Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

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In this case, Develin Johnson appealed against the district court's decision that upheld his convictions for domestic battery and false imprisonment. The key issue in the appeal was the admissibility of Johnson's previous misdemeanor conviction for petit theft under Idaho Rule of Evidence 608(b) and whether the probative value of the evidence was substantially outweighed by the risk of unfair prejudice. Johnson argued that the district court erred in affirming the judgment of conviction because his misdemeanor conviction for theft was inadmissible under Idaho Rule of Evidence 608(b) and the probative value of the evidence was substantially outweighed by a danger of unfair prejudice. The Supreme Court of the State of Idaho affirmed the district court's decision, holding that the conduct leading to Johnson's 2013 misdemeanor conviction was probative of his character for truthfulness and that the prejudicial effect of the evidence did not substantially outweigh its probative value. View "State v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The case involved a dispute between two Brazilian nationals, Heitor Ferreira da Costa and Jessica Camila Albefaro de Lima, who were previously married and had a child together. Following their divorce in Brazil, de Lima moved with the child to the United States without da Costa's knowledge. Once da Costa discovered his ex-wife and child's location, he filed a petition under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (the Convention) to have the child returned to Brazil. The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts denied da Costa's petition, concluding that the child was now settled in his new environment and it would not exercise its discretion to order the child's return. The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the decision, agreeing with the lower court's conclusion based on the totality of the circumstances, including the child's age, stability and duration of residence in the new environment, relationships with family members in the United States, and his progress in learning English. The appellate court noted that returning the child to Brazil would be disruptive given the child's strong connections in the United States and his limited connections to Brazil. View "Ferreira da Costa v. Albefaro de Lima" on Justia Law

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This case involves an appeal from the defendant, Royce Lanele Robinson, who was convicted of domestic violence with great bodily injury and spousal battery. The charges were based on three separate incidents involving his girlfriend, referred to as Jane Doe. Robinson contended on appeal that the trial court erred in allowing the prosecution to introduce evidence of his prior domestic violence conviction without a description of the underlying facts.The Court of Appeal of the State of California Fourth Appellate District Division Three upheld the trial court's decision. The court concluded that Robinson's claim had been forfeited on appeal because he did not raise this argument in the trial court. The court also found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting the evidence of the prior conviction under Evidence Code section 1109. Even if there was an error, the court stated it would not have been prejudicial, and thus, the judgment was affirmed.The key facts of the case include a series of incidents where Robinson allegedly inflicted bodily harm on Doe. The first incident involved Robinson pushing Doe out of his moving car. In the second incident, Doe reported that Robinson had pushed down on her chest, causing a fracture. In the third incident, Doe reported a prolonged assault by Robinson. Throughout the trial, Doe provided inconsistent testimonies, and Robinson's mother testified that her son attempted to aid Doe during a choking incident. The jury found Robinson guilty of spousal battery for the first incident and guilty of inflicting Doe's chest injury for the second incident. However, Robinson was found not guilty for the charges related to the third incident. View "People v. Robinson" on Justia Law

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In this case, Scott Phillips appealed against the denial of his motion for acquittal, the jury charge, and his probation conditions by the criminal division of the Superior Court, Bennington Unit. The State of Vermont Supreme Court upheld the lower court's decision.The case arose from a domestic violence incident where Phillips assaulted his girlfriend and threw a knife towards her. He was charged with three counts of domestic assault, two of which he was found guilty of by a jury. His post-trial motion for acquittal and a new trial was denied by the lower court.Phillips argued that conviction under 13 V.S.A. § 1043(a)(2) required the State to prove that he threatened a household member in addition to having used or attempted to use a deadly weapon on them. The Supreme Court rejected this argument, explaining that the statute criminalizes three distinct actions: (1) using a deadly weapon on a household member; (2) attempting to use a deadly weapon on a household member; or (3) possessing and threatening to use a deadly weapon on a household member. The court found that Phillips' actions of throwing the knife in the victim's direction could be inferred as an attempt to harm her with the weapon, which satisfies the requirements of the statute.Phillips also contested the jury instructions and the lack of a special verdict form. However, the Supreme Court found no error in the lower court's instructions or its decision not to provide a special verdict form.Finally, Phillips objected to his probation conditions, which included substance use screening, a prohibition from consuming alcohol, and a prohibition from possessing deadly weapons. The Supreme Court rejected this objection as well, as Phillips had not preserved these issues for appellate review and failed to adequately argue for plain-error review in his briefing.In sum, the State of Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's judgment, finding no error in the interpretation of the statute, the jury instructions, or the probation conditions imposed on Phillips. View "State v. Phillips" on Justia Law

