Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Oregon Supreme Court
by
Father challenged a juvenile court’s order requiring him to undergo a psychological evaluation and follow its recommendations. ORS 419B.387 authorized a juvenile court, following an evidentiary hearing, to “order [a] parent to participate in the treatment or training” that “is needed by [the] parent to correct the circumstances that resulted in wardship or to prepare the parent to resume the care of the ward” and that “is in the ward’s best interests.” Father contended the psychological evaluation did not qualify as “treatment” and that, even if it did, it was not “needed” by father. Thus, the issue this case presented for the Oregon Supreme Courr’s review centered on the meaning of those terms in ORS 419B.387 and whether that statute authorized the juvenile court to order the psychological evaluation here. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the juvenile court’s order was authorized under ORS 419B.387. View "Dept. of Human Services v. F. J. M." on Justia Law

by
Petitioner Bruce Querbach sought to overturn a final order of the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) which determined that reports to DHS that petitioner had abused two children were “founded.” The circuit court, reviewing the order as an order in other than a contested case, assumed that the “reasonable cause to believe” standard in that rule was a “probable cause” standard. After holding a trial to develop the record for review, as required by Norden v. Water Resources Dept., 996 P2d 958 (2000), the circuit court concluded that only two of DHS’s four “founded” determinations could be sustained under that standard. On petitioner’s appeal and DHS’s cross-appeal, the Court of Appeals rejected the circuit court’s application of a “probable cause” standard and, instead employing the “reasonable suspicion” standard that it had used in an earlier, similar case, concluded that not just two, but three of DHS’s “founded” determinations had to be sustained. Appealing to the Oregon Supreme Court, petitioner argued that “probable cause” was the correct standard for determining that a report of abuse is founded and that none of DHS’s “founded” determinations hold up when the record on review was considered under that standard. Petitioner also argued that, given that the circuit court found that the DHS investigation and analysis into the reported abuse was incomplete and flawed in various respects, the “founded” determinations had to be set aside. The Supreme Court rejected those arguments and affirmed the Court of Appeals’ conclusion that three of the four “founded” dispositions were supported by substantial evidence. View "Querbach v. Dept. of Human Services" on Justia Law

by
Two juvenile dependency cases were consolidated for the Oregon Supreme Court’s review because they presented the same issue on review: whether the juvenile court’s dependency judgments establishing jurisdiction and wardship over each of parents’ two children exceeded the scope of the court’s temporary emergency jurisdiction under ORS 109.751, one of the statutes in the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act as enacted in Oregon. Before issuing its decision in “J.S.II,” the trial court became concerned that these cases might have become moot, because the juvenile court had terminated its jurisdiction and the wardships during the pendency of the appeal. Having considered the parties’ supplemental briefs, the Supreme Court conclude that these cases were not moot. And, for the reasons discussed in J. S. II, the Supreme Court held the juvenile court had authority under ORS 109.751 to issue dependency judgments making the children wards of the court and placing them in foster care, but that it did not have authority to order parents to engage in specified activities to regain custody of the children. View "Dept. of Human Services v. P. D." on Justia Law

by
Two juvenile dependency cases raised an issue of the scope of a juvenile court’s temporary emergency jurisdiction under ORS 109.751, which was part of Oregon’s enactment of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). Parents were residents of Washington who were living temporarily at a motel in Oregon. The juvenile court asserted temporary emergency jurisdiction over their 15-month-old son after police, investigating the death of his infant brother, found him living in squalid and dangerous conditions in the motel room. The court later entered several dependency judgments concerning that child as well as another child later born to Parents in Washington. Parents challenged the juvenile court’s authority under ORS 109.751 or any other provision of the UCCJEA to issue dependency judgments making their two children wards of the court in Oregon. On Parents’ appeals, the Court of Appeals affirmed the juvenile court, holding that the juvenile court had properly exercised temporary emergency jurisdiction as to both children under ORS 109.751 and did not exceed its temporary emergency jurisdiction when it issued dependency judgments as to the children. Only mother filed a petition for review, which the Oregon Supreme Court allowed. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed the juvenile court’s denial of mother’s motions to dismiss the dependency petitions, because the juvenile court had temporary emergency jurisdiction under the UCCJEA to enter dependency judgments as to the children. However, the juvenile court exceeded the scope of its temporary emergency jurisdiction, and therefore we vacate certain parts of the dependency judgments. As a result, the appellate court was affirmed in part and reversed in part. View "Dept. of Human Services v. J. S." on Justia Law

by
The issue this case presented for the Oregon Supreme Court’s review centered on the nature and scope of the “exclusive original jurisdiction” that ORS 419B.100(1) conferred on the juvenile courts over specified categories of “case[s] involving a person who is under 18 years of age.” The question arose from petitioner’s challenge to a juvenile court judgment that deprived her of legal-parent status as to S, a child over whom petitioner had claimed a right to custody. According to petitioner, the court’s judgment of “nonparentage” was void for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the juvenile court did not determine that S actually fell within one of the categories specified in ORS 419B.100(1). The Court of Appeals rejected petitioner’s challenge to the judgment, and the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals. Here, it was undisputed that this case involved a child who was the subject of a petition alleging that she fell within one of those categories and requesting that the juvenile court exercise its authority to address those allegations. And it was undisputed that proceedings to address the petition were pending when the juvenile court ruled on petitioner’s parentage status. The Supreme Court concluded the allegations and relief sought in the pending petition were sufficient to bring the case within the subject matter jurisdiction of the juvenile court. View "Dept. of Human Services v. C. M. H." on Justia Law

