Articles Posted in Arizona Supreme Court

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Failure to register with the Arizona putative fathers registry is a statutory ground for severing a father’s parental rights, and putative fathers must comply with Ariz. Rev. Stat. 8-106.01 to avoid severance pursuant to Ariz. Rev. Stat. 8-533(B)(6). Frank R.’s parental rights were terminated because he did not register with the putative fathers registry. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the juvenile court had correctly applied section 8-533(B)(6). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) compliance with section 8-106.01 may not be excused to allow the father to avoid severance under section 8-533(B)(6); and (2) because Frank did not register, despite having the opportunity and time do so, the juvenile court did not err when it severed his parental rights. View "Frank R. v. Mother Goose Adoptions" on Justia Law

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Applying Ariz. R. Juv. Ct. P. 64(C) in pretrial proceedings does not conflict with Ariz. Rev. Stat. 8-863(C) in violation of the separation of powers required by Ariz. Const. art. III. After the juvenile court terminated Mother’s parental rights Mother appealed, arguing that Rule 64(C), which authorizes the court to proceed to a final termination hearing when a parent fails to appear without good cause at a pretrial conference, conflicts with section 8-863(C), which addresses the consequences for a parent’s failure to appear at a hearing and thus violates separation of powers principles. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that rule 64(C) does not enlarge or diminish any substantive rights granted by section 8-863(C), and therefore, there is no separation of powers violation. View "Marianne N. v. Department of Child Safety" on Justia Law

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The statutory presumption set forth in Ariz. Rev. Stat. 25-814(A)(1) that a man is presumed to be a legal parent if his wife gives birth to a child during the marriage applies to couples in same-sex marriages. After Kimberly McLaughlin and Suzan McLaughlin were married in California, Kimberly gave birth to a baby boy, E. When E. was almost two years old, Kimberly moved out of the parties’ home, taking E. with her. Thereafter, Suzan filed petitions for dissolution and for legal decision-making and parenting time in loco parentis. Suzan also challenged the constitutionality of Arizona’s refusal to recognize lawful same-sex marriages performed in other states. Based on Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. __ (2015), the trial court concluded that Kimberly could not rebut Suzan’s presumptive parentage under section 25-814(C). The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Suzan was a presumed parent under section 25-814(A)(1) and that Kimberly was equitably estopped from rebutting Suzan’s presumptive parentage of their son. View "McLaughlin v. Honorable Lori B. Jones" on Justia Law

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25 U.S.C. 1911(b) of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) addresses transfer only of foster care replacement and termination-of-parental-rights actions and does not apply to state preadoptive and adoptive placements. The Department of Child Safety moved to terminate the parental rights of the parents of A.D., a member of the Gila River Indian Community. After the juvenile court terminated the rights of A.D.’s parents the foster parents intervened and filed a petition to adopt A.D. The Community moved to transfer the proceedings to its tribal court under section 1911(b). The juvenile court denied the motion, finding that the foster parents had met their burden of showing that good cause existed under section 1911(b) to deny the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed the juvenile court’s denial of the Community’s motion to transfer, holding that ICWA does not govern the transfer of preadoptive and adoptive placement actions, but state courts may nonetheless transfer such cases involving Indian children to tribal courts. View "Gila River Indian Community v. Department of Child Safety" on Justia Law

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When A.C. was born, Mother signed an affidavit of paternity falsely stating that A.C.’s father was unknown. Mother also signed a consent to adoption in favor of Petitioners. When Petitioners found no notice of claim of paternity associated with A.C., Petitioners filed a petition to adopt A.C. Meanwhile, having learned of the child’s birth, Father filed a paternity action. Unaware of the pending paternity action, the juvenile court granted A.C.’s adoption. Petitioners subsequently moved to dismiss the paternity case, and Father moved to set aside the adoption. Even though Father never filed a notice of claim of paternity with the putative fathers registry as statutorily required, the juvenile court set aside the adoption. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Father timely filed and served his paternity action, he preserved his right to establish paternity despite his failure strictly to comply with the putative father registration requirement. View "David C. v. Alexis S." on Justia Law