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In this case, the appellant, William Nelson, appealed his conviction of first-degree domestic battery by a Lonoke County jury in the Supreme Court of Arkansas. He raised seven points on appeal: (1) substantial evidence did not support his conviction; (2) the circuit court’s refusal to recuse was an abuse of discretion; (3) the circuit court improperly denied his Batson objection; (4) the circuit court abused its discretion by limiting questions regarding sentencing during voir dire; (5) the circuit court allowed inadmissible prior-bad-acts evidence to be introduced; (6) refusal to dismiss a juror for-cause during trial was an abuse of discretion; and (7) the circuit court improperly restricted expert witness testimony or, alternatively, erred by denying a motion for a continuance to obtain a new expert. The State cross-appealed, arguing that the circuit court misinterpreted the statutory requirement to support a sentencing enhancement and improperly granted Nelson’s directed-verdict motion on the issue.The court affirmed Nelson's conviction on all points. It found that substantial evidence supported the conviction and the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in any of the contested decisions. In the cross-appeal, the court dismissed the State's appeal, ruling that it did not present an issue of interpretation of the criminal rules with widespread ramifications and the resolution of the issue turned on the facts unique to the case. View "NELSON v. STATE OF ARKANSAS" on Justia Law

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In this case, the Supreme Court of the State of Utah considered the appeal of Marianne Tyson who sought to access her sealed adoption records from 1978, in order to learn more about her birth parents' medical histories and any potential health risks. The district court had denied Tyson's petition, interpreting "good cause" as requiring more than a generalized desire to obtain health or genetic information unrelated to a specific medical condition of the petitioner. The district court also held that Tyson's reasons for wanting access to adoption records did not outweigh her birth mother's interest in privacy.The Supreme Court of Utah disagreed with the district court's interpretation of "good cause" and its application of the balancing test. The Supreme Court noted that the legislature did not define "good cause" in the statute and did not impose additional requirements to establish "good cause". The Court held that the district court erred in interpreting the statute to require something more than a general desire to know one's medical history. The Supreme Court also found that the district court did not properly balance the interests under the Utah Rule of Civil Procedure 107, as it focused solely on the birth mother’s privacy interests and did not consider Tyson's reasons for wanting to see her adoption records.The case was remanded back to the district court to reassess Tyson's petition under the correct standard. The district court must evaluate Tyson's petition under a correct interpretation of "good cause" and conduct a proper balancing test, giving weight to both the birth mother’s privacy interests and Tyson's reasons for wanting to see her adoption records. View "In re Adoption of M.A." on Justia Law

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In this case, the Supreme Court of North Dakota was tasked with reviewing a lower court's decision to grant a mother's request to relocate her children to Minnesota after she remarried. The father contested the relocation, claiming that the lower court misapplied certain factors when making its decision and placed too much emphasis on the mother's new marriage.In the original divorce settlement, the mother received primary residential responsibility, and the father was granted weekly parenting time. However, after the mother remarried and sought to move to Minnesota to live with her new husband, she requested permission from the court to relocate the children. The father opposed the move.The lower court ruled in favor of the mother, finding that the move was in the best interests of the children. The court considered the Stout-Hawkinson factors, which include the prospective advantages of the move, the integrity of the custodial parent's motive for relocation, the integrity of the noncustodial parent's motives for opposing the move, and the potential negative impact on the relationship between the noncustodial parent and the child. The court found that the first two factors favored the mother, and that while the fourth factor was not in her favor, it did not outweigh the strength of the other factors.On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's decision. The court found that the lower court had not erred in its application of the Stout-Hawkinson factors, and that the evidence supported the lower court's findings. The court also rejected the father's claim that the lower court had created a "super factor" by placing too much emphasis on the mother's new marriage, noting that the lower court had considered all relevant factors in making its decision. View "Nelson v. Nelson" on Justia Law

