Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Hawaii
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The Supreme Court held that marital agreements that consider fault or misconduct when dividing the marital property are not enforceable.The parties in this case entered in a postnuptial agreement that if Husband engaged in extramarital affairs or physically harmed his wife Wife would receive most of the parties' joint assets. Husband later filed a complaint for divorce. The family court held that the marital agreement at issue was unenforceable as violating statutory policy and principles of no-fault divorce and equitable distribution. The intermediate court of appeals (ICA) vacated the family court's decision, holding that the marital agreement was valid and enforceable. The Supreme Court vacated the ICA's judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that the marital agreement violated public policy and was therefore unenforceable. View "Crofford v. Adachi" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the family court's order denying Father's motion to set aside default and his motion to intervene, holding that the family court should have analyzed Father's motion to intervene under Hawai'i Family Court Rules (HFCR) 24.In this proceeding brought under the Hawai'i Child Protective Act, Haw. Rev. Stat. Chapter 587A, both Father's default and default judgment were entered while the identity of the child's natural father was unknown. On certiorari, Father argued that he was not required to set aside the default and default judgment before filing his motion to intervene pursuant to Rule 24. The Supreme Court agreed on that issue and otherwise affirmed, holding (1) Father was not required to set aside the default and default judgment before proceeding with his motion to intervene; and (2) Father's remaining arguments were without merit. View "In re AA" on Justia Law

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In this consolidated appeal arising from the rulings of the family court on remand from a published opinion of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) in a divorce case, holding that the family court abused its discretion in part.The ICA affirmed in part and vacated in part the divorce decree in this case and remanded several issues, including the issue of spousal support, to the family court. After the case was remanded and judgment was made, the ICA held that the family court erred by engaging in a new just and equitable determination on remand, as it was not part of the remand order. The Supreme Court vacated in part and affirmed in part, holding (1) the ICA erred by setting aside the amended spousal support order on the basis that the family court was prohibited to do so on remand because Haw. Rev. Stat. 580-47(a) provided the court with continuing jurisdiction to address issues of spousal support; (2) the family court erred on remand by awarding more spousal support than it determined was required to satisfy Wife's needs; and (3) the family court erred by not holding a hearing on remand to determine whether the spousal support amount should have been amended. View "Jacoby v. Jacoby" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) concluding that the family court erred in dismissing count two of this complaint charging Defendant with certain offenses on the grounds that the family court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over that count, holding that the ICA did not err.Count one of the operative complaint charged Defendant with abuse of a family or household member, and count two charged him with third degree assault against a complaining witness. The family court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss count two, concluding that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The ICA reversed, concluding that the family court had concurrent subject matter jurisdiction over the charge based on Haw. Rev. Stat. 571-14(b). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the family court erred in dismissing count two for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because section 571-14(b) provided the family court with concurrent subject matter jurisdiction over count two; and (2) the family court continued to have subject matter jurisdiction over count two despite the dismissal of count one with prejudice. View "State v. Milne" on Justia Law

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In this custody dispute, the Supreme Court vacated a settlement agreement reached by the parties during trial, holding that the family court's actions in reaching the settlement were improper, and thus the family court plainly erred.Father sought joint legal and physical custody of the parties' minor child, and the case proceeded to a bench trial. The parties settled during trial. On appeal, Father argued that the family court acted improperly in facilitating the settlement. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that because the court spoke to Father alone without obtaining consent from counsel on the record, initiated settlement discussions, and strongly recommended specific terms on a hotly-contested issue after trial had commenced, the family court committed plain error. View "WW v. DS" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the family court's order granting the Department of Human Services (DHS) foster custody and the subsequent order terminating Mother's parental rights, holding that the ICA erred when it failed to vacate the family court's order.On appeal, Mother argued that the family court erred in failing to appoint counsel for her prior to granting foster custody. The Supreme Court agreed, holding (1) Mother should have been appointed counsel at the time DHS filed its petition for family supervision; and (2) the failure to appoint Mother counsel at the time DHS filed its petition for foster custody was structural error that cannot be deemed harmless. The Supreme Court remanded the case for further proceedings. View "In re L.I." on Justia Law

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In this divorce proceeding, the Supreme Court adopted the California Supreme Court's test for voluntariness in premarital agreements (PMA) under the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (UPAA) and held that the family court did not err in enforcing the PMA in this case and that Wife's other asserted points of error were meritless.During the parties' divorce proceeding, Wife argued that she involuntarily executed the PMA prior to her marriage to Husband. The family court rejected Wife's argument and enforced the PMA. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals and the family court, holding that the family court did not err by (1) considering the custody evaluator's report in awarding full physical custody of the parties' minor child to Husband; (2) finding that the PMA was enforceable; and (3) failing to find that Husband abused the temporary restraining order process to gain advantage in the custody dispute. View "L.R.O. v. N.D.O." on Justia Law

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In this divorce proceeding, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) concluding that Father's motion to amend findings of fact and conclusions of law and motion for new trial pursuant were untimely and concluding that the family court's orders denying Father's motion to amend and motion for new trial were void for lack of jurisdiction, holding that the family court did not abuse its discretion in denying Father's motions.The family court denied Father's motions to amend and for new trial the ICA determined that the family court's orders were void and that both motions were untimely. The ICA remanded with instructions for the family court to enter orders denying both motions on that basis. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the ICA erred in holding that Father's motion to amend and motion for new trial were untimely and in holding that the family court's orders denying the motions were void for lack of jurisdiction because the family court had jurisdiction to enter the orders. Further, the family court did not abuse its discretion in denying Father's motion to amend and motion for new trial. View "DL v. CL" on Justia Law

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In Father's third appeal in a divorce proceeding the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) except to the extent it affirmed the family court's order denying Father's motion for relief from judgment, holding that the ICA erred in determining that the family court's orders orders denying Father's motion to amend and motion for new trial were void and that both motions were untimely.After the family court entered a divorce decree Father submitted to the family court a Hawai'i Family Court Rules (HFCR) Rule 52(b) motion to amend, a HFCR Rule 59 motion for new trial, and a HFCR Rule 60(a) motion for relief from judgment. The family court denied Father's motion to amend and motion for new trial. The ICA determined that the family court's orders denying Father's motion to amend and motion for new trial were void and that both motions were untimely. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the ICA erred in holding that the motions to amend and for new trial were untimely; (2) the family court had jurisdiction to enter the orders; and (3) the family court did not abuse its discretion in denying Father's motion to amend and motion for new trial. View "DL v. CL" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the intermediate court of appeals (ICA) affirming the family court's challenged rulings concerning child custody and relocation and disqualification of counsel in a divorce proceeding, holding that the ICA did not err.Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the ICA did not err by (1) (a) considering the family court’s April 26, 2018 amended findings of fact and conclusions of law regarding child custody despite its entry of some findings of fact regarding child custody before the March 26, 2018 notice of appeal because the notice of appeal was premature; and (b) rejecting Petitioner’s arguments that the April 26, 2018 findings and conclusions should be rejected because the family court adopted Respondent's submissions verbatim; (2) affirming the family court’s denial of its motion to disqualify Respondent’s counsel and law firm; and (3) affirming the family court’s grant of sole physical custody of the parties’ minor children to Respondent and allowing Respondent to relocate the children to Arizona. View "DL v. CL" on Justia Law