Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

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The New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) appealed a circuit court order dismissing its neglect petitions against respondent, mother of H.B. and G.B. (Mother). DCYF argued the trial court erred when it dismissed the petitions because DCYF did not meet its burden of proving that any deprivation of parental care or control, subsistence, or education identified in RSA 169-C:3, XIX(b) was “not due primarily to the lack of financial means” of the parents. RSA 169-C:3, XIX(b) (2022). To this, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concurred, vacated the decision, and remanded for further proceedings on whether H.B. and G.B. were neglected. View "In re H.B.; In re G.B." on Justia Law

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Appellant appealed from a post-judgment order denying her request for the entry of a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) and instead adopting the QDRO proposed by Respondent. Appellant contends that the family court erred in two respects when it signed Respondent’s QDRO. First, the court erroneously used Respondent’s rank and salary at the time of the parties’ separation to calculate the community interest in Respondent’s pension instead of his final rank and salary at the time of his retirement, as required by the time rule. Second, the court committed legal error by ordering that Appellant’s property interest in the pension reverts to Respondent if she predeceases him.   The Second Appellate District reversed. The court explained that by mandating that upon Appellant’s death, her share of the pension would revert to Respondent, Respondent’s QDRO effectively revives the terminable interest rule, contravening Family Code section 2610. Thus, the court held that the provision cannot stand. View "Marriage of Belthius" on Justia Law

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The Morenos sought a determination that Bertuccio was not an heir entitled to an intestate share of the Estate of Franco. The probate court granted them summary judgment, finding Bertuccio to be the child of a 1957 marriage between his mother Marilyn and Frank Bertuccio, under the marital presumption. Family Code section 7540(a) provides that “the child of spouses who cohabited at the time of conception and birth is conclusively presumed to be a child of the marriage.” Frank was identified as Bertuccio’s father on his birth certificate and paid child support for Bertuccio after he and Marilyn divorced. Marilyn purportedly told Bertuccio that Franco was his father. The court held Bertuccio was not entitled to prove Franco was his natural parent from whom he could inherit in intestate succession under Probate Code section 6453(b)(2).The court of appeal remanded. If Bertuccio were found to be a child of the marriage of Marilyn and Frank, pursuant to the marital presumption, he would not be entitled to prove Franco was his natural parent. However, the probate court erred in applying the marital presumption without first making the requisite finding that Marilyn and Frank were cohabiting at the time of Bertuccio’s conception and birth. View "Estate of Franco" on Justia Law

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K.V. (Mother) and David V. (Father) appealed the juvenile court’s order terminating their parental rights to daughter M.V. They contend the court erred when it declined to order a supplemental bonding study and did not conduct a proper analysis of the beneficial parent-child relationship exception.   The Second Appellate District reversed the order terminating parental rights and remanded the matter to juvenile court. The court explained that by failing to determine whether M.V. had a substantial, positive attachment to her parents, and by relying on improper factors in assessing detriment, the juvenile court failed to perform the appropriate analysis when determining if the beneficial parental relationship exception applied. View "In re M.V. CA2/" on Justia Law

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Appellant V.R. is the mother of now 11-year-old N.R. Mother appealed the juvenile court’s order terminating her parental rights as to N.R. Mother argued that the order is unsupported by clear and convincing evidence of parental unfitness or child detriment. Specifically, she argued that termination cannot be predicated on earlier, unchallenged findings of parental unfitness or child detriment as to N.R. because, after N.R. and her younger half-sister R.L. were removed from mother’s custody, the juvenile court returned R.L. to mother. According to mother, R.L.’s return to mother “rebutted” the earlier findings as a matter of law. If these earlier findings are disregarded, mother continues, no substantial evidence otherwise supports termination of her parental rights as to N.R.   The Second Appellate District affirmed the juvenile court’s order. The court explained that the record reflects manifest differences between N.R.’s and R.L.’s needs and mother’s ability to parent each child. Throughout the proceedings, the juvenile court carefully considered this evidence and the respective risks the children faced in mother’s care. The court, therefore, rejected mother’s argument that R.L.’s return to mother rebutted or otherwise limited the vitality of prior findings of mother’s unfitness to parent N.R. or the detriment to N.R. of remaining in, or being returned to, mother’s custody. Notwithstanding its order returning R.L. to mother’s custody, due process permitted the juvenile court to rely on such findings at the section 366.26 hearing. View "In re N.R." on Justia Law

