Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
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The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's denial of a petition for return of petitioner's child to France under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The panel concluded that the district court made three legal errors: 1) assuming petitioner cut off financial support for the child, the district court erred as a matter of law in determining that was sufficient to establish that he clearly and unequivocally abandoned the child, the showing required for deeming a parent not to be exercising custody rights; 2) the district court further erred in declining to return the child to France based on a "grave risk" defense, without first considering whether there are alternative remedies available to protect the child and permit her return to France for the period of time necessary for French courts to make the custody determination; and 3) the district court also erred in relying in part on the pandemic to deny the petition because the record did not include any evidence addressing what specific pandemic related risk returning the child to France would present. View "Jones v. Fairfield" on Justia Law

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Father sought the return of his children under the Hague Convention of the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and the International Child Abduction Remedies Act (ICARA), which implements the Convention. The district court found the repatriation of the minor children to Germany posed a grave risk of psychological harm if in father's custody and therefore ordered that the children be transferred back to Germany in mother's custody until a German court made a custody determination.The Ninth Circuit vacated and remanded the district court's alternative remedy order for the district court to reasonably ensure compliance with its alternative remedy in Germany. The court explained that, because mother wrongfully removed the children, as she conceded, the district court in no way exceeded its authority to mandate the children's return to Germany accompanied by mother. However, in the context of an Article 13(b) finding, the district court needed a fuller record to have sufficient guarantees that the alternative remedy will be enforced in Germany. View "Radu v. Johnson Shon" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, of plaintiff’s diversity suit against the Public Group and Derek MacFarland, in his capacity as successor-in-interest to Michael MacFarland, plaintiff's late husband.The panel affirmed the district court's holding that plaintiff's claims, which seek modification of her divorce decree, fall within the domestic relations exception to federal diversity jurisdiction. In this case, plaintiff's requested remedy puts this case at the core of the domestic relations exception, and the eight claims she made against the Public Group also fall within the exception. The panel stated that a plaintiff may not evade the domestic relations exception simply by filing her diversity case against a corporate entity associated with her ex-spouse. View "Bailey v. MacFarland" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of individual employees of the Clark County DFS and the County in an action brought by plaintiffs under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and state law, alleging that defendants wrongfully removed plaintiffs' infant daughter, M.M., from plaintiffs' home, wrongfully removed M.M. from her foster mother's home, and then placed her in a neglectful foster home that caused her death.The panel held that plaintiffs waived several appellate arguments where these arguments were either not raised before the district court, are inconsistent with positions employed there, or are presented without argument. The panel also held that each of plaintiffs' asserted factual disputes are either resolved by the record or are insufficient to create a genuine dispute of material fact on its claims. In this case, plaintiffs' third claim of failure to train has been waived whereas its fifth claim of state-law negligence was effectively dismissed. Furthermore, plaintiffs fail to present a genuine dispute that M.M. was wrongfully removed from their home or that defendants acted with deliberate indifference. Finally, the panel held that the district court properly decided the question of causation for the state negligence claim as a matter of law rather than a matter of fact, and that plaintiffs waived their wrongful death claim. View "Momox-Caselis v. Donohue" on Justia Law

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When an employee working a "one week on, one week off" schedule takes continuous leave, an employer may count both the on and off weeks against the employee's Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave entitlement. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Secretary in an action alleging that Alaska miscalculated the amount of FMLA leave that certain employees of the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) were entitled to take.The panel held that the term "workweek" in 29 U.S.C. 2612(a)(1) has the same meaning it carries under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The panel explained that it is a fixed, pre-established period of seven consecutive days in which the employer is operating. Under that reading of the term, when a rotational employee takes continuous leave, both his on and off weeks count as "workweeks of leave" under section 2612(a)(1). Thus, the panel concluded that Alaska may insist that rotational employees who take 12 workweeks of continuous leave return to work 12 weeks later. The panel also held that it need not defer to the Secretary's contrary interpretation of the statute under Skidmore v. Swift & Co., 323 U.S. 134 (1944). View "Scalia v. Alaska" on Justia Law

