Articles Posted in Delaware Supreme Court

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Appellant-father Garrett Irwin appealed a Family Court order granting appellee-mother Jenny Shelby sole custody and primary residential placement of their two children. Father argued: (1) the Family Court abused its discretion by siding with the mother’s treating psychologist instead of relying on the expert requested by the father; and (2) the Family Court’s order granting sole custody and primary placement to the mother was against the weight of the evidence and an abuse of discretion. According to Father, the court drew all inferences in Mother’s favor, minimized her mental health and substance abuse issues while giving undue weight to Father’s history of drug use, ignored the mother’s role in their physical altercations, and was generally biased against him. Furthermore, Father expressed concern the Family Court judge was biased in favor of Mother. Although it might have weighed the evidence differently and come to a different conclusion, the Delaware Supreme Court found the Family Court’s factual determinations were adequately supported by the record, thus affirming its judgment. View "Irwin v. Shelby" on Justia Law

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In 1997, David Silverman (“Husband”) and Michelle Silverman (“Wife”) signed a premarital agreement covering their financial affairs if they divorced or died. They married in 1997 and divorced in 2015. In the post-divorce property settlement, Husband sought to enforce the premarital agreement. The Family Court applied the statute governing premarital agreements and found that, although Wife voluntarily entered into the agreement, the disparity in wealth made the agreement unconscionable. Also, according to the Family Court, Husband failed to provide a fair and reasonable disclosure of his property or financial obligations before Wife signed the agreement. The court refused to enforce the agreement. The Delaware Supreme Court accepted Husband’s interlocutory appeal of the Family Court’s order, and determined under the premarital agreement statute, unconscionability alone did not invalidate a premarital agreement. Wife also had to prove that Husband did not provide a fair and reasonable disclosure of his property or financial obligations. Because the Family Court erred when it found Husband’s financial disclosure insufficient, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded to the Family Court to enforce the premarital agreement. View "Silverman v. Silverman" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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