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Mother filed this action to terminate the parental rights of Father to their minor child on the ground of abandonment. After a contested severance hearing, the juvenile court found that Father had abandoned the child and that severance was in the child’s best interests. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the record did not establish by a preponderance of the evidence that termination was in the child’s best interests. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ decision and affirmed the juvenile court’s finding that termination of Father’s parental rights was in the child’s best interest, holding that reasonable evidence supported the juvenile court’s finding that severance would be in the child’s best interests. View "Demetrius L. v. Joshlynn F." on Justia Law

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When Robert and Diane Merrill divorced in 1993 the family court awarded each party one-half of Robert’s military retirement pay (MRP) disability benefits as their separate property. In 2004, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) found Robert eligible to receive Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC). Robert waived a portion of MRP to receive CRSC. Consequently, Diane’s monthly share of MRP decreased significantly. In 2010, Diane requested that the family court award her arrearages from her reduced share of MRP and compensate her for future reduced payments of MRP. The family court denied the petition, concluding that Ariz. Rev. Stat. 25-318.01 - which prohibits courts from “making up” for a reduction in MRP due to a retired veteran receiving CRSC benefits by awarding additional assets to the non-military ex-spouse - proscribed the requested relief. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that section 25-318.01 does not apply to CRSC awards. The legislature subsequently amended section 25-318.01 to make it applicable to CRSC benefits. Thereafter, the court of appeals vacated its order and deemed Diane’s 2010 petition denied. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals’ decision, holding that section 25-318.01 cannot apply to preclude indemnification when a retired veteran makes a post-decree waiver of MRP to obtain CRSC benefits and the decree was entered before section 25-318.01’s effective date. View "Merrill v. Merrill" on Justia Law

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Pursuant to a divorce decree entered in 1991, Sandra Powell began receiving fifty percent of John Howell’s military retirement pay (MRP) when John retired from the Air Force. John later qualified for monthly, tax-exempt VA disability payments. A veteran who receives MRP cannot collect VA disability benefits unless the veteran waives an equivalent amount of MRP. John elected a VA waiver. Accordingly, monthly MRP payments to both John and Sandra were reduced. Sandra moved to enforce the decree’s division of MRP and also sought an arrearage amount equaling the reductions in her share of MRP after the VA waiver. John opposed the request, arguing that Ariz. Rev. Stat. 25-318.01 barred the family court from requiring him to indemnify Sandra for the reduction in her share of MRP. The family court granted Sandra’s motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) federal law does not preempt the family court’s authority to order a retired veteran to indemnify an ex-spouse for a reduction in MRP caused by a post-decree waiver of MRP made to obtain disability benefits; and (2) section 25-318.01 does not prohibit the court from entering an indemnification order in these circumstances if the ex-spouse’s share of MRP vested as a property right before 2010. View "Howell v. Howell" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether a juvenile court can delegate discretion to the Arizona Department of Economic Security (ADES) to return a dependent child to his or her parents without first determining that return is in the child’s best interests. The juvenile court concluded that ADES has the discretion to determine when it serves a dependent child’s best interests to be returned to the child’s parent or guardian. The Supreme Court vacated the juvenile court’s order, holding (1) a juvenile court must specifically determine that return of a dependent child to his or her parents is in the child’s best interests before ordering the return; and (2) the juvenile court in this case erred by granting discretion to ADES to place dependent children with their parents without a prior judicial determination that reunification was in the children’s best interests. View "Alexander M. v. Hon. Lisa Abrams" on Justia Law

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In 2006, Wife and Husband divorced. In 2011, the superior court conducted a hearing on the parties’ post-decree petitions. Prior to the hearing, Wife filed a petition seeking reimbursement for certain 2010-11 expenses under the terms of the decree of dissolution. The court, however, did not consider the expenses at the hearing. On November 1, 2011, the court entered an order resolving all of the issues listed in the pretrial statement and denied Wife’s request for attorneys’ fees. Shortly thereafter, the court vacated this fee ruling. On September 12, 2012, the court awarded Wife a judgment on the 2010-11 expenses and again denied her request for attorneys’ fees. On October 11, 2012, Wife appealed from both the November 1, 2011 and September 12, 2012 orders. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal from the November 1, 2011 order as untimely. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals’ order and remanded, holding a family court order that neither resolves a pending request for attorneys’ fees nor includes language making the order appealable is not final for purposes of appeal. View "Bollermann v. Nowlis" on Justia Law