Justia Family Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Maryland Court of Appeals
In re R.S.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals vacating the judgment of the circuit court finding that R.S. was a child in need of assistance (CINA), holding that the court of special appeals did not err in holding that the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC) does not apply to out-of-state placements of a child in the care of a biological, non-custodial parent.Based on its determination that the ICPC applied to the placement of R.S. in the care of her biological father, the juvenile court awarded joint custody of R.S. to the non-custodial biological father and parental grandparents. The court of special appeals vacated the judgment, concluding that the plain language of the ICPC, codified in Md. Code, Fam. Law Art. 5-601-5-611, did not apply under the circumstances of this case. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the ICPC does not apply to out-of-state placements with non-custodial biological parents; and (2) because the ICPC did not apply under the circumstances of this case and the court never determined that the biological father was unfit, the CINA order was properly vacated. View "In re R.S." on Justia Law
In re O.P.
The Court of Appeals held that a juvenile court's decision to deny continued shelter care in a child in need of assistance (CINA) case is appealable under the collateral order doctrine and that the court may authorize continued shelter care for up to thirty days if makes the necessary findings and may extend shelter care beyond thirty days if it makes the findings by a preponderance standard.Anne Arundel County Department of Social Services placed an infant in emergency shelter care and filed a CINA petition with a request for continued temporary shelter care pending resolution of the CINA petition. After a hearing, the juvenile court denied the Department's request for continued shelter care, concluding that the Department had failed to establish the statutory criteria by a preponderance of the evidence. The court of special appeals affirmed, holding that the juvenile court used the correct standard of proof. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) a juvenile court may continue temporary emergency shelter under conditions set forth in this opinion; and (2) any continuation of shelter care beyond thirty days must be based upon findings made applying a preponderance of evidence standard at the adjudicatory stage of the CINA case. View "In re O.P." on Justia Law
In re Adoption/Guardianship of C.E.
The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the juvenile court declining to terminate the legal relationship between Mother, Father, and Child and ordering Child into the guardianship and custody of a relative, holding that the juvenile court abused its discretion by declining to terminate the parental rights of Father when it found that neither parent could never safely care for Child.In deciding this case, the Court of Appeals reaffirmed that, when considering the termination of parental rights, the pursuit of the best interest of the child remains the overall goal. As to the instant case, the Court of Appeals held (1) there was ample evidence to find that Father was unfit or that exceptional circumstances existed by clear and convincing evidence to terminate his parental rights; and (2) the trial court abused its discretion in declining to terminate Father's parental rights. View "In re Adoption/Guardianship of C.E." on Justia Law
Romero v. Perez
The Court of Appeals explained in this opinion its reasons underlying its December 7, 2018 order, in which the Court issued an order reversing the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals affirming the decision of the circuit court denying Petitioner's motion for an order that included all requisite "Special Immigrant Juvenile" (SIJ) status findings, holding that the circuit court applied a far too demanding and rigid standard in this case.In a proceeding before the circuit court, Petitioner sought sole custody of his seventeen-year-old son (Child), an undocumented minor and Guatemalan native. Petitioner further requested that the circuit court issue an order containing factual findings illustrating Child's eligibility for SIJ status, namely that reunification with Child's mother was not viable due to neglect. The circuit court granted Petitioner custody of Child but concluded that Petitioner failed to establish that reunification with the mother was not viable due to neglect. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that returning Child to the custody of the mother, who inadequately cared for and supervised him, could not be a reunification that was viable. View "Romero v. Perez" on Justia Law
In re Adoption/Guardianship of C.E.
At issue was whether allowing a child to remain indefinitely in the custody of a third party, without termination of the parents’ parental rights, constitutes a proper exercise of judicial discretion consistent with the pertinent provisions of the Family Law Article.The Court of Appeals held that the Family Law Article allows for such discretionary exercise so long as the decision is grounded in statutory requirements and is supported by the record, and pursuit of the child’s best interest remains the overarching goal involving termination of parental rights.The Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the juvenile court in this case, holding (1) the juvenile court did not err in declining to terminate Father’s parental rights because a rational finding existed that a continued relationship with Father served the child’s best interest even where complete custodial reunification was not apparent; and (2) regarding Mother, the juvenile court’s determination that a continued parental relationship served the child’s best interest lack consideration of the relevant statutory considerations found in Md. Code Ann. Fam. Law 5-323. View "In re Adoption/Guardianship of C.E." on Justia Law
In re Adoption/Guardianship of H.W.
