Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

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Parties Rosalinda and George Deluca appealed a trial court’s division of martial property and other matters, including spousal support. During the marriage, George's sister transferred to him title to an apartment complex referred to in this case as the "Florida Street property." Rosalinda contended the trial court erred in ruling the Florida Street property was George's separate property rather than community property. George had custody of the parties' two children and contended the court erred by awarding Rosalinda spousal support in an amount greater than his total net income available to support the children. Specifically, he argued the court erred by including the amount of monthly loan principal payments he is required to make on his income-producing properties as income available for spousal support. In the unpublished portion of its opinion, the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court with respect to Florida Street as George’s separate property, and remanded with directions to determine the amount of reimbursement credit to which George is entitled for Florida Street, as well as to consider George's new contention that he should be awarded a fractional separate property interest in the property. In the published portion of its opinion, the Court also reversed the spousal support award and directed the trial court to reconsider the amount of support after determining the extent to which George's loan principal payments reasonably and legitimately reduced his income for purposes of support. View "Marriage of Deluca" on Justia Law

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Respondent, the father of the juvenile (Father), appealed a superior court order denying his motion for permission to file a late appeal of an adverse ruling issued by the Circuit Court on an abuse and neglect petition brought by petitioner, the New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF). The superior court found that Father failed to demonstrate “good cause” for filing a late appeal. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court held as a matter of law, that it was “reasonable and just” to grant Father’s motion to file his appeal late. Father filed his partially-assented-to motion to file a late appeal on April 17, 2019, before the parties had ever appeared in the superior court. Father did not file his appeal earlier because his attorney was on maternity leave when the dispositional order was entered, and “[t]here was a misunderstanding between father and [his] counsel’s office regarding the filing of the appeal.” The attorney for the child and the attorney for Mother assented to Father’s motion. According to the superior court, the parties preferred that Father’s and Mother’s cases “be tried together.” Under these circumstances, the Court concluded there was good cause, as a matter of law, to grant Father’s motion to file a late appeal. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "In Re D.O." on Justia Law

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Petitioner Sean Braunstein (Husband), appealed the final decree and associated orders entered by the Circuit Court in his divorce from respondent Jericka Braunstein (Wife). He argued, among other things, that the trial court erred by including his monthly federal veterans’ disability benefits as income for child support purposes. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "In the Matter of Braunstein" on Justia Law

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Jason Stevenson appeals a district court judgment awarding Rhonda Biffert primary residential responsibility of the parties’ minor child. The judgment also ordered a sale of the parties’ house and ordered Stevenson to pay Biffert $13,000 for a loan and a vehicle. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the court’s award of primary residential responsibility to Biffert was not clearly erroneous. The Court determined the trial court’s findings had support in the record, and it was "not left with a definite and firm conviction a mistake has been made." View "Stevenson v. Biffert" on Justia Law

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Kyle Vetter appealed from a district court judgment awarding primary residential responsibility of the parties’ minor daughter, B.L.V., to Michelle Vetter and dividing the parties’ assets and debts. On appeal, Kyle argued the district court erred in awarding primary residential responsibility to Michelle Vetter because its findings on factors c, d, and e under N.D.C.C. 14-09-06.2(1) were clearly erroneous and because the court’s findings on factor j should have been afforded greater weight. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Vetter v. Vetter" on Justia Law

