Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries
In re: Gregg Abbott
The Fifth Circuit granted a writ of mandamus directing vacatur of the district court's issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) against executive order GA-09 as applied to abortion procedures. In order to preserve critical medical resources during the escalating COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor of Texas issued GA-09, which postpones non-essential surgeries and procedures until 11:59 p.m. on April 21, 2020. The court held that the drastic and extraordinary remedy of mandamus was warranted in this case because the district court ignored the framework governing emergency public health measures, like GA-09, in Jacobson v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905); the district court wrongly declared GA-09 an "outright ban" on previability abortions and exempted all abortion procedures from its scope, rather than apply the Jacobson framework to decide whether GA-09 lacks a "real or substantial relation" to the public health crisis or whether it is "beyond all question, a plain, palpable invasion" of the right to abortion; the district court failed to apply the undue-burden analysis in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 857 (1992), and thus failed to balance GA-09's temporary burdens on abortion against its benefits in thwarting a public health crisis; and the district court usurped the state's authority to craft emergency health measures, substituting instead its own view of the efficacy of applying GA-09 to abortion. Therefore, the court found that the requirements for a writ of mandamus are satisfied in light of the extraordinary nature of these errors, the escalating spread of COVID-19, and the state's critical interest in protecting the public health. View "In re: Gregg Abbott" on Justia Law
Jennifer K. v. Shane K.
Jennifer and Shane are the parents of a daughter they have jointly parented since her birth in 2009. In 2017, 10 years after a “dating” relationship ended, Jennifer sought a domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) from the San Francisco County Superior Court, stating that Shane “has been verbally abusive and physically violent with me since I met him … our daughter is the product of a rape … having endured his abuse for many years, abuse which continues.” The court denied the request for a DVRO, dissolved a temporary restraining order, and explained the bases of its determinations at considerable length. The court of appeal affirmed, upholding a finding that one of Shane’s alleged prior acts, punching a refrigerator close to Jennifer’s head, did not constitute “abuse” under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act. The court reasoned that the issue was credibility and deferred to the trial court’s finding that the act was not “an intentional or reckless act that causes or attempts to cause bodily injury.” The court rejected an argument that gender bias disqualified the judge as a matter of due process. “An objective assessment of Judge Darwin’s conduct reveals it to be exemplary in every respect.” View "Jennifer K. v. Shane K." on Justia Law
Terrence E. v. Christopher R.
The Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the circuit court denying Father's request to terminate the guardianship of Respondents, holding that the circuit court erred by requiring Father to demonstrate a material change of circumstances in order to terminate the existing guardianship. As a result of Mother's incarceration, Guardians, who were Mother's parents, filed a petition to be appointed guardians of the child in this case. The circuit court granted the guardianship. Father subsequently filed a motion to terminate Guardians' guardianship, asserting that a change of circumstances had occurred because Father had shown that he was a fit parent and could provide the proper care and stability for the child. The circuit court denied Father's petition on grounds that Father had not demonstrated a material change of circumstances. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding (1) because the circuit court's guardianship order did not sufficiently address the statutory factors required for the appointment of a guardian, the order must be treated as one establishing a temporary guardianship; and (2) the court applied the wrong burden of proof to Father's request to terminate the guardianship. View "Terrence E. v. Christopher R." on Justia Law
Schweitzer v. Miller
Samantha Schweitzer appealed a district court order dismissing her petition for a child custody order. Schweitzer and Blake Miller have one child together, born in Wisconsin in 2014. Schweitzer had primary custody of the child after the child’s birth. On January 6, 2017, Schweitzer and the child moved from Wisconsin to North Dakota. On January 13, 2017, Miller petitioned in Wisconsin for joint custody and parenting time. After an August 2018 hearing, the parties stipulated they would have joint custody of the child and Schweitzer would move to Madison, Wisconsin. The Wisconsin court entered an order on the basis of the parties’ stipulation. In January 2019, Schweitzer petitioned for an emergency child custody order and initial child custody determination or modification of child custody determination in North Dakota. Miller moved to dismiss the petition, arguing the district court did not have subject matter jurisdiction to decide Schweitzer’s petition. Miller claimed the Wisconsin court had jurisdiction to decide custody issues relating to the child. The North Dakota district court determined it lacked jurisdiction to decide Schweitzer's petition, and the North Dakota Supreme Court concurred with that judgment. View "Schweitzer v. Miller" on Justia Law
