Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals setting aside the adoption decree in this case, holding that the district court's conclusions of law in support of the adoption decree were inadequate.Mother, a Montana resident, gave birth to a child in Montana. Mother placed the child for adoption with Respondents, two Utah residents. On a form required under the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC), Utah Code 62a-4a-701 to -711, Mother did not list Petitioner, the child's legal father, as the child's father. Respondents filed an adoption petition and petitioned to terminate Petitioner's parental rights. The district court terminated Petitioner's parental rights and finalized the adoption. The court of appeals set aside the adoption decree because it did not state that the requirements of the ICPC had been complied with, as required by the Adoption Act. The Supreme Court affirmed and remanded the case, holding (1) there was no jurisdictional defect under the ICPC or the Adoption Act; but (2) the district court's conclusions of law in support of the adoption decree were inadequate. View "In re Adoption of B.H." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court terminating Appellant's parental rights, holding that the district court violated Appellant's due process rights when it determined the best interests of the child without first conducting an evidentiary hearing.The district court found that the Department of Family Services established statutory grounds for termination by clear and convincing evidence. On appeal, Appellant argued that he was not given an opportunity to be heard on the question of whether termination was in the child's best interests. The Supreme Court held (1) neither the termination statutes nor Wyoming case law require a separate hearing to determine the best interests of the child; but (2) Appellant's due process rights were violated when he was deprived of the opportunity to be heard on the question of best interests. View "Niland v. State, ex rel. Department of Family Services" on Justia Law

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Tim O’Keeffe appealed district court orders denying his motion to terminate spousal support and awarding attorney’s fees to Kari O’Keeffe. Because the district court erred in concluding spousal support was rehabilitative rather than permanent, the North Dakota Supreme Court reversed the order denying Tim O’Keeffe’s motion to terminate spousal support. The Court affirmed the award of attorney’s fees. View "O'Keeffe v. O'Keeffe" on Justia Law

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Abbey Gifford appealed a judgment granting her and Brian Woelfel equal residential responsibility for their minor child and determining child support. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court erred by including an “automatic” change of custody provision that purported to modify the original residential responsibility decision without consideration of the child’s best interests at the time of a potential move. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Woelfel v. Gifford" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part the judgment of the district court finding Bradley Jenkins in contempt for failing to follow the terms of its stipulated divorce decree and remanded for the district court to clarify its order as it pertained to refinancing the marital home, holding that it was unclear whether the court intended to impose the refinancing obligation on Bradley.The divorce decree awarded the marital home to Jonnie Jenkins and required her to refinance it and pay Bradley his share of the equity. Jonnie was unable to obtain refinancing because of numerous liens attached to the home. Jonnie asked the district court to hold Bradley in contempt for failing to comply with the divorce decree. The district court held both parties in contempt and ordered Bradley to release all judgment liens on the title to the marital home and assume the second mortgage. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding (1) the district court did not err by requiring Bradley to make reasonable and consistent efforts to release the liens on the marital home; and (2) it was unclear which party was obligated to obtain refinancing for the marital home. View "Jenkins v. Jenkins" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants in an action brought by plaintiff under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the County and DCFS violated plaintiff's due process and privacy rights by maintaining unfounded child abuse allegations against plaintiff in California's Child Welfare Services Case Management System (CWS/CMS) without providing him notice or a hearing to challenge them.The panel held that the County has a strong interest in maintaining all reports of suspected child abuse in CWS/CMS—even those that result in "unfounded" dispositions—because doing so helps its child welfare and law enforcement agencies protect children from abuse and neglect. In this case, plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of material fact that the records of his "unfounded" allegations in CWS/CMS caused him reputational harm, or that they are used by the County to alter or extinguish his rights to employment, child placement, or child visitation. Therefore, plaintiff failed to show that his inclusion in CWS/CMS implicates his liberty interests so as to require procedural due process. Furthermore, plaintiff has not shown that the County publicly disseminates or misuses his information in a manner that would violate his constitutional right to privacy. View "Endy v. County of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court denying TE's petition to establish paternity of AE on the grounds that TE had not timely filed his petition and remanded for an order adjudicating TE as AE's father, holding that while the district court has discretion to determine the timeliness of a paternity petition before ordering testing, the statutes do not afford the district court discretion on the timeliness of a petition after ordering genetic testing.The Department of Family Services later took protective custody of AE and sought to terminate the rights of AE's parents. Mother and the presumed father voluntarily relinquished their parental rights to AE. TE, who was listed on the termination petition as the alleged father, filed a petition to establish paternity. Genetic testing was conducted and disclosed a 99.99 percent probability of paternity. After a trial, the district court found that TE's petition was not timely filed and denied the petition. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Department lacked standing to contest TE's petition to establish paternity; and (2) the district court lacked the discretion to adjudicate parentage after it was presented with court-ordered genetic testing results that complied with the statutes and indicated that TE was AE's biological father. View "TE v. State, Department of Family Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's property division order in this divorce proceeding, holding that the court abused its discretion in excluding farmland Wife purchased with Husband from the marital estate.A relative of Husband sold the farmland at issue to the parties at a discounted purchase price. Because of the discount the circuit court determined that the transfer was a partial gift solely to Husband. Wife appealed, arguing that the circuit court abused its discretion by excluding $1,526,000 of the farm's appraised value from the marital estate. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the circuit court applied a rule that would conclusively prevent the entire value of the farm from ever being considered marital property regardless of Wife's contributions, and that the rule is in irreconcilable tension with existing decisional law. View "Field v. Field" on Justia Law

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After police arrested their mother, 10-year-old J. and her half-brothers were found at a homeless encampment and detained by the Alameda County Social Services Agency, which filed a juvenile dependency petition. At a paternity inquiry, Mother testified that Father is J.’s father. Mother and Father lived together until J. was two years old. Father had participated in Nevada child support proceedings, acknowledged J. as his child, and was subject to a child support order. Father had regular visits with J. After the Agency filed an amended petition naming Father as J.’s alleged father, the court declared the children dependents of the court, and placed the children with their maternal grandfather. The court held a later hearing, ordered a legal guardianship by the grandfather, then dismissed the dependency.During the proceedings, Father maintained his relationship with J. and consistently stated that he wanted custody. Father repeatedly contacted the Agency and provided a birth certificate showing his name as J.’s father. Court-appointed attorneys represented Father but he was unrepresented during critical proceedings and none of the attorneys took action on his behalf. At the dismissal hearing, the court noted that no counsel was present on Father’s behalf and acknowledged that the prior proceeding, without Father's counsel present "was an error.” Contrary to Welfare and Institutions Code 316.2(b), and California Rule 5.635(g), the court clerk never provided Father with notice of the procedure he should follow to establish that he is J.’s father and to protect his parental rights. The court of appeal reversed the juvenile court orders, finding that Father was prejudiced by the failure to comply with the notice requirements. View "In re J.W.-P." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court to terminate a 2013 stipulated parental agreement that had afforded Grandparents contact and visitation rights with respect to their grandchild (Child), holding that the district court did not err.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the district court correctly determined that the parties' agreement was a grandparent visitation agreement formed under Mont. Code Ann. 40-9-102 rather than a parental interest agreement under Mon. Code Ann. 40-4-228; and (2) the district court correctly applied the legal standard for termination of a section 40-9-102 grandparent visitation agreement. View "In re Parenting of K.J.K." on Justia Law