Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
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Appellant made deferred cash payments to his ex-wife, Appellee, pursuant to a marriage termination agreement (MTA) that Appellee “waives any right to . . . permanent spousal maintenance.” At issue is whether those payments were nonetheless “spousal maintenance” payments under Minn. Stat. Section 518.552.The Eighth Circuit concluded that the answer is clearly no and therefore affirm the decision of the United States Tax Court denying Appellant deductions under now-repealed alimony provisions of the Internal Revenue Code for $51M in cash payments he made to Appellee during his 2012 and 2013 federal income tax years.The court concluded that that Minnesota law unambiguously establishes that the MTA was not a spousal maintenance agreement. Rather, it was a contractual division of marital property. Contractual obligations under a divorce agreement fall under the general rule that causes of action survive their personal representatives. Minn. Stat. Section 573.01. That being so, Minnesota law unambiguously provides that the payments in question were not deductible because Appellant’s liability to make the payments would survive Appellee’s death. This is consistent with the stated purpose of Section 71(b)(1)(D). View "Andrew Redleaf v. CIR" on Justia Law

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Defendant and her then-husband bought a condo for $525,000 with the intention of making it their primary residence. To finance the purchase, the couple took out a mortgage with the Plaintiff bank. Defendant did not sign the note but consented to her husband doing so. The mortgage contained a "future advances" clause, which granted Plaintiff a security interest in the Mortgage covering future funds Defendant's husband might borrow.Four years later, Defendant's husband borrowed additional funds from Plaintiff to keep his business afloat. Defendant did not sign the note. A few months later, Defendant's husband filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and the condo was sold for $650,000, approximately $250,000 of which was deposited in escrow. The couple divorced and Defendant moved out of the state.In Defendant's husband's bankruptcy case, the court held a portion of the escrowed sale proceeds must pay down his business notes pursuant to the mortgage’s future advances clause and that he could not claim a homestead exemption. Plaintiff was granted summary judgment on its claims that Defendant's proceeds were also subject to the future advances clause and that Plaintiff could apply those proceeds to Defendant's husband's business note.Defendant appealed on several grounds, including unconscionability, contract formation, and public policy, all of which the court rejected, affirming the district court's granting of summary judgment to Plaintiff. View "Sanborn Savings Bank v. Connie Freed" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Tyson on plaintiff's interference claim under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The court concluded that Tyson's request for recertification was reasonable as a matter of law under 29 U.S.C. 2613(e) and did not interfere with defendant's FMLA rights. The court explained that it was reasonable as a matter of law to require recertification based on a significant change in the circumstances of plaintiff's absences. View "Whittington v. Tyson Foods, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, his three children, and Stop Child Protection Services from Legally Kidnapping filed suit against the county, DCSS, nine county officials, and three officials. Plaintiffs' constitutional, federal, and state law claims stemmed from a Child in Need of Protection of Services (CHIPS) proceeding by DCSS.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' motion to dismiss, holding that plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the facial constitutionality of three Minnesota child welfare statutes; plaintiff was not entitled to monetary damages under 42 U.S.C. 1983, because he failed to establish a due process violation, an equal protection claim, and municipal liability and conspiracy; and the children are also not entitled to damages under section 1983. The court also held that, even if the complaint was sufficiently pled and established a constitutional violation, defendants would be entitled to qualified immunity. Furthermore, the court held that no conduct by the individual defendants, as alleged in the amended complaint, rose to the level of maliciousness required to deny official immunity under Minnesota law. Finally, plaintiffs are not entitled to declaratory relief. View "Mitchell v. Dakota County Social Services" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the County on plaintiff's claim of interference with her rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and retaliation against her for asserting those rights. Plaintiff's claims arose when she was put on administrative leave following an investigation into her involvement in her husband's sexual abuse of their children. The court held that plaintiff failed to show any prejudice from the County's delay in acting on her FMLA request or its failure to give her notice of her FMLA rights. The court rejected the FMLA interference claim, holding that plaintiff was neither asked to nor required to complete work-related tasks while on leave. Rather, the activities plaintiff was asked to do related to the underlying child-protection investigation, her FMLA request, and her employment status.The court also held that the County was entitled to summary judgment on plaintiff's discrimination claim where the undisputed sequence of events does not