Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Utah Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court remanded this case in which the district court prohibited Father from encouraging his children to adopt the teachings of any religion without Mother's consent, holding that Father had a fundamental right to encourage his children in the practice of religion and that the district court's prohibition was not narrowly tailored to address the harms identified by the court.When they married, Father and Mother were both members of the Order, a polygamous religious community. Based on the parties' inability to agree on decisions regarding their four children, the district court granted sole legal custody to Mother and prohibited Father from encouraging the children to adopt the teachings of any religion. The Supreme Court remanded this case to the district court, holding (1) parents have a fundamental right to encourage their children in the practice of religion, and this right is not dependent upon legal custody; (2) strict scrutiny applies to this case; and (3) the district court's prohibition is not narrowly tailored to address the identified harms. View "Kingston v. Kingston" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the juvenile court's determination that Mother had neglected A.B. and award of custody to Aunt and Uncle, holding that Aunt and Uncle were not entitled to relief on any of their allegations of error.Mother left A.B., her daughter, for nearly one year in the care of Aunt and Uncle. When Mother came to take A.B. back, Aunt and Uncle filed for custody, alleging that Mother had abused and neglected A.B. The juvenile court determined that A.B. had been neglected by Mother and awarded custody to Uncle and Aunt. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the juvenile court had erred in its neglect determination. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals (1) applied the appropriate standard of review; (2) did not err in reversing the neglect determination; and (3) did not err in declining to affirm on the alternative ground of abuse. View "In re A.B." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying David Taylor's motion to invalidate an arbitration award in this divorce case on the grounds that it was contrary to public policy to arbitrate divorce actions or, alternatively, arguing that the arbitrator had manifestly disregarded the law, holding that there was no error.After litigating their divorce for a year, David asked Jill to arbitrate. After the arbitrator issued his decision, David filed a motion to invalidate the award under Utah Uniform Arbitration Act 78B-11-107, arguing that the arbitration agreement was not valid or binding in the divorce context for policy reasons. The district court denied David's request and confirmed the arbitration award. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) having participated in arbitration without objection, David was barred from relying on section 78B-11-107 to contest the arbitration award; and (2) there was no reason to invalidate the arbitration award for manifest disregard of the law. View "Taylor v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and vacated in part the juvenile court's order terminating the parental right of Parents, holding that the juvenile court's opinion was too affected by legal error to merit deference on appeal.After a hearing on the termination of parental rights, the juvenile court entered an order terminating the parental rights of both Mother and Father. The court found that both parents were unfit and had neglected the children and that termination was strictly necessary in the best interest of the children. After the adoptive placement with the uncle failed, the parents filed motions for post-judgment relief. The juvenile court denied the motions. The Supreme Court reversed and vacated in part, holding that remand was required for a new best interest determination under the law as clarified in this opinion. View "In re J.L." on Justia Law

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In this divorce case, the Supreme Court primarily affirmed in part the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the district court holding Ronald Rosser in contempt for deliberately deceiving Holly Rosser, holding that the district court's contempt order did not include sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law to hold Ronald in contempt.In reversing, the court of appeals held (1) Ronald's deceptive conduct did not amount to statutory contempt as a matter of law because it was directed at Holly