Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Minnesota Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court denying Appellant's petition to voluntarily terminate her parental rights to her two young children after Grant County filed a petition for involuntary termination, holding that a parent's voluntary petition does not supplant a county's petition for involuntary termination of parental rights.After the County filed a petition for involuntary termination of Appellant's parental rights to her two children. Three days before trial, Appellant filed a petition for voluntary termination of her parental rights to her children for good cause. The district court denied the voluntary petition, finding that Appellant did not demonstrate good cause for the termination. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the plain language Minn. Stat. 260C.301 shows that the Legislature did not contemplate that a parent's petition for voluntary termination would automatically supplement an earlier-filed involuntary petition. View "In re Welfare of Children of J.D.T." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing Father's paternity action on the grounds that Minn. Stat. 259.25, subd. 8 barred the action, holding that the statute did not bar Father's action.Father failed to register with the Minnesota Fathers' Adoption Registry within thirty days of the birth of his child. Father subsequently filed this paternity action seeking to be adjudicated as his child's father. The district court dismissed the action, concluding that because Father had failed timely to register with the Fathers' Adoption Registry he was barred under Minn. Stat. 259.52, subd. 8 from bringing or maintaining a paternity action. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Minn. Stat. 259.52, subd. 8 did not apply to Father under the circumstances of this case. View "T. G. G. v. H. E. S." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing Defendant's conviction of felony deprivation of parenting rights in violation of Minn. Stat. 609.26, subd. 1(3) on the grounds that the evidence was insufficient because the circumstances proved supported a reasonable inference that Defendant did not have a subject intent to substantially deprive her child's father of parenting time, holding that the court of appeals erred when it concluded that the State presented insufficient evidence to support the conviction.Implicit in the court of appeals' analysis was an assumption that section 609.26, subd. 1(3) required the State to prove that Defendant had the subjective intent substantially to deprive the father of his parental rights. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) section 609.26, subd. 1(3) establishes an objective standard that focuses on the nature of the defendant's action; and (2) the only reasonable inference that can be drawn from the circumstances proved here was that Defendant's actions, viewed objectively, manifested an intent substantially to deprive the child's father of court-ordered parenting time. View "State v. Culver" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the conclusion of the district court that Mother had to notify her three children's biological father of her request to change the children's names, holding that where Mother was the only parent listed on her children's birth certificates and no one had been adjudicated as their father, Mother was the legal parent with authority to apply to change her children's names.At issue was the notice provision found in Minn. Stat. 259.10 relating to name-change applications on behalf of minors. The district court determined that the biological father had a legally recognized parent-child relationship with the eldest two children and was therefore entitled to notice of the name-change petitions. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because Mother was the only legal parent of her three minor children the district court erred when it determined that the biological father was a "parent" under section 259.10. View "In re Application of J.M.M." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the district court's decision awarding Mother and Father joint physical custody and equal parenting time, holding that the district court did not misapply the domestic-abuse presumption or the friendly-parent factor and appropriately exercised its discretion in analyzing the best interests factors.After a trial, the family court referee found that Mother had committed domestic abuse against Father. However, the referee found that best interest of the parties' child required that the parties be awarded joint physical custody and equal parenting time and that the statutory presumption against joint legal custody was not rebutted, thus awarding sole legal custody to Mother. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not misapply the rebuttable presumption against awarding joint custody when domestic violence has occurred between parents; (2) did not misapply the friendly-parent factor in its best-interests analysis; and (3) did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the child was best served by a joint physical custodial arrangement. View "Thornton v. Bosquez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the district court concluding that future, contingent earn-out payments are nonmarital property because they are property acquired by a spouse after the valuation date, holding that because the parties’ interest in Husband’s company was marital property that was acquired before the valuation date, the consideration for the sale of the company was also marital property.While married to Wife, Husband purchased an ownership interest in a company. During dissolution proceedings and after the district court’s valuation date for for marital property but before the dissolution, the company and Husband’s ownership interests in the company were sold. The purchase agreement gave the company and its owners an amount paid at the time of the sale and the right to receive future amounts. The district court concluded that the earn-out payments were nonmarital property. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the consideration for the sale of the company was marital property. View "Gill v. Gill" on Justia Law

