Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
by
The Court of Appeal held that the juvenile court erred in denying grandmother de facto parent status, and compounded the error by refusing to allow grandmother an opportunity to present evidence or argument at the purported "hearing" on the Welfare and Institutions Code section 387 petition. The court rejected respondent's argument that the appeal was moot, because a decision in this appeal could affect grandmother's visitation with the children, as well as her ability to effectively parent the adopted son still in her custody. Accordingly, the court reversed the juvenile court's order sustaining the section 387 petition. View "In re Justin O." on Justia Law

by
Patricia petitioned for the dissolution of her marriage to Thomas in 2001. A dissolution judgment entered in 2002; a judgment on reserved issues entered in 2008. In 2005, trial court Commissioner Oleon determined, based Thomas’s conduct in the dissolution proceedings and two separate civil actions, that Thomas was a vexatious litigant, and issued an order, prohibiting him from filing any new litigation or motion in propria persona without obtaining leave of the presiding judge. Thomas was also ordered to cover Patricia's attorney fees. In 2006, Thomas unsuccessfully moved (Code of Civil Procedure 170.1) to have Oleon disqualified. Weeks later, Thomas filed another section 170.1 challenge; the court failed to timely respond. Months later, notwithstanding his disqualification, Oleon reentered his previous vexatious litigant orders, effective from 7/29/05 because, when entering his original orders, he neglected to file a mandatory form. In 2018, Thomas complained to the presiding judge regarding Oleon’s post-disqualification involvement. The court issued an order to show cause, then reaffirmed that Thomas qualifies as a vexatious litigant and reimposed the pre-filing order. The court of appeal affirmed, noting that “Thomas appears to have used the opportunity ... to make implicit threats against various members of the California judiciary and State Bar.” The court upheld the 2018 orders as supported by substantial evidence and rejected an argument that a nonplaintiff litigant cannot be designated a vexatious litigant. View "Marriage of Deal" on Justia Law

by
The parties were married for 21 years before seeking dissolution. Both are physicians; they met in medical school. The trial court denied Wife’s request for spousal support orders because she suffered criminal convictions for acts of domestic violence against Husband and had not overcome the rebuttable presumption set forth in Family Code section 43251 against an award of support to a spouse convicted of domestic violence. The court of appeal affirmed, finding substantial evidence to support the trial court’s factual determinations, The court also upheld the characterization of post-separation payments Husband made to Wife by depositing $10,000 into a joint account for Wife’s use in lieu of temporary spousal support, pursuant to the agreement of the parties. The court of appeal rejected an argument that the trial court did not have jurisdiction over temporary spousal support at the time of the trial and did not have jurisdiction to make retroactive orders and that the trial court erred when it found the deposits taxable to Wife and deductible by Husband. View "In re: Marriage of Brewster and Clevenger" on Justia Law

by
The parties married in 2004. Husband filed a dissolution petition in 2016. The trial court held a hearing on property division and permanent spousal support and ordered Wife to transfer half of the funds then in a brokerage account to Husband and ordering Husband to pay directly to Wife his one-half share of the debt owed to her relatives on their loan to the marital community. The court of appeal affirmed. In its order, the trial court listed all of the factors under Family Code section 4320 and stated its findings for each. It considered the parties’ employment and earning histories, earning capacities, assets, obligations, and standard of living in Silicon Valley, and the length of the marriage. The court found that Wife’s “efforts [to find a job] were not appropriately and fully focused.” Only after the court imputed income to her did she “resume work ... just slightly above the imputed earnings rate.” The court concluded that she can obtain a higher-paying position with a potential salary commensurate with what she had earned several years earlier. The findings provide sufficient rationale for the amount and duration of the award. View "In re: Marriage of Grimes and Mou" on Justia Law

by
The issues presented by this appeal for the Court of Appeal’s review arose in the procedural context of an anti-SLAPP motion brought by Tamara Kinsella, in defendant Kevin Kinsella’s malicious prosecution complaint. Shortly after Tamara initiated dissolution of marriage proceedings against Kevin, Tamara sued Kevin based on what she contended was his promise, prior to their marriage, that the property and income they acquired during their relationship would belong equally to both of them (Marvin Action). After Tamara voluntarily dismissed the Marvin Action, Kevin sued her for malicious prosecution in the present action. Seeking to have Kevin's malicious prosecution complaint stricken as a SLAPP, Tamara responded with an anti-SLAPP motion. In her effort to establish that Kevin could not show she lacked probable cause to prosecute the Marvin Action, Tamara relied on an interim adverse judgment rule: She (1) presented evidence that the trial court in the Marvin Action denied Kevin's motion for summary judgment, and (2) argued that this interim victory on Kevin's summary judgment motion precluded Kevin from establishing that Tamara lacked the requisite probable cause to file and prosecute the Marvin Action. In opposition, Kevin relied on the fraud exception to the interim adverse judgment rule: He argued that, because Tamara defeated Kevin's summary judgment motion in the Marvin Action by having submitted materially false facts on which the court relied in denying the motion, Tamara was not entitled to rely on the interim adverse judgment rule's presumption that resulted from the denial of his summary judgment motion in the Marvin Action. The trial court ruled that the malicious prosecution complaint was a SLAPP and struck it. Kevin appealed, arguing the trial court erred in determining that he did not establish the requisite probability of prevailing on the merits of his claim against Tamara. The Court of Appeal concurred with Kevin’s argument and reversed. View "Kinsella v. Kinsella" on Justia Law

