Articles Posted in Kansas Supreme Court

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In this appeal from a district court’s order terminating a natural father’s parental rights, the Supreme Court reversed the rulings of the lower courts and remanded to the district court with directions to conduct proceedings effectuating a change in custody consistent with this opinion, holding that no rational fact-finder could have found it highly probable that Father made no reasonable effort to support or communicate with the child after having knowledge of the child’s birth. When Father’s child was born, Mother put the newborn up for adoption. Father only learned of both the pregnancy and birth four days before the prospective adoptive parents filed for termination of Father’s parental rights. With no knowledge about the adoption action, Father filed a petition to establish paternity. The district court ultimately terminated Father’s parental rights. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the lower courts erred by failing to focus on all the circumstances when determining whether clear and convincing evidence demonstrated that Father made “no reasonable efforts” to support or communicate with his child after knowledge of his birth. View "In re Adoption of C.L. video" on Justia Law

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Holding that the plain language of Kan. Stat. Ann. 38-2273(a) did not provide Grandfather the right to appeal an order denying his motion to terminate the parental rights of his grandson’s parents, the Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of this appeal for lack of jurisdiction. In this child in need of care action, Grandfather was granted temporary custody of his grandchild. Grandfather then moved for termination of Mother’s and Father’s parental rights or, in the alternative, for an order appointing Grandfather as the child’s permanent custodian. The court found Father unfit and appointed Grandfather as the child’s permanent custodian but declined to terminate Father’s parental rights. Father appealed, and Grandfather cross-appealed the decision not to terminate Father’s parental rights. The court of appeals dismissed Grandfather’s cross-appeal for lack of jurisdiction under the plain language of Kan. Stat. Ann. 38-2273(a), concluding that the statute does not provide the right to appeal when a motion to terminate parental rights has been denied. The Supreme Court affirmed. The dissent disagreed, arguing that the language of section 38-2273(a) does not manifest a legislative intent to make the district court’s ruling, which might “irreparably harm the child,” incapable of correction by a higher court. View "In re T.S." on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was Husband’s challenge to a 1994 divorce decree that divided Husband’s military retirement benefits as marital property. In 2013, Husband filed a motion to set aside the portion of the 1994 divorce decree awarding Wife a share of his military retirement, arguing that the judgment was void because the district court lacked jurisdiction to divide his military retirement benefits pursuant to the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA), 10 U.S.C. 1408 et seq. The district court judge rejected Husband’s jurisdictional argument and awarded Wife her attorney fees. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the USFSPA imposes limitations on a Kansas court’s personal jurisdiction and does not impact the underlying subject-matter jurisdiction granted by the Kansas Constitution and Kansas statutes; (2) the district court had subject-matter jurisdiction over this case in 1994; (3) the court had personal jurisdiction over Husband in 1994 based on implied consent; and (4) the district court had authority to award attorney fees. View "In re Marriage of Williams" on Justia Law

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In this appeal, Grandmother failed to meet her burden of establishing that she was an interested party in a stepparent adoption proceeding relating to her grandson. The district court concluded that neither the law nor other circumstances conferred standing upon Grandmother to participate in the stepparent adoption because she was not an interested party. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed without reaching the merits of Grandmother’s claim that she was a parent by virtue of certain agreements and court orders entered in a separate grandparent visitation case, holding that Grandmother failed to establish that she was an interested party under the Kansas Adoption and Relinquishment Act and the Probate Code. View "In re Adoption of T.M.M.H." on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the question of what the legislature intended by providing for the creation of a permanent father and child relationship in one statute but only a presumptive relationship in another. Here, Alonzo Smith, who signed a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity (VAP), sought its untimely revocation. The district court concluded that the VAP was legally binding under Kan. Stat. Ann. 23-2204 and established Smith as the legal father. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) section 23-2204 does impose a one-year limitation on a revocation action; (2) Kan. Stat. Ann. 23-2208(a)(4) recognizes that a VAP creates a presumption of paternity that can be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence; and (3) Smith successfully rebutted the presumption of paternity that statutorily arose from the VAP. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals, holding (1) the VAP at issue in this case was valid and enforceable; (2) individuals who sign a VAP are bound by the rights and responsibilities delineated in Kan. Stat. Ann. 23-2204, including the creation of a permanent father and child relationship, if the VAP is not revoked by court order within one year of the child’s birth; and (3) as applied to this case, the VAP established a permanent father and child relationship. View "State ex rel. Secretary of Department for Children and Families v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Carol Einsel filed a petition for partition against Rodney Einsel, her ex-husband. The ownership interests at stake involved the Einsel family ranch, which consisted mostly of land and mineral interests. Carol’s claim derived from a journal entry of divorce in the parties’ earlier divorce proceedings. The judge had awarded Carol forty percent of Rodney’s remainder interest in the inheritance he received during the marriage. Before the partition court, the parties primarily argued over whether Carol’s award was an interest in a money judgment or an interest in real property. The partition court found that Carol’s interest in Rodney’s inheritance was $27,521 and granted her a judgment in this amount. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the award was an interest in real property - not a money judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals reached the correct conclusion regarding the nature of Carol’s award - an interest in real property. Remanded. View "In re Estate of Einsel" on Justia Law

