Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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A.J. and R.G. were the parents of three children, then-aged ten, nine and seven years old. In November 2011, A.J. was arrested and deported to Mexico after he assaulted R.G. R.G. obtained an order prohibiting A.J. from having contact with her and the children. After A.J. was deported, the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (Agency) investigated 13 child protective services referrals on behalf of the children. The referrals were largely related to R.G.'s alcohol use and failure to supervise the children. In February 2013, October 2013, and February 2014, the Agency substantiated allegations that R.G. was neglecting the children. In October 2015, the Agency detained the children in protective custody and initiated dependency proceedings after an "extremely intoxicated" R.G. was arrested and jailed on charges of grand theft. A.J. appealed after a 12-month review hearing at which the juvenile court returned his children to their mother's care. He contended the court erred when it found that he had been offered or provided reasonable services. The Court of Appeal agreed and reversed the reasonable services finding as to A.J. In all other respects, the findings and orders were affirmed. View "In re A.G." on Justia Law

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Family Code section 271 does not authorize the court to award sanctions to non-parties, but rather is intended to promote settlement of family law litigation through shifting fees between the parties to the litigation. In this case, the Court of Appeal agreed that the trial court was without authority to award sanctions to respondents because they were not parties to this action. The court reasoned that sanctions may not be awarded under section 271 to a party's attorney when it was that attorney who was requesting the sanctions for the sole benefit of the attorney. Accordingly, the court reversed the order for sanctions. View "Webb v. Webb" on Justia Law

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About four months before his 20th birthday, defendant-appellant Jesse S. filed, in propria persona, a request under section 388.1 of the Welfare and Institutions Code to return to juvenile court jurisdiction and the foster care system, because the couple who adopted him the day before his 18th birthday was no longer supporting him, even though they were receiving payments on his behalf from California’s Adoption Assistance Program (AAP). The judge denied the request, noting that under the literal language of section 388.1 the very fact the couple were still receiving AAP payments on Jesse’s behalf precluded Jesse from reentry into the juvenile dependency system. The Court of Appeal "reluctantly" affirmed: the trial judge understood the plain language of the statue and concluded there was no question Jesse’s adoptive parents were still collecting adoption assistance program payments on Jesse’s behalf, the judge was forced to conclude Jesse was not eligible for reentry under the statute. View "In re Jesse S." on Justia Law

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Notwithstanding the parties’ stipulated retroactivity provision, the California Court of Appeals concluded the trial court erred in awarding Russell Stover a child care credit for any period before May 10, 2011, when he filed his motion to modify support, because any such credits effectively modified the support award and incurred arrearages retroactively in contravention of the Family Code statutes governing modification of support orders. Furthermore, the Court concluded that while Eileen Bruntz failed to timely challenge an April 2007 order containing the stipulated retroactivity provision, public policy considerations precluded the Court of Appeal from judicially estopping her from challenging the order now. Bruntz and respondent Stover shared two children and years of acrimony-fueled court contests following the demise of their romantic relationship. Bruntz challenged several orders related to Stover’s alleged failure over the ensuing years to fully pay $1,000 in monthly child support under an April 2007 support order, which contained a contested stipulated retroactivity provision. View "Stover v. Bruntz" on Justia Law

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As part of their 2010 marital settlement agreement, respondent Misti Janes (Wife) was awarded $113,392 from the retirement account of appellant Tim Janes (Husband). In 2014, the money was still in the retirement account. Wife sought the amount of the award, plus and gains or losses resulting from that money sitting in the account. The family court granted Wife’s request for a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) reflecting Wife was entitled to $113,392 and the resulting gains or losses dating back to the date of separation. Husband appealed, arguing: (1) the family court lacked jurisdiction to modify the 2010 judgment of dissolution by awarding the gains and losses to Wife; and (2) the family court erred by dating the gains and losses back to the date of separation, rather than the date of the dissolution judgment. Finding that Husband failed to explain why he was entitled to gains earned on the$113,392, the Court of Appeal was unpersuaded by Husband's interpretation of the agreement. The trial court did not modify the agreement by its award, nor did it err by dating the gains or losses earned on the award back to the state of the 2010 judgment. View "Marriage of Janes" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Stupp filed a petition for the dissolution of his marriage to Schilders. Since then, the parties have been involved in contentious legal proceedings. A stipulated judgment of dissolution was entered in 2014, but custody of the parties’ child, who was just a few months old when the original petition was filed, remains subject to temporary orders. Schilders appealed several family court orders: giving Stupp temporary sole legal custody of the child, requiring that only the parents transport the child to his therapy appointments, continuing a custody trial, requiring Schilders to undergo a vocational evaluation, and reserving jurisdiction over the allocation of the cost of the evaluation. The court of appeal concluded that the family court abused its discretion in ordering the vocational evaluation when there was no support motion pending, and dismissed the appeal as to the remaining orders because they are not appealable. View "Marriage of Stupp and Schilders" on Justia Law

