Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

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After a trial on both parties' domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) requests, the trial court denied Warren's requested DVRO and granted Nicole's requested DVRO against Warren. Warren appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by ordering him to move out of the property and by awarding use and possession of the property to Nicole. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order, holding that the Domestic Violence Prevention Act and Family Code sections 6340, 6321, and 6324 authorize a court to order the restrained party to move out of property and allow the protected party to use and possess the property. In this case, while ownership of the property will be determined in the pending civil suit, the trial court had authority to make orders about the use and possession of the property. The court concluded that the DVRO, including the move-out order and use/possession order, did not exceed the bounds of reason. View "Nicole G. v. Braithwaite" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Mother's motion to amend the parenting plan entered into between the parties, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Mother's motion to amend the parenting plan. When Mother and Father divorced in 2015 they entered into a stipulated parenting plan providing for equal parenting time. In July 2018, Mother filed a notice of intent to move and a motion to amend parenting plan along with the proposed parenting plan, expressing her desire to recreate to Indiana. The district court denied Mother's motion and ordered an amended parenting plan providing that the parties' child would remain in Montana and reside with Father on a primary basis in the event Mother decided to relocate to Indiana. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that district court did not abuse its discretion. View "In re Marriage of Solem" on Justia Law

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Janet Gerving appealed a judgment granting Ben Gerving a divorce and distributing their marital property. Janet argued the district court’s property distribution was clearly erroneous because it was not equitable and the court did not adequately explain the substantial disparity. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined the district court was attempting to keep the farming operation viable and respect the parties’ desire to keep the real property available for the parties’ children, "but there are other ways it can be accomplished with an equitable distribution and without limiting the distribution to Janet Gerving based on what Ben Gerving can afford to pay." The Court was left with a "definite and firm conviction a mistake was made, and concluded the district court's property distribution was clearly erroneous. The matter was thus remanded for the court to make an equitable property division. The Court affirmed the district in all other respects. View "Gerving v. Gerving" on Justia Law

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Erica Sims appealed a judgment granting her a divorce from Larry Sims. She argued the district court’s parenting time decision was clearly erroneous, the court erred in determining the value of certain marital property, the court erred by failing to award her spousal support, and the court erred by ordering her to reimburse Larry for half of the airfare he incurred related to missed parenting time. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court’s property valuations, parenting time, and spousal support decisions were not clearly erroneous. However, the Court determined the court erred by failing to include all of the parties’ stipulated terms related to the property distribution in the judgment without providing an explanation why the provisions were excluded, the court erred in determining the amounts Larry was required to reimburse Erica pursuant to the interim order, and the court abused its discretion by ordering a remedial contempt sanction without finding Erica in contempt. The matter was thus remanded for further proceedings. View "Sims v. Sims" on Justia Law

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Trevor Rustad appealed an amended judgment modifying a previous parenting plan. Mary Baumgartner cross-appealed an order denying her motion to modify parenting time. The parties had two minor children together, L.J.B., born in 2017, and L.B.R., born in 2015. The district court awarded primary residential responsibility to Baumgartner and parenting time to Rustad. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Rustad v. Baumgartner" on Justia Law

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Mother appealed a detention order based on a subsequent dependency petition filed under Welfare and Institutions Code section 342. The Court of Appeal granted DCFS's motion to dismiss the appeal, because the detention order based on a section 342 petition is interlocutory and not appealable. Therefore, the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain mother's appeal of the detention order entered prior to disposition. View "In re B.P." on Justia Law

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This was an appeal stemming from a divorce action commenced in 2017. The only issue was division of the parties’ marital property. Included as part of the parties’ marital property was Myron Axtman’s Hess pension. The pension benefits commenced on February 1, 2015, at which time Axtman began receiving $2,891.60 per month. Myron Axtman appealed an amended judgment distributing the parties’ marital property. Axtman argued the district court abused its discretion in amending the judgment, and the court amended judgment under N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(a) without providing proper notice. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined Rule 60(a) was a proper mechanism for the court to amend the judgment to correct the mistake resulting from its oversight and omission, but the court did not provide notice to the parties it was considering amending judgment pursuant to Rule 60(a). However, the court’s error was considered harmless because, after the court amended the judgment, Axtman brought a “Motion to Vacate Order on Motion for Relief from Judgment.” In his motion, Axtman argued the district court erred in amending the judgment under Rule 60(a) because the original judgment’s failure to divide the pension payments received by Axtman during the pendency of the divorce was not a clerical mistake or a mistake arising from oversight or omission, which was the argument he raised on appeal to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court determined Axtman was aware the district court recognized it failed to take into consideration the payments Axtman received during the pendency of the divorce in the original judgment, and that Amy Axtman was attempting to amend the judgment to account for the payments Axtman received during the pendency of the divorce. The court’s error in not providing notice did not require reversal. Thus, the Court affirmed judgment. View "Axtman v. Axtman" on Justia Law

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George Voigt appealed a judgment establishing paternity and primary residential responsibility. Voigt and Brenna Nelson were never married, but had one daughter, S.M.V., born in 2013. Voigt filed a complaint to establish paternity and parental responsibility in October 2018. In March 2019, Voigt sought interim relief, requesting equal residential and decision making responsibility. In April 2019, the district court ordered that the parties have joint residential responsibility and joint decision making on an interim basis. At trial, Voigt requested joint and equal residential responsibility and decision making authority. Nelson requested primary residential responsibility and decision making authority as determined by the court. The court awarded Nelson primary residential responsibility and decision making authority for non-emergency healthcare decisions. Voigt received parenting time and joint decision making in other aspects. On appeal, Voigt argued the district court’s award of primary residential responsibility and decision making authority for non-emergency healthcare decisions was clearly erroneous and the court abused its discretion by adopting the recommendations from a biased parenting investigator. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Voigt v. Nelson" on Justia Law

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The mother of an autistic child filed a petition for a protective order against the child’s father, alleging that the father kicked the child during an altercation that took place at the Extreme Fun Center in Wasilla, Alaska. At the hearing on the long-term protective order, the court admitted the mother’s recording of statements the son made to her approximately 30-35 minutes after the incident. The son stated that the father kicked him in the buttocks; the only disinterested witness with personal knowledge of the incident testified that the father did not kick his son. Relying on the recording and testimony from the child’s mother and therapist, the superior court found that the father committed assault; relying on the mother’s testimony, the court found that the father committed criminal trespass and granted the mother’s petition. The court also required the father to undergo a psychological evaluation and pay the mother’s attorney’s fees. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court vacated and remanded the superior court’s assault finding, and reversed the court’s trespass finding. The Court determined the superior court made its findings by a "bare preponderance" of the evidence. It was an abuse of discretion for the superior court to admit the recording without making threshold findings as to the child's competency and the recording’s trustworthiness. The protective order was vacated, as was the order for the father to undergo a psychological evaluation. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Stephan P. v. Cecilia A." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the district court granting Susan Colucci's complaint for divorce, holding that the court did not have an adequate evidentiary basis from which it could make the findings necessary for it to set aside the parties' dog to the correct party. On appeal, Stephen Colucci argued that the district court erred in awarding the parties' dog, Louise, to Susan because the dog was his nonmarital property. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment, holding that because the parties did not present any evidence of who, whether Susan or Stephen, acquired Louise five years before the marriage, the district court should have reopened the record for the parties to submit additional evidence regarding the ownership of Louise prior to entering a final judgment. The Court remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Colucci v. Colucci" on Justia Law