Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

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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

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The Supreme Judicial Court remanded this divorce action to the probate and family court with instructions to reevaluate the alimony judgment in light of this opinion and enter a new judgment accordingly. The court held (1) where the supporting spouse has the ability to pay, the need for support of the recipient spouse under general term alimony is the amount required to enable her to maintain the standard of living she had at the time of the separation leading to the divorce, not the amount required to enable her to maintain the standard of living she would have had in the future if the couple had not divorced; and (2) although there might be circumstances where it is reasonable a fair to award a percentage of the supporting spouse’s income as general term alimony to the recipient spouse, those circumstances were not present in this case. View "Young v. Young" on Justia Law

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On a motion for special findings for Special immigrant juvenile status (SIJ), the judge shall make such findings without regard to the ultimate merits or purpose of the juvenile’s application. The issue presented in these consolidated appeals was whether a judge may decline to make special findings based on an assessment of the likely merits of a movant’s application for SIJ status or on the movant’s motivation for seeking SIJ status. Here, an eight-year-old undocumented immigrant for Guatemala and a nineteen-year-old undocumented immigrant from El Salvador filed motions seeking the request special findings for SIJ status. The probate and family court judge implicitly determined that neither child would be entitled to SIJ based on her interpretation of 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(27)(J) and declined to make special findings. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed and remanded the cases to the probate and family court for further fact finding, holding that the judge erred in these cases by declining to make special findings as to all three prongs of the special findings analysis. View "in re Guardianship of Penate" on Justia Law

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For reasons set forth in its decision issued today in Van Arsdale v. Van Arsdale, 477 Mass. __ (2017), the Supreme Judicial Court held that the durational limits of the Alimony Reform Act of 2011 are constitutional. In 2014, Husband sought to modify his alimony obligation established in an alimony agreement, claiming a material change of circumstances. The judge agreed with Husband that modification was warranted. The judge also applied the Act’s durational limits to the agreement and ordered that Husband’s alimony obligation would terminate in 2020. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the trial judge did not abuse her discretion concluding that Wife failed to prove that deviation beyond the Act’s duration limits was required in the interests of justice. View "Popp v. Popp" on Justia Law

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The application of the durational limits of the Alimony Reform Act of 2011 to certain alimony agreements that predate the Act is not unconstitutionally retroactive. Here, William Van Arsdale filed a complaint for modification in 2015 seeking to terminate his alimony obligation. The probate and family court terminated William’s obligation to pay Susan Van Arsdale alimony because the Act’s relevant durational limit had been exceeded and Susan had not shown that deviation from them was necessary. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the application of the Act’s duration limits to the alimony agreement between William and Susan was not unconstitutionally retroactive; and (2) the probate and family court judge did not abuse her discretion when she declined to deviate from the durational limits in this case. View "Van Arsdale v. Van Arsdale" on Justia Law

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In 2005, a few weeks after Child was born, Child's Grandmother was appointed as Child’s permanent guardian and has remained so ever since. Mother filed this removal proceeding challenging the guardianship arrangement. In 2016, Child, through counsel, filed a motion to appoint counsel for her guardian. The motion was denied. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the case to the probate and family court for further proceedings, holding (1) a guardian who has a de facto parent relationship with her ward does not have a liberty interest in that relationship such that she has a procedural due process right to counsel; but (2) a probate and family court judge may, in the exercise of his sound discretion, grant a motion requesting counsel for a guardian in a removal proceeding where the judge concludes that doing so would materially assist in determining the best interests of the child. View "In re Guardianship of K.N." on Justia Law

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This certified questions in this case arose out of divorce proceedings pending in Connecticut between Wife and Husband, who was the beneficiary of a Massachusetts irrevocable trust. The Connecticut Supreme Court certified three questions to the Supreme Judicial Court concerning the authority of a trustee to distribute substantially all of the assets of an irrevocable trust into another trust. The Supreme Judicial Court did not answer the second question but answered the remaining questions as follows: (1) under Massachusetts law, the terms of the Paul John Ferri, Jr. Trust (1983 Trust) empowered its trustees to distribute substantially all of its assets to the Declaration of Trust for Paul John Ferri, Jr.; and (2) under Massachusetts law, a court, in interpreting whether the 1983 Trust’s settlor intended to permit decanting to another trust, should consider an affidavit of the settler offered to establish what he intended when he created the 1983 Trust. View "Ferri v. Powell-Ferri" on Justia Law

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This case concerned the arrival in Massachusetts of four minor siblings from a Nepalese refugee camp through a minor refugee program. The children’s parents subsequently arrived, but had very limited contact with the children after their arrival. The Department of Children and Families petitioned the probate and family court to free the children for adoption by terminating parental rights. The mother moved to deny the petition. The judge denied the motion and reported the matter to the appeals court, asking whether the Code of Federal Regulations allows the Department to petition for termination of parental rights under the circumstances of this case. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judge’s denial of the mother’s motion to deny the Department’s petition, holding that the Code of Federal Regulations allows the Department to proceed to seek a termination of parental rights where unaccompanied refugee minors are present in the United States pursuant to the minor refugee program and the parents arrive in the United States but make no attempt to reunite with their children. View "In re Adoption of Yadira" on Justia Law

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During the divorce proceedings of Husband and Wife, Wife did not pursue her claim for alimony. Four years after the divorce judgment, Wife sought and obtained an alimony award. Both parties appealed. On appeal, both parties agreed that the judge erred by commencing the durational limit of alimony on the date of the first temporary alimony payment but disagreed on the appropriate commencement date. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the case with instructions to reevaluate the alimony judgment, holding (1) under the circumstances, the durational limit of general term alimony under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 208, 49(b) starts to run on the date that the alimony was awarded, not on the date of the divorce judgment or on the date temporary alimony was awarded; (2) the income earned from overtime pay must be considered in making an initial alimony award determination under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 208, 34, regardless of whether that determination is made before or after the divorce judgment; and (3) where a judge awards alimony under section 34, the judge must specifically address the issue of health insurance coverage for the recipient spouse. View "Snow v. Snow" on Justia Law