Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil
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Terry and Xiomara Robirds married in Taos, New Mexico in 2004. Prior to the marriage, Terry worked for Halliburton and ConocoPhillips. He participated in employer sponsored retirement plans with both employers. In 2007, Terry and Xiomara purchased a residence in Rigby, Idaho. Xiomara’s name was not listed on the warranty deed, and she executed a quitclaim deed to Terry on June 4, 2007. The seller issued a warranty deed to Terry on June 6, 2007. Xiomara filed for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences in September 2016, and Terry counterclaimed on the same grounds. Xiomara was not proficient in English. The parties attended mediation with a Spanish speaking mediator for Xiomara and reached a partial agreement as to custody, support, and visitation for their only child, but did not resolve the issue of property distribution. Then prior to trial, the parties reached a settlement regarding property division. The record was not clear as to whether Xiomara had an interpreter during the negotiations that resulted in the Property Settlement. Xiomara claimed she did not. Terry averred a Spanish speaking mediator was assigned but did not specifically allege that an interpreter was present during the negotiations which led to the Property Settlement. The divorce decree, entered August 2017 (“Decree”), incorporated the Property Settlement as Exhibit B. Terry appealed the district court’s decision on intermediate appeal, which affirmed the decision of the magistrate court to: (1) set aside a stipulated judgment regarding property distribution; and (2) characterize all of Terry’s retirement accounts as community property, to be divided equally as of the date of divorce. On appeal, Terry argued that the district court erred in affirming the magistrate court’s rulings and in failing to award Terry attorney fees on intermediate appeal. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirm the district court. View "Robirds v. Robirds" on Justia Law

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After Anne Herr petitioned for divorce from John Herr, John asserted that two investment accounts opened during the marriage were his separate property. The magistrate court disagreed, finding that separate and community property had been commingled in the accounts, triggering the presumption that all assets in the accounts were community property. Because John did not present an argument to rebut this presumption, the magistrate court ordered the accounts divided equally between the parties. The district court affirmed the magistrate court’s decision on intermediate appeal. John argued to the Vermont Supreme Court that the district court’s decision should be reversed because evidence sufficient to trace his separate property was admitted at trial. The Supreme Court affirmed because John was obligated to present an argument at trial to rebut the presumption that the assets were community property, not merely to provide evidence from which an argument could have been made. View "Herr v. Herr" on Justia Law

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The issue presented for the Idaho Supreme Court's review was one of first impression involving a magistrate court’s custody determination of an eight-year-old developmentally delayed and hearing-impaired child (Child) who was removed from his father’s (Father) care by law enforcement on an emergency basis. Child was found home alone by representatives of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW or the Department). After a shelter care hearing, the magistrate court determined that there was reasonable cause to believe that Child fell within the jurisdiction of the CPA based on a lack of a stable home environment. Father objected to the magistrate court’s exercise of jurisdiction, arguing that because Father had been granted joint custody of Child with Child’s mother (Mother) by a California court, the UCCJEA applied, which required the magistrate court to consult with the California court that had previously entered the custody order before the magistrate court could proceed in Idaho. After contacting and communicating with the California judge’s representative, the magistrate court conducted an adjudicatory hearing, ultimately vesting custody of Child with the Department. Finding no reversible error in this judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed the magistrate court's decision. View "IDHW v. John Doe" on Justia Law

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Cynthia Hilton appealed a trial court's decision to deny her motion to divide an omitted asset: a company partially owned by her ex-husband, Lance Hilton. Cynthia alleged that because the stipulated divorce decree did not list the company as community or separate property, it was an omitted asset and she was entitled to half of its retained earnings allocable to Lance. The magistrate court denied Cynthia’s motion on the basis that it had previously determined the company was Lance’s separate property. On intermediate appeal, the district court affirmed. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Hilton v. Hilton" on Justia Law

