Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

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Respondent appealed the district court's final order granting petitioner's petition under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction for the return of the parties' minor child. The Second Circuit agreed with the district court's habitual residence determination, but held that the district court erred in granting the petition because the most important protective measures it imposed are unenforceable and not otherwise accompanied by sufficient guarantees of performance. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings concerning the availability of alternative ameliorative measures. View "Saada v. Golan" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting in part and denying in part Pangea's motion for a writ of execution upon the proceeds from the sale of a property previously owned by a divorced couple. Pangea, a judgment creditor of husband, claimed that the district court erred in declining to award it the entirety of the proceeds, arguing that its interest in the property took priority over the interest awarded to wife in a divorce judgment. The court certified the question to the New York Court of Appeals, which held that wife's interest vested upon entry of the divorce judgment and did not render her a judgment creditor of husband. The state court held that legal rights to specific marital property vest upon the judgment of divorce and the dissolution of a marriage involving the division of marital assets does not render one ex‐spouse the creditor of another. Rather, the judgment of divorce was, as the Federal District Court explained, a final settling of accounts' between marital partners with an equitable interest in all marital property. Therefore, C.P.L.R. 5203(a), by its plain terms, has no application here, and Pangea can claim no priority. The court held that this holding was binding and dispositive of the case. View "Pangea Capital Management, LLC v. Lakian" on Justia Law

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The Coalition filed suit on behalf of its foster parent members, alleging that the State pays foster parents members inadequate rates to cover the costs of caring for their foster children, in violation of the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's finding that the Coalition has standing to sue on behalf of its members under Nnebe v. Daus, 644 10 F.3d 147 (2d Cir. 2011) and rejected the State's argument that the Coalition was barred by the third‐party standing rule. However, the court reversed the district court's dismissal of the Coalition's claims and joined the Sixth and Ninth Circuits in holding that the Act creates a specific entitlement for foster parents to receive foster care maintenance payments, and that this entitlement was enforceable through 42 U.S.C. 1983. Accordingly, the court vacated the order dismissing the case and remanded for further proceedings. View "New York State Citizens' Coalition for Children v. Poole" on Justia Law

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Miller and Jenkins entered into a civil union in Vermont in 2000. In 2002, Miller gave birth to IMJ. Miller took IMJ to Virginia. Jenkins remained in Vermont. In 2003, a Vermont court dissolved the union and awarded custody to Miller. Miller repeatedly refused to respect Jenkins’ visitation rights. Following several contempt citations, the Vermont court awarded sole custody to Jenkins in 2009. While the litigation was pending, Miller kidnapped IMJ, fleeing to Nicaragua. The government issued subpoenas under the Stored Communications Act 18 U.S.C. 2703(c)(2), rather than a court‐approved warrant, to a cell phone company, seeking billing records spanning 28 months and other information. As confirmed by Zodhiates’ cell phone and email records, which were introduced at trial, Zodhiates drove Miller and IMJ from Virginia to Buffalo, where they crossed into Ontario. Miller remains a fugitive. Zodhiates coordinated delivery of Miller's personal items to Nicaragua. Zodhiates was convicted of conspiring with and aiding and abetting Miller to obstruct the lawful exercise of parental rights, International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act, 18 U.S.C. 371, 1204, and 2. The district court declined to suppress inculpatory location information garnered from his cell phone records. The Second Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments under the Fourth Amendment and that the charge to the jury, referring to Vermont family law, denied Zodhiates a fair trial. The court noted that in 2011 a warrant was not required for cell records so the government acted in good faith. View "United States v. Zodhiates" on Justia Law

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This appeal involved an intra‐family dispute over who owns a residential house. The Second Circuit held that the district court properly granted defendants' motion for summary judgment on the pleadings with respect to plaintiffs' adverse possession claim where the affirmative complaint did not contain any affirmative facts that plaintiffs did anything that constituted a distinct assertion of a right hostile to defendants. However, with regard to the constructive trust claim, the court held that there may be a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether an implied promise was made and as to whether defendants' refusal to honor this promise unjustly enriched them. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Jaffer v. Hirji" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a petition pursuant to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction seeking the return of three children from New York to Thailand. The court held that the Convention does not enter into force until a ratifying state accepts an acceding state's accession and that Article 35 limits the Convention's application to removals and retentions taking place after the Convention has entered into force between the two states involved. Therefore, because the Convention did not enter into force between the United States and Thailand until April 1, 2016, after the allegedly wrongful retention of the children in New York on October 7, 2015, the Convention does not apply to petitioner's claim and the district court did not err in dismissing his petition. View "Marks v. Hochhauser" on Justia Law

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New York's intestacy law, as it existed in 2013 at the time of the agency's final determination, did not permit children conceived posthumously to inherit via intestacy. In this case, plaintiff had conceived twins via in vitro fertilization eleven years after her husband, the donor spouse, died. Plaintiff filed applications for child's survivors' benefits, based on her husband's earnings history, with the Social Security Administration. The Second Circuit held that, under the applicable provisions of New York's Estates, Powers and Trusts Law (EPTL) in effect at and prior to the time of the agency's final decision, the twins were not entitled to inherit from the decedent in intestacy. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's denial of benefits. View "MacNeil v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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The notice of termination itself constitutes an adverse employment action, even when the employer later rescinds the termination. The Second Circuit held that plaintiff's notice of termination in this case was itself an adverse employment action, despite its later revocation; likewise, the court saw no reason to construe plaintiff's Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) claim differently from her Title VII claim with respect to whether the rescission of a notice of termination given to a pregnant employee establishes as a matter of law that the notice may not constitute an adverse employment action; the facts alleged were insufficient to establish constructive discharge nor a hostile work environment; plaintiff's retaliation claim was properly dismissed; and because plaintiff did state a plausible claim of discriminatory termination, and interference with her FMLA rights, the district court should reconsider on remand its decision to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state and city law claims. Accordingly, the court vacated in part and remanded, and affirmed in all other respects. View "Shultz v. Shearith" on Justia Law

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The notice of termination itself constitutes an adverse employment action, even when the employer later rescinds the termination. The Second Circuit held that plaintiff's notice of termination in this case was itself an adverse employment action, despite its later revocation; likewise, the court saw no reason to construe plaintiff's Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) claim differently from her Title VII claim with respect to whether the rescission of a notice of termination given to a pregnant employee establishes as a matter of law that the notice may not constitute an adverse employment action; the facts alleged were insufficient to establish constructive discharge nor a hostile work environment; plaintiff's retaliation claim was properly dismissed; and because plaintiff did state a plausible claim of discriminatory termination, and interference with her FMLA rights, the district court should reconsider on remand its decision to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state and city law claims. Accordingly, the court vacated in part and remanded, and affirmed in all other respects. View "Shultz v. Shearith" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit vacated the district court's judgment in favor of defendants, agreeing with plaintiff that the district court wrongly instructed the jury that "but for" causation applied to Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) claims. The court held that FMLA retaliation claims of the sort plaintiff brought here were grounded in 29 U.S.C. 2615(a)(1) and a "motivating factor" causation standard applied to those claims. The court also held that the district court exceeded the bounds of its discretion in admitting and permitting the adverse inferences to be drawn in this case. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Woods v. START Treatment & Recovery Centers" on Justia Law