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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court setting forth a parenting plan which awarded maternal Grandmother primary residential custody of Child during the course of an ongoing child dependency proceeding, holding that Grandmother could not pursue a parental interest and parenting plan during the pendency of the child dependency proceeding. In a dependent neglect (DN) matter, the Department of Health and Human Services, Child and Family Services Division (Department) became formally involved with Mother. Thereafter, Father petitioned the district court for a parenting plan designating him as Child’s primary residential parent. Grandmother subsequently filed a petition to establish a parental interest as a separate action. The district court consolidated the two matters. While the DN case was pending, the district court awarded Grandmother primary residential custody of Child. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the matter, holding that Montana law did not provide Grandmother the ability to pursue a parental interest during the pendency of the child dependency proceeding. View "Cromwell v. Schaefer" on Justia Law

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In this dependent neglect proceeding, the Supreme Court reversed the district court’s order permanently placing A.J.C. in the primary care of his maternal grandmother and denying the motion filed by the Department of Health and Human Services, Child and Family Services Division to place A.J.C. with Father, holding that the district court violated Father’s constitutional fundamental right to parent. After the Department became formally involved with Mother, it placed A.J.C. in Grandmother’s care. The district court then adjudicated A.J.C. as a youth in need of care. After a hearing to determine a final parenting plan and a permanency plan for A.J.C., the court awarded Grandmother primary residential custody of A.J.C. The Department subsequently moved the court to approve an amended permanency plan in which the Department recommended placement of A.J.C. with Father. The district court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that once Father successfully completed his court-ordered treatment plan and the Department determined Father to be a safe and appropriate placement, the district court unconstitutionally violated Father’s fundamental right to parent by placing A.J.C. with Grandmother. View "In re A.J.C." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the final parenting plan ordered by the district court, holding that substantial evidence supported the district court’s decision and that Appellant failed to demonstrate reversible error. The final parenting plan in this case provided that the parties’ child would reside with Appellee and that Appellant had visitation on alternating weekends. On appeal, Appellant claimed, among other things, that many of the district court’s findings of fact were clearly erroneous and that the court’s parenting decision was not based on the best interest of the child. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) in choosing where the child would primarily reside, the court properly considered and weighed the statutory factors; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in developing a final parenting plan for the child; and (3) Appellant received effective assistance of counsel. View "In re Marriage of Kesler" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court modifying the property settlement agreement entered into by Dennis Simpson and Larissa Simpson and the subsequent order awarding attorney fees, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion. The district court here modified the agreement by terminating maintenance payments to Larissa. The court then limited the amount of Larissa’s attorney fees to those incurred during contempt proceedings. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not abuse its discretion in concluding that continued imposition and enforcement of the parties’ agreement was unconscionable; (2) appropriately modified the agreement based on the parties’ unique circumstances; and (3) did not abuse its discretion in limiting Larissa’s attorney fees. View "In re Marriage of Simpson" on Justia Law

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Appellant, the noncustodial biological father of the minor K.L., appealed the juvenile court’s dispositional judgment, removing the minor from his mother and placing him with his presumed father, L.V. In August 2014, the Siskiyou County Health and Human Services Agency filed a section 300 petition on behalf of the two-year-old minor and his older half sibling, after mother was arrested for child cruelty and possession of a controlled substance. Shortly after the minor was born, L.V. took the minor into his home where he lived for several months. Initially, L.V. believed he was quite probably the minor’s father and treated him as such. A DNA test, requested by mother, confirmed L.V. was not the minor’s biological father. Nonetheless, L.V. continued to treat the minor as his own. The juvenile court found L.V. to be the minor’s presumed father. The Agency thereafter placed the minor and his half sibling with L.V. Shortly after these proceedings commenced, paternity test results revealed appellant to be the minor’s biological father. Appellant had never met the minor and had only recently learned of the minor’s existence. Appellant was an enrolled member of the federally recognized Karuk Indian Tribe . The Karuk Indian Tribe intervened on appeal, contending the juvenile court failed to comply with the procedural requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 ("ICWA") in entering its dispositional judgment. The Court of Appeal found the provisions of ICWA did not apply in this case and affirmed the juvenile court's judgment. View "In re K.L." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court denying Father’s petition to modify the order granting Mother primary custody of the parties' children, holding that the district court abused its discretion by determining that Father had demonstrated a material change in circumstances to justify re-opening the governing custody and visitation order. The district court concluded that Father had not established a material change in circumstances because there was little to no evidence that the children’s welfare was affected by Mother’s alleged instability in her life and poor decision-making. The Supreme Court remanded this case to the district court to determine whether modification of the custody and visitation order was in the best interests of the parties’ two daughters, holding (1) a court need not wait until the children exhibit negative consequences before reconsidering custody and/or visitation; and (2) where there was significant evidence of Mother’s continued instability and poor decision-making and the parties’ inability to make the current custody/visitation arrangement work, there was a material change of circumstances. View "Jacobson v. Kidd" on Justia Law

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A husband appealed a final divorce order, challenging the trial court’s property division, and claimed the court erred in awarding him an amount of spousal maintenance outside the statutory guideline without stating a reason for diverging from the guideline. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Jaro v. Jaro" on Justia Law

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Jane Doe (2018-24) (“Mother”) appealed a magistrate court’s decision to terminate her parental rights over her daughter (“K.O.”) on grounds of neglect after finding it was in K.O.’s best interest. On appeal Mother contested the magistrate court’s findings that: (1) early permanency for K.O. was appropriate and a continuance of trial was not warranted; and (2) that mother neglected K.O. and it was in the best interest of K.O. to terminate Mother’s rights. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court found the magistrate court did not abuse its discretion in failing to continue the trial. Additionally, substantial and competent evidence, to a clear and convincing standard, supported the magistrate court’s decision that Mother neglected K.O. and it was in K.O.’s best interest to terminate Mother’s parental rights. View "IDHW v. Jane Doe (2018-24)" on Justia Law

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In this termination of parental rights case, the Supreme Court held that juvenile courts must consider the totality of the circumstances existing at the time of a parental severance determination, including the child’s adoptability and the parent’s rehabilitation, in determining whether severance is in the best interests of the child for purposes of Ariz. Rev. Stat. 8-533(B). The juvenile court in this case severed Mother’s parental rights to her two children. Mother appealed, challenging the juvenile court’s best-interests finding. The court of appeals vacated the juvenile court’s order, concluding that the record supporting the best-interests determination was insubstantial. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals’ opinion and affirmed the juvenile court’s judgment terminating Mother’s parental rights, holding that the court of appeals erred in its best-interests analysis and that sufficient evidence supported the juvenile court’s best-interests finding. View "Alma S. v. Department of Child Safety" on Justia Law

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Bertha and Adolph Hall divorced in 2015 and disputed whether certain pieces of real property in Louisiana and Mississippi were separate or marital. The superior court relied on provisions in a document titled a last will and testament for its finding that the parties intended that the Louisiana properties be the husband’s separate property and that the Mississippi properties be the wife’s separate property. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded the court erred in its transmutation analysis. The court also erred in not providing support for its finding regarding the ownership of one of the Louisiana properties and in not addressing the question of the purported conveyance of properties by the husband to his children before the parties’ separation. The Court therefore reversed the superior court’s property distribution decision and remanded for further proceedings. View "Hall v. Hall" on Justia Law