by
Petitioner M.A.B. applied for a Family Abuse Prevention Act (FAPA) protective order against respondent on October 9, 2017. Respondent and petitioner were married in 2014. Together, they had a son, J, who was born in 2015. During the marriage, respondent suffered from depression, for which he took medication. He sometimes also drank to excess. Petitioner testified that respondent raped her twice: once in March 2017 and once in May 2017. The incident in May included respondent dragging petitioner away from J while petitioner was breast feeding. In June 2017, petitioner expressed her unhappiness with the marriage. Respondent replied that, if petitioner left or divorced him, he would kill her and take J. In July 2017, petitioner took J, moved in with her parents, and filed for dissolution. After the separation, respondent made frequent attempts to contact petitioner by phone, email, and text message. At prearranged meetings, respondent regularly exhibited anger toward petitioner. After a hearing, the trial court continued the protective order in its entirety. On appeal, respondent conceded that the trial court’s findings were sufficient to establish that he had abused petitioner within 180 days of petitioner seeking the protective order. Respondent argued, however, that the evidence was insufficient to establish the two other elements: that petitioner was in imminent danger of further abuse from respondent and that respondent presented a credible threat to petitioner’s physical safety. The Court of Appeals agreed with respondent that the evidence was insufficient to show that petitioner was in imminent danger of further abuse from respondent. The court, as a result, reversed the trial court’s order without considering whether respondent represented a credible threat to petitioner’s physical safety. Because the appellate court did not consider whether respondent represented a credible threat to petitioner’s physical safety, the Oregon Supreme Court reversed and remanded for the appeals court to determine that issue in the first instance. View "M. A. B. v. Buell" on Justia Law

by
At issue in this case was the dissolution of a domestic partnership, specifically, how to distribute the appreciation in value of a home in which the parties lived during their time together. The trial court found the parties intended to live as a married couple and share in the appreciation of the home. The Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in coming to that conclusion. On review, the parties dispute whether the Court of Appeals applied the correct standard of review and whether that court correctly concluded that the parties should share in the appreciation in the home. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded the Court of Appeals applied an incorrect standard of review, but that it ultimately reached the correct decision. View "Staveland and Fisher" on Justia Law

by
Before the Oregon Supreme Court in this case was a child custody dispute arising out of father’s motion to modify a custody determination made at the time of the dissolution of the parties’ marriage, which awarded mother sole legal custody of child. At the conclusion of the modification proceeding, the trial court found that there had been a material change in circumstances concerning mother’s ability to parent child and that a change of custody from mother to father was in child’s best interest, and it awarded sole legal custody of child to father. On mother’s appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the trial court on the ground that, as a matter of law, there was insufficient evidence in the record to support the court’s finding of a change in circumstances and, thus, that custody modification was not warranted. The Supreme Court found sufficient evidence in the record supported the trial court’s ruling that father had proved a change of circumstances. The Court also addressed an issue that the Court of Appeals did not reach: whether the trial court erred in concluding that a change in custody was in child’s best interest. The Court held the trial court did not err in so concluding. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals. View "Botofan-Miller and Miller" on Justia Law

by
In the juvenile court, mother moved to terminate the court’s wardship over her child, A, and vacate the general guardianship the court had established. Mother’s motion was premised on her assertion that the factual basis for the court’s jurisdiction over A no longer existed. The juvenile court did not determine whether the factual basis for its jurisdiction over A continued to exist; instead, it denied mother’s motion on the ground that mother had failed to establish that vacating the guardianship was in A’s best interests. Mother appealed, and the Court of Appeals vacated the juvenile court’s judgment, holding that, if mother established that the factual basis for the juvenile court’s jurisdiction over A no longer existed, then the juvenile court was required to terminate its wardship over A and, consequently, could not continue the guardianship. Because the juvenile court had not determined whether it was required to terminate its wardship over A, the Court of Appeals remanded the case to the juvenile court to make that determination. A’s guardian, petitioned the Oregon Supreme Court for review. The Supreme Court concluded the juvenile court had to first determine whether it was required to terminate its wardship over A because, if it was, then the guardianship could not continue. The decision of the Court of Appeals was affirmed. The judgment of the juvenile court was reversed, and the case was remanded to the juvenile court for further proceedings. View "Dept. of Human Services v. J. C." on Justia Law

by
The juvenile court determined that mother was unfit and that it was improbable that child could be returned to mother’s care within a reasonable period of time, satisfying the requirements of ORS 419B.504. However, the court determined, the Department of Human Services had not established, as ORS 419B.500 required, that termination of mother’s parental rights was in child’s best interest. The court acknowledged that the department had proved that child had a need for permanency that could be met by terminating mother’s parental rights and permitting child’s foster parents, his maternal uncle and aunt, to adopt him. However, the court also found that child had an interest in maintaining his bond with his mother and her parents. The court suggested that child’s need for permanency could be satisfied by permitting his foster parents to serve as his permanent guardians and concluded that it was not in his best interest to terminate mother’s rights. Accordingly, the court dismissed the petition. In an en banc, split decision, the Court of Appeals determined that child’s pressing need for permanency could have been satisfied if he were “freed for adoption” and that, although naming child’s foster parents as his guardians might mitigate the effects of past disruptions, “leaving open the possibility of a return to mother creates its own instability” and was a “less-permanent” option that was not in child’s best interest. As the division in the Court of Appeals indicated, this was "a close case." The Oregon Supreme Court did not adopt the reasoning of the juvenile court in its entirety, it agreed with its conclusion that, given the particular facts presented here, it was in child’s best interest that his mother’s parental rights not be terminated. The Court of Appeals was reversed and the juvenile court affirmed. View "Dept. of Human Services v. T. M. D." on Justia Law