by
Probate Code section 1825 required that a conservatee consent to the appointment of the proposed conservator or a showing had to be made that she was unable or unwilling to attend the hearing. Mother appealed the trial court's order denying her petition to be appointed conservator of her 26-year-old autistic daughter, A.E., and the trial court's sua sponte order appointing the Ventura County Public Guardian as the permanent limited conservator of A.E.'s person. The Court of Appeal reversed, holding that the trial court failed to make the requisite finding that A.E. did not want to attend the hearing, or could not be produced for the hearing due to medical inability, or that her appearance was likely to cause serious and immediate physiological damage. View "Conservatorship of A.E." on Justia Law

by
Parties Rosalinda and George Deluca appealed a trial court’s division of martial property and other matters, including spousal support. During the marriage, George's sister transferred to him title to an apartment complex referred to in this case as the "Florida Street property." Rosalinda contended the trial court erred in ruling the Florida Street property was George's separate property rather than community property. George had custody of the parties' two children and contended the court erred by awarding Rosalinda spousal support in an amount greater than his total net income available to support the children. Specifically, he argued the court erred by including the amount of monthly loan principal payments he is required to make on his income-producing properties as income available for spousal support. In the unpublished portion of its opinion, the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court with respect to Florida Street as George’s separate property, and remanded with directions to determine the amount of reimbursement credit to which George is entitled for Florida Street, as well as to consider George's new contention that he should be awarded a fractional separate property interest in the property. In the published portion of its opinion, the Court also reversed the spousal support award and directed the trial court to reconsider the amount of support after determining the extent to which George's loan principal payments reasonably and legitimately reduced his income for purposes of support. View "Marriage of Deluca" on Justia Law

by
Following a child custody hearing in January 2017, the trial court entered an order giving Mother sole custody. In June 2017, Father filed an unsuccessful request to set aside that order. Weeks later, he filed a second unsuccessful request to modify the order. The trial court denied Mother’s request for section 271 sanctions. Months later, she again sought sanctions relating to the June 2017 motion. Father filed an objection but did not challenge the motion on the basis of timeliness. The court ordered Father to pay $10,000 in section 271 sanctions. Father sought reconsideration, arguing for the first time that the sanction request was untimely under California Rules of Court, rule 3.1702(b). The trial court denied the motion and awarded Mother $3,000 in attorney fee sanctions for having to defend the ex parte motion for reconsideration. The court of appeal affirmed. Rule 3.1702(b) states: “A notice of motion to claim attorney’s fees for services up to and including the rendition of judgment in the trial court—including attorney’s fees on an appeal before the rendition of judgment in the trial court—must be served and filed within the time for filing a notice of appeal.” The timing of a notice of appeal is based on the entry of judgment. The sanctions at issue were awarded for attorney fees incurred after entry of the January 2017 judgment; rule 3.1702 does not apply. View "George v. Shams-Shirazi" on Justia Law

by
After seven-year-old D.P. was removed from his mother's physical custody and returned home to father's custody, mother appealed the removal order under Welfare and Institutions Code section 361, subdivision (e). The Court of Appeal held that the juvenile court failed to state the facts supporting removal, and that there was a reasonable probability that the juvenile court would have adopted the alternative to removal specified in section 361, subdivision (c)(1)(A) had it considered the option. In regard to mother's challenge regarding the parts of the disposition order restricting her to monitored visitation and requiring her to participate in a full drug and alcohol treatment program, the court held that the juvenile court reasonably exercised its discretion to impose visitation restrictions and services. Accordingly, the court reversed the removal portion of the disposition order and affirmed in all other respects. View "In re D.P." on Justia Law

by
J.M., born in 2010, suffered an accident when he was 10 months old. Since the accident J.M. has resided at Children’s Hospital, suffering from anoxic brain injury, epilepsy, developmental delays, and bone disorders. He has gastrostomy and tracheal tubes and is nonverbal. In 2017, the Hospital declared him medically cleared for discharge, provided that two adults be trained as caregivers. J.M.’s father had never visited him; his mother’s visits were infrequent. The Santa Clara County Department of Family and Children’s Service filed a petition alleging that his parents were unwilling and/or unable to care for him and that they had a history of substance abuse. The Department recommended permanent legal guardianship by J.M.’s grandmother, who visited J.M. regularly and with whom J.M. had a positive emotional bond. J.M.’s siblings were also in her care. Grandmother completed some but not all of the training to care for J.M.; she had no plans to obtain accessible housing. Grandmother was not seeking placement of J.M. in her home. J.M. opposed the plan, arguing that the court lacked authority to appoint grandmother as legal guardian without him being in her physical custody and that the plan was not in his best interest because it would relieve the Department of any obligation to find a less restrictive placement. The court of appeal affirmed the adoption of the Department’s recommendation. Continued residence at the hospital may not be optimal, but grandmother is committed to J.M’s best interest and supports moving him to a suitable permanent care facility should that become available. The court asked the Department to continue to look for more permanent placement, View "In re J.M." on Justia Law