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In this case from the Supreme Court of North Dakota, Alexander Williams, the appellant, appealed the dismissal of his petition for nonparent visitation rights to I.H.L., a child from his ex-wife's previous relationship. Williams had been a consistent caretaker of I.H.L. since 2014 and had maintained a close relationship with the child, even after his divorce from the child's mother, Stefaney Vraa. However, following a disagreement with Vraa, Williams was denied visitation rights. The district court dismissed Williams’ petition on the grounds that he had failed to establish a prima facie case for nonparent visitation, specifically that he did not satisfy the requirements of a consistent caretaker.The Supreme Court of North Dakota reversed and remanded the decision, concluding that Williams had indeed established a prima facie case for nonparent visitation, warranting an evidentiary hearing. The court decided that Williams had shown he was a consistent caretaker for I.H.L., having lived with and cared for the child for more than 12 months, made day-to-day decisions for the child, and established a bonded and dependent relationship with the child. The court also found that Williams had shown a substantial relationship with the child, and that denying him visitation would result in harm to the child, given the evidence of increased anxiety and distress in the child following the denial of visitation. View "Williams v. Vraa" on Justia Law

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In this case, Alexandra Gamble (Mother) and Sean Rourke (Father) are divorced and have three children. They had a final parenting plan approved by the 10th Circuit Court-Portsmouth Family Division, which considered Father's residence in Costa Rica and Mother's in New Hampshire. However, Father later decided to reside in New Hampshire. As a result, Father filed a petition to modify the parenting plan, arguing that due to the change in residences, it would be in the children’s best interests to modify the parenting schedule.The Supreme Court of New Hampshire affirmed the decision of the lower court to modify the parenting plan, citing that the lower court exercised its discretion sustainably. The Court held that the trial court correctly interpreted the parenting plan when it ruled that modification was appropriate under RSA 461-A:11, I(g). This statute allows for modification of a parenting plan if changes in the distances between the parents' residences affect the children's best interest.Mother's argument that her due process rights were violated because the trial court considered grounds not raised by Father was rejected. The Supreme Court held that the trial court did not base its decision on these factors. Instead, it found that Father met his burden to modify the parenting plan under RSA 461-A:11, I(g), which was the ground Father had indeed raised.The Supreme Court also rejected Mother's argument that the trial court violated her procedural due process rights by making changes to the parenting plan that were not sought in Father's petition. The Court concluded that the trial court had statutory authority to make these modifications once it found that a statutory predicate circumstance is satisfied, as per RSA 461-A:11, I. View "In re Rourke & Rourke" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around the interpretation of the term "resources" as used in the criminal restitution statute, Minnesota Statutes section 611A.045, subdivision 1(a)(2). Specifically, the case examines whether the equity in a defendant's home, which he co-owns with his spouse, can be considered as a "resource" when awarding restitution. The appellant, Joshua Henry Baion Cummings (Baion), was convicted of one count of theft by false representation and was ordered to pay restitution. The district court considered the equity in Baion’s home as one of his resources when determining the amount of restitution. Baion appealed, arguing that the equity in a home owned with a non-defendant spouse cannot be considered a resource under the restitution statute. The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's decision. The Minnesota Supreme Court also affirmed, holding that the term “resources” in the restitution statute unambiguously means useful and valuable possessions, and that home equity, even when the home is co-owned with a non-defendant spouse, may be such a possession. View "State v. Cummings" on Justia Law