Justia Family Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Kansas Supreme Court
In re N.A.C.
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
In re Adoption of H.C.H.
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
Frazier v. Goudschaal
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
In re Marriage of Brown
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
In re Marriage of Hall
This appeal raised the issue of whether a district court can order a child support obligor to cooperate with a child support obligee in the obligee's efforts to obtain insurance on the obligor's life if the obligor objects to the issuance of the life insurance policy. Here, despite the obligor's objection, the district court ordered the obligor to cooperate with the obligee's attempts to obtain insurance on the obligor's life at the obligee's own expense. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that a district court cannot issue such an order because the order would be contrary to public policy as expressed by the Kansas Legislature in Kan. Stat. Ann. 40-453(a), which provides that an insurable interest does not exist if a person whose life is insured makes a written request for the termination or nonrenewal of the policy. View "In re Marriage of Hall" on Justia Law
In re T.S.W.
Mother, a non-Indian, gave birth to Child and decided to place Child for adoption. Father was a member of Cherokee Nation. Mother chose a non-Indian family to adopt Child. Adoption Agency filed a pleaded seeking to deviate from the Indian Child Welfare Act's (ICWA) placement preferences. The district court decided to deviate from ICWA's placement preferences based on Mother's preference that Child be placed with a non-Indian family. Intervenor Cherokee Nation challenged the district court's decision. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, absent a request for anonymity by a biological parent with respect to a child's placement, a parent's placement preference cannot override ICWA's placement factors.
In re K.E.
The issue in this case was whether a trial court constitutionally erred in denying Father's last-minute request to provide his testimony by telephone from Georgia in a Kansas hearing to terminate Father's parental rights. The trial court held that without this testimony, Father failed to rebut the presumption of his parental unfitness established by the State's evidence. Father's parental rights therefore were terminated. A majority of the court of appeals panel reversed, holding that the trial court's ruling denied Father of procedural due process. The Supreme Court reversed the panel majority and affirmed the trial court on slightly different grounds, holding that Father failed to establish that his testimony by telephone was warranted, as Father was given appropriate notice of the time, place, and purpose of his parental rights termination hearing and an opportunity to appear there and be heard in a meaningful manner.
In re Adoption of J.M.D.
Mother was the biological mother of two children. Mother's husband, Stepfather, petitioned to adopt the children without the consent of their biological Father. The district court determined that Father's consent to the adoption was unnecessary, terminated Father's parental rights, and granted Stepfather's adoption. The court of appeals reversed, holding that there was insufficient evidence to support the district court's determination that Father had failed to assume his parental duties for the two consecutive years immediately preceding the adoption petition. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and affirmed the district court, holding (1) a natural parent's unfitness will not obviate the need for his or her consent to a stepparent adoption unless the district court finds that the unfitness has prevented the natural parent from assuming the duties of a parent for two consecutive years immediately preceding the filing of the adoption for petition, and (2) the evidence was sufficient in this case to establish that Father had failed to assume the parental duty of providing for his children's needs in the two years preceding the adoption petition.
Harrison v. Tauheed
After Mother filed a paternity action, the district court entered a temporary order granting Mother primary residential custody of Child. Father then admitted paternity and sought primary residential custody of Child. The district court concluded that it was in Child's best interests to retain primary residential custody with Mother. Father appealed, arguing (1) the district court judge applied the wrong legal standard, treating the action as though it concerned modification of a prior child custody order rather than one seeking an initial custody determination; and (2) the district judge failed to give any negative impact on Child from Mother's religious practices due consideration. The court of appeals affirmed. On review, the Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court judge applied the correct legal standard to the evidence and did not abuse his discretion for placing great weight on the length of time Child had spent with each parent and his adjustment to his home, school, and community; and (2) the district court judge properly excluded religious belief and correctly considered the ways in which current religiously motivated conduct affected Child's best interests.