreme Court retained jurisdiction and remanded the case to the lower court for more detailed findings. Upon review of these additional findings, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's decision to maintain the restraining order.The lower court had found that Trent Albertson had made multiple threatening phone calls over two days, including threats of violence against a friend of the minor child and towards the child as well. These threats and the respondent's actions, including attempting to forcefully enter Hattie Albertson's home, led her to leave the home out of fear. The Supreme Court agreed with the lower court's decision, finding the evidence and testimony presented sufficient to believe that acts constituting disorderly conduct had been committed.Trent Albertson had argued on appeal that the restraining order effectively modified a residential responsibility schedule without necessary hearings and considerations. However, the Supreme Court declined to address this argument as it was raised for the first time on appeal, and had not been presented to the lower court for consideration. The Supreme Court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the disorderly conduct restraining order and affirmed the decision. View "Albertson v. Albertson" on Justia Law
Lopez v. Lopez
The Supreme Court upheld the distribution decisions of the district court in the underlying divorce action to resolve community property disputes over property held in a revocable inter vivos trust and affirmed its decree of divorce, holding that there was no error.At issue before the Supreme Court was whether a revocable inter vivos trust holding community property must be named as a necessary party in a divorce action where the divorcing spouses are co-trustees, co-settlors, and beneficiaries. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court, holding (1) the revocable inter vivos family trust was not a necessary party to the divorce action and that the district court had the authority to distribute the trust's assets; and (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in distributing the trust's assets between the parties as community property. View "Lopez v. Lopez" on Justia Law
In re K.B.
Mother gave birth to K.B. in August 2022. Both she and K.B. tested positive for amphetamines, methamphetamines, and marijuana at the hospital, triggering a referral to the Department, which placed K.B. in temporary protective custody. Law enforcement subsequently arrested both parents on out-of-county warrants, taking one-year-old K. into protective custody. The Department filed a dependency petition (Welf. & Inst. Code, 300(b),(j)) and reported that the social worker had contacted the maternal grandmother as part of the Department’s inquiry into Minors’ Native American ancestry and that: “There are relatives to consider for placement at time of detention.” The Minors were placed in a non-relative foster home. A subsequent report stated that Mother “was unable to identify any relatives to be considered for placement”; the maternal grandmother and other relatives reside in Mississippi. Father stated that he has relatives in Arkansas that may be options in the future but he was unable to identify any relatives in California.” The paternal grandmother was also contacted.At the contested hearing, the parties did not raise the investigation regarding relative placement. The juvenile court declared Minors dependents, ordered that the Department offer reunification services, and found that the Department exercised due diligence to identify, locate, and contact relatives. The court of appeal reversed in part. There is no evidence that the Department exercised due diligence in identifying and investigating Minors’ adult relatives, or that any relatives received the required notice detailing options for participation. View "In re K.B." on Justia Law
Martinez v. Carretero
Marianita Martinez alleged that after she and Victorio Carretero divorced in April 1995, they subsequently entered into a common law marriage between their divorce in April 1995 and their move to California in November 1995. After filing of cross-motions for summary judgment on the common law marriage issue, the magistrate court proceeded to hold an evidentiary hearing without ruling on the motions and without objection from either party. At the evidentiary hearing, the magistrate court excluded all evidence of the parties’ conduct on or after January 1, 1996, as being irrelevant to whether the parties had entered into a common law marriage prior to that date. This ruling resulted in the exclusion of, among other things, evidence of a life insurance application in which Carretero identified Martinez as his “wife” on January 10, 1996—two months after the parties left Idaho in November 1995. At the close of the hearing, the magistrate court concluded there was not sufficient evidence to show that the parties had consented to marry within the seven-month period prior to January 1, 1996. The magistrate court then dismissed Martinez’s claim of a common law marriage, and on appellate review, the district court affirmed. The Idaho Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remand. The Supreme Court found any error in the magistrate court’s decision to conduct an evidentiary hearing before ruling on the pending cross-motions for summary judgment was invited and not preserved for appeal. The magistrate court erred by excluding evidence of the parties’ conduct after December 31, 1995, and by granting Carretero’s motion for an involuntary dismissal. The case was remanded with instructions that the district court remand this matter to the magistrate court for further proceedings. View "Martinez v. Carretero" on Justia Law
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