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Linsay and Kylee Gatsby married in June 2015. They later decided Kylee would attempt to conceive a child through artificial insemination, using semen donated by a mutual friend. It was undisputed that Kylee is the child’s biological mother. The birth certificate worksheet, which Kylee signed, designates Kylee as “mother,” and the word “father” on the form is crossed out and “mother” written by hand in its place to also identify Linsay as the child’s mother. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare issued a Certificate of Live Birth identifying both Kylee and Linsay as the child’s mothers. Both Kylee and Linsay shared in caregiving, but Kylee was the child’s primary caregiver. The following summer the couple had an argument. Both Linsay and Kylee had been drinking, and Kylee became drunk. Kylee shoved Linsay off a bed. Then Linsay punched Kylee, breaking her nose. The child was in the bedroom during the fight, and Linsay’s two children from a prior relationship were also in the home. Kylee was arrested and subsequently pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic battery. Kylee had also committed an act of domestic violence years earlier. On July 5, 2017, a No Contact Order (“NCO”) was issued, which prohibited Kylee from seeing the child except at daycare. On August 29, 2017, Linsay filed for divorce. Kylee filed an Answer and Counterclaim, asserting that Linsay had “no legal claim or standing to any custody or visitation” to the minor child. The issue this appeal presented for the Idaho Supreme Court's review centered on Idaho law pertaining to artificial insemination, paternity, and parental rights in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644, 647 (2015). The district court affirmed the magistrate court’s ruling that Linsay had no parental rights to the child under Idaho’s common law marital presumption of paternity because she conceded that she lacked a biological relationship with the child. The district court also affirmed that Linsay had no parental rights under the Artificial Insemination Act because she did not comply with the statute’s provisions. The district court further ruled that Linsay would have had parental rights if she had filed a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity or adopted the child, but she did not do so. Finally, the district court affirmed that Linsay did not have third party standing to seek custody and, in the alternative, that custody or visitation would not be in the child’s best interest if Linsay did have third party standing. Accordingly, the district court's judgment was affirmed. View "Gatsby v. Gatsby" on Justia Law

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Jane Doe (Mother) and John Doe (Father) were a married couple and the biological parents of E.W. (Child). Mother and Father were both incarcerated from 2015 until 2020. Mother gave birth to Child while incarcerated and asked her friend Jane Doe I (Guardian Mother) and her husband John Doe I (Guardian Father) to care for Child until Mother was released. Guardians raised Child since her birth and presently act as legal guardians for her. Guardians filed a petition seeking to terminate the parental rights of Mother and Father and to adopt Child. A termination trial was held by the magistrate court, after which the magistrate court terminated the parental rights of both Mother and Father. The magistrate court found that Mother had neglected Child and was unable to discharge her parental responsibilities. The magistrate court further found that Father had abandoned and neglected Child and was also unable to discharge his parental responsibilities. The magistrate court then granted Guardian’s petition for adoption. The Idaho Supreme Court reversed, finding the Guardians’ Verified Petition failed to allege any facts supporting termination of Mother’s and Father’s parental rights, thereby violating the parents' due process right to notice regarding the bases upon which termination was sought. The case was remanded to the magistrate court with instructions to dismiss the petition without prejudice. View "Doe I v. Doe" on Justia Law

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Massimo Medioli petitioned an Idaho magistrate court to change his minor child’s name. The child’s mother, Dena Hayes, objected. The magistrate court granted Medioli’s petition finding the name change to be “right and proper,” as provided by Idaho Code section 7-804. Hayes appealed to the district court, and the district court affirmed. The district court awarded Medioli attorney fees pursuant to Idaho Code section 12-121. Hayes appealed, arguing in part that trial courts were required to apply the best-interest-of-the-child standard in disputed name change cases involving minor children. The Idaho Supreme Court found no reversible error in the district court’s decision on the merits, but reversed the award of attorney fees. View "Hayes v. Medioli" on Justia Law

