Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries
In re L.O.
L.O. (Father) and Z.T. (Mother) were the parents of six-year-old L.L.O. (L.), a boy born in December 2014. Father appealed a juvenile court order adjudicating L. as a dependent of the court and removing L. from parental custody. Father contended there was insufficient evidence to support the juvenile court’s findings sustaining the petition against him under Welfare & Institutions Code section 300, subdivisions (b) and (d) and the order removing L. from his custody. The Court of Appeal found substantial evidence supported the juvenile court’s finding under subdivision (b) of section 300 and the order removing L. from Father’s custody. However, the Court agreed insufficient evidence supported the court’s finding under section 300, subdivision (d), and modified the order to strike the allegation under that subdivision. The order was affirmed in all other respects. View "In re L.O." on Justia Law
In re E.R.
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals concluding that the termination of Mother's parental rights was not against the clear weight of the evidence, holding that the court of appeals did not err.The juvenile court found that there were statutory grounds to terminate Mother's parental rights to her child and determined that it was in the child's best interest to do so. The court determined that it was "strictly necessary" to terminate Mother's parental rights. On appeal, Mother argued that the juvenile court failed to give adequate consideration to reasonable alternatives to termination, as required for the "strictly necessary" inquiry. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals correctly applied the standard of review set forth in State ex rel. B.R., 171 P.3d 435 (Utah 2007), to the juvenile court's best interest determination, and Mother identified no other basis for reversal. View "In re E.R." on Justia Law
Bailey v. MacFarland
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, of plaintiff’s diversity suit against the Public Group and Derek MacFarland, in his capacity as successor-in-interest to Michael MacFarland, plaintiff's late husband.The panel affirmed the district court's holding that plaintiff's claims, which seek modification of her divorce decree, fall within the domestic relations exception to federal diversity jurisdiction. In this case, plaintiff's requested remedy puts this case at the core of the domestic relations exception, and the eight claims she made against the Public Group also fall within the exception. The panel stated that a plaintiff may not evade the domestic relations exception simply by filing her diversity case against a corporate entity associated with her ex-spouse. View "Bailey v. MacFarland" on Justia Law
Marriage of L.R. and K.A.
After a two-day hearing, the trial court found L.R. (Mother) to be obsessive, aggressive, manipulative, and controlling of K.A. (Father) during a two-hour urgent care visit with the parties’ sick minor child - an incident described by the responding police officer as “boil[ing] down to being a child custody dispute.” The incident ended with Mother, who did not have physical custody, taking the child home in violation of the child custody and visitation order. Finding Mother’s conduct disturbed Father’s peace, the court issued a three-year domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) against Mother for Father’s protection and included the child as a protected party. The Court of Appeal concluded Mother’s conduct might have demonstrated poor co-parenting, but it did not rise to the level of destroying Father’s mental and emotional calm to constitute abuse within the meaning of the Domestic Violence Prevention Act (DVPA). Accordingly, the Court reversed. View "Marriage of L.R. and K.A." on Justia Law
In re B.D.
C.D. (Father) and R.Q. (Mother) appealed the juvenile court’s orders terminating parental rights to their son, B.D. (born 2012) and daughter L.D. (born 2015). The parents contended the juvenile court erred in finding that the beneficial parental relationship exception to adoption did not apply because the evidence demonstrated that terminating parental rights would be detrimental to the children’s well-being. They contended that a legal guardianship was the only appropriate permanent plan for the children. On May 6, 2021, the Court of Appeal filed an opinion affirming the orders. Before this opinion became final, Mother filed a petition for rehearing arguing that the recent Supreme Court decision in In re Caden C., 11 Cal.5th 614 (2021) found the juvenile court erred in terminating parental rights. The Court of Appeal granted rehearing and gave all parties the opportunity to file supplemental briefing on the petition for rehearing and the impact of Caden C. on this appeal. After review, the Court of Appeal vacated its initial opinion, and reversed the orders terminating parental rights. "When concluding that the parents did not meet their burden of showing that they had a substantial, positive, emotional attachment with their children, the juvenile court and social worker considered the parents’ substance abuse without addressing whether this continued substance abuse had any negative effect on the parent-child relationship. We are also uncertain whether the juvenile court considered other factors proscribed by the Supreme Court in determining the beneficial nature of the parent-child relationship. We therefore must reverse the orders terminating parental rights and remand for the juvenile court to reexamine the record based on a proper application of the governing law." View "In re B.D." on Justia Law
Monteith v. Monteith
