Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
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In this case concerning the application of the standard set forth in Care & Protection of M.C., 479 Mass. 246 (2018) (M.C. I), governing requests for limited relief from impoundment of records in a care and protection proceeding in the juvenile court by a party in a related criminal proceeding, the Supreme Judicial Court held that the juvenile court judge properly applied the "good cause" standard. When this matter was previously before the Supreme Judicial Court the Court vacated the juvenile court judge's decision allowing Father's and the Commonwealth's motions for release from impoundment. On remand, the Commonwealth and Father filed renewed motions for relief from impoundment. The judge considered the motions in light of the newly announced standard in M.C. I and allowed both motions in part. Mother and Father appealed. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the judge properly applied the "good cause" standard required by M.C. I and the Uniform Rules of Impoundment Procedure with respect to Father's motion; but (2) the Commonwealth's request for transcripts of Mother's and her psychotherapist's testimony should have been allowed contingent on the occurrence of specific events at Mother's trial. View "In Care & Protection of M.C." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the single justice denying Petitioner's "Verified Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief" without a hearing, holding that the single justice did not err in denying relief. Specifically, the Court held that Petitioner's request for declaratory and inductive relief was a mere recasting of the same types of claims Petitioner raised in his previous postconviction filings, and even if his claims were new, his avenue for seeking relief was in the superior court in the first instance. Therefore, the single justice did not err or abuse her discretion in denying relief. View "Vinnie v. Superintendent, Massachusetts Correctional Institution, Norfolk" on Justia Law

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In this divorce case, the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of divorce nisi that awarded general term alimony to Wife and, among other things, divided the marital estate such that fifty-five percent of the overall assets were awarded to Husband and forty-five percent to Wife, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. On appeal, Husband challenged the alimony award and the division of the marital estate. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the judge did not err in calculating the duration of the marriage for purposes of awarding alimony; and (2) the judge made no error in dividing the parties’ assets. View "Connor v. Benedict" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed a judgment of a single justice of the court denying Petitioner’s petition filed pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that Petitioner did not show that review of the trial court could not adequately be obtained on appeal or by other available means. In his Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 petition, Petitioner sought relief from various interlocutory rulings of the probate judge in his divorce proceedings and also sought to have the probate judge recused. The single justice denied relief. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the single justice did not err or abuse his discretion in denying relief. View "Jiang v. Liu" on Justia Law

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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