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The fathers of minor children in New Jersey challenged the state law governing child custody proceedings between New Jersey parents. In a suit against state court judges, under 42 U.S.C. 1983, they argued that the “best interests of the child” standard that New Jersey courts use to determine custody in a dispute between two fit parents is unconstitutional. The fathers alleged that their parental rights were restricted, or that they were permanently or temporarily separated from their children, by order of the New Jersey family courts without adequate notice, the right to counsel, or a plenary hearing, i.e. without an opportunity to present evidence or cross-examine and that although mothers and fathers are, in theory, treated equally in custody disputes under New Jersey law, in practice courts favor mothers. The Third Circuit affirmed dismissal of the suit, after holding that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine did not bar the suit, which was not challenging the state court judgments, but the underlying policy that governed those judgments. The court concluded that the judicial defendants were not proper defendants, having acted in an adjudicatory capacity and not in an enforcement capacity. View "Allen v. DeBello" on Justia Law

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In this divorce case, the Supreme Court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in dividing the marital assets and in denying Wife’s request for post-decree alimony of $2,000 per month for ten years. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion in dividing the marital assets and liabilities as it did because this division was not one that shocks the conscience of the court or appears to be so unfair and inequitable that “reasonable people cannot abide it”; and (2) the district court acted within its discretion in deciding that alimony was unwarranted to even up the division of marital assets and liabilities. View "Porter v. Porter" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Mother’s parental rights to Skyler, Rosalee, and Austin, and Father’s parental rights to Rosalee and Austin pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 22, 4055(1)(A)(1)(a) and (B)(2)(a), (b)(i), (ii). The court found, by clear and convincing evidence, that the parents were unable to take responsibility for the children within a time reasonably calculated to meet the children’s needs, that they were unable to protect the children from jeopardy and that those circumstances were unlikely to change within a time reasonably calculated to meet the children’s needs, and that termination of Parents’ parental rights was in the children’s best interest. The Supreme Judicial Court held that the court did not err or abuse its discretion in determining that termination of Parents’ parental rights, with a permanency plan of adoption, was in each child’s best interest. View "In re Skyler F." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Father’s parental rights to Child pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 22, 4055(1)(A)(1)(a) and (B)(2) and the denial of Father’s motion for a new trial or for reconsideration. On appeal, Father argued that the court deprived him of due process by terminating his parental rights even though he was not present at the final termination hearing and by failing to grant his motion for a new trial or provide him with an alternative opportunity to be heard when he later told the court that he had not attended the hearing due to transportation problems. The Supreme Judicial Court held that Father’s failure to explain how his participation in the trial would have affected the court’s determinations that he was parentally unfit and that termination was in the child’s best interest, and therefore, the court did not abuse its discretion by denying Father’s motion for a new trial or for reconsideration. View "In re Kaylianna C." on Justia Law

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The district court did not err in finding jeopardy as to both Mother and Father and ordering that Child be placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 22, 4036(1)(F). The court found, by a preponderance of the evidence, that as to both parents, Child was in circumstances of jeopardy to her health and welfare. Mother did not challenge the finding of jeopardy as to her. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) a dispositional order of custody is not appealable; and (2) the court’s finding that Child was more likely than not in circumstances of jeopardy in Father’s care was supported by competent record evidence. View "In re Kaliyah B." on Justia Law

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The district court did not err in terminating Parents’ parental rights to their child pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 22, 4055(1)(B)(2). Specifically, the Supreme Judicial Court held that the district court’s factual findings that Parents were unwilling or unable to protect the child from jeopardy and those circumstances were unlikely to change within a time reasonably calculated to meet the child’s needs were supported by competent evidence in the record and were therefore not clearly erroneous. In regard to Mother, it was not a violation of due process for the court to make an explicit finding concerning her parental unfitness in an amended order without first holding a new hearing because Mother fully participated in the hearing from which the facts underlying the court’s legal judgment were derived. View "In re Gabriel W." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the probate court denying Carol A. Boardman’s petition for a name change, holding that a person’s potential misunderstanding of another person’s marital status, without more, does not qualify as fraud that would preclude the grant of a name change petition. Boardman sought to change her name to “Currier,” which was the last name of her friend. The court denied the petition, concluding that the potential effect of the name change would be to give the public the impression she and her friend were a married couple, thus demonstrating a purpose of “defrauding another person or entity.” Me. Rev. Stat. 18-A, 1-701(f). The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment, holding that Boardman met all the requirements for the change of her last name imposed by section 1-701. View "In re Carol A. Boardman" on Justia Law

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Married same-sex couples conceived children through anonymous sperm donation. Their babies were born in Arkansas in 2015. Each couple completed paperwork listing both female spouses as parents. The Department of Health issued birth certificates bearing only the birth mother’s name, based on Ark. Code 20–18–401, which states “the mother is deemed to be the woman who gives birth to the child … if the mother was married at the time of either conception or birth … the name of [her] husband shall be entered on the certificate as the father of the child.” Another man may appear on the birth certificate if the “mother,” “husband,” and “putative father” all file affidavits vouching for the putative father’s paternity. The requirement that a married woman’s husband appear on her child’s birth certificate applies if the couple conceived by means of artificial insemination by an anonymous sperm donor. The couples challenged the law. The trial court held that the challenged sections were inconsistent with the 2015 Supreme Court holding, Obergefell v. Hodges, that the Constitution entitles same-sex couples to civil marriage “on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples.” The Arkansas Supreme Court reversed. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed, finding the statute invalid because it denied married same-sex couples access to the “constellation of benefits” that Arkansas links to marriage. The law required the placement of the birth mother’s husband on the birth certificate even when the husband was “definitively not the biological father,” but did not impose the same requirement with respect to the birth mother’s wife. Same-sex parents lacked the same right as opposite-sex parents to be listed on a document used for important transactions like medical decisions or enrolling a child in school. View "Pavan v. Smith" on Justia Law

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When Mother and Father divorced, the decree of divorce awarded legal and physical custody of the parties’ two children to Mother, with Father having rights of reasonable visitation. Approximately four months after the decree was entered, Father filed a motion for an order to show cause, alleging that Mother had violated the decree by denying him in-person and telephonic visits with the children. Following a hearing, the district court held Mother in contempt. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err (1) in finding Mother in civil contempt of court with regard to supervised visitation; and (2) in finding Mother in civil contempt of court with regard to telephonic contact. View "Kleinpeter v. Kleinpeter" on Justia Law

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In a post-divorce contempt action, the Georgia Supreme Court granted Appellant’s application for discretionary appeal to review the trial court’s order finding Appellant in contempt of three separate provisions of the parties’ divorce decree. “To be sure, this Agreement could have been more clearly drafted [. . .] the complete text of the Agreement demonstrates that the parties intended for Husband to assume all tax liabilities of the businesses. We therefore conclude that the trial court’s construction of ‘corporate income tax liability’ constituted a reasonable clarification of that term rather than an improper modification of the Agreement.” The Court affirmed the trial court’s findings as to two of provisions and reverse as to the third. View "Sutherlin v. Sutherlin" on Justia Law