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In November 1999, the SSA filed a dependency petition on behalf of plaintiff and her sister against their parents. The juvenile dependency court assumed jurisdiction over the children, but permitted them to remain in their mother's custody and to have supervised visitation with their father. In February 2000, the dependency court ordered that the children be removed from mother's custody. In 2001, mother filed an action in California superior court alleging that Orange County social workers violated her constitutional right to familial association. The jury returned verdicts in favor of mother against all defendants except one. Plaintiff filed this 2013 federal action alleging that defendants violated her Fourteenth Amendment right to familial association and her Fourth Amendment right against wrongful seizure.The Ninth Circuit held that where constitutional familial rights are at stake, there are identical companionship rights between a parent and child that could allow a plaintiff to invoke issue preclusion to bar relitigation of issues previously decided. However, in this case, plaintiff cannot assert issue preclusion because mother litigated more than just the overlapping companionship rights in her state court case and the panel cannot determine the basis for the jury's verdict. Therefore, plaintiff failed to establish that the issues litigated in the prior state proceeding were identical to the issues raised in her federal case. View "Hardwick v. County of Orange" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants in an action brought by plaintiff under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the County and DCFS violated plaintiff's due process and privacy rights by maintaining unfounded child abuse allegations against plaintiff in California's Child Welfare Services Case Management System (CWS/CMS) without providing him notice or a hearing to challenge them.The panel held that the County has a strong interest in maintaining all reports of suspected child abuse in CWS/CMS—even those that result in "unfounded" dispositions—because doing so helps its child welfare and law enforcement agencies protect children from abuse and neglect. In this case, plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of material fact that the records of his "unfounded" allegations in CWS/CMS caused him reputational harm, or that they are used by the County to alter or extinguish his rights to employment, child placement, or child visitation. Therefore, plaintiff failed to show that his inclusion in CWS/CMS implicates his liberty interests so as to require procedural due process. Furthermore, plaintiff has not shown that the County publicly disseminates or misuses his information in a manner that would violate his constitutional right to privacy. View "Endy v. County of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a petition for the return of a child to Mexico pursuant to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Petitioner is the child's paternal half-sister and respondent is the child's maternal grandmother, who has been raising the child in Las Vegas, Nevada since 2017.In this case, the district court clearly erred in its factual finding regarding the date of removal, which was August 25, 2017. Furthermore, respondent's removal of the child was wrongful because it breached the Mexican court's rights of custody. Because the petition was filed more than one year after the date of wrongful removal, the district court had discretion to decline to order the return of the child. Because petitioner does not appeal the district court's findings that the child is now settled in Las Vegas, nor does petitioner argue that the district court abused its discretion in declining to order return, the panel affirmed the district court's discretionary decision not to order the return of the child pending custody proceedings. View "Flores Castro v. Hernandez Renteria" on Justia Law

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After federal agencies issued two interim final rules (IFRs) exempting employers with religious and moral objections from the Affordable Care Act requirement that group health plans cover contraceptive care without cost sharing, states filed suit to enjoin the enforcement of the IFRs. The Ninth Circuit affirmed that venue was proper in the Northern District of California; affirmed that plaintiff states have standing to sue based on procedural injury where the states have shown with reasonable probability that the IFRs will first lead to women losing employer-sponsored contraceptive coverage, which will then result in economic harm to the states; affirmed the preliminary injunction insofar as it barred enforcement of the IFRs in the plaintiff states; but vacated the portion of the injunction barring enforcement in other states because the scope of the injunction was overbroad. View "California v. Azar" on Justia Law

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After county social workers removed four children under the age of six from their family home under a suspicion of child abuse, took them to a temporary shelter, and subjected them to invasive medical examinations, without their parents' knowledge or consent and without a court order authorizing the examinations, the family filed suit against the county for violations of the parents' Fourteenth Amendment rights and the children's Fourth Amendment rights.The Ninth Circuit held that the county violates parents' Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process rights when it performs the Polinsky Children's Center medical examinations without notifying the parents about the examinations and without obtaining either the parents' consent or judicial authorization. The panel assumed, without deciding, that the special needs doctrine applied to the Polinksy medical examinations, but held that the searches were unconstitutional under the special needs balancing test if performed without the necessary notice and consent. In this case, the county violated the children's Fourth Amendment rights by failing to obtain a warrant or to provide these constitutional safeguards before subjecting the children to these invasive medical examinations. View "Mann v. County of San Diego" on Justia Law