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court declining Patricia Monteith's request to register in Maine a child support order issued in Maryland against George Monteith as to the parties' four children, holding that the district court did not err.In 2002, Patricia and George were divorced in Maine by a decision requiring George to pay child support to Patricia. Patricia and the children subsequently moved to Maryland. Ten years after the divorce, Patricia initiated a proceeding in Maryland seeking modification of the Maine child support order. The Maryland modification proceedings culminated in the entry of an agreed-to modified child support order. The district court vacated the registration of the Maryland order, concluding that the order was void ab initio based on the parties' failure to file the required consents in Maine to the Maryland court's exercise of jurisdiction. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the parties' failure to file consents pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 19-A, 2965(2)(A) deprived the Maryland court of subject matter jurisdiction to modify Maine's 2002 support order, rendering the Maryland order void ab initio. View "Monteith v. Monteith" on Justia Law
Cox v. Honorable Ponce
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the superior court dismissing Father's paternity action, holding that an untimely filed paternity action is barred as a matter of law.Shortly after Child was born, Mother served Father with notice of her intention to place the child for adoption pursuant to Ariz. Rev. Stat. 8-106(G). Father's attorney accepted service. Sixteen days after the applicable deadline, Father filed a paternity action. The trial court dismissed the action. Father appealed, asserting that he was entitled to equitable relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the principles of equity did not apply to provide Father relief from the statutory requirement that he timely file and serve Mother with his paternity action. View "Cox v. Honorable Ponce" on Justia Law
FR v. State
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the juvenile court adjudicating three minor children as neglected and the order changing the permanency plan for the adoption from reunification of the family to termination of Father's parental rights and adoption, holding that there was no plain error in the proceedings below.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the juvenile court's failure to insure Father's presence at the adjudication hearing did not deprive the court of subject matter jurisdiction to rule on the children's permanency; (2) the juvenile court violated a clear and unequivocal rule of law when it denied Father the opportunity to participate by phone in the initial hearing and failed to advise him of his rights, but there was no material prejudice to Father; and (3) the juvenile court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the Department of Family Services had made reasonable efforts at reunification and that the permanency plan for the children should be changed to adoption. View "FR v. State" on Justia Law
Allen v. Scott
Appellant Laura Allen appealed a Family Court Ancillary Order determining the division of property following her divorce from Appellee Charlene Scott. Allen claimed the trial court abused its discretion in designating funds used to purchase real property in Colorado as “marital” because the parties’ Ancillary Pretrial Stipulation described the funds as “premarital.” Allen further contended the Family Court abused its discretion in dividing certain pieces of marital property in the marital estate 60/40 in Scott’s favor contending that the court’s decision was not based on a logical or orderly process and was tainted by the court’s error on the first issue. After review, the Delaware Supreme Court held: (1) because both parties stated in the Ancillary Pretrial Stipulation that the funds used to purchase the Colorado property were premarital in character, and because neither party moved to amend the stipulation to revise that characterization until after the evidentiary record had closed, there was no triable issue on that question; and (2) there was no abuse of discretion in the Family Court’s distribution of the remaining marital property. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for consideration of Scott’s alternative contention that the down payment for the Colorado property was a gift unto the marriage. The Family Court retains the discretion to adjust that distribution to the extent its decision on remand regarding the Colorado down payment funds affects the other 11 Del. C. 1315 factors. View "Allen v. Scott" on Justia Law
Jolie v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County
Judge John W. Ouderkirk (Ret.) was the privately compensated temporary judge selected by petitioner, Angelina Jolie, and real party in interest, William Bradley Pitt, to hear their family law case. Jolie filed a statement of disqualification challenging Judge Ouderkirk based on his failure to disclose, as required by the California Code of Judicial Ethics, several matters involving Pitt's counsel in which Judge Ouderkirk had been retained to serve as a temporary judge. After the superior court ruled against Jolie, she petitioned for writ of mandate and supporting papers.The Court of Appeal granted the writ of mandate directing the superior court to vacate its order denying Jolie's statement of disqualification and to make a new order disqualifying Judge Ouderkirk. The court concluded that Judge Ouderkirk's ethical breach, considered together with the information disclosed concerning his recent professional relationships with Pitt's counsel, might cause an objective person, aware of all the facts, reasonably to entertain a doubt as to the judge's ability to be impartial. Therefore, the court concluded that disqualification is required. View "Jolie v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County" on Justia Law