Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in South Dakota Supreme Court
by
In this divorce action, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part orders entered by two different circuit court judges related to James Farmer's distributional interest in Lakota Lake Camp, LLC and orders related to the release of funds to James's wife, Lori Lieberman, that were previously held by the clerk of court following the execution sale of property owned by Lakota Lake, holding that the court erred in part.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the collection court had subject matter jurisdiction to hear and determine Lori's application for a charging order; (2) the divorce court erred in ordering the release of excess sale proceeds to Lori; and (3) the collection court's order denying Lakota Lake's motion to release to the company the excess sale proceeds from the sale of Granite Perch, the last remaining property owned by Lakota Lake, to Lori must be vacated and the case remanded for further proceedings on the issue. View "Farmer v. Farmer" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting Mother's request for primary physical custody of the parties' daughter, V.F., and denying Father's request fo primary physical custody, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion.Under a parenting order entered as part of their Arizona divorce the parties shared physical custody of V.F. Father later moved to South Dakota, registered the Arizona divorce and child custody order, and moved to modify the original shared parenting arrangement. Mother, who lived in California, opposed the motion and sought primary physical custody of V.F. The circuit court granted primary physical custody of the child to Mother. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court's decision to grant primary physical custody of V.F. to Mother was not an abuse of discretion. View "Flint v. Flint" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the final order of the circuit court terminating Mother's parental rights to their minor child, holding that there was no error.The court issued a final dispositional order terminating Mother's parental rights over her child and granted the Department of Social Services (DSS) full adoptive custody of the child, finding beyond a reasonable doubt that DSS made active efforts to provide remedial services and rehabilitative programs designed to prevent the breakup of the Indian family and that those efforts were unsuccessful. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court (1) did not err in finding that DSS made active efforts to reunify L.N. with Mother; (2) did not clearly err in finding that termination of Mother's parental rights was the least restrictive alternative and in L.N.'s best interests; and (3) did not violate Mother's due process rights in denying her request to continue the final dispositional hearing. View "In re Interest of L.N." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court terminating the parental rights of Father, holding that any error committed by the circuit court did not prejudice Father.After a hearing, the circuit court issued a decision terminating the parental rights of Mother and Father to their three children. Father appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court (1) erred when it prematurely signed the State's proposed findings, but Father failed to establish prejudice caused by the error; (2) did not err when it determined that the Department of Social Services made active efforts to prevent the breakup of the family; (3) did not clearly err in finding that Father's continued custody of the children would result in serious physical or emotional harm; and (4) did not err when it found that termination of Father's parental rights was the least restrictive alternative commensurate with the best interests of the children. View "In re A.A." on Justia Law

by
In this divorce action, the Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's valuation of the marital estate, inclusion of certain property in the marital estate, and determination that Kibbe Conti owed Russell Conti an $11,436 cash equalization payment, holding that the circuit court erred.This appeal concerned only the valuation and division of certain property. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court's valuation of the marital residence was clearly erroneous; (2) on remand, the circuit court is further directed to apply the legal factors outlined in this opinion and enter findings specifically addressing why certain property should be considered marital or non marital; and (3) the circuit court's determination that Kibbe owed Russell an $11,436 cash equalization payment was based on clear error. View "Conti v. Conti" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court issuing a permanent protection order against Matthew Batchelder, holding that the circuit court's order did not rest upon sufficient factual and legal support.While expressing its reluctance against the appropriateness of issuing a permanent protection order against Matthew, the court indicated that the protection order was necessary to ease the contentious relationship between Matthew and his former wife, Ame Batchelder. The court, however, did not issue any oral or written findings. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the lack of findings and legal justification rendered the protection order infirm. View "Batchelder v. Batchelder" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the final dispositional order of the circuit court terminating the parental rights of Mother and Father, the biological parents of C.R.W., holding that the circuit court did not err or abuse its discretion.C.R.W. was the subject of an abuse and neglect proceeding before the circuit court. C.R.W. was considered an Indian child under the Indian Child Welfare Act pursuant to 25 U.S.C. 1903(4), and the Oglala Sioux Tribe intervened in the proceeding. The Tribe moved to disqualify C.R.W.'s attorney on the grounds that the attorney had a conflict of interest with C.R.W. The circuit court denied the motion. During the proceedings, Mother and the Tribe moved to transfer the case to tribal court, but the motion was denied. After the parents' parental rights were terminated, Mother and the Tribe appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court (1) did not err when it denied the Tribe's motions to disqualify C.R.W.'s attorney; and (2) did not abuse its discretion in denying Mother's motions to transfer jurisdiction. View "In re C.R.W." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's dispositional order terminating Mother's rights to her daughter, holding that the evidence did not establish that active efforts were made to reunify Mother and the child.After a hearing, the court determined beyond a reasonable doubt that the State "made reasonable and active efforts to provide remedial services designed to prevent the breakup of the family and those rehabilitative programs [had] been unsuccessful." On appeal, Mother challenged the court's conclusion that active efforts were provided to prevent the breakup of the family and that the efforts were unsuccessful. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in terminating Mother's parental rights on the basis that the South Dakota Department of Social Services had been making active efforts since the inception of the case and that such efforts were unsuccessful. View "In re C.H." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's judgment and decree of divorce entered on the grounds of extreme cruelty, as well as the court's determinations regarding child custody, property division, child support, and attorney fees and costs, holding that the court did not err or abuse its discretion.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court did not commit clear error in granting Husband's request for a divorce on the grounds of extreme cruelty; (2) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in its child custody determination, marital property division, child support calculation, or award of attorney fees; and (3) based on Wife's refusal to comply with the court's judgment and decree of divorce, the court did not commit clear error when it found Wife in contempt of court. View "Evens v. Evens" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's property division order in this divorce proceeding, holding that the court abused its discretion in excluding farmland Wife purchased with Husband from the marital estate.A relative of Husband sold the farmland at issue to the parties at a discounted purchase price. Because of the discount the circuit court determined that the transfer was a partial gift solely to Husband. Wife appealed, arguing that the circuit court abused its discretion by excluding $1,526,000 of the farm's appraised value from the marital estate. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the circuit court applied a rule that would conclusively prevent the entire value of the farm from ever being considered marital property regardless of Wife's contributions, and that the rule is in irreconcilable tension with existing decisional law. View "Field v. Field" on Justia Law