Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

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Six children appealed the juvenile court’s dispositional order granting reunification services to their parents. The court found that Welfare and Institutions Code section 361.5 (b)(5) and (b)(6) applied, warranting bypass of reunification services. But the court found that the bypass provisions were overridden under section 361.5 (c)(2) and (c)(3) because reunification was in the best interest of the children, services would likely prevent reabuse, and it would be detrimental not to provide them. The Court of Appeal agreed with the children that the findings under section 361.5(c)(2) and section 361.5(c)(3) were not supported by substantial evidence, and reversed on those grounds. Although the only issue on appeal was whether substantial evidence supported the juvenile court’s findings, the Court's analysis addressed a legal issue of first impression, holding the term “testimony” as used in section 361.5(c)(3), referred to in-court oral statements of live witnesses, not to other forms of evidence. View "In re A.E." on Justia Law

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In a divorce case, the superior court divided the marital estate equally. The estate included the marital home and an adjoining lot, which the spouses agreed should be sold. The husband remained in the home after the wife moved out, and he paid the mortgage until the properties sold nearly two years after the divorce was final. Once the properties sold, the parties requested a hearing on the allocation of the sale proceeds. The husband argued that he should be reimbursed for his post-divorce mortgage payments. The wife countered that the husband’s use of the home as his residence offset any claim he otherwise had to reimbursement. The superior court denied reimbursement to the husband, and the husband appealed. The Alaska Supreme Court determined the findings in the court’s order allocating the sale proceeds were insufficient, so it remanded the case for additional findings. View "Hall v. Hall" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the trial court terminated Respondent's parental rights based on the grounds of willful abandonment and willful failure to pay child support, holding that sufficient evidence supported the termination of Respondent's parental rights and that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining that termination of Respondent's parental rights was in the children's best interests. Petitioner sought to terminate Respondent's parental rights to the parties' children on the grounds of willful failure to pay child support and willful abandonment. After a hearing, the trial court terminated Respondent's parental rights to the children on the ground of willful abandonment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err by finding that grounds existed to terminate his parental rights to the children and in concluding that the termination of his parental rights was in the children's best interests. View "In re E.H.P" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals dismissing Respondent's appeal from the trial court's order terminating Respondent's parental rights, holding that Rule 3.1 of the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure mandates an independent review on appeal of the issues contained in a "no-merit" brief filed in appeal from an order terminating a respondent's parental rights. After a hearing, the trial court entered an order terminating Respondent's parental rights on the basis of neglect and failure to make reasonable progress. On appeal, Respondent's attorney filed a no-merit brief pursuant to Rule 3.1(d). The court of appeals dismissed the appeal because "[n]o issues have been argued or preserved for review in accordance with our Rules of Appellate Procedure. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals' decision and affirmed the trial court's order terminating Respondent's parental rights, holding that the text of Rule 3.1(d) plainly contemplates appellate review of the issues contained in a no-merit brief, and therefore, the court of appeals erred in failing to conduct an independent review of the issues set out in the no-merit brief filed by Respondent's counsel. View "In re L.E.M." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the trial court terminating Mother's parental rights to Troy, holding that the trial court's conclusion that grounds existed pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-1111(a)(9) was sufficient to support termination of Mother's parental rights and that the trial court made sufficient findings in determining that termination of Mother's parental rights was in Troy's best interest. On appeal, Mother argued that the trial court erred in terminating her parental rights because the court did not receive sufficient evidence or make adequate findings of fact. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the trial court did not err by concluding that grounds existed pursuant to section 7B-1111(a)(9) to terminate Mother's parental rights and that the trial court made sufficient findings in concluding that termination of Mother's parental rights was in Troy's best interest. View "In re T.N.H." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the determination of the trial court that the parental rights of Mother in her daughter were subject to termination pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-1111(a)(2), holding that the unchallenged findings of fact adequately supported the court's conclusion that Mother had failed to show reasonable progress in correcting the conditions that led to the child's removal. In reversing the trial court's order, the court of appeals determined that a number of the trial court's findings of fact lacked sufficient evidentiary support and did not support the court's conclusion that Mother had failed to correct the domestic violence-related problems that had led to the child's removal from Mother's home. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the facts supported the trial court's conclusion that Mother failed to make reasonable progress toward correcting the conditions that resulted in her daughter's removal from the family home. View "In re B.O.A." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals upholding the trial court's distributive award in an equitable distribution action that contemplated the use of a spouse's separate property, holding that the trial court lacked statutory authority to order disposition of Plaintiff's separate property. Plaintiff initiated this action by filing a complaint in district court seeking equitable distribution of the parties' marital property, alimony, and post-separation support. The trial court entered an equitable distribution order and denied Plaintiff's request for an award of alimony. Regarding the property distribution, the trial court determined that Plaintiff must pay Defendant a distributive award and that Plaintiff must liquidate her separate property to pay the distributive award. The court of appeals sanctioned the trial court's distribution of Plaintiff's separate property. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the court of appeals erred in upholding the trial court's order directing Plaintiff to liquidate her separate property to pay down the distributive award because it effectively distributed Plaintiff's separate property; and (2) discretionary review of whether N.C. Gen. Stat. 50-20 grants corporations standing to seek reimbursement for debts was improvidently granted. View "Crowell v. Crowell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the trial court terminating Respondents' parental rights to his two children, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that termination of Respondent's parental rights was in the children's best interests. After Mother relinquished her parental rights to the children the trial court entered an order determining that grounds existed to terminate Respondent's parental rights regarding the two children. The trial court further concluded that it was in the children's best interests that Respondent's parental rights be terminated. Respondent appealed, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion when it determined that termination of his parental rights was in the children's best interests. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in terminating Respondent's parental rights. View "In re Z.L.W." on Justia Law

