Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Rhode Island Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decree of the family court terminating Respondents' parental rights to their daughter, holding that the findings of the family court justice were based on clear and convincing evidence and were not clearly wrong, nor did the justice overlook or misconceive material evidence.The family court justice concluded that it was in the best interest of the child that the parental rights of Respondents be terminated based on the finding of unfitness. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the family court justice did not err in (1) admitting into evidence a medical report prepared by Dr. Adebimpe Adewusi, the child's treating physician; (2) finding, by clear and convincing evidence, that Respondents were unfit parents "by reason of conduct or conditions seriously detrimental to the child," in that they committed, or allowed to be committed, conduct toward the child "of a cruel and abusive nature"; and (3) finding that it was in the best interest of the child that Respondents' parental rights be terminated. View "In re Rylee A." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the family court denying, without prejudice, Mother's motion to intervene, as well as her motion to vacate or, in the alternative, to revoke a guardianship regarding her daughter, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, the hearing justice properly granted the guardianship petition but affirmed without prejudice to Mother filing a motion to revoke the guardianship.A guardianship was filed on behalf of the individuals caring for the child and signed by Father, signifying his consent to the guardianship. The hearing justice granted the guardianship petition. Mother subsequently filed a motion to vacate, otherwise grant relief, or in the alternative, to revoke guardianship, arguing (1) her due process rights were violated because she was never served with process for either the neglect or guardianship petitions, and (2) the guardianship petition was granted in violation of statutory in law because she never gave written consent to the petition. The family court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) despite the lack of formal service of process, the petition was properly granted; and (2) under the circumstances, the hearing justice properly granted the guardianship petition without Mother's consent. View "In re Indiana M." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decree of the family court terminating Mother's parental rights her to her daughter, holding that the family court justice's findings were not clearly wrong, and the justice did not overlook or misconceive material evidence.Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the trial justice did not err by (1) failing to recuse herself from the trial after she ordered the filing of a petition to terminate Mother's parental rights; (2) finding, by clear and convincing evidence, that Mother was an unfit parent; and (3) concluding that it was in the child's best interests to terminate Mother's parental rights to her. View "In re Adele B." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied and dismissed Defendant's appeal from an order of the family court denying what Father characterized as a motion to receive a child support credit for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits that were paid directly to Mother for the care of the parties' child, holding that this appeal was not properly before the Court.The Supreme Court noted that, even though Father's motion was styled as a motion for credit, it was, in fact, a motion to modify the amount of child support Father was obligated to pay. Because matters relating to the modification of child support are not appealable, the Supreme Court declined to reach the merits of the appeal because it was not properly before the Court. View "Evans v. Evans" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the family court terminating Plaintiff's marriage to Defendant on the grounds of irreconcilable differences, holding that the trial justice neither erred nor abused her discretion in her assignment of specific martial assets or in determining the amount of Plaintiff's child support obligation.On appeal, Plaintiff challenged several of the specific asset allocations as well as the amount of child support Plaintiff was ordered to pay Defendant, arguing that there was either error or abuse of discretion in the part of the trial justice. The Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in its allocation and distribution of Defendant's investment accounts, in offsetting spending from marital assets, in allocating assets from individual bank accounts, and in ordering Plaintiff to pay a certain amount of child support. View "Boschetto v. Boschetto" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the family court denying Father's motions to modify visitation placement, ordering Father's visitation to remain suspended, granting in part Mother's motion for a mental health examination of Father, and ordering the parties to engage a counselor for the purposes of Father's psychological evaluation as well as for a parent-child evaluation of Father and the minor children, holding that the family court did not err.The parties in this case were divorced and shared joint custody of their three minor children with physical possession granted to Mother and visitation to Father. After a few years, the family court suspended Father's visitation and ordered him to undergo a mental health examination. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice did not abuse his discretion when he issued the order. View "Tsonos v. Tsonos" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the order of the family court denying Father's motion for a new trial following an order that denied Father's motion to change custody and awarded sole custody of the parties' children to Mother, holding that the trial justice improperly determined that Plaintiff should be awarded sole custody.Following the entry of final judgment of divorce Father moved to modify placement, seeking an order awarding him placement of the children. The trial justice granted Mother's motion to dismiss, finding that Defendant had not met his burden of showing a substantial change in circumstances. The trial justice then found that the parents could not co-parent the children and granted sole custody to Mother. The Supreme Court vacated the order in part, holding that the trial justice (1) did not abuse her discretion when she denied Defendant's motion to modify custody; and (2) erred in awarding sole custody to Mother without determining that the change of placement was in the best interests of the children. View "Souza v. Souza" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decree of the family court terminating Mother's parental rights to her child, holding that the family court did not err when it terminated the rights of Mother, the non-Indian mother of an Indian child who was born suffering from severe medical issues.The trial court terminated Mother's rights after applying the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), finding that the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) had met the burden under the ICWA of engaging in active efforts to reunify the child with Mother, and concluding that the child would face serious emotional and physical harm if Mother was given custody of the child. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice did not err when she found that DCYF engaged in "active efforts" to reunify the child with mother as required by the ICWA in section 1912(d). View "In re Roman A." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated in part a family court final judgment of divorce and otherwise affirmed, holding that without a finding as to Wife's ability to pay for her legal representation during the course of the divorce proceedings, the trial justice's denial of Wife's request for attorneys' fees must be vacated and remanded for findings of fact whether to award attorneys' fees under Neb. Rev. Stat. 15-5-16.Specifically, the Court held that the trial justice (1) did not abuse his discretion in denying Wife's request to relocate with the children to Ohio; (2) did not err in awarding temporary use of the home to Wife for thirty months, after which time the home would be sold; (3) did not err in his award of child support; (4) erred in awarding attorneys' fees and costs; (5) did not err in the equitable distribution of the marital property; (6) did not err in setting the visitation schedule; and (7) did not abuse his discretion in determining the amount of sanctions imposed on Husband. View "Saltzman v. Saltzman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decree of the family court that terminated Mother's parental rights with respect to her daughter, holding that the family court justice's findings were not clearly wrong, and the justice did not overlook or misconceive material evidence.On appeal, Mother argued that the family court justice erred in finding unfitness, in concluding that the Department of Children, Youth, and Families made reasonable efforts to provide services to address the circumstances that led to the child's placement in the first instance, and in determining that the termination of Mother's parental rights was in the best interest of the child. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that legally competent evidence existed to supporting the family court justice's findings. View "In re Violet G." on Justia Law