Articles Posted in Delaware Supreme Court

by
Gene Daskin, a Greek citizen residing in Greece, appealed two Delaware Family Court decisions finding subject matter jurisdiction over his wife's divorce petition and finding service of process on him was sufficient without requiring that service be properly made under the Hague Service Convention. The wife was a dual citizen of the United States and Greece. She was born in Wilmington and resided with her mother at her mother’s Wilmington home prior to the parties’ marriage. They married in Wilmington in 1990, and from then until November 2015, resided together in Greece. The husband contends that the time the wife has spent in Delaware since 2015 is temporary and for limited purposes. He contends she was not a resident of Delaware for the six months preceding the filing of her divorce petition. In his affidavit, the husband states that the wife pays taxes in Greece, has a Greek social security number, has a Greek identity card and has accounts in Greek banks. He also states that the wife continues to maintain a private marketing business out of their home in Greece. The husband’s position was that she was a resident of Greece, not Delaware. After review of the district court record, the Delaware Supreme Court determined the Family Court erred by dismissing the husband's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction: service of process was insufficient. The matter was remanded for the Family Court to vacate the divorce decree and for further proceedings. View "Daskin v. Knowles" on Justia Law

by
The Delaware Supreme Court granted review to an interlocutory appeal in a Family Court divorce proceeding. The wife, Gretchen Knowles, was a dual citizen of the United States and Greece. She was born in Wilmington and resided with her mother at her mother’s Wilmington home prior to the parties’ marriage. The respondent-husband, Gene Daskin, was a Greek citizen residing in Greece. The appeal came from the husband, raising two claims: (1) the Family Court erred in finding it had subject matter jurisdiction over the wife’s divorce petition because she was not a Delaware resident for six consecutive months prior to the filing of the petition; and (2) the Family Court erred in finding that service of process upon him was sufficient without requiring that service be properly made under the Hague Service Convention. After review, the Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the Family Court denying the husband’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Court reversed the denial of the husband’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction due to insufficiency of service of process. This matter was remanded to the Family Court to vacate the divorce decree, the trial Judge’s order of November 1, 2017 and the Commissioner’s order of August 8, 2017, and for further proceedings. View "Daskin v. Knowles" on Justia Law

by
Grandparents petitioned for third-party visitation rights, and the parents objected. The Family Court essentially found the parents’ objections were not unreasonable. The grandparents had attacked the parents on social media, disparaged their parenting abilities, demoralized their son (the father), and sought to meddle in the parents’ relationships with their children. Nonetheless, the court awarded the grandparents the right to visitation in a “supervised, therapeutic setting.” The court believed that visitation in such a controlled environment, and under the supervision of a trained professional, would minimize the parents’ concerns and render their objections “clearly unreasonable.” The Delaware Supreme Court determined the trial court record provided no basis for supporting the conclusion that therapeutic, supervised visitation would adequately address the reasonable objections of the parents. Furthermore, the Court found the grandparents presented no evidence to support a finding that therapeutic, supervised visitation would not substantially interfere with the parent-child relationship. Therefore, the Court held the Family Court abused its discretion in awarding visitation to the grandparents, and reversed its decision. View "Grant v. Grant" on Justia Law

by
With certain exceptions, a sex offender can rebut the presumption established by the Child Protection From Sex Offenders Act by demonstrating his compliance with the conditions in the statute. This appeal raised one issue: whether the Sex Offenders Act and its rebuttable presumption operated outside of Family Court custody proceedings. The Delaware Supreme Court concluded, as did the Family Court, that the General Assembly intended that the Act and its rebuttable presumption to operate only when the Family Court determines custody, residency, and visitation as part of a Family Court custody proceeding. The Court therefore affirmed the Family Court’s order. View "Division of Family Services v. O'Bryan" on Justia Law

by
At issue before the Supreme Court in this case was the Family Court’s determination that only one-third of a substantial bonus paid to Wife after separation but before divorce qualified as marital property. According to the Family Court, because two-thirds of the bonus payment was subject to forfeiture after the couple’s divorce, only one-third of the bonus was actually earned during the marriage and qualified as marital property. The Supreme Court reversed the Family Court’s decision because the entire bonus was earned during the marriage and qualified as marital property. “Although Wife’s bonus might have been subject to forfeiture post-divorce, it was nonetheless earned … during the marriage.” The case was remanded for the Family Court to determine how to equitably divide the full bonus amount. View "King v. Howard" on Justia Law