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D.C., a minor foster child, alleged that Jason Case, his foster parent, sexually abused him. The Mississippi Department of Human Services ("DHS") removed D.C. from Case’s home and a subsequent investigation substantiated the alleged abuse. DHS did not contest that Case abused D.C. In his complaint, D.C. alleged negligence and gross negligence on behalf of DHS and the Department's executive director, Richard Berry, in the licensing of the foster home and the lack of care and treatment to D.C., both during his placement and after DHS removed D.C. from the foster home. After a period of discovery, DHS filed a motion for summary judgment. It maintained that it was entitled to immunity under Mississippi Code Section 43-15-125 (Rev. 2015) and Mississippi Code Section 11-46-9(1)(d) (Rev. 2012). Without any noted reference to Section 43-15-125, the circuit court denied DHS’s motion for summary judgement. DHS filed a petition for interlocutory appeal, which a panel of the Mississippi Supreme Court granted. After review of the record, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the circuit court’s denial of summary judgment: the circuit court erred in denying DHS summary judgment for D.C.’s claims that stemmed from DHS’s licensing of the foster home, given the immunity DHS and its officers have under Section 43- 15-125. The circuit court, though, did not err in denying DHS summary judgment under Section 11-46-9(d)(1) of the Mississippi Tort Claims Act, because DHS did not meet its burden to show that no genuine issue as to any material fact existed. View "Mississippi Department of Human Services v. D.C." on Justia Law

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Before the Oregon Supreme Court in this case was a child custody dispute arising out of father’s motion to modify a custody determination made at the time of the dissolution of the parties’ marriage, which awarded mother sole legal custody of child. At the conclusion of the modification proceeding, the trial court found that there had been a material change in circumstances concerning mother’s ability to parent child and that a change of custody from mother to father was in child’s best interest, and it awarded sole legal custody of child to father. On mother’s appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the trial court on the ground that, as a matter of law, there was insufficient evidence in the record to support the court’s finding of a change in circumstances and, thus, that custody modification was not warranted. The Supreme Court found sufficient evidence in the record supported the trial court’s ruling that father had proved a change of circumstances. The Court also addressed an issue that the Court of Appeals did not reach: whether the trial court erred in concluding that a change in custody was in child’s best interest. The Court held the trial court did not err in so concluding. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals. View "Botofan-Miller and Miller" on Justia Law