Justia Family Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Alabama Supreme Court
In re: O.S. and J.A.S. v. E.S.
O.S. and J.A.S. petitioned for a writ of certiorari to review the Court of Civil Appeals' decision affirming the judgment of the circuit court in favor of E.S. setting aside a final judgment of adoption by the Probate Court of Walker County The Court granted certiorari review solely to determine whether the circuit court had jurisdiction to consider E.S.'s independent action seeking to set aside the probate court's judgment of adoption. Concluding that the circuit court did not have jurisdiction, the Supreme Court reversed the circuit court order and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "In re: O.S. and J.A.S. v. E.S." on Justia Law
Russell v. Fuqua
Keone Kaukawele Fuqua ("the father") filed a petition asking that the Probate Court allow him to change the legal name of his daughter from Lyvia Grace Russell to Lyvia Grace Russell-Fuqua. Megan Marie Russell ("the mother") opposed the petition, and she appealed the court's court order granting the father's petition. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded the probate court had no subject-matter jurisdiction over the parties' name-change dispute, and therefore vacated the order and dismissed the appeal. View "Russell v. Fuqua " on Justia Law
Terry v. Terry
The Supreme Court granted father Adam Terry's petition for certiorari to consider whether the appellate court erred by reversing the trial court's judgment enjoining Emily Terry (mother) from relocating from Lawrence County to Charleston, South Carolina, with their son. The Court of Civil Appeals' held that the trial court erred in concluding that the mother did not meet her burden of rebutting the section 30–3–169.4 presumption that the move to South Carolina was not in the child's best interest. The Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court's judgment to that end. However, insofar as the judgment directed the trial court to enter a judgment in favor of the mother on remand, that portion was reversed, and the case remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Terry v. Terry" on Justia Law
Fordham v. Siderius
The parties in this dispute entered into a common-law marriage in 2006. They lived together as husband and wife in Alabama with their minor children, L.F. and M.F, until 2009. Siderius moved with L.F. and M.F. to Oregon to begin her new job. Fordham thereafter joined the family in Portland. The family lived in Oregon until March 2010. Siderius sought a transfer her company's Spokane, Washington office; following the transfer, the entire family moved to Washington. In May 2011, the parties retained a court-approved mediator to assist with the dissolution of their marriage and custody of the minor children. With the mediator's assistance, the parties developed parenting plans and a visitation schedule. Fordham did not dispute that the parties agreed that the children would be in Alabama for the summer of 2011, and would then return to Washington. Siderius purchased a plane ticket for the children's return to Washington at the end of summer, but Fordham transferred the school registration of both children, who had remained in Alabama, from Spokane to schools in Mobile. Fordham then filed a child-custody petition and complaint for divorce in Alabama. He also filed an emergency motion seeking immediate custody of the children. The Alabama court signed an order granting Fordham's emergency motion and awarding him custody of the children pendente lite. Siderius filed a petition in Washington seeking dissolution of the marriage and custody of the minor children. The Washington court issued an ex parte restraining order ordering Fordham to return the minor children to Washington. The Washington court also scheduled initial divorce, custody, contempt hearings, and a telephone conference with the Alabama court pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. The Alabama court issued an order finding that it had jurisdiction over Siderius on the basis of her minimum contacts with Alabama. The court did not rule on the applicability of the UCCJEA to the proceeding. Siderius thereafter filed a petition for a writ of mandamus with the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals. The Court of Civil Appeals denied Siderius's petition without an opinion. In early 2012, the Washington court issued an order awarding custody of the children to Siderius and finding, among other things, that Washington had jurisdiction under the UCCJEA. The Washington court also found Fordham in contempt for failing to return the children to Washington as the court had ordered in its restraining order. Siderius registered the Washington court's custody determination and a motion for enforcement with the Alabama court. When the Alabama court denied her motion, Siderius petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for mandamus relief. Upon review, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded the Alabama trial court erred in denying Siderius's motion to dismiss based on the irrelevant fact that Siderius had sufficient minimum contacts with Alabama to subject her to personal jurisdiction. Siderius's petition for a writ of mandamus was granted and the Alabama trial court was directed to dismiss Fordham's child custody proceeding. View "Fordham v. Siderius" on Justia Law
Sears v. Hampton
In 2010, the State of Kentucky entered an order finding that 74-year-old Shirley Day was in need of a guardian and conservator. The Kentucky court appointed her adult daughter, Rhonda Sears, to serve in both capacities. Subsequently, Sears applied to the Kentucky court to transfer the guardianship and conservatorship to Alabama, where she and Day resided. In early 2012, the Kentucky court issued a provisional order granting the request. Sears then applied to the Montgomery Probate Court for a provisional order accepting the transfer from Kentucky. That same day, the probate judge appointed Valerie Cain as a guardian ad litem to represent Day in the transfer proceeding. Cain later submitted a report to the probate court questioning expenditures from Day's estate and requesting a guardian ad litem fee. Although nothing in the report indicated any inappropriate actions regarding Sears's actions in caring for Day, Cain recommended that both the conservatorship and the guardianship be transferred but that, rather than Sears, "the [Montgomery] county guardian and conservator be appointed." The probate court granted the petition to transfer and appointed James Hampton as guardian of Day and conservator of Day's estate. Day was removed from Sears's home and placed in an apartment home. The probate court also approved Cain's guardian ad litem fee to be paid from Day's estate. Sears appealed the probate court's order on the ground that the probate court's order violated Alabama law. Ultimately, the court denied Sears's requested relief and set the matter for further proceedings. Sears then filed a notice of appeal to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court found that one of Day's other adult daughters disagreed with Sears's expenditures