Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Court

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Plaintiff was granted a temporary abuse prevention order against Defendant and later sought to have the abuse prevention order extended for one year. The district court extended certain portions of the abuse prevention order for three months. Plaintiff appealed. While the appeals were pending, the underlying orders were succeeded by other orders, to which Plaintiff did not object. Therefore, the Supreme Judicial Court dismissed the appeals as moot. However, the Court exercised its discretion to comment on some of the issues presented in this opinion. View "Singh v. Capuano" on Justia Law

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Defendant and the victim in this case were intellectually disabled adults who lived together in a State-licensed residential facility. After Defendant pushed the victim into a bathroom, causing injuries to the victim, Plaintiff filed an application for an abuse prevention order on behalf of the victim. A district court judge granted an abuse prevention order pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 209A, determining that, because Defendant and the victim lived “in the same household,” the district court had jurisdiction. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order against Defendant, concluding that individuals who share a common diagnosis or status, rather than marriage, blood, or other relationships enumerated in chapter 209A, and who live together in a facilities run by the State, do not qualify as “household members” within the meaning of chapter 209A. View "Silva v. Carmel" on Justia Law

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In 2006, Wife filed a complaint for divorce against Husband. The judge ordered Husband to pay temporary alimony pending final adjudication of the divorce, which entered in 2008. In 2011, Wife filed a complaint for modification. The judge modified the duration of alimony and did not subtract the time period in which temporary alimony was paid from Wife’s calculation of the maximum presumptive duration of general term alimony. Husband filed a motion for relief from the judgment, arguing that the term of alimony should have been calculated from the service of the divorce complaint rather than the judgment of divorce. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the duration of temporary alimony is not included in calculating the maximum presumptive duration of general term alimony; and (2) where temporary alimony has been paid for an unusually long period of time or the recipient spouse has unfairly delayed final resolution of the case in an attempt to prolong the payment of alimony, a judge may consider the duration of temporary alimony in determining the duration of general term alimony. View "Holmes v. Holmes" on Justia Law

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When Mother’s child was one year old, Mother’s grandmother (Grandmother) sought to have herself appointed as the child’s guardian. After Mother purportedly consented to Grandmother’s appointment as the permanent guardian, the judge appointed Grandmother as the child’s permanent guardian. Mother filed a motion for relief from the judgment pursuant to Mass. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(4), arguing that the judgment was void for lack of due process because she was not appointed counsel during the guardianship proceedings. The motion was denied. After Mother appealed the denial of her Rule 60(b) motion, Mother filed a petition in the county court pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, alleging that she had a constitutional right to have counsel appointed for her in the underlying proceeding. A single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court denied the petition, concluding that Mother had an adequate alternative remedy through an appeal from the denial of her Rule 60(b) motion. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that because Mother had an adequate alternative remedy, Mother failed to satisfy the basic threshold requirement for obtaining extraordinary relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. View "Gianareles v. Zegarowski" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed an application for an ex parte temporary restraining order under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 209A, 4 against Defendant. A probate and family court judge issued a permanent abuse prevention order directing Defendant to refrain from abusing or contacting Plaintiff, to stay away from her residence, and to surrender any firearms or ammunition to the police department. Defendant did not challenge the permanent order on direct appeal. Twelve years later, Defendant later moved to terminate the permanent abuse prevention order. A judge denied Defendant’s motion. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) a Defendant who seeks to terminate a permanent abuse prevention order must show, by clear and convincing evidence, that, as a result of a significant change in circumstances, it is no longer equitable for the order to continue because the protected party no longer has a reasonable fear of imminent serious physical harm; and (2) in light of the totality of the circumstances in this case, the judge did not abuse her discretion in denying Defendant’s motion. View "MacDonald v. Caruso" on Justia Law

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In 2005, nine-year-old Jamison and three of his siblings became the wards of their maternal aunt and her spouse (together, “guardians”). Two years later, the guardians voluntarily terminated their guardianship of Jamison, and Jamison was placed in the permanent custody of the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Jamison subsequently petitioned the juvenile court for visitation with two of his siblings. A juvenile court judge ordered supervised visitation with all three children over the guardians’ objection. The Supreme Court vacated the order allowing the motion for sibling visitation and remanded for further proceedings, holding (1) the juvenile court has subject matter jurisdiction over a sibling visitation petition where the petitioning child is in DCF custody and his siblings are wards subject to guardianship; (2) the presumption of validity afforded parental decisions regarding grandparent visitation recognized in Blixt v. Blixt does extend to the judgments of fit guardians in such circumstances; and (3) there was insufficient information to inform the judge’s determination whether visitation would serve the interests of all three children. View "In re Jamison" on Justia Law

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Jamie Melendez pleaded guilty to four counts of statutory rape of a child. As the result of Melendez's crimes, the victim gave birth to Melendez's biological child. The superior court ordered Melendez to acknowledge paternity, to financially support the child as conditions of his probation, and to abide by any orders of the probate and family court. The victim moved the superior court to revise the conditions of Melendez's probation, contending that his conditions of probation unlawfully bound her to an ongoing relationship with Melendez. The superior court denied the victim's motion, and a single justice of the Supreme Court denied the victim's petition for relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. The Supreme Court affirmed, where Melendez's sentence did not require the victim to be involved with Melendez in any way. View "H.T. v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and Defendant were involved in an abusive relationship. Plaintiff and the parties' child moved out of Massachusetts but subsequently obtained an abuse prevention order, issued pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 209A. Plaintiff later requested that the order be extended by one year. The judge extended the order for six months instead. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the judge abused her discretion by extending the order for six months, rather than a full year, because she improperly considered matters outside the purview of chapter 209A. The Supreme Court (1) dismissed the appeal as moot because the abuse prevention order had expired and Plaintiff did not seek to have it extended further in the trial court; but (2) concluded that the judge abused her discretion by considering Defendant's visitation rights in deciding to extend the order for six months. View "Moreno v. Naranjo" on Justia Law

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Petitioner commenced actions in the probate and family court seeking to have herself appointed guardian and conservator for her elderly father. A judge appointed a temporary guardian and a temporary conservator in 2011. In 2012, Petitioner filed a petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, seeking to remove the temporary guardian and the temporary conservator and arguing that Respondents engaged in unethical, unprofessional, and unlawful conduct resulting in irreparable harm to her father. A single justice of the Supreme Court denied the petition without a hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, as adequate alternative remedies existed for Petitioner to pursue relief, and Petitioner's concerns did not necessarily create the type of "exceptional circumstances" that would compel the exercise of the Court's supervisory powers pursuant to chapter 211, section 3. View "Belanger v. Cuffe" on Justia Law

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Father of a sixteen-year-old daughter filed a complaint for protection under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 209A against Defendant, a twenty-four-year-old man, seeking to prevent his daughter from voluntarily engaging in a sexual relationship with Defendant. Defendant was served with the ex parte abuse prevention order. Following a hearing before a district court judge, the order was extended for one year. Defendant appealed, asserting that the evidence was insufficient to support a finding of abuse and that the order should not have been extended because he and Plaintiff were not in a substantive dating relationship. The Supreme Court vacated the extension order, holding that there was no basis for the judge to conclude that Defendant's conduct rose to the level of "abuse" as required by the statute. View "E.C.O. v. Compton" on Justia Law