Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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Twins P.T and E.T. were removed from Mother’s care by the Alameda County Social Services Agency in April 2014 when they were four months old. Mother has a history of mental health issues and drug addiction; E.T. was found unresponsive and not breathing on her living room couch. After more than a year of reunification services, the children were returned to Mother in October 2015 with family maintenance services. In February 2017, Mother told her social worker that she had relapsed into drug use and needed help. They came up with a safety plan: Mother would temporarily place the children with their godparents who had previously served as the foster parents. Mother did not immediately test negative for drugs and bickered with the godparents. The juvenile court bypassed reunification services to Mother because she was previously provided services and reunification was unsuccessful. The court ordered a hearing to terminate Mother’s parental rights. Ultimately, the juvenile court denied Mother's petition that asserted changed circumstances and terminated her parental rights with a finding her children are adoptable. The court of appeal reversed, calling this “the rare case where the juvenile court erred in failing to recognize that Mother’s relationship with her children outweighed the benefit to the children that would accrue from termination of parental rights and a plan of adoption.” Mother did the right thing when she informed her social worker that she was again using drugs and sought help. View "In re E.T." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Riverside County Department of Child Support Services (the County) filed a complaint against defendant-respondent Michael Lee Estabrook (Father), seeking $288 per month in child support, as well as any healthcare expenses, for J.L., Father’s alleged daughter, whose mother, J.L. (Mother), was receiving public assistance. Father requested and received a judgment of non-paternity, and dismissed the County’s complaint with prejudice. On appeal, the County argued: (1) the family court erred by not ordering genetic testing; (2) the family court’s decision to apply the marital presumption was not supported by substantial evidence; (3) the family court erred by permitting Father to assert the marital presumption because the presumption may only be raised by the spouses who are in the marriage; and (4) the family court’s finding of non-paternity was not supported by substantial evidence. The Court of Appeal determined the family court erred by not ordering genetic testing; the family court’s decision to apply the marital presumption was not supported by substantial evidence; and the family court’s judgment of non-paternity was not supported by substantial evidence. View "County of Riverside v. Estabrook" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Yaron Lief and real party in interest Pnina Nissan met in Israel in 2010. Nissan moved to San Diego and married Lief in 2011. They had a son in 2014. Lief filed a marital dissolution action against Nissan in 2017. The family court bifurcated the issue of custody and visitation, held a trial on Nissan's request to move with the child to Israel, and tentatively granted the request. The court ultimately entered a judgment granting Nissan's move-away request on November 7, 2018. After receiving notice from Nissan that she intended to depart for Israel with the child on November 22, Lief filed an ex parte application with the family court for an order preventing the move-away until after December 7, when the 30-day stay of the judgment granting the move-away request would have expired. The court ruled its August 10, 2018 order tentatively granting Nissan's move-away request started the stay period running, denied Lief's application on November 21, and ordered Lief to turn over the child to Nissan that evening. Lief petitioned the Court of Appeal for a writ of mandate and requested an immediate stay of the ex parte order purporting to allow Nissan to move to Israel with the child on November 22, 2018. The Court of Appeal found the family court erred when it ruled the 30-day statutory stay commenced with its August 10 decision, tentatively granting Nissan's move-away request: the court's oral statement of its decision at the end of the August 10 hearing was not a judgment or order. The period began to run when the family court filed the judgment granting Nissan's move-away request on November 7. "To correct the family court's error in ruling the stay began to run on August 10, 2018, issuance of a peremptory writ in the first instance is appropriate." View "Lief v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Two cases involving J.Y. were consolidated for this decision. In case No. C082548, appellant R.T., mother of minor J.Y., appealed a juvenile court’s order authorizing J.Y.’s removal from his previous caretakers and placement with the caretakers of his two siblings, minors Ja.Y. and Ju.Y., to be adopted through tribal customary adoption. In case No. C084428, mother appeals from the juvenile court’s order granting the Pit River Tribe’s (the Tribe) petitions for modification, giving full faith and credit to an amended tribal customary adoption order. R.T. contended removal and placement was not in the minor’s best interests, and that: (1) the Tribe did not have standing to file Welfare and Institutions Code section 3881 petitions for modification; and (2) the juvenile court acted beyond its authority in giving full faith and credit to the amended tribal customary adoption order because it had already given full faith and credit to the original tribal customary adoption order. The Court of appeal concluded that mother lacked standing to raise the placement issue on appeal and rejected the remaining contentions. View "In re J.Y." on Justia Law