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Holly Cook appealed an administrative order entered by an Administrative District Judge (“ADJ”) declaring her to be a vexatious litigant pursuant to Idaho Court Administrative Rule 59. The order prohibited Cook from filing any new litigation pro se in Idaho without first obtaining leave of the court where the litigation was proposed to be filed. Ms. Cook petitioned for a divorce from her husband (“Mr. Cook”) in 2015. During the lengthy and contentious divorce proceedings, Ms. Cook had assistance of counsel for portions of the proceedings, but represented herself pro se when she did not. Some aspects of the divorce proceedings were appealed to the district court. Mr. Cook filed a moved that Ms. Cook declared a vexatious litigant. Neither party requested a hearing on Mr. Cook’s motion. The district judge presiding over the appeal referred the matter to the ADJ. The ADJ found that Ms. Cook largely failed to appear at dates set in scheduling orders that she (with and without counsel) agreed to. She failed at obtaining continuances, at having the trial judge disqualified, and to move the court for reconsideration of many intermediate decisions. She attempted to collaterally attack the default judgment of divorce, and at some point, was held in contempt for failing to respond to court orders during the divorce proceedings. Separate from the divorce proceedings, the ADJ noted Ms. Cook had filed nine pro se civil protection orders, all of which had been dismissed in favor of the parties from whom she sought protection. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the ADJ abused its discretion in declaring Ms. Cook a vexatious litigant; the ADJ did not review the merits and reason for dismissal in the nine civil protection actions, causing the ADJ to conclude incorrectly the final determinations were adverse to her. Furthermore, with respect to the divorce proceedings, the Court determined the ADJ abused its discretion by failing to make factual findings that Ms. Cook repeatedly attempted to relitigate issues already finally decided by the magistrate court. The Supreme Court concluded the ADJ did not make sufficient findings to support the conclusion that Ms. Cook’s filings were frivolous, unmeritorious, or filed with the intent to cause unnecessary delay. Accordingly, the Court reversed the prefiling order and remanded to allow the ADJ the opportunity to reconsider this matter. View "Cook v. Wiebe" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Idaho Supreme Court in this matter was what portion of a military retirement benefit was subject to division following divorce. Specifically, the Court was asked to decide whether a 2017 amendment to the federal statutory scheme governing military retirement applied to the division of a benefit entered as part of a divorce decree in 2008 but not calculated until the husband’s retirement in 2018. The Supreme Court determined a 2017 amendment to 10 U.S.C. 1408 did not apply retroactively to alter the division of the military benefit at issue here. Furthermore, the district court did not err in concluding that the magistrate court’s mischaracterization of the 2008 divorce decree was harmless error because it did not impact the outcome of litigation. View "Bromund v. Bromund" on Justia Law

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In 2005, Ballard Smith (Husband) and Charlie Smith (Wife) stipulated to a final divorce order that required the parties to sell real property located in Salt Lake City, Utah and allocate the net proceeds to both parties on an equal basis. In subsequent orders, Husband was tasked with marketing and selling the Salt Lake Property. Without Wife’s knowledge, Husband moved the Salt Lake Property in and out of various business entities and unilaterally sold a six-acre portion of the Salt Lake Property. After the majority of the Salt Lake Property remained unsold for nearly a decade, Wife petitioned the magistrate court to modify its prior order, requesting that the magistrate court: (1) direct that the Salt Lake Property be appraised and that Husband pay her one-half the appraised value; or (2) in the alternative, appoint a receiver to sell the Salt Lake Property and divide the net proceeds equally. Husband opposed the petition by arguing the magistrate court never had subject matter jurisdiction over the Salt Lake Property when it entered its original final divorce order. The magistrate court granted Wife’s petition to modify and appointed a receiver to handle all matters relating to the Salt Lake Property. Additionally, the magistrate court ordered Husband to pay Wife one-half of the net proceeds from the sale of the six-acre portion of the Salt Lake Property and awarded Wife attorney fees. Husband appealed to the district court. The district court affirmed the magistrate court and awarded Wife attorney fees for her intermediate appeal. Husband then appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Smith v. Smith" on Justia Law