Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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Appellant Molly Kent challenged a specific ruling of the family court on her request to modify a child custody and child support order issued by a North Carolina court. The family court granted in part and denied in part the appellant's request, without first determining whether the California court had jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). Accordingly, without reaching the merits of the arguments related to the substantive ruling on appeal, the California Court of Appeal reversed the order because, based on the record before the family court at the time it ruled, the court lacked jurisdiction to modify the North Carolina order. View "In re Marriage of Kent" on Justia Law

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In this dissolution proceeding, Stephanie George appeals an order requiring her to pay $10,000 in sanctions pursuant to Family Code section 271 to her ex-husband Daniel Deamon after Deamon was required to file a motion for entry of judgment pursuant to the terms of the parties' settlement. George contends that the family court erred by awarding sanctions without considering any oral testimony, relying instead on documents submitted in support of the sanctions motion. The Court of Appeal concluded George's argument lacked merit, and accordingly affirm the order. View "In re Marriage of George & Deamon" on Justia Law

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Recognizing she suffered from addiction, S.D. (mother) agreed to let her ex-husband, E.D. (father), assume full custody of their two daughters, who had previously lived primarily with her, until she could get clean and sober. She underwent treatment, and 14 months later, sought to regain partial custody in family court. About a week after mother filed for custody, father’s wife, J.D. (stepmother), filed petitions to free the girls from mother’s custody and control based on abandonment, so stepmother could adopt them. The trial court granted the petitions and terminated mother’s parental rights. The court concluded mother had abandoned her daughters because she had failed to communicate with or financially support them for at least one year. Mother argued on appeal the evidence was insufficient to support the court’s ruling, and the Court of Appeal agreed. Under Family Code section 7822 (a)(3), a parent abandons their child when they leave the child with the other parent for a year, with no communication or financial support, “with the intent . . . to abandon the child.” Mother’s failure to communicate with and financially support her daughters was not due to any intent on her part to abandon her daughters. "Indeed, mother did the opposite of abandon her children, she diligently treated her addictions before trying to regain custody." Because the record contained uncontradicted evidence of her abiding desire and plan to reunify with her children, judgment terminating her parental rights was reversed. View "In re H.D." on Justia Law

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The County of San Diego Department of Child Support Services (the Department) challenged an order denying its request for establishment of child support against C.A. (Mother), for her daughter J.H. J.H. lived in Maryland with her paternal grandmother, who had sole legal and physical custody. The Department contended the court's denial incorrectly applied California Family Code section 3951(a) which eliminated a parent's obligation to pay child support when a relative voluntarily voluntarily supported the parent's child and there was no compensation agreement between the parties. The Department contended the grandmother's custody status in this case was not "voluntary" as that term was used in the statute. The Court of Appeal agreed with the Department and vacated the order. View "County of San Diego Dept. of Child Support Services v. C.A." on Justia Law

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A wife sought a domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) against her husband for violating the temporary restraining order (TRO) a trial court had issued against the husband eight months earlier. The court denied the DVRO on the ground that a technical violation of a TRO was not an act of domestic violence. In reversing the trial court, the Court of Appeal found that under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act, abuse included behaviors that were enjoined by a TRO, and was not limited to acts inflicting physical injury, thus making the wife’s assertion her husband’s specific acts entitled her to a DVRO. The Court remanded the case for the trial court to make necessary findings regarding whether the acts alleged by the wife actually occurred and, if they did, the court was mandated to enter the DVRO as requested. View "N.T. v. H.T." on Justia Law

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After plaintiff's administrative claim for an increase in the family's adoption assistance program (AAP) payments based on California State Foster Parent Assn. v. Wagner, (9th Cir. 2010) 624 F.3d 974, 978, was denied, the trial court granted his petition for writ of mandate. The Court of Appeal reversed and held that the foster care maintenance payment rate increases mandated by Wagner and California State Foster Parent Assn. v. Lightbourne, (N.D. Cal., May 27, 2011, No. C 07-05086 WHA) 2011 U.S.Dist. Lexis 57483, *8, do not apply retroactively to plaintiff's adopted children. The court explained that the California Legislature specifically amended Welfare and Institutions Code section 16121 to confirm that initial adoption assistance agreements that predated Lighthouse were not subject to the new rate structure. View "California Department of Social Services v. Marin" on Justia Law

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This case presented two issues for the Court of Appeals' review: (1) whether the nonmarital biological child of an absentee father who never openly held her out as his own have standing under Code of Civil Procedure section 377.60 to sue for his wrongful death if she failed to obtain a court order declaring paternity during his lifetime?; and (2) if she did not have standing, did section 377.60 violate the state or federal equal protection clauses? Upon the specific facts of this case, the Court concluded the child did not have standing, and there was no equal protection violation. "We cannot imagine the Legislature intended to confer wrongful death standing on a child who had no relationship whatsoever with the decedent to the exclusion of the decedent’s other family members with whom he did have a relationship." View "Stennett v. Miller" on Justia Law