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Radell R. appealed a dispositional order denying him reunification services with his eight-year-old and six-year-old daughters under the bypass provision in California Welfare and Institutions Code section 361.5 (b)(6) for infliction of severe physical harm. He argued the juvenile court failed to satisfy the statutory requirements for making a bypass finding under section 361.5 (b)(6) and the finding isn’t supported by substantial evidence. After review, the Court of Appeal agreed and therefore reversed the bypass finding and remanded for the court to reconsider his entitlement to reunification services. View "In re T.R." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals modifying a dissolution decree to award a payee spouse seven years of transitional spousal support, holding that, under the circumstances, the court of appeals erred in modifying the decree to award transitional spousal support.Rachael and David Sokol married in 2002 and had two children. In 2019, Rachael petitioned for dissolution of the marriage. As to spousal support, the district court ordered Rachael to pay David $3,000 per month in rehabilitative spousal support for four years. After the district court entered its decree David appealed, arguing, as relevant to this appeal, that the length of the marriage warranted traditional, rather than rehabilitative, spousal support. As to spousal support, the court of appeals modified David's award from rehabilitative support at $3,000 per month for four years to transitional support at $5,000 per month for seven years. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals' modification of the district court's spousal award and reinstated the original award, holding that the modification of the decree was inconsistent with caselaw regarding both the category and duration of spousal support. View "In re Sokol" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court to enter an abuse protection order against Jamie P. in favor of her father, William P., following a hearing at which Jamie did not appear, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion in the issuance of the protection order against Jamie.William filed a petition asking police to remove Jamie from his home due to her domestic abuse. The district court entered an order to show cause. Jamie did not appear at the show cause hearing, and the district court entered a domestic abuse protection order against her. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Jamie was properly served with prior notice; and (2) because this Court lacked an adequate record, it was required to presume that the evidence supported the district court's decision to grant a protection order against Jamie. View "William P. v. Jamie P." on Justia Law

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D.S. and A.S. were married and have children, ages 14 and eight. A.S. filed a petition for legal separation and an ex parte request for temporary emergency orders related to child custody and visitation, property control, and “an order that all contact between Mother and Father be peaceful and neither party disparage the other, alienate the children nor discuss details of the custody case with the child.” She alleged that D.S. had a “trigger temper” and that the “children and I have had to flee the home multiple [times] when his anger has gotten out of control.” She stated that she did not have access to the family’s bank accounts. After the court denied her ex parte request, A.S. filed, and was granted, a peremptory challenge against the judge who issued the denial. A week later, A.S. sought a domestic violence restraining order (DVRO), which sought personal conduct orders and a stay-away order. A.S. identified two dates on which she and her children had suffered abuse. D.S. denied the allegations and appealed the DVRO. The court of appeal reversed. The family court abused its discretion in granting the DVRO without holding an evidentiary hearing compliant with Family Code section 217. View "Marriage of D.S. & A.S." on Justia Law

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G.L.A. (“Mother”) brought L.S., who was one year old at the time, to the hospital for medical treatment. Hospital staff conducted a skeletal survey, which revealed that L.S. had a broken tibia; two additional fractures that were healing; severe bruising and swelling to his groin; and significant bruising on his back, face, and genitals. The hospital sent a referral to the Arapahoe County Department of Human Services, and the state filed a petition for dependent or neglected children in district court, alleging that Mother had physically abused L.S. The district court adjudicated L.S. dependent or neglected. About a month later, the court found that an appropriate treatment plan couldn’t be devised for Mother based on L.S.’s serious bodily injury(“SBI”), and Mother appealed. The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review centered on whether the State satisfies its burden of proving that an appropriate treatment plan can’t be devised for a respondent parent in a dependency and neglect case when the State establishes by a preponderance of evidence a single incident resulting in serious bodily injury to the child. To this, the Court concluded that it did: the district court erred by imposing a clear and convincing burden of proof on the State at the dispositional hearing. Because there was no dispute L.S. sustained a serious bodily injury, the district court’s order granting Mother’s motion for directed verdict was reversed and the case remanded to the district court for further proceedings. View "In Re Colorado in the interest of L.S." on Justia Law