Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that, to the extent a surviving spouse’s shares of a deceased spouse’s estate exceeds $25,000, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 191, 15, the Commonwealth’s elective share statute, reduces his or her interest in the real property from outright ownership to a life estate. The dispute here centered on the nature of a surviving spouse’s interest in a deceased spouse’s real property where the surviving spouse’s shares of the decedent’s personal and real property together exceeded $25,000 in value. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) where a surviving spouse elects to waive the provisions of a deceased spouse’s will in accordance with section 15 and the decedent left issue, the surviving spouse is entitled to one-third of the decedent’s personal property and one-third of the decedent’s real property; (2) the above is subject to the limitation that if the surviving spouse’s shares of the real and property property, taken together, exceed $25,000 in value, then the surviving spouse takes $25,000 absolutely and a life estate in any remaining real property; and (3) further, any remaining personal property must be held in trust for the duration of the surviving spouse’s life with the surviving spouse entitled to the income therefrom. View "Ciani v. MacGrath" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice of the court denying Petitioner’s petition for extraordinary relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that where Petitioner had the opportunity to obtain review of an adverse judgment in an appeal, the single justice did not commit a clear error of law or abuse her discretion in denying relief. Petitioner was divorced from Respondent pursuant to a judgment of divorce nisi. Thereafter, Respondent filed a complaint for modification of child support followed by a motion to set aside the property settlement in the divorce judgment. A judge allowed both requests for relief. Petitioner later sought extraordinary relief, which the single justice denied. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Petitioner failed to demonstrate the absence or inadequacy of alternative means of redress. View "Aktas v. Aktas" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice of the Court denying Petitioner’s petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that the single justice did not err or abuse his discretion in denying relief. In his petition, Petitioner sought relief from an original divorce judgment as well as a modification to that judgment. The single justice denied the petition without a hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) to the extent that Petitioner continued to seek a stay to prevent his former wife’s trip to India with the parties’ children, the issue was now moot; and (2) to the extent Petitioner sought to preclude any and all future travel by seeking relief from the divorce judgment and the ensuing modification, Petitioner’s remedy did not lie with this Court. View "Panda v. Panda" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated so much of the judgment granting sole legal and physical custody of Petitioner’s child to Petitioner that declined to enter special findings and remanded the case for further proceedings. Petitioner filed a petition seeking custody of his son, a seventeen-year-old undocumented immigrant from Guatemala. A motion for special findings of fact and rulings of law requesting the judge to make special findings necessary for the child’s application for special immigrant juvenile status under 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(27)(J) was also filed. The judge declined to make the requested special findings. The Supreme Judicial Court held that the child was entitled to the special findings and directed the probate and family court to act forthwith on the motion for special findings. View "Hernandez-Lemus v. Arias-Diaz" on Justia Law

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At issue was the appropriate standards and procedures for requests by the Commonwealth and parties to a care and protection proceeding in the juvenile court for the release of impounded records of the proceeding. Here, Mother and Father were the subjects of a care and protection proceeding, the records from which were impounded, and the defendants in criminal child abuse cases. Father and the Commonwealth sought access to the impounded records in conjunction with the upcoming criminal trials. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) where a party to a care and protection proceeding or the Commonwealth seeks access to impounded records of the proceeding, the requestor must demonstrate that the records should be released under the good cause standard of rule 7 of the Uniform Rules on Impoundment Procedure; and (2) if the good cause standard is met, records may be disclosed for limited, confidential review and use, but the discoverability of the records does not also make them admissible at a subsequent criminal proceeding. View "Care and Protection of M.C." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that the single justice of the Court did not err or abuse her discretion in denying Father’s petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. In his petition, Father sought custody of his two minor children, who were in the temporary custody of the Department of Children and Families. The single justice denied the petition without a hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) to the extent Father sought relief from the recent denials in the probate and family court department of his motion to expedite the custody proceedings, the issue was not before the single justice; and (2) Father was not entitled to any additional review of the denial of his petition under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. View "In re Children" on Justia Law

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Under the children requiring assistance (CRA) statute, a child “willfully fails to attend school” if the child’s repeated failure to attend school arises from reasons portending delinquent behavior. In this case, the Millis public schools filed a habitual truancy CRA alleging that M.P. was a child requiring assistance on the grounds that she was habitually truant. M.P. failed continually to attend school due to a combination of physical and mental disabilities, including a severe bladder condition and autism. After a hearing, the juvenile court adjudicated M.P. a child requiring assistance. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment and remanded the matter to the juvenile court for entry of an order dismissing the CRA petition, holding that the evidence in the record did not support a finding beyond a reasonable doubt that M.P. “willfully fail[ed] to attend school.” View "Millis Public Schools v. M.P." on Justia Law

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In child custody cases where one parent seeks to remove and relocate a child to another country and no prior custody order exists to guide the trial judge as to whether the “real advantage” standard of Yannas v. Frondistou-Yannas, 395 Mass. 704 (1985), or the “best interests” standard articulated in Mason v. Coleman, 447 Mass. 177 (2006), should apply, the judge must first perform a functional analysis and then apply to the corresponding standard. The functional analysis may require a factual inquiry regarding the parties’ respective parenting responsibilities to determine whether the custody arrangement more closely approximates sole or shared custody. Lastly, are consideration of the parties’ and child’s respective interests, the judge must balance those factors to determine whether removal is in the best interests of the child. In the instant case, the Supreme Judicial Court held that there was no abuse of discretion with respect to the trial judge’s consideration and balancing of the interests at stake. View "Miller v. Miller" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice of the court denying Petitioner’s petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 asking the court to stay an order of the probate and family court appointing a temporary guardian for her adult son. The single justice denied the petition on the basis that Petitioner had an adequate alternative remedy - to seek a stay in the trial court and then, if the request were denied, to challenge that denial or make a renewed request for a stay in the appeals court. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that this case did not present an exceptional circumstance that required this court to exercise its extraordinary power of general superintendence pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. View "In re Guardianship of Lado" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court in this case resolved three legal issues regarding the “reasonable efforts” determination that a juvenile court judge must make under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 119, 29C before certifying that the continuation of a child in his home is contrary to his best efforts and granting custody of the child to the Department of Children and Families. The reasonable efforts determination regards whether the Department has made reasonable efforts prior to the placement of a child with the Department to prevent or eliminate the need for removal from the home. The court held (1) the judge must revisit the reasonable efforts determination at the seventy-two hour hearing if the judge continues the Department’s temporary custody of the child; (2) where none of the our exceptions in section 29C apply, exigent circumstances do not excuse the Department from making reasonable efforts; and (3) where it is found that the Department failed to make reasonable efforts before removing a child from his or her home, the judge or single justice has the equitable authority to order the Department to take reasonable remedial steps to diminish the adverse consequences of the Department’s failure to do so. View "In re Care & Protection of Walt" on Justia Law