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In 1986, Mother’s first child was detained at birth after mother and child tested positive for marijuana and cocaine. The pattern continued for 30 years: each of Mother’s six children would be removed from her care—sometimes several times—based on Mother's substance abuse, inability to care for her children, and domestic violence in the household. Caden, born in 2009, was taken into protective custody in 2013 and was diagnosed with disruptive behavior disorder and PTSD, with symptoms of aggression, impairment of social relationships, tantrums, regressions, and emotional dysregulation. Mother failed to take advantage of numerous services. The juvenile court determined that Mother had established a beneficial relationship with Caden (Juvenile Code section 366.26(c)(1)(B)(i)), sufficient to justify a permanent plan of long-term foster care rather than the statutorily preferred plan of adoption. The court of appeal reversed. Reliance on the beneficial relationship exception was an abuse of discretion. While Caden had a beneficial relationship with his mother, uncontroverted evidence established that long-term foster care posed risks of further destabilizing the vulnerable child, fostered unhealthy interactions, and robbed Caden of a stable and permanent home with an exceptional caregiver. Caden has suffered years of trauma and instability as a result of Mother’sunresolved substance abuse and mental health issues; her failure to seek treatment continued up to the permanency planning hearing. View "In re Caden C." on Justia Law

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Penovatz and Rothert dissolved their marriage in 2006. Penovatz was to pay child support for Christopher, born in 1997, based on Penovatz having 69 percent timeshare with Christopher, and Rothert having 31 percent. The court ordered both parties to maintain health insurance coverage for Christopher. In 2007, the court modified Penovatz’s child support obligation, such that he owed $400 per month, based on the same time share percentages. Christopher’s primary residence was with Penovatz in Hollister. In 2010-2011, Rothert began living with Look in Carmel Valley; the two did not have a formal agreement requiring Rothert to contribute to living expenses. In 2011, Penovatz and Rothert agreed to change the custody arrangement so that Rothert and Look’s home became Christopher’s primary residence; they disagree as to whether they reached an agreement regarding child support. Apparently, statutory child support would have been over $1,500 per month. Penovatz continued to pay $400 per month and provide health insurance through Christopher's high school graduation. Look later testified that he was concerned Penovatz would detain Christopher, or remove Christopher to Serbia if Rothert persisted in seeking increased support. In 2015, Look sought reimbursement under Family Code section 39501 for funds he expended for Christopher. The court of appeal affirmed the rejection of his claim. Penovatz satisfied his child support obligation under the law. View "Look v. Penovatz" on Justia Law

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In January 2013, the family court ordered respondent C.P. to pay monthly child support. From September 2013, through August 2017, C.P. was incarcerated in federal prison. Less than a month after his release, C.P. promptly filed a request for the court to adjust the child support arrears that accrued during his incarceration—which the parties and the family court handled under the then-current Family Code section 4007.5. (Stats. 2015, ch. 629, sec. 2, eff. Oct. 8, 2015). The court granted C.P.'s request over the objection of appellant San Diego County Department of Child Support Services (Department) The Court of Appeal determined the family court erred as a matter of law in granting C.P.'s request: “Given the unambiguous language in current section 4007.5 and the timing of C.P.'s child support order, incarceration, and request for adjustment of arrears, the statutory relief awarded is unavailable to C.P. under current section 4007.5.” Subdivision (f) expressly provided that the statute applied only to child support orders issued on or after October 8, 2015, and C.P.'s child support order under consideration was issued in January 2013. Furthermore, contrary to the family court's stated reasons, at the time of the repeal of former section 4007.5 (Stats. 2010, ch. 495, sec. 1), C.P. did not have a vested statutory right to have his support order adjusted, and current section 4007.5 did not contain a saving clause pursuant to which former section 4007.5 could have provided statutory protection for incarcerated child support obligors like C.P. However, the Court determined C.P.'s request could be read to have sought the adjustment in child support arrears under former section 4007.5, which was repealed as of July 1, 2015; but the parties did not brief and the trial court did not consider whether former section 4007.5 contains a saving clause that provides C.P. with a statutory basis on which to have obtained the requested relief. Accordingly, the Court of Appeal reversed the order granting C.P.'s request and remanded with directions to consider, as appropriate based on briefing to be requested, whether former section 4007.5 included a saving clause that allowed its application to C.P.'s request and, if so, whether C.P. made a sufficient showing for relief. View "County of San Diego Dept. of Child Support Services v. C.P." on Justia Law