When assessing whether exceptional circumstances exist that make continuing the parental relationship detrimental to a child’s best interests, a juvenile court errs by considering custody-specific factors used to determine exceptional circumstances in third-party custody disputes.The Baltimore City Department of Social Services filed a petition for guardianship with the right to consent to adoption or long term care short adoption for Child. The juvenile court analyzed, among other things, the statutory factors set forth in Md. Code Ann. Fam. Law 5-323(d) to determine whether exceptional circumstances existed that made continuing the parental relationship detrimental to Chile’s best interests. The juvenile court concluded that there was not clear and convincing evidence that Father was unfit. The Court of Special Appeals vacated the juvenile court’s decision, concluding that the juvenile court by using four factors related exclusively to custody of the child in deciding to terminate Father’s parental rights. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) factors pertaining exclusively to custody have no place in termination of parental rights assessments under section 5-323; but (2) the juvenile court did not abuse its discretion when, based on an appropriate statutory analysis, it terminated Father’s parental rights. View "In re Adoption/Guardianship of H.W." on Justia Law
In re J.J. and T.S.
At issue was the admissibility at a child in need of assistance (CINA) proceeding of the out-of-court statement of J.J., the nine-year-old daughter of Petitioner, alleging that Petitioner had sexually abused her. The circuit court, sitting as a juvenile court, determined that J.J.’s statement should be admissible to prove the truth of the matter asserted because it possessed the requisite particularized guarantees of trustworthiness. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Md. Code Ann. Crim. Proc. (CP) 11-304 does not require a juvenile court to determine a child’s truth competency when ruling on the admissibility of the child’s out-of-court statement; and (2) the juvenile court did not err in finding that J.J.’s out-of-court statement possessed the requisite particularized guarantees of trustworthiness required for admissibility under CP 11-304. View "In re J.J. and T.S." on Justia Law
In re C.E.
In this child in need of assistance (CINA) case, the Court of Appeals settled conflicting decisions from the Court of Special Appeals on the appealability of a juvenile court’s order waiving the government’s obligation to provide reasonable reunification efforts to families. The Court of Appeals issued a writ of certiorari to answer two questions. The court did not reach the second question and answered the first question by holding that the Court of Special Appeals did not err in holding that the juvenile court’s order waiving reasonable reunification efforts was not a final order and not appealable, and therefore, Petitioner had no right to an interlocutory appeal. View "In re C.E." on Justia Law
Burak v. Burak
There is no procedural bar prohibiting a third-party from seeking to intervene in a custody dispute between parents because Maryland Rule 2-214 allows any person to intervene in an action "when the person's claim or defense has a question of law or fact in common with the action." Because a third-party may not obtain custody of a child over the child's biological parents unless the third-party can demonstrate that the parents are either unfit or that exceptional circumstances exist that may be detrimental to the child, the third-party seeking to intervene in a custody action must make a prima facie showing that the parents are either unfit or that exceptional circumstances exist in their pleading. In this case, the Court of Appeals held that the circuit court did not err in allowing the grandparents to intervene in the custody action between petitioner and father because the grandparents alleged sufficient facts in their motion to make a prima facie showing that petitioner and father were unfit and that exceptional circumstances may have existed in this case; the hearing judge abused his discretion in finding that petitioner was an unfit parent; the circuit court erred in applying the Hoffman factor test to the facts in this case; and because the circuit court abused its discretion in granting custody of the child to the grandparents, the circuit court also erred in ordering petitioner to pay child support to the grandparents. View "Burak v. Burak" on Justia Law
McGeehan v. McGeehan
At issue in this case was whether an agreement entered into during the course of the parties’ marriage made manifest by three deeds by which title was transferred to Wife by Husband was sufficient to exclude those properties from consideration as marital property under Md. Code Ann. Fam. Law 8-201(e). The trial court concluded that the postnuptial agreement was not a “valid agreement” under the requirements of section 8-201(e). Before the court of special appeals, Wife argued that the circuit court judge had erred in classifying the property as marital property because there was a “valid agreement” under section 8-201(e) excluding the two pieces of real property from marital property. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court’s judgment. The Court of Appeals remanded the case for further proceedings, holding (1) under section 8-201(e), a valid postnuptial agreement does not require language that reclassifies property as nonmarital in order to exclude that property from marital property in divorce; (2) there was a valid postnuptial agreement to exclude one property as the nonmarital property of Wife; and (3) with respect to the second property, the trial judge, on remand, must consider whether there was a valid agreement to exclude the property as nonmarital under section 8-201(e)(2). View "McGeehan v. McGeehan" on Justia Law