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 Father's parental rights to his two children pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 15-7-7(a)(3), holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion.On appeal, Father argued that a finding of unfitness was at odds with the evidence presented and that the Department of Children, Youth and Families did not make reasonable efforts toward reunification. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) legally competent evidence existed to support the trial justice's findings as to parental unfitness; (2) the trial justice's conclusion on the issue of reasonable efforts to reunify was not clearly erroneous; and (3) there was no error either in the permanency hearing, as conducted by the trial justice, or in the subsequent decision. View "In re Jae'La G." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the decrees of the family court denying the Department of Children, Youth, and Families' (DCYF) petition to terminate the parental rights of Parents to their child, holding that the trial justice overlooked and misconceived material evidence of parental unfitness in this case.On remand, after finding the facts by clear and convincing evidence, the trial justice concluded that DCYF had failed to prove that it had made reasonable efforts to reunify Parents with their child. The Supreme Court vacated the decision below, holding (1) the record demonstrated that DCYF made reasonable efforts to reunify Parents with their child, and the trial justice was clearly wrong to conclude otherwise; and (2) contrary to the trial justice's conclusion, DCYF proved by clear and convincing evidence the statutory requirements supporting the termination of Parents' parental rights to their child. View "In re Nolan V-S" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decree of the family court terminating Mother's parental rights to her son, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion.After a trial, the trial justice concluded that the State had proven by clear and convincing evidence that Mother was unfit to parent her son and that it was in the child's best interest that Mother's parental rights be terminated. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice did not err (1) in finding that the child had been placed with the Department of Children, Youth, and Families for at least twelve months and that there was not a substantial probability that the child could return to Mother’s care within a reasonable period of time; and (2) in finding that it was in the child's best interests to terminate Mother's parental rights. View "In re Donnell R-H" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decree entered in the family court terminating Father's parental rights to his daughter, holding that there sufficient evidence to support the trial justice's finding that Father was unfit and that termination of his parental rights was in his daughter's best interest.After a hearing, the trial justice found that Father was unfit because his daughter had been in the legal custody or care of the Department of Children, Youth and Families for twelve months and Father failed to pursue the services offered him to correct the issues that led to the child's removal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court's findings were supported by the record and that there was no abuse of discretion in the proceedings below. View "In re Rachelle L-B." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the family court dismissing Petitioner's verified miscellaneous petition for declaratory judgment, holding that there was no error.This action stemmed from the Department of Children, Youth, and Families' (DCYF) investigation into the maltreatment of Petitioner's biological grandchild, ML. DCYF placed ML with a nonrelative foster family and then terminated Petitioner's son's parental rights to ML. The foster family subsequently adopted ML. Petitioner brought this action seeking a declaration that DCYF violated its statutory obligations by not considering him as a fit and willing relative for ML's placement. The trial justice dismissed the petition after finding that Petitioner lacked standing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Petitioner did not have standing to seek adjudication of his rights to ML when he filed his petition. View "Lacera v. Department of Children, Youth & Families" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decree of the family court terminating Mother's parental rights to her son, Lucas D, holding that the trial justice did not err in deciding that Mother's parental rights should be terminated.After a trial, the trial justice issued a decision finding Mother to be unfit and determining that her parental rights should be terminated. Mother appealed, arguing that the Department of Children, Youth and Families failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence that Mother had committed or allowed to be committed cruel and abusive conduct toward Lucas while in her care. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was competent evidence to support the trial justice's finding that Mother was an unfit parent; and (2) the trial justice did not abuse its discretion in concluding that termination was in the best interests of the child. View "In re Lucas D." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the family court denying Mother's motion for relocation with the minor child of the parties, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion.The parties in this case were never married and together have a child. Pursuant to a court order, the parties were granted joint custody and Mother was granted physical placement of the child. The next year, Mother filed a motion to relocate with the child to the state of Florida. The trial justice denied the motion to relocate, concluding that relocation was not in the best interests of the child. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice did not overlook or misconceive material evidence in denying the motion to relocate. View "Leon v. Krikorian" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Plaintiff, in her capacity as Administratrix for the Estate of Lisa Bicknell, following a grant of summary judgment, holding that there was no error.When the Defendant and the decedent were married Lisa participated in a 401(k) retirement plan. Lisa designated her then-husband, Defendant, as a contingent death beneficiary. After the couple divorced, Lisa died without a will and without having changed Defendant's designation as beneficiary of the retirement plan. Plaintiff sought a temporary restraining order to enjoin Defendant from transferring or conveying any portion of the money he had or may receive from the plan, claiming that Defendant had waived all interest in the retirement plan under the parties' property settlement agreement. The trial court ordered that the retirement funds be transferred to Plaintiff. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant waived any and all interest in the retirement plan, and no genuine issue of material fact remained in dispute. View "Morgan v. Bicknell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court granting the parties in this case a divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences, dividing the parties' marital estate, and awarding joint custody of the parties' child, holding that there was no error.Both parties in this case - Elida Mezini and Leart Mezini - appealed the judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision pending entry of final judgment of the family court, holding (1) there was no error in the trial justice's equitable distribution of the marital property; (2) the trial justice did not abuse his discretion in setting Leart's child support obligations; and (3) as to any remaining issues, the trial court did not err. View "Mezini v. Mezini" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decree of the family court terminating Mother's parental rights to her son, holding that the family court did not err.The trial justice found by clear and convincing evidence that Mother was unfit to parent the child and that it was in the child's best interest that Mother's parental rights be terminated. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was sufficient evidence in the record to support the trial justice's finding that Mother was unfit given her failure to engage fully in the services provided by the Department of Children, Youth, and Families and lack of protective capacity; and (2) the trial justice's decision to terminate Mother's parental rights was proper. View "In re Domenic B." on Justia Law