Justia Family Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Utah Supreme Court
In re E.R.
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals concluding that the termination of Mother's parental rights was not against the clear weight of the evidence, holding that the court of appeals did not err.The juvenile court found that there were statutory grounds to terminate Mother's parental rights to her child and determined that it was in the child's best interest to do so. The court determined that it was "strictly necessary" to terminate Mother's parental rights. On appeal, Mother argued that the juvenile court failed to give adequate consideration to reasonable alternatives to termination, as required for the "strictly necessary" inquiry. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals correctly applied the standard of review set forth in State ex rel. B.R., 171 P.3d 435 (Utah 2007), to the juvenile court's best interest determination, and Mother identified no other basis for reversal. View "In re E.R." on Justia Law
McQuarrie v. McQuarrie
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals concluding that the divorce decree at issue included provisions that, taken as a whole, could be interpreted to suggest that the parties contemplated that alimony would continue upon remarriage, holding that the presumption that alimony terminates upon remarriage was not rebutted in this case.Melvin and Janette McQuarrie divorced in 2008. The district court entered a divorce decree detailing the terms of their mediated stipulation for divorce, under which Melvin was required to pay alimony to Janette. The alimony provisions of the decree did not explicitly address the effect of Janette's remarriage. After Janette remarried, Melvin filed a petition to modify the parties decree, asserting that the remarriage justified a termination of the alimony obligation. The district court denied the motion, holding that the decree language specifically provided that the alimony/child support payments would continue beyond remarriage. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because there was no specific, express provision in the decree that alimony would continue upon remarriage, Melvin's alimony obligation terminated by operation of law. View "McQuarrie v. McQuarrie" on Justia Law
In re G.D.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the juvenile court terminating Mother and Father's parental rights based on years of dysfunctionality, substance abuse, and criminal conduct, holding that the juvenile court did not err.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the juvenile court did not err in declining to apply the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard of proof, and this Court declines to adopt that standard now; (2) the juvenile court did not err by concluding that termination was strictly necessary and in the children's best interests; and (3) Parents did not carry their burden to brief the issue of whether the court erred in considering a provision from the Human Services Code in its analysis. View "In re G.D." on Justia Law
In re Adoption of C.C.
In this appeal from the entry of a final order of adoption the Supreme Court reversed the entry of summary judgment against the child's putative father, J.S.P., holding that the district court erred in dismissing J.S.P. from the adoption action.J.S.P. sought to intervene in the adoption on the ground that he was the presumed father of the child because the child had been born during his attempted marriage with the child's mother, K.C. The district court granted the motion to intervene but later dismissed J.S.P. on a motion for partial summary judgment, holding that J.S.P. was not the presumed father because his marriage to K.C. was invalid. The adoption action went forward, resulting in a final order of adoption. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the decision on partial summary judgment was not final, and accordingly, this Court had appellate jurisdiction; and (2) the district court erred in dismissing J.S.P. because his marriage to K.C., while legally invalid, was entered into in apparent compliance with the law, and the child was born during the invalid marriage and before any events that would have terminated the marriage. View "In re Adoption of C.C." on Justia Law
Martin v. Kristensen
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court finding Yvonne Martin in unlawful detainer and entering a judgment that included a substantial award, holding that the court of appeals did not err.Upon her divorce from Petter Kristensen, the divorce court awarded Yvonne temporary possession of the marital home - which was owned by Petter's father, Frank - during the pendency of the divorce proceedings. After Yvonne filed for divorce Frank served her with a notice to vacate. Yvonne refused to vacate, and Frank filed an unlawful detainer action against her. A jury concluded that Frank was the rightful owner of the property and that Yvonne was guilty of unlawful detainer starting five days after Frank filed the notice to vacate. On appeal, Yvonne argued that the temporary possession order precluded Frank from seeking the remedies available in an unlawful detainer action. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the possession orders in the divorce proceeding functioned like a temporary possession order in an unlawful detainer proceeding in that they precluded Yvonne's eviction from the property but did not affect the availability of statutory remedies for unlawful detainer. View "Martin v. Kristensen" on Justia Law
In re Adoption of B.H.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals setting aside the adoption decree in this case, holding that the district court's conclusions of law in support of the adoption decree were inadequate.Mother, a Montana resident, gave birth to a child in Montana. Mother placed the child for adoption with Respondents, two Utah residents. On a form required under the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC), Utah Code 62a-4a-701 to -711, Mother did not list Petitioner, the child's legal father, as the child's father. Respondents filed an adoption petition and petitioned to terminate Petitioner's parental rights. The district court terminated Petitioner's parental rights and finalized the adoption. The court of appeals set aside the adoption decree because it did not state that the requirements of the ICPC had been complied with, as required by the Adoption Act. The Supreme Court affirmed and remanded the case, holding (1) there was no jurisdictional defect under the ICPC or the Adoption Act; but (2) the district court's conclusions of law in support of the adoption decree were inadequate. View "In re Adoption of B.H." on Justia Law
In re B.T.B.