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As part of marital dissolution proceedings, appellant Valerie Grissom sought a domestic violence restraining order against her husband, respondent Louis Grissom. The trial court denied the request. On appeal, Valerie contended the court erred by concluding that because her injuries were suffered during and as a result of physical confrontations she instigated, they did not constitute " 'abuse' " within the meaning of Family Code section 6203. The Court of Appeal found that although section 6203 defined abuse to include an intentionally or recklessly caused bodily injury to the complainant, a finding of abuse was not mandated merely because the complainant shows he or she suffered an injury caused by the other party. The Court concluded the trial court properly recognized that a person who responded reasonably to an aggressor in this way did not commit abuse within the meaning of section 6203. View "Marriage of Grissom" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal reversed the juvenile court's jurisdiction and disposition orders because, even assuming Daughter was at substantial risk of harm, the juvenile court erred in asserting dependency over her. Substantial evidence does not support a finding that Father was somehow unfit to parent or neglectful with respect to caring for Daughter; despite Father's best efforts, Daughter's own behavior and mental health challenges resulted in her risk of harm; and Daughter does not fall within any of the categories of children the dependency system seeks to protect. View "In re Priscilla A." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against her three siblings, on behalf of her 88-year-old mother. Plaintiff claimed that her siblings' actions individually and while serving as trustees of her mother's revocable living trust constituted financial abuse of an elder or dependent adult. The siblings demurred. The mother, separately represented by counsel, intervened and joined the demurrer to the amended complaint. The trial court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend and dismissed the elder abuse action on standing grounds. The court concluded that the trial court did not err in ruling that plaintiff lacked standing to bring the elder abuse action because she has not be personally aggrieved by her siblings' actions. The court rejected plaintiff's claims to the contrary and affirmed the judgment. View "Tepper v. Wilkins" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-parents Gabrielle A. and Nicholas G., and John A. and Gregory A. (the children) appealed a judgment following the trial court’s decision to grant a motion for summary judgment by the County of Orange (the County) and several social workers. Plaintiffs’ claims related to the detention of the children for six months. Gabrielle went into early labor, and gave birth at Hoag Hospital to Gregory at 31 weeks. Three days later, Gabrielle was released, and she returned to her mother Barbara’s home. Gregory remained in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). A few days later, Hoag employees filed a referral for an immediate response from the Orange County Social Services Agency (SSA). Hoag staff reported to Villa that Gabrielle had appeared at Hoag with John and Barbara, wearing a trench coat with nothing on underneath, displaying “irrational and aggressive behavior,” including removing the trench coat and walking around unclothed. She had previously asked for Gregory to be placed back inside of her, and she asked a nurse to cut her ankles for blood letting. According to staff, she attempted to wheel Gregory’s isolette out of the NICU and became violent with them. Hospital employees informed Villa that Gabrielle had expressed thoughts of hurting her children and demonstrated paranoia. Gabrielle disputed this version of events, but did not dispute that she was placed on a hospital hold pending evaluation. The trial court found that exigent circumstances existed to detain the children without a warrant at Hoag, and that Nicholas’s arrival at Hoag after the children were detained did not alter matters; there was no evidence to show conduct by the social workers to establish a claim for deliberate indifference, or behavior that shocks the conscience; the social workers were entitled to immunity because there was no evidence of material false statements; numerous claims by the plaintiffs were barred by the parents’ pleas of no contest in dependency court. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded that the parents’ knowing and voluntary pleas of no contest to the jurisdictional allegations during dependency proceedings defeated their claims, and the social workers were entitled to immunity. “[E]ven if we were to disregard the no contest pleas and the relevant immunity doctrines, defendants correctly argue they met their burden to establish they were entitled to summary judgment on each cause of action, and plaintiffs failed to raise triable issues of material fact. Accordingly, we affirm.” View "Gabrielle A. v. Co. of Orange" on Justia Law