by
Wife Leslie Lankford appealed a family court order awarding her alimony. In an ancillary order, the family court found that Wife was dependent on her ex-husband, Evan Lankford, Jr. and therefore entitled to alimony. On reargument, the court recalculated Wife’s income and expenses and determined that Wife was not dependent on Husband for the purposes of alimony based solely on Wife’s monthly surplus of $260. She appealed. After review, the Supreme Court held that the family court abused its discretion by basing its dependency determination solely on one of the statutory factors provided in 13 Del. C. sec. 1512(c). Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded this case back to the family court for reconsideration of dependency in light of all relevant factors enumerated in Section 1512(c). View "Lankford v. Lankford" on Justia Law

by
Husband-appellant Alexander Jones appealed a Family Court order that entered the parties’ stipulation on property division, awarded wife-appellee Adriana Jones alimony, and ordered Husband to pay Wife an additional monthly amount for unpaid interim alimony. Husband also appealed another Family Court order denying the parties’ motions for reargument. After review of the arguments made on appeal, the Supreme Court found no merit to most of Husband’s contentions, but remanded on his claims regarding Wife’s medical and health insurance expenses. View "Jones v. Jones" on Justia Law

by
Husband Gary Glanden appealed a Family Court order dividing marital property and granting alimony to Wife Terry Quirk following their divorce after twenty-two years of marriage. The court divided the non-retirement assets 65% in Wife’s favor, and divided the remaining marital property equally. The court awarded alimony for an indefinite period.Husband argued the trial judge erred by including in the marital estate part of a January 2013 payment from his law firm received after the couple separated. Husband also claimed that the court abused its discretion by dividing the couple’s assets favorably to Wife, and in awarding Wife alimony. After review, the Supreme Court found that Husband’s argument about his law firm payment was at odds with the plain language of his employment agreement, where the disputed payment represented “the balance of [Husband’s] prior year’s base compensation,” and therefore was partially includable in the marital estate. The Court also found that Husband’s other arguments essentially asked for reconsideration of Family Court decisions which were amply supported by the evidence entered into the record. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the Family Court's decision. View "Glanden v. Quirk" on Justia Law

by
Dawn Locke, on behalf of minor appellant, Kimberly Foth, appealed a Superior Court final judgment in favor of Foth and minor appellee, John Barlow, III, and an order that granted Barlow's motion to enforce the parties' settlement agreement wherein Foth and Barlow would each receive $7,500. The Supreme Court had vacated the Superior Court's Order entering final judgment and remanded the case for a minors' settlement hearing. On remand, the Superior Court considered testimony from both minors and their mothers, and reviewed the minors' medical records. Then the court issued a Report on Remand in which determined that an equal division of the $15,000 settlement proceeds between the minors was fair and reasonable. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, finding that the Superior Court's focus should have been on whether the division of funds was fair (i.e., enforcing the settlement agreement: "Title 12, section 3926 mandates that court approval of a minor settlement always starts with a 'clean slate' by providing that no person dealing with the receiver of a minor can rely upon the receiver's authority to settle tort claims. The statute requires an independent judicial determination about whether the settlement agreement for a minor should be approved and specifically rejects the concept that such an agreement can be specifically enforced if the court has reservations." In this case, the record reflected that the Superior Court did not make an independent determination because it stated that, if it disregarded the settlement agreement and started on a "clean slate," it would have awarded Foth $10,000 instead of the $7,500 in the settlement agreement. View "Barlow, et al. v. Finegan, et al." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs-Appellees Carl and Pamela Morton filed a petition for guardianship against Defendant-Appellant Terry Hanson. An in-house attorney who did not carry malpractice insurance was appointed by the Family Court to represent Defendant. The Family Court certified a question to the Supreme Court concerning in-house attorneys appointed to represent indigent parties. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that in-house counsel appointed by the Family Court had qualified immunity under the Delaware Tort Claims Act. Furthermore, lack of malpractice insurance is not "good cause" for an attorney to withdraw from court-appointed representation. View "Hanson v. Morton" on Justia Law