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals remanding this termination of parental rights case to the juvenile court after clarifying the analysis the juvenile court should have applied when interpreting the termination statute, holding that the court of appeals did not err.The juvenile court found multiple grounds for terminating Father's parental rights and then, in compliance with the statutory framework, concluded that termination was in the children's best interests. The juvenile court then addressed the recent legislative mandate set forth in Utah Code 78A-6-507(1) that termination occur only when it is "strictly necessary" to terminate parental rights. On appeal, Father argued that the juvenile court misinterpreted the "strictly necessary" requirement. The court of appeals clarified the analysis the juvenile court should have employed and remanded the case. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the court of appeals did not err in disavowing the "almost automatically" language in its case law; (2) the court of appeals properly found that the Termination of Parental Rights Act requires that termination be strictly necessary for the best interests of the child; and (3) the juvenile court should revisit the petition and apply the interpretation of the Act set forth in this petition. View "In re B.T.B." on Justia Law
Scott v. Scott
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's judgment granting Bradley Scott's motion to terminate alimony, holding that the court correctly terminated alimony under the couple's divorce decree, which provided that Jillian Scott's alimony would terminate "upon" her "cohabitation."After Jillian and Bradley divorced, Jillian began dating James Okland. When Jillian and Okland broke up, Bradley filed a petition to terminate his alimony payments on the grounds that Jillian had cohabited with Okland. The district court terminated alimony pursuant to Utah Code 30-3-5(10). The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that section 30-3-5(10) requires the paying spouse to establish that the former spouse is cohabiting at the time the paying spouse moves to terminate alimony. On remand, Bradley moved to terminate alimony under the divorce decree. The district court granted Bradley's motion and denied Jillian's motion for an award of costs in the Scott I appeal. The Supreme Court held (1) the district court did not violate the mandate rule in addressing Bradley's motion under the divorce decree; (2) the court correctly determined that Jillian cohabited with Oakland under the terms of the decree; and (3) Jillian was entitled to an award of her costs on appeal in Scott I. View "Scott v. Scott" on Justia Law
In re Adoption of B.B.
In this adoption proceeding involving a child, B.B., whose biological parents were members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (the Tribe), the Supreme Court reversed the district court's judgment transferring this case to the tribal court under 25 U.S.C. 1911(a) of the Indian Child Welfare Act on the ground that B.B. was "domiciled within the reservation," holding that the Tribe did not have exclusive jurisdiction over this case.B.B. was born in Utah to Father and Mother, who were unmarried, and placed for adoption in a proceeding filed in the Third District Court. Father and the Tribe moved to transfer the case to the tribal court under section 1911(a), which provides that an "Indian tribe" has exclusive jurisdiction "over any child custody proceeding involving an Indian child who resides or is domiciled within the reservation of such tribe...." The district court granted the motion on the grounds that B.B. was domiciled within the reservation at the time this action was filed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court had jurisdiction because (1) Mother was domiciled in Utah at the time of B.B.'s birth, and (2) Mother's initiation of formal adoption proceedings did not constitute an abandonment that shifted B.B.'s domicile to that of Father, who was domiciled on the reservation. View "In re Adoption of B.B." on Justia Law
S.A.S. v. K.H.B.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Father's motion to revoke his relinquishment of parental rights, holding that the district court correctly concluded that Father's relinquishment was voluntary, and any failure to notify Father of his statutory right to receive counseling did not invalidate the relinquishment.Father consented to the adoption of his biological daughter and signed a relinquishment of parental rights. Later, Father filed a motion to revoke his relinquishment, alleging that his relinquishment was involuntary. The district court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Father failed to identify an evidentiary basis for his allegation that his relinquishment was involuntary; (2) Father did not have a due process right to have his relinquishment invalidated by the adoptive parents' failure to notify him of his statutory right receive counseling; and (3) Father lacked standing to assert an equal protection challenge to the relinquishment requirements that apply to biological fathers. View "S.A.S. v. K.H.B." on Justia Law