Willprecht v. Willprecht
Wendy Willprecht appealed and Kevin Willprecht cross-appealed a judgment granting the parties a divorce, distributing the marital estate, awarding primary residential responsibility for the parties’ children, and ordering child support. After review of the trial court record, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court’s property distribution was not clearly erroneous, but the court erred in calculating Kevin's child support obligation. View "Willprecht v. Willprecht" on Justia Law
Tarin v. Lind
Plaintiff alleged that defendants interfered with her relationship with her mother, Lucy, by unduly influencing Lucy and distorting her understanding and perception of plaintiff such that Lucy would fully reject and exclude plaintiff from her life. Plaintiff further alleged that she suffered emotional harm from the deprivation of the society, care, and affection of her mother. The Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court that plaintiff's allegations failed to state a cause of action for intentional interference with parental consortium. The court explained that the Legislature amended the Civil Code to omit a cause of action for parental abduction, including by persuasion or enticement, and to bar claims for alienation of affection. In line with case precedent, the Legislature thereby removed from California law the right of action asserted by plaintiff. In this case, it was immaterial that plaintiff asserted her claims under multiple theories, including intentional infliction of emotional distress, loss of parental consortium, elder abuse of plaintiff, and false light invasion of privacy, because all were based on allegations that defendants turned Lucy against plaintiff, and all harms flowed from Lucy's severing ties with plaintiff. Finally, the court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying a continuance. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Tarin v. Lind" on Justia Law
Vogus v. Vogus
A mother appealed a superior court’s child support order that was based on imputed income, arguing that the court’s finding of her imputed gross income was based on faulty weekly hour and hourly rate determinations. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court concluded that by going well beyond the mother’s previous weekly hours and hourly rate without any evidence or findings about commensurate job opportunities and the mother’s abilities and qualifications for those opportunities, the trial court failed to follow established Alaska case law. It therefore vacated the child support order and remanded for further proceedings. View "Vogus v. Vogus" on Justia Law
In re C.J.C.
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the trial court terminating Father's parental rights to his child, holding that the trial court did not err in its determination. Mother filed a petition to terminate Father's parental rights on the grounds that the child was born out of wedlock, Father failed to provide substantial financial support or consistent care with respect to Mother and the child, and that Father had willfully abandoned the child. The trial court concluded that grounds existed to terminate Father's parental rights based on willful abandonment and that termination of Father's parental rights was in the child's best interests. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court properly appointed a guardian ad litem for the child; and (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion by concluding that it would be in the child's best interests to terminate Father's parental rights. View "In re C.J.C." on Justia Law
In re N.P.
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court terminating Father's parental rights to his child, holding that the district court did not err in concluding that grounds existed to terminate Father's parental rights. The Pitt County Department of Social Services filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Father, alleging four grounds to terminate his parental rights. The district court entered an order concluding that grounds existed to terminate Father's parental rights based on all of the grounds alleged in the petition. The district court further concluded that termination of Father's parental rights was in the child's best interests. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err by concluding that grounds existed to terminate Father's parental rights. View "In re N.P." on Justia Law
In re S.D.
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the trial court terminating Father's parental rights in his minor child, holding that the trial court did not err by concluding that Father's parental rights were subject to termination on the grounds of neglect pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-1111(a)(1). Youth and Family Services filed a motion seeking to have Father's parental rights to his child terminated on the grounds of neglect and willfully leaving her in foster care or a placement outside the home for more than twelve months without making reasonable progress toward correcting the conditions that led to her removal from the home. The trial court terminated Father's parental rights on both of the grounds alleged in the termination motion and concluded that termination of Father's parental rights would be in the child's best interests. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err by concluding that his parental rights to the child were subject to termination on the grounds of neglect. View "In re S.D." on Justia Law