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Stockird's handwritten will transferred “all my property and everything I may be entitled to inherit” to her life partner, Aguirre, and an aunt-by-marriage, Ambrose. The will did not include alternative provisions for disposition if either gift lapsed. Ambrose died before Stockird. After Stockird died, Aguirre sought a declaration that he is entitled to Stockird’s entire estate as the sole surviving residuary beneficiary under Probate Code 21111(b). Stockird’s halfbrother, Ramsden, argued the lapsed gift to Ambrose must pass to Stockird’s estate under section 21111(a)(3) and that as Stockird’s only surviving heir, he is entitled to Ambrose’s share under the laws of intestacy. The probate court agreed with Ramsden. The court of appeal reversed, finding that the trial court misinterpreted section 21111(b). The definition of “transferee” as kindred in section 21110(c) applies to section 21110, but the more general definition of “transferee,” as a “beneficiary, donee, or other recipient of an interest transferred by an instrument,” applies in section 21111(b). Given the clear intent of the Legislature to abolish the “no residue of a residue” rule and avoid intestacy, the 35 percent lapsed gift does not go to Stockird’s estate under section 21111(a)(3), but, subject to determination of Ambrose's descendants' reformation petition, must pass to Aguirre under section 21111(b). View "Estate of Stockird" on Justia Law

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D.C. (Husband) appealed an order granting a petition for modification of spousal support filed by his former spouse T.C. (Wife). The trial court found that a significant increase in Wife's earnings since the last spousal support order amounted to "changed circumstances," and on that basis reduced her support payments to Husband. Husband argued on appeal: (1) the parties' reasonable expectations as expressed in their dissolution agreements contemplated that an increase in Wife's salary would not constitute changed circumstances; (2) the parties intended there would be no cap on additional spousal support irrespective of Wife's earnings; (3) the court improperly found the spousal support provisions ambiguous; and (4) the court's Family Code section 4320 analysis was flawed because it mistakenly treated Husband's income as taxable at the time of separation. The Court of Appeal found substantial evidence supported the trial court's finding of changed circumstances sufficient to justify reduction of the additional spousal support paid by Wife. However, the Court found the trial court erred when fashioning the specific modification, it failed to consider the parties' reasonable expectations as expressed in their dissolution agreement that Wife's earnings would continue to increase. The Court therefore reversed and remanded for modification of Wife's spousal support obligations for further consideration. View "Marriage of T.C. and D.C." on Justia Law

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Shauna R. appealed an order terminating parental rights to her son, Cody R., contending the order should have been reversed because the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (Agency) did not give preferential consideration to relatives when determining Cody's placement. After considering the parties' supplemental briefing on the issue of standing, the Court of Appeal concluded Shauna did not have standing to appeal the order terminating parental rights. "A parent's appeal from a judgment terminating parental rights confers standing to appeal an order concerning the dependent child's placement only if the placement order's reversal advances the parent's argument against terminating parental rights." Shauna overlooked the fact she did not challenge on appeal the court's finding there were no exceptions to termination of parental rights. "She alludes to the possibility that if Cody had been placed in the care of a relative, the relative would not have been able to adopt and the court would have ordered a permanency plan of guardianship, thus preserving Shauna's parental rights. Speculation about a hypothetical situation is not sufficient to support standing." Furthermore, the Court found the record did not support Shauna's claims there were relatives willing to provide a home to Cody and the Agency failed to apply the relative placement preference. In not bringing the placement issue to the juvenile court's attention at any time during Cody's dependency proceedings, Shauna has forfeited the issue on appeal. View "In re Cody R." on Justia Law

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In 2014, Martindale obtained a three-year domestic violence prevention restraining order (Fam. Code 6200) against Ochoa, the father of her then five-year-old daughter. Before the order was set to expire, she sought permanent renewal of the order. Following a hearing, the trial court denied the request, finding she had not shown “ ‘reasonable apprehension’ of future abuse.” The court of appeal affirmed. Although Martindale’s 2014 testimony plainly supported the issuance of the original restraining order, collateral estoppel does not apply. As the trial court stated: The granting of the original restraining order does not confirm that this Court made a finding that every allegation made by [Martindale] was true, but that this court found a sufficient factual basis to determine that spousal abuse had occurred.” The “issue” decided in the prior proceeding was whether Martindale established a basis for issuance of a restraining order, not whether all the incidents to which she testified were true. View "Marriage of Martindale & Ochoa" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal reversed the juvenile court's jurisdictional order asserting that the children fell under Welfare and Institutions Code section 300, subdivision (b), but finding no substantial risk of serious harm to the children from the parents' actions. At the dispositional phase, the juvenile court returned the children to the custody of the parents, finding that the parents did not constitute "any kind of risk to the children." The court held that the juvenile court failed to make the findings required by statute finding that the children were at substantial risk of serious harm. View "In re Israel T." on Justia Law

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In a child custody proceeding arising under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), the Court of Appeal held that the trial court erred by granting mother's motion to quash temporary emergency orders on child custody and visitation. The trial court had found that a Belarus residency action was a child custody proceeding within the meaning of the UCCJEA, and the Belarus court had jurisdiction substantially in conformity with the UCCJEA. The court held that the UCCJEA mandates that before a child custody determination is made, notice and an opportunity to be heard must be given to all persons entitled to notice. In this case, father received no notice of the Belarus action, and notice was not given in a manner reasonably calculated to give actual notice. Therefore, the Belarus court did not have jurisdiction in conformity with UCCJEA standards. The court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "W.M. v. V.A." on Justia Law