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In this divorce proceeding, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals concluding that the certain contingent earn-out payments set forth in a purchase agreement selling a company in which Husband had an ownership interest were marital property.While married to Wife, Husband purchased an ownership interest in a company. During dissolution proceedings but before the dissolution, Husband and the other owners of the company sold the company and their ownership interests in the company. The purchase agreement gave the company and its owners the right to receive and up-front payment and two potential future earn-out payments. The district court concluded that the earn-out payments were nonmarital property under Minn. Stat. 518.003, subd. 3b because they were property acquired by a spouse after the district court’s valuation date for marital property. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed after noting that the consideration for the sale of the company occurred before the dissolution and included an amount paid at the time of the sale and a contractual right to receive future payments. The Court held that because the parties’ interest in the company was marital property acquired before the valuation date, the consideration for the sale was also marital property. View "Gill v. Gill" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the district court’s denial of Father’s motion to increase his parenting time to every other week, holding that Father’s proposed modification was a de facto motion to modify physical custody, and therefore, the endangerment standard applied.Father had parenting time every other weekend with his minor child, and, during summer months, the parties alternated weeks with the child. When Father brought a motion to expand the alternating week schedule to the entire year the district court treated the motion as a motion to modify physical custody. The court applied the endangerment standard in Minn. Stat. 518.18(d)(iv) and, finding that Father did not present a prima facie case of endangerment, denied the motion. The court of appeals reversed, holding that Father’s motion was no a motion to modify custody. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Father’s motion was a substantial change that would modify the parties’ custody arrangement. View "Christensen v. Healey" on Justia Law

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The common law governs provisions of an antenuptial agreement that do not fall within the safe harbor of Minn. Stat. 519.11(1), and the multifactor Kinney test is the common-law test applicable to antenuptial agreements. See In re Estate of Kinney, 733 N.W.2d 118 (Minn. 2007).Wife petitioned for dissolution and moved to set aside the antenuptial agreement she signed just before her marriage. The district court invalidated the agreement, concluding that it was procedurally unfair because Wife did not have an adequate opportunity to meet with legal counsel of her own choice and that it was substantively unfair and the time it was made and executed. The court of appeals affirmed on different grounds, concluding (1) to the extent the district court relied on Minn. Stat. 519.11 for evaluating procedural fairness, the court erred; (2) agreements that purport to distribute marital property, such as the agreement in this case, must be evaluated under the common law; and (3) the agreement was procedurally unfair. The Supreme Court affirmed after applying the Kinney factors to the entire agreement, holding that this agreement did not satisfy the common law test for procedurally fairness, and therefore, the agreement was invalid and unenforceable. View "Kremer v. Kremer" on Justia Law

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In a proceeding to terminate parental rights that is governed by the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and the Minnesota Indian Family Preservation Act (MIFPA), qualified expert witness testimony is required to support the determination that continued custody of the child by the parent is likely to result in serious emotional or physical damage to the child.The district court terminated the parental rights of Mother and Father, concluding that ICWA and MIFPA applied to the proceedings and that the laws’ requirements had been satisfied. The court of appeals reversed in part, holding that the district court erred in failing expressly to find under ICWA and MIFPA that continued custody of the child by the parent was likely to result in serious emotional or physical damage to the child. On appeal, the district court stated as much in a one-sentence addendum to its findings of fact and conclusions of law. The court of appeals affirmed the district court’s termination decision. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the district court erred in terminating Father’s parental rights because the qualified expert witness’s testimony did not support the court’s determination that continued custody of the children by Father would likely result in serious damage to the children. View "In re Welfare of Children of S.R.K. & O.A.K." on Justia Law