from Day's estate, and could have objected and the probate court could then have held a hearing to determine whether the transfer to Alabama of Sears's Kentucky guardianship and conservatorship would be in Day's best interests. Here, the probate court would have erred by appointing any new guardian and conservator, most especially a different guardian and conservator than the one previously appointed by the transferring court, when the only matter properly before the court was the issue whether a provisional order of transfer would be approved. "This was clearly beyond the scope of the statute, and the probate court acted without authority in doing so." As a result of the erroneous appointment of the Montgomery County guardian and conservator, Day was subjected to removal from Sears's home and Day's estate was subjected to unnecessary fees in this jurisdiction when the Alabama law safeguards the protected person and his or her resources from the transfer of an inappropriate guardianship or conservatorship when it is not in the best interests of the protected person. Because the Court could not ascertain whether the probate court's grant of the transfer petition was dependent upon its erroneous appointment of a new guardian and conservator, the Court felt compelled to reverse both aspects of the court's order. View "Sears v. Hampton" on Justia Law
Christopher v. Christopher
Carolyn Christopher petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari to review the a Court of Appeals judgment that affirmed an order requiring her to pay postminority educational support on behalf of her child, C.C. In "Ex parte Bayliss," (550 So. 2d 986 (Ala. 1989)), the Court interpreted 30-3-1, Ala. Code 1975, as authorizing a trial court to require a noncustodial parent to pay college expenses for children past the age of majority. The Court granted Carolyn's petition to consider whether Bayliss was correctly decided, and reversed and remanded. The Supreme Court concluded the Bayliss Court failed to recognize the ordinary and common-law definitions of "child" as a minor, did not defer to the legislature's designation of the age of majority, and failed to observe the canon of construction that courts cannot supply what a statute omits. Accordingly, the Court expressly overruled Bayliss. Because the child-custody statute did not authorize a court in a divorce action to require a noncustodial parent to pay educational support for children over the age of 19, the Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Civil Appeals n this case and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Christopher v. Christopher" on Justia Law
F.V.O. v. Coffee County Department of Human Resources
F.V.O., respondent in a dependency action, appealed a trial court's orders after a dispositional review hearing in a dependency case. A majority of the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed the orders; the Supreme Court reversed and remanded. Both arguments presented by the motherÐ-regarding the finding by the trial court as to the efforts made by DHR to reunite the mother and the children and the announcement of a new permanency plan--failed to adjudicate any rights of the mother from which an appeal would lie. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Civil Appeals' judgment and remanded the case for that court to dismiss the mother's appeal and to remand the case to the trial court for further proceedings. View "F.V.O. v. Coffee County Department of Human Resources" on Justia Law
J.D.A. v. A.B.A.
J.D.A. ("the husband") appealed a circuit court judgment that, among other things, divorced him from A.B.A. ("the wife"); divided the marital assets; awarded the wife periodic alimony; required the husband to pay child support for the parties' two minor children and postminority educational support for all three of the parties' children; and awarded the wife an attorney fee. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded with instructions. The Court reversed the trial court's judgment insofar as it ordered the husband to pay the postminority educational expenses of the two minor children; required the husband to pay the expenses associated with the daughters' automobiles; awarded the wife $10,000 per month in periodic alimony; and awarded the wife an attorney fee. Because the division of marital assets is considered in conjunction with an award of periodic alimony, the Court also reversed the trial court's property-division awards so that the circuit court could reconsider the alimony and marital-property awards together. In all other respects, the judgment was affirmed. View "J.D.A. v. A.B.A. " on Justia Law
A.G. and K.G. v. Ka.G. and N.G.
A.G. and K.G. ("the paternal grandparents") appealed a juvenile court judgment denying their petition that alleged dependency as to A.L.G. ("the child") without holding an evidentiary hearing. "The fact that a divorce proceeding, at which custody will be determined, is pending and that a trial date for that proceeding has been set does not confer jurisdiction on the circuit court to determine allegations of dependency because the juvenile court exercises exclusive original jurisdiction over proceedings in which a child is alleged to be dependent." Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the juvenile court and remanded the case for the juvenile court to vacate its judgment denying the dependency petition, to reinstate the paternal grandparents' dependency petition, and to conduct an evidentiary hearing on the petition. View "A.G. and K.G. v. Ka.G. and N.G. " on Justia Law
Brandon v. Brandon
John Earl Brandon ("father") petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court to transfer the portion of a custody-modification action filed by Carolyn Anne Brandon ("mother") involving the parties' minor son to the Pickens Circuit Court. In June 2012, the mother petitioned the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court for emergency relief to enforce her right to five weeks of summer visitation with the minor son, as provided in the agreement; to hold the father in contempt for violating visitation orders; and to modify postminority-support provisions of the agreement by transferring control of funds for the older daughter's postsecondary education to the mother. The father answered the petition, filed a counterpetition seeking to hold the mother in contempt and seeking clarification of court orders regarding postsecondary educational costs for the older daughter, and moved to transfer to the Pickens Circuit Court all issues in the mother's petition that related to the minor son. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the father demonstrated a clear legal right to select the venue for adjudication of the claims pertaining to his son, and the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court was without discretion to deny his choice. The Court issued the writ and remanded the case to the Tuscaloosa court to vacate its order denying the father's motion to transfer the claims related to the minor son and to enter an order transferring those claims to the Pickens Circuit Court. View "Brandon v. Brandon" on Justia Law