demonstrate a causal link between her FMLA request and the Board's decision to proceed with a meeting regarding whether to terminate her employment. In this case, the Board's actions were based on the maltreatment determination. Finally, the court held that the district court did not err in declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding costs to the County. View "Thompson v. Kanabec County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit on behalf of themselves and their children against the social workers involved in their cases and two of their DHS supervisors, alleging violations of their constitutional rights. The Eighth Circuit held that plaintiffs had standing to seek damages, to the extent they did so, against the individual defendants where plaintiffs' injuries were fairly traceable to defendants. However, plaintiffs lacked standing to obtain declaratory and injunctive relief, which they sought as remedies for their facial attack on the constitutionality of the relevant statutes, because the injury was too speculative to form the basis for the relief sought. The court upheld the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' facial challenge to the relevant statutes, but remanded with instructions to dismiss the claim without prejudice.On the merits, the court held that plaintiffs' damages claims against social workers for failure to receive prompt post-deprivation hearings failed, because the social workers did not contribute to any subsequent delays, considering they lacked the authority to file ex parte petitions or to schedule hearings on state-court dockets. Furthermore, the court could not say that a policy or custom the supervisors created or applied, or their alleged failure to train or supervise, caused plaintiffs' harm. However, the court held that the district court erred in applying the Rooker-Feldman doctrine to plaintiffs' claim that the social workers used ex parte proceedings containing knowingly false allegations, because the state court never issued any judgments in the case. Accordingly, the court remanded for the district court to consider the claims on the merits. View "Webb v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel affirmed the bankruptcy court's entry of summary judgment in favor of the bankruptcy trustee. The Bank challenged whether the terms of the judgment were fulfilled in transferring debtor's ex-wife's interest to debtor.The panel held that there was no genuine issue of fact regarding debtor's divorce which resulted in the trustee's ability to rely upon the judgment as a purchaser for value. Even if the bank was successful on this point, it would not serve to repair the defect in its mortgage. In this case, the state court determined that debtor would retain the real estate that was already titled in his name, and the only interest the ex-wife held was her marital interest which vested upon dissolution of the marriage. View "Kunkel v. CUSB Bank" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, individually and on behalf of her minor children and mother, filed suit against the Commissioner, the County, two tribal courts, and related tribal judges, contesting the tribal court's jurisdiction over the children's child custody proceedings.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint, holding that there was no conflict between the Indian Child Welfare Manual's requirement that local social service agencies refer child custody proceedings involving Indian children to tribal social service agencies for proceedings in tribal court, and the Indian Child Welfare Act's recognition of exclusive or presumptive tribal jurisdiction for child custody proceedings involving Indian children. Section 1911(b) of the Act addresses the transfer of proceedings from state court to tribal court and, in this case, there were no state court proceedings. Furthermore, the tribal court's jurisdiction over the children was consistent with Public Law 280. Finally, the court held that plaintiffs have presented no evidence of a due process violation. View "Watso v. Lourey" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to St. Luke's in an action brought by plaintiff, alleging that the hospital interfered with her rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The court held that plaintiff's case consists of an unpersuasive argument of temporal proximity combined with her subjective belief that she was being treated differently and a few stray comments that she perceived to interfere with her FMLA rights. The evidence did not undermine or even raise a genuine issue of material fact regarding St. Luke’s legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for her termination: her work performance. Therefore, plaintiff failed to present a submissible case of retaliation for exercising her FMLA rights. View "Beckley v. St. Luke's Episcopal-Presbyterian Hospitals" on Justia Law

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After child abuse investigators removed seven minor children from plaintiffs' home, plaintiffs brought a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action against DHS and others. On appeal, a civilian investigator for the Crimes Against Children Division appealed the district court's denial of her motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity. The Eighth Circuit affirmed and held that the facts plausibly alleged that the investigator could be liable if the children were removed from their parents' home without reasonable suspicion of child abuse. Furthermore, it was clearly established at the time the investigator acted that reasonable suspicion was required to remove the children from their home and their parents' custody. View "Stanley v. Finnegan" on Justia Law