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Jill Carlson appealed a district court judgment awarding Royce Carlson primary residential responsibility and decision-making authority over daycare/afterschool provider decisions and non-emergency medical decisions of the parties’ minor children. Jill argue the district court’s findings on best interest factors a, b, d, e, f, h, j, k, and l under N.D.C.C. 14-09-06.2 were clearly erroneous. The North Dakota Supreme Court found the record in this case included evidence implicating the presence of domestic violence: "[t]he incident in which Royce shot a gun into the air during the squabble between Jill and J.R.C. and the testimony that Royce repeatedly used corporal punishment as a form of discipline is evidence that domestic violence may exist. The use of corporal punishment, however, does not alone establish evidence of domestic violence, but may be considered as evidence of domestic violence if excessive or unreasonable, or if it gives rise to the presumption under factor j." The Supreme Court remanded the case for further findings on whether a presumption of domestic violence applied. If not, the Court mandated an explanation of why evidence of domestic violence did not change its award of primary residential responsibility. In light of the Supreme Court's opinion, the district court also had to determine on remand whether its findings on factor j affected its findings on the other best interest factors and its decision awarding Royce primary residential responsibility and decisionmaking authority. Because the case was remanded for further findings, Jill's remaining arguments were not considered. View "Carlson v. Carlson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's decree of divorce and order awarding custody and dividing property and debts between Father and Mother, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in ordering supervised visitation and dividing the marital property but abused its discretion in calculating Father's child support amount. Father argued that the district court abused its discretion in restricting Father's visitation with his four children to two hours of supervised visitation every other week until Father addressed the court's concerns regarding his anger. Father further argued that the court abused its discretion when it divided the marital property and when it found him voluntarily underemployed for not working overtime. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not abuse its discretion when it imposed supervised visitation, finding Father had abused the children, and conditioning visitation on counseling for both Father and the children; (2) did not abuse its discretion in dividing the marital property; but (3) abused its discretion when it circumvented the express statutory limitation set forth in Wyo. Stat. Ann. 20-2-303(a)(ii) prohibiting courts from including in child support calculations any earnings derived from overtime work. View "Johnson v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Stepmother's petition for stepparent adoption of the minor child, N.P.M., holding that Step-grandmother had standing to object to Stepmother's petition and that the district court correctly applied Mont. Code Ann. 42-2-301 to require that all applicable consents be obtained prior to addressing the merits of Stepmother's petition. The petition in this case included Mother's consent to adoption and waiver of parental rights and Father's consent to adoption. Step-grandmother, who was the primary physical custodian of the child, objected to the petition, arguing that she had a parental interest and that her consent to the adoption was required under section 42-2-301. The district court concluded that the plain language of section 42-2-301 required Step-grandmother's consent. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a person with a parental interest established by a court has standing to object to the child's adoption by a stepparent; (2) the district court correctly interpreted section 42-2-301 to require consent to adopt from a person whose parental rights have been established by a court; and (3) the district court did not err in its application of section 42-2-301. View "In re Adoption of N.P.M." on Justia Law

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Following a child custody hearing in January 2017, the trial court entered an order giving Mother sole custody. In June 2017, Father filed an unsuccessful request to set aside that order. Weeks later, he filed a second unsuccessful request to modify the order. The trial court denied Mother’s request for section 271 sanctions. Months later, she again sought sanctions relating to the June 2017 motion. Father filed an objection but did not challenge the motion on the basis of timeliness. The court ordered Father to pay $10,000 in section 271 sanctions. Father sought reconsideration, arguing for the first time that the sanction request was untimely under California Rules of Court, rule 3.1702(b). The trial court denied the motion and awarded Mother $3,000 in attorney fee sanctions for having to defend the ex parte motion for reconsideration. The court of appeal affirmed. Rule 3.1702(b) states: “A notice of motion to claim attorney’s fees for services up to and including the rendition of judgment in the trial court—including attorney’s fees on an appeal before the rendition of judgment in the trial court—must be served and filed within the time for filing a notice of appeal.” The timing of a notice of appeal is based on the entry of judgment. The sanctions at issue were awarded for attorney fees incurred after entry of the January 2017 judgment; rule 3.1702 does not apply. View "George v. Shams-Shirazi" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court denying the petition filed by Mother and Stepfather to adopt the minor child, ZEM, over the objection of the child's father, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied the petition for adoption on best interests grounds. In their verified petition for adoption Mother and Stepfather claimed that Father failed financially to support ZEM and that it was ZEM's best interest to terminate Father's parental rights and allow Stepfather to adopt her. The district court concluded that adoption did not serve ZEM's best interests and denied the petition to adopt. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that where the district court carefully weighed conflicting evidence, determined credibility, and came to a reasonable conclusion, the court did not abuse its discretion in denying the adoption. View "JEG v. BCB" on Justia Law