Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of the family court granting joint custody of the parties' minor child to Mother and Father, with physical placement awarded to Mother, and finding Mother in contempt of a prior visitation order, holding that there was no error.The trial justice issued a written decision and order awarding Mother and Father joint custody, with Mother having physical placement of the child and Father having unsupervised visitation. The trial justice later found Mother in contempt for failure to comply with a prior visitation order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice did not err in finding Mother in contempt and that Mother's remaining claims of error were unavailing. View "Harris v. Evans" on Justia Law

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After an allegation that Bush had choked his son, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) began an investigation. Bush’s then-wife, Erika, obtained a court order suspending Bush’s parenting time. Bush filed a federal lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 on behalf of himself and his children, alleging violations of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and claiming that DCFS employees’ conduct set off events culminating in a state court order infringing on his and his kids’ right to familial association.The district court dismissed, finding that Bush and his children lacked standing to bring a constitutional challenge to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act and that the Younger abstention doctrine barred the court from ruling on the remaining constitutional claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed.. Bush failed to allege facts sufficient to establish standing for his First Amendment claim. Adhering to principles of equity, comity, and federalism, the court concluded that the district court was right to abstain from exercising jurisdiction over the remaining claims. View "J.B. v. Woodard" on Justia Law

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Lisa and Nicolas Kelpe married in 1997 and separated in 2010. The marriage was dissolved in 2013. Nicholas was a senior manager with Ernst & Young and accrued benefits under a qualified defined benefit retirement plan. In 2012, Nicholas became an equity partnership, which required a $150,000 capital contribution from his post-separation property. He then received profit distributions instead of a salary and participated in the Top-Hat deferred compensation retirement plan, which was not available to non-partner employees. Nicholas suffered a heart attack in 2014 and resigned before vesting in the Plan. Based on 20 years of service with the firm, 13 of which were during the marriage, Nicholas received a lump-sum payment of $928,243.The court of appeal affirmed that the lump-sum payment was Nicholas’s separate property, rejecting an argument that his right to receive the benefit accrued during the marriage by virtue of the years of service needed to qualify for the payout, even though he was not then a partner and therefore not eligible for the benefit. The payment was an additional benefit Nicholas acquired when he became a partner, after the parties’ separation. Nicholas was not equitably estopped from claiming the Top-Hat payout as separate property despite a letter expressing willingness to treat the asset as having a community component in order to reduce his tax liability and potentially his spousal support obligation. View "In re: Marriage of Kelpe" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial justice in this case terminating Defendant's marriage to Plaintiff on the grounds of irreconcilable differences, holding that the trial court did not err.After a trial, the trial justice granted both Plaintiff's complaint and Defendant's counterclaim for divorce. The justice awarded the parties joint custody of the children and divided the marital property. Defendant appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial justice did not misconceive evidence and was not clearly wrong in reaching several of his findings; (2) the trial justice did not err in addressing the debts Defendant owed to his parents; and (3) the trial justice did not err in failing to accord Defendant any of the marital appreciation of Plaintiff's premarital accounts. View "Sullivan v. Sullivan" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decree of the family court terminating Father's parental rights to his daughter, holding that the family court did not abuse its discretion.After a termination trial, the trial justice terminated Father's parental rights to his daughter, concluding that Father was unfit to parent his child due to his failure to address his mental health and substance abuse issues and his refusal to attend counseling and that it was in the child's best interest that Father's parental rights be terminated. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice was not clearly wrong in concluding that Father was unfit as a parent and that there was no substantial probability that the child could be placed in Father's care within a reasonable period of time. View "In re Elana W." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed this appeal from an order setting aside a default order modifying child support and setting the matter for a status hearing, holding that the order was not a final order.Sybil Porter filed a complaint for modification of a divorce decree awarding her custody of the parties' two children and ordering Dustin Porter to pay child support, alleging that there had been a substantial and material change of circumstances necessitating a modification due to a change of income. The court entered an order of modification after a hearing at which Dustin did not appear. The court subsequently vacated its order and set a status hearing. Sybil appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that because the default order modifying child support and setting the matter for a status hearing did not affect a substantial right of the parties it was not a final order. View "Porter v. Porter" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dissolving the marriage of Daniel Cornwell and Melanie Cornwell, holding that the district court did not err in using the immediate offset method of valuation to value the martial portion of Daniel's pension.Both parties appealed in this case. Daniel argued that the district court erred in using the immediate offset method to value his pension. On cross-appeal, Melanie argued that the district court erred in not awarding her attorney fees and costs. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not abuse its discretion by using the immediate offset method of valuation and to accordingly value and divide the estate; and (2) did not err in not awarding Melanie attorney fees and costs. View "Cornwell v. Cornwell" on Justia Law

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M.V. (Mother) appealed juvenile court’s orders sustaining jurisdiction and removing her three children. She contended insufficient evidence supported dependency jurisdiction. Mother also argued the court’s dispositional order was not supported by clear and convincing evidence. After review, the Court of Appeal agreed with Mother, reversed the court's order and remanded for further proceedings. View "In re Ma.V." on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Oregon Supreme Court’s review centered on the nature and scope of the “exclusive original jurisdiction” that ORS 419B.100(1) conferred on the juvenile courts over specified categories of “case[s] involving a person who is under 18 years of age.” The question arose from petitioner’s challenge to a juvenile court judgment that deprived her of legal-parent status as to S, a child over whom petitioner had claimed a right to custody. According to petitioner, the court’s judgment of “nonparentage” was void for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the juvenile court did not determine that S actually fell within one of the categories specified in ORS 419B.100(1). The Court of Appeals rejected petitioner’s challenge to the judgment, and the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals. Here, it was undisputed that this case involved a child who was the subject of a petition alleging that she fell within one of those categories and requesting that the juvenile court exercise its authority to address those allegations. And it was undisputed that proceedings to address the petition were pending when the juvenile court ruled on petitioner’s parentage status. The Supreme Court concluded the allegations and relief sought in the pending petition were sufficient to bring the case within the subject matter jurisdiction of the juvenile court. View "Dept. of Human Services v. C. M. H." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated in part the judgment of the district court denying Mother's motion to modify the parties' parental rights and responsibilities as to the parties' two children, holding that the matter must be remanded for further findings.Mother and Father were divorced in New Hampshire. Later, the Maine District Court granted Father's request for registration of the child custody and support provisions of the parties' New Hampshire divorce judgment. Mother subsequently filed a motion to modify, seeking sole parental rights and responsibilities. The court denied the motion. Father subsequently filed a motion to modify parental rights and responsibilities. The parties agreed to a stipulated judgment, which the court entered. The court then denied Father's motion for attorney fees. Father appealed, asserting that the court abused its discretion in denying Mothers motion without an explanation. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the portion of the judgment denying Father's motions for attorney fees and for further findings of fact and remanded for reconsideration of Father's motion for attorney fees, holding that it was unclear whether the court found facts sufficient to support its ultimate determination. View "Atkinson v. Capoldo" on Justia Law