Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court vacated the final order of the circuit court terminating Mother's rights to her infant son in an abuse and neglect proceeding, holding that the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over this case pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) filed an abuse and neglect petition alleging that the child was abused and/or neglected. The petition stated that Mother and the child were residents of Tazewell County, Virginia but that the circuit court had jurisdiction because West Virginia was the home state of the child at the commencement of this proceeding. When DHHR was granted emergency legal custody of the child, Mother returned home to Virginia. The circuit court adjudicated Mother as an abusing parent and subsequently terminated her rights. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court's judgment, holding that the circuit court did not have subject matter jurisdiction in this proceeding. View "In re Z.H." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the trial court terminating Parents' parental rights to their children pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-1111(a)(1), (2), and (6), holding that a lack of sufficient findings compelled the court to vacate the order terminating Mother's parental rights to S.B. under section 7B-1111(a)(6).The Craven County Department of Social Services (DSS) filed petitions alleging that Parents' three children (collectively, the older children) were neglected and dependent juveniles. The trial court adjudicated the older children as neglected and dependent. Thereafter, Mother gave birth to S.B. The trial court entered an order adjudicating S.B. a dependent juvenile because the older children were in DSS custody and Parents had made no progress toward reunification with them. Eventually, the trial court terminated Parents' parental rights to the older children pursuant to sections 7B-1111(a)(1), (2), and (6), and terminated Parents' parental rights to S.B. pursuant to sections 7B-1111(a)(2) and (6). The Supreme Court affirmed the orders terminating Parents' parental rights to the older children but vacated the order terminating Mother's parental rights to S.B., holding that the trial court did not make sufficient findings to support the termination of parental rights under section 7B-1111(a)(6). View "In re M.J.R.B." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the trial court's permanency planning order granting guardianship of Iliana to her maternal grandmother, holding that the trial court did not err in concluding that Respondent acted inconsistently with his constitutionally protected status as Iliana's parent.The trial court entered an order adjudicating Iliana to be a dependent juvenile and ordering her to remain int he temporary legal and physical custody of her maternal grandmother. Later, the trial court entered a permanency planning order granting guardianship of Iliana to her grandmother and ceased reunification efforts with Respondent based on his lack of progress on his case plan. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court's findings of fact supporting its conclusion that Respondent acted inconsistently with his constitutionally protected status as Iliana's parent were supported by clear and convincing evidence. View "In re I.K." on Justia Law

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This case arose out of a wife’s longstanding efforts to collect money owed to her by her ex-husband under a 2013 final divorce order that was reduced to a money judgment in 2018. Husband contended his then-current assets, including a home and tractor, were exempt from collection under 21 V.S.A. 681 because he purchased them with workers’ compensation settlement funds. He argued in the alternative that, with respect to the tractor, that the tractor should be exempt under 12 V.S.A. 2740(19) because it was “reasonably necessary” for his support. Husband further argued that an investment account he held is a Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside Account (WCMSA) that is also exempt from collection. Finding no reversible error in the trial court judgment, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Geraw v. Geraw" on Justia Law

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Petitioners T.O. and L.O. were the grandparents of S.O., a child adjudicated as a child in need of care or supervision (CHINS). Petitioners appealed an order of the Human Services Board concluding that the Board lacked jurisdiction to determine whether DCF failed to comply with certain provisions of state and federal law concerning the care of children by relatives. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the Board’s judgment. View "In re Appeal of T.O. & L.O." on Justia Law

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In this petition challenging two circuit court rulings the Supreme Court affirmed the ruling dismissing Petitioner's writ of prohibition and reversed the monetary sanction the circuit court imposed on Petitioner's attorney, Gregory Schillace, holding that Schillace was entitled to a jury trial on this sanction.Petitioner filed a complaint for declaratory relief, writ of prohibition and other relief seeking to enforce the terms of a divorce settlement entered into by Petitioner and his former wife and seeking to prevent the family court from proceeding with a contempt hearing against Petitioner and Schillace. At issue was a monetary sanction the circuit court imposed on Schillace and the circuit court's ruling dismissing Petitioner's writ of prohibition. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the circuit court correctly dismissed Petitioner's writ of prohibition; and (2) Schillace was entitled to a jury trial on the monetary sanction. View "Rector v. Ross" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the juvenile court terminating Mother and Father's parental rights based on years of dysfunctionality, substance abuse, and criminal conduct, holding that the juvenile court did not err.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the juvenile court did not err in declining to apply the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard of proof, and this Court declines to adopt that standard now; (2) the juvenile court did not err by concluding that termination was strictly necessary and in the children's best interests; and (3) Parents did not carry their burden to brief the issue of whether the court erred in considering a provision from the Human Services Code in its analysis. View "In re G.D." on Justia Law

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In this appeal from the entry of a final order of adoption the Supreme Court reversed the entry of summary judgment against the child's putative father, J.S.P., holding that the district court erred in dismissing J.S.P. from the adoption action.J.S.P. sought to intervene in the adoption on the ground that he was the presumed father of the child because the child had been born during his attempted marriage with the child's mother, K.C. The district court granted the motion to intervene but later dismissed J.S.P. on a motion for partial summary judgment, holding that J.S.P. was not the presumed father because his marriage to K.C. was invalid. The adoption action went forward, resulting in a final order of adoption. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the decision on partial summary judgment was not final, and accordingly, this Court had appellate jurisdiction; and (2) the district court erred in dismissing J.S.P. because his marriage to K.C., while legally invalid, was entered into in apparent compliance with the law, and the child was born during the invalid marriage and before any events that would have terminated the marriage. View "In re Adoption of C.C." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the divorce judgment entered by the district court granting primary residence of the parties' son to Mother, who intended to relocate to Texas, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding primary residence to Mother.Mother, who the court found to have always been the primary caregiver for the child, had no family in Maine, and her primary reason for moving to Texas was that she had family support there. The court found that it was in the child's best interest to remain in the primary custodial care of Mother even if she moved to Texas. Father appealed. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that, given the court's supported findings, there was no abuse if discretion in awarding primary residence to Mother. View "Low v. Low" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals agreeing with the circuit court that the amended version of Wis. Stat. 48.415(2)(a)3 applied during Mother's termination of parental rights (TPR) proceedings, holding that there was no error.In 2018, the legislature amended of Wis. Stat. 48.415(2)(a)3, a portion of the continuing child in need of protection of services (CHIPS) ground for the involuntary termination of parental rights. The amendment occurred during the pendency of Mother's court proceedings involving her child, who was adjudged CHIPS in 2016. During the TPR proceedings, the parties disputed whether the 2016 version of the 2018 amended version the statute should apply to Mother's case. The circuit court ruled that the amended version applied and then allowed Mother to appeal the non-final order. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the "15 out of 22 months" timeframe, as codified in the amended version of the statute, began to run when Mother received written notice accompanying the initial 2016 CHIPS order; and (2) starting the "15 out of 22 months" timeframe in 2016 did not violate Mother's due process rights. View "Eau Claire County Department of Human Services v. S. E." on Justia Law