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A baby was born premature on a city street in Wichita. A child in need of care (CINC) petition was filed, and custody of the baby was granted to the Secretary of the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS). Foster Parents accepted the baby as their foster child, and Mother voluntarily relinquished her parental rights. SRS then initiated efforts for Maternal Cousins to adopt the child. Foster Parents, however, also wanted to adopt the child. The CINC court concluded that SRS had failed to make reasonable efforts or progress towards the child’s adoption and granted Foster Parents custody of the child with permission to adopt. The district court approved Foster Parents’ adoption of the child. Maternal Cousins appealed from the CINC proceeding. Foster Parents filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that the CINC order was not one of those enumerated in the Revised Kansas Code for Care of Children (Revised Code) as appealable. The court of appeals denied the motion and then reversed the CINC court. The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals and dismissed the appeal, holding that there was no appellate jurisdiction to review the post-termination decisions at issue under the Revised Code’s appellate jurisdiction statute. View "In re N.A.C." on Justia Law

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After Mother and Father divorced, a Mississippi court entered a child-custody order granting residential custody of Child to Mother. Mother and Child moved to Kansas. Stepfather, Mother's husband, subsequently filed a petition for the stepparent adoption of Child. The district court declined to exercise jurisdiction over the stepparent adoption, determining that the Mississippi court had not relinquished jurisdiction over matters regarding Child, and a Mississippi court was a more appropriate forum to hear the adoption. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that Kan. Stat. Ann. 59-2127, the jurisdiction provision of the Kansas Adoption and Relinquishment Act, conflicted with provisions of the Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) and that under the UCCJEA, only the Mississippi court could determine it no longer had continuing jurisdiction to modify the child-custody order. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) section 59-2127 controls the determination of whether a Kansas court has jurisdiction over an adoption; (2) under section 29-2127, a Kansas court can determine if the Mississippi court has continuing jurisdiction over the child-custody order or this adoption; and (3) the district court's error in failing to apply section 59-2127 and in determining Mississippi a more convenient forum was not harmless. Remanded. View "In re Adoption of H.C.H." on Justia Law

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Defendant and Plaintiff were in a long-time, same-sex relationship, during which they had two children via artificial insemination. In conjunction with the birth of each child, the couple executed a coparenting agreement that addressed the contingency of a separation. After the couple separated, Defendant notified Plaintiff that she was taking the children to Texas. Plaintiff subsequently filed this action seeking to enforce the coparenting agreement. The district court's final order divided the parties' property, awarded the parties joint legal custody of the two children, designated Defendant as the residential custodian, established unsupervised parenting time for Plaintiff, and ordered Plaintiff to pay child support. The Supreme Court held (1) because the coparenting agreement was enforceable, the district court had the discretion to make appropriate orders addressing child custody, reasonable parenting time, and child support; (2) the evidence was insufficient to support the court's determination that its custody and parenting time orders were in the best interests of the children; and (3) the court should have conducted an asset-by-asset analysis under Eaton v. Johnson regarding division of the parties' property. Remanded. View "Frazier v. Goudschaal" on Justia Law

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More than fifty years ago, in Edwards v. Edwards, the Supreme Court stated that a child support order entered during the pendency of a divorce action is interlocutory and may be modified at any time and in any manner, even to the extent of discharging accrued and unpaid installments. This appeal raised the issue of whether that holding remained valid in light of statutory changes that have occurred over that fifty-year period. After reviewing the statutory changes, the Supreme Court held that the Legislature limited a district court's authority to discharge past-due child support in a final decree of divorce; specifically, a court's authority is limited by the provision in Kan. Stat. Ann. 60-1610(a)(1) that limits the retroactivity of a modification to a date at least one month after the date that a motion to modify was filed. Based on this conclusion, the Court (1) reversed the district court's order entered at the final divorce hearing that discharged all unpaid child support that had accrued under the court's interlocutory child support orders; and (2) reversed the court of appeals' decision to affirm the order discharging the past-due amounts. Remanded. View "In re Marriage of Brown" on Justia Law