Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
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The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services contracts out most of its fostering and adoption services to private child-placing agencies (CPAs), which perform home evaluations of prospective adoptive and foster parent(s). One CPA, St. Vincent Catholic Charities, shares the religious teachings of the Roman Catholic Church regarding same-sex marriage. It “cannot provide a written recommendation ... endorsing a family situation that would conflict with [its] religious beliefs” so St. Vincent refers out home evaluations for same-sex or unmarried couples to other CPAs. In 2015, Michigan codified this practice. M.C.L. 722.124e(1)(g) provides that “[t]o the fullest extent permitted by state and federal law," a CPA shall not be required to provide any services if those services conflict with, or provide any services under circumstances that conflict with," the CPA’s "sincerely held religious beliefs.”The Dumonts alleged that they were a same-sex couple interested in fostering and adoption, but that St. Vincent refused to assist them with the licensing process because of their sexual orientation. Michigan settled that suit by agreeing to enforce, against CPAs, a policy prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. St. Vincent then claimed that the state violated its First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by directing it to perform its duties in a manner that violates its sincerely held religious beliefs. The district court denied the Dumonts’ motions, seeking intervention. The Sixth Circuit reversed with respect to permissive intervention. Citing FRCP 24(b)(3), the court held that the Dumonts’ motion was timely, that it presented a common question of law, and that there is little risk of undue delay or prejudice to the existing parties. View "Buck v. Gordon" on Justia Law

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A family of two parents and five children alleged that social workers employed by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services violated their Fourth Amendment rights by subjecting the children to warrantless in-school interrogations without reasonable suspicion of child abuse. They also claimed violations of their Fourteenth Amendment rights by requiring adherence to a “Prevention Plan,” which constrained the mother’s ability to be alone with her children for approximately two months without any question as to her parental fitness and without any procedural protections.The Sixth Circuit reversed the denial of qualified immunity on the Fourth Amendment claims. The law governing in-school interviews by social workers was not clearly established at the time of the relevant conduct. The Fourth Amendment does govern a social worker’s in-school interview of a child pursuant to a child abuse investigation; at a minimum, a social worker must have a reasonable suspicion of child abuse before conducting an in-school interview when no other exception to the warrant requirement applies. The court affirmed the denial of qualified immunity on the procedural and substantive due process claims. The complaint alleged that the supervision restrictions were imposed for approximately two months after there was no longer any question as to parental fitness without any procedural protections; they abridged the parents’ clearly established right to the companionship and care of their children without arbitrary government interference. View "Schulkers v. Kammer" on Justia Law

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A Colombian father brought his one-year-old son, TCG, to the United States, planning that TCG would stay with TCG’s Colombian mother, who was attempting to immigrate to the U.S. Mother was detained by INS in Texas, so father left TCG with mother’s sister in Tennessee and returned home to Colombia. Mother was released on bond and joined TCG in Tennessee. About five months later, father visited the two in the U.S., then returned to Colombia, leaving TCG in the U.S. The relationship between mother and father, who were not married, soon deteriorated. Almost a year later, father filed a petition under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, 22 U.S.C. 9001(a)(2), claiming that TCG had been vacationing in the U.S. and that mother had wrongfully retained him there, beyond the expiration of his tourist visa. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of the petition, finding that the U.S. was TCG’s habitual residence so that mother’s retention of the child was not wrongful. The acclimatization standard was “of limited utility” in TCG’s case, because of TCG’s age, but the court noted that TCG was “comfortable and settled” in his aunt’s home. The parental-intent standard was more appropriate in TCG’s case. Although father testified that he had always intended to return TCG to Colombia, the court found no evidence of any such plan. View "Vasquez v. Acevedo" on Justia Law

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In January 2010, 15-year-old Robert arrived at a Detroit Police station wearing no shirt, no shoes, and a pair of shorts. Employees of Wayne County Department of Health Services (DHS) opened an investigation into his parents, the Brents, visited the Brents’ home, and allegedly took photographs without their consent. A petition to remove the five Brent children from their home detailed the poor conditions, concerns about lead-based paint on the walls, and that the Brents’ youngest child, age 10, appeared to have a severe speech impediment. The Brents claim that the petition contained falsehoods, that the judge did not actually sign the order, that officers used abusive tactics in removing the children, and that Robert became ill because he was given cough medicine that had expired while in a residential facility. Brents claim that officials threatened to and did interfere with their visitation with the children. The children were released to the Brents in June 2010 but remained under DHS supervision until September 2010. The Brents sued “seemingly every person or agency involved in the removal, custody, and care” of the children. The Sixth Circuit reinstated gross negligence claims against the state defendants but affirmed the rejection of those claims as to city defendants; affirmed summary judgment for city defendants on intentional infliction of emotional distress claims; rejected failure-to-train and failure-to-supervise claims against the city; and rejected 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims against police officers. View "Brent v. Wayne County Department of Human Services." on Justia Law

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Zank, a U.S. citizen, and Moreno, an Ecuadorian citizen, divorced and had joint custody of BLZ, born in Michigan in 2006. The decree prohibited Moreno from taking BLZ to Ecuador without prior notice to Zank. In 2009, Moreno took BLZ to Ecuador. Zank obtained a Michigan state court temporary sole custody order, contacted the State Department, and filled out a Hague Convention petition with the Embassy in Ecuador. Zank did not complete the process by filing the petition with the Ecuadorian courts. The State Department labeled Ecuador as noncompliant with its Hague Convention obligations. In Ecuador, Moreno enrolled BLZ in school. BLZ flourished, participating in extracurricular activities and making many friends. In 2010, Moreno permitted Zank to visit BLZ in Ecuador. Zank did not take BLZ to the Embassy or pursue a Hague Convention petition. Moreno obtained an ex parte order from an Ecuadorian court prohibiting BLZ from leaving the country. The parents eventually filed an agreement in Ecuador: Moreno received full legal custody and an increase in child support; Zank waived issues concerning BLZ's arrival in Ecuador. The "no travel" order was lifted. BLZ visited Zank in 2014. Moreno and Zank reiterated their agreement, for filing in the U.S.; it was filed in the wrong court. In 2016, BLZ visited Zank. Zank claims that BLZ told him that Moreno had physically abused her and that she did not wish to return to Ecuador. BLZ voiced a preference for living permanently with Zank. The Michigan court granted Zank custody. Moreno filed this Hague Convention petition in federal court, which held that the original abduction meant that Ecuador could not be the child’s habitual residence. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The proper remedy for the initial kidnapping was a Hague Convention petition in Ecuador, subject to applicable defenses, not self-help. View "Moreno v. Zank" on Justia Law

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Medical personnel treated three infants, between 19-days old and six-months-old, in the emergency room of Nationwide Children’s Hospital for serious injuries, including skull fractures and a broken leg. Nationwide’s physicians suspected child abuse. They conducted testing to identify additional injuries, then alerted Franklin County Children Services of their concerns. One family did not appeal the finding that the suspicion of child abuse was “substantiated’ or the designation of their case for “ongoing supportive services.” In another case, the county found no evidence of abuse. The parents of the infants filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim against Nationwide and the County, alleging that the medical testing violated their children’s right to be free from unreasonable searches and their own right to familial association. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. State action did not prompt Nationwide, a private hospital, to perform the diagnostic tests, and the county had nothing to do with the tests. The court noted that the parents consented to the tests. View "Thomas v. Nationwide Children's Hospital" on Justia Law

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Medical personnel treated three infants, between 19-days old and six-months-old, in the emergency room of Nationwide Children’s Hospital for serious injuries, including skull fractures and a broken leg. Nationwide’s physicians suspected child abuse. They conducted testing to identify additional injuries, then alerted Franklin County Children Services of their concerns. One family did not appeal the finding that the suspicion of child abuse was “substantiated’ or the designation of their case for “ongoing supportive services.” In another case, the county found no evidence of abuse. The parents of the infants filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim against Nationwide and the County, alleging that the medical testing violated their children’s right to be free from unreasonable searches and their own right to familial association. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. State action did not prompt Nationwide, a private hospital, to perform the diagnostic tests, and the county had nothing to do with the tests. The court noted that the parents consented to the tests. View "Thomas v. Nationwide Children's Hospital" on Justia Law

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Bruce and Bridget married in 1993. Their only child, Sierra, was born in 1995. In 2003, Bruce signed up for a life insurance plan sponsored by his employer and governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Bruce listed his uncle as the sole beneficiary. Bruce and Bridget divorced in 2006. Bruce died in 2013, insured for $48,000 in basic life insurance and $191,000 in optional life insurance. In their 2006 divorce decree, Bruce and Bridget agreed to maintain any employer-related life insurance policies for the benefit of Sierra until she turned 18 or graduated from high school. Bruce had not changed his beneficiary. The district court ordered payment to Sierra. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The divorce decree suffices as a qualified domestic relations order that, incorporating the Jacksons’ separation agreement and their shared parenting plan, “clearly specifies” Sierra as the beneficiary under 29 U.S.C. 1056(d)(3)(C). Her parents’ (alleged) non-compliance with the decree does not limit Sierra’s rights under ERISA. View "Sun Life Assurance Co. v. Jackson" on Justia Law

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Taglieri, a citizen of Italy, was studying in Chicago when he met Monasky, an American citizen. They married and together decided to move to Italy. Taglieri was licensed to practice medicine in Italy and would have had to meet onerous requirements to practice in the U.S.. Monasky had a fellowship in Milan. Monasky became pregnant. Monasky alleges that Taglieri was sexually abusive and frequently hit her. Taglieri acknowledges “smack[ing]” Monasky once. Taglieri’s work required frequent travel; Monasky encountered professional difficulties and did not speak much Italian. Monasky applied for jobs in the U.S., contacted divorce lawyers, and researched American childcare options. The couple also investigated Italian child-care. Monasky sought an Italian driver’s license; the two moved to a larger apartment under a lease in Monasky’s name. The couple disputes whether the ensuing weeks involved Monasky planning to stay or return to the U.S. After an argument, Monasky took baby A, sought refuge in a safe house, and left Italy with eight-week-old A. Taglieri obtained termination Monasky’s parental rights in Italy, and filed a petition in Ohio, seeking A's return. The Sixth Circuit affirmed that A’s habitual residence (the location that she should be returned to) was Italy, that Monasky had no definitive plans to return to the U.S. until the final altercation, and that the other Hague Convention requirements were satisfied: Taglieri had properly exercised his custody rights, A’s removal was wrongful, Monasky had not shown by clear and convincing evidence that Taglieri posed a grave risk of harm to A. If a child lives exclusively in one country, that country is presumed to be the child’s habitual residence. View "Taglieri v. Monasky" on Justia Law

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Faisal is a citizen of the United Kingdom, residing in London. Mardia is a U.S. citizen. They married in Bangladesh in 2009, while Mardia was a student in Michigan. She remained in Michigan to complete her studies. In 2011, Mardia moved to London; in 2013 she applied for Indefinite Leave to Remain, In 2014, Mardia, then pregnant, traveled to Knoxville, where she had lived previously. The couple disputes whether she intended to return to the UK. Faisal traveled to Knoxville on a three-month visa. Mardia gave birth to twins in Knoxville and the family moved into an apartment. Faisal’s visa expired; he returned to London. Mardia insists she told him then that she intended to remain in the U.S. with the children. Faisal visited the U.S. in April 2015. The next month, the entire family traveled to the UK. The parties dispute their intentions. In July 2015, Mardia traveled with the children to Bangladesh. Their tickets indicated they were scheduled to return to London on August 5. Mardia claims she told her husband that she would not return. Faisal claims he did not learn her plans until August 4, when she flew to Knoxville with the children. He sought their return under the Hague Convention, as implemented by 22 U.S.C. 9001. The Sixth Circuit affirmed denial of Faisal’s petition, finding that he failed to establish that the UK was the children’s habitual residence at the time Mardia retained them. View "Ahmed v. Ahmed" on Justia Law