Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Kansas Supreme Court

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In this paternity and custody proceeding, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals vacating the judgment of the district court holding David Roy Ogle in contempt and imposing sanctions, holding that the district court should not have conducted the hearing on Whitney D. Jacobs' contempt motion until Ogle was present. Jacobs moved the court to hold Ogle in indirect contempt after Ogle's contact with Jacobs' employer led her to leave her teaching job. After a hearing at which neither Ogle nor his counsel appeared, despite receiving notice of the hearing's time and place, the district court held Ogle in contempt. Relying on Bond v. Albin, 28 P.3d 394 (Kan. 2000), the judge concluded that the contempt hearing could be held in Ogle's absence. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a district judge is allowed to proceed with a contempt hearing once the person accused is present, but not before. The Court remanded the case to the district court for reconsideration of the motion to hold Ogle in indirect contempt. View "S.M.J. v. Ogle" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the rulings of the district court accepting and exercising jurisdiction in these five cases involving the continuation of child in need of care (CINC) proceedings, holding that the Kansas court properly exercised jurisdiction and did not violate Mother's due process rights. The proceedings in this case involved five of Mother's six children. Acting under the Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, a California court transferred these five cases to a Kansas court to continue child in need of care proceedings. The district court ultimately found Mother unfit and that termination of Mother's parental rights was in the children's best interests. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Kansas district court did not abuse its discretion in exercising jurisdiction over the CINC proceedings; and (2) the district court did not violate Mother's constitutional procedural due process rights when it failed to conduct a permanency hearing within thirty days of finding that reintegration of the family with Mother did not remain a viable alternative. View "In re A.A.-F." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the district court refusing to grant Petitioners' petition to terminate a guardianship and conservatorship over four children in their care, holding that the district court's findings were insufficient to allow proper appellate review. Petitioners Alicia and Sam were the mother and father of four children. The county attorney filed child in need of care (CINC) petitions regarding all four children, and the court gave temporary physical custody of the children to Sam's cousin, Malinda, and her husband, Gregory. Each child was adjudicated a child in need of care. Thereafter, Malinda filed a petition for guardianship and conservatorship. The district court granted the petition and appointed Malinda and Gregory coguardians and coconservators of the children. Petitioners later filed a petition to terminate the guardianship and conservatorship on the grounds that they now had the means to care for the children. The district court denied the petition. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that remand was required for the district court to make findings and legal conclusions that suffice to allow appellate review. View "In re Guardianship and Conservatorship of B.H." on Justia Law

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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