Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Arkansas Supreme Court

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In this divorce case, the Supreme Court affirmed on direct appeal the order of the circuit court on remand from the Supreme Court but reversed and remanded on cross appeal, holding that the circuit court erred in calculating the amount Nancy Moore was ordered to reimburse John David Moore (David) for his payments on a parcel of real property referred to as "Granny's Place." When this case was first before the Supreme Court the Court reversed the circuit court's division of certain property and award of alimony and remand. David appealed from the circuit court's order on remand, and Nancy cross-appealed. The Supreme Court held that the circuit court (1) did not err in dividing the marital property unequally under the circumstances of this case; (2) did not clearly err in valuing and dividing the martial livestock; (3) did not err in holding David in contempt; but (4) erred by awarding David his request for reimbursement for payments he made toward the principal indebtedness on Granny's Place. View "Moore v. Moore" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court terminating Mother's parental rights to her son, holding that the circuit court did not commit reversible error by denying Mother's counsel's motion to withdraw. The Arkansas Department of Human Services opposed the motion to withdraw, arguing that Mother had been served under Ark. R. Civ. P. 5 and that she had over a month to fire her attorney and hire a new one. The circuit court denied the motion. On appeal, Mother argued that, by denying the motion, the circuit court violated her Sixth Amendment right to counsel of one's choosing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the denial of the motion to withdraw was not an issue preserved on appeal and that, even if this Court were to consider the merits of Mother's constitutional claims, her argument would still fail. View "Langston v. Arkansas Department of Human Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the opinion of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court's order denying Appellant's motion to terminate a guardianship held by Appellant's niece over Appellant's minor child and reversed the circuit court's order, holding that because the circuit court's order stated that it did not find Appellant unfit, the court erred in declining to terminate the guardianship by engaging in a best interest analysis. The circuit court's order denying Appellant's petition indicated that the court followed the burden shifting / best interest analysis that the Supreme Court disposed of in Matter of Guardianship of W.L., 467 S.W.3d 129 (Ark. 2015), Further, the circuit court's order did not make any finding that Appellant was unfit at the time of the termination hearing. The Supreme Court held that where an otherwise fit natural parent petitions for termination of an existing guardianship over her minor child, the circuit court should only decline to terminate the guardianship if the guardian establishes that the parent is presently unfit. View "Morris v. Clark" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying Mother's petition to terminate the guardianship of her two minor children, holding that the circuit court erred in finding that it remained in the best interest of the children to leave the guardianship intact. The children's paternal grandparents filed a petition for emergency and permanent guardianship of the children after Mother's husband was charged with the sexual abuse of the older child. The circuit court granted the grandparents a permanent guardianship, finding that it was in the best interest of both children for the guardianship to be granted. Mother later filed a petition to terminate the guardianship due to a material change in circumstances. The circuit court denied the petition. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a fit parent who did not consent to a guardianship must be afforded a natural parent's constitutional right to raise her child without undue interference from the government; (2) Mother was entitled to the fit-parent presumption that the guardianship was no longer necessary when she filed her petition to terminate the guardianship; and (3) the presumption that Mother acted in her children's best interest was not rebutted on the record. View "Hartman v. Reardon" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s order dismissing Appellant’s counterclaim for declaratory and injunctive relief against the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS), holding that the Court was unable to address the sole issue raised by Appellant on appeal. On appeal, Appellant argued that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to consider her counterclaim because DHS was entitled to sovereign immunity and that her case should be dismissed without prejudice due to lack of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant failed to preserve her sovereign-immunity argument, and therefore, the circuit court properly dismissed the counterclaim. View "Wilson v. Arkansas Department of Human Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed this appeal from the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the decision of the circuit court, vacated the court of appeals’ decision, and reinstated the decision of the circuit court, holding that the appeal was procedurally barred. The underlying case involved child support from Wyndham Dempster to be paid to Chelsea Harley. After the circuit court determined Dempster’s arrearages, Harley appealed. The court of appeal dismissed Harley’s appeal for lack of standing. On rehearing, the court of appeals determined that Harley had standing to bring the appeal and reversed the circuit court’s determination. Dempster filed a petition for review, which the Supreme Court granted. Harley, however, filed to timely file a brief for the Court’s consideration. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and vacated the court of appeals’ opinion, holding that even if Harley’s appeal would not be barred for lack of standing, there would be no argument for reversal on the merits for the Court to consider where Harley failed to timely file a brief. View "Harley v. Dempster" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court modifying the visitation awarded to Father and denying Mother’s petition to modify the amount Father pays in child support, holding that the circuit court did not err. On appeal, Mother argued, among other things, that the circuit court erred in finding that there had been a material change in circumstances that justified modifying Father’s visitation with the parties’ child. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) there was a material change in circumstances sufficient to warrant a modification of visitation; and (2) the circuit court did not err by not including the increase in value of Father’s stock portfolio in the calculation of his child-support obligation and did not err by declining to impute income to Father based on his lifestyle. View "Dare v. Frost" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s order terminating the parental rights of Father to his children, twins. At the termination hearing, the twins were three years old, and Father, who was incarcerated, had not met, contacted, or sought visitation with the children. The court of appeals affirmed the decision of the circuit court terminating Father’s parental rights. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in finding termination of parental rights was met based on the subsequent-factors grounds. Further, the circuit court did not err in finding termination of parental rights was met in the best interest of the children. View "Earls v. Arkansas Department of Human Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court modifying the visitation awarded to Father and denying Mother’s petition to modify the amount Father pays in child support. The Court held (1) under the circumstances of this case, the circuit court did not err in finding that there had been a material change in circumstances that justified modifying Father’s visitation with the parties’ child; and (2) the circuit court did not err in deciding not to include the increase in the value of Father’s stock portfolio in the calculation of his child-support obligation and deciding not to impute additional income to Father. View "Dare v. Frost" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court modifying the visitation awarded to Father and denying Mother’s petition to modify the amount Father pays in child support. The Court held (1) under the circumstances of this case, the circuit court did not err in finding that there had been a material change in circumstances that justified modifying Father’s visitation with the parties’ child; and (2) the circuit court did not err in deciding not to include the increase in the value of Father’s stock portfolio in the calculation of his child-support obligation and deciding not to impute additional income to Father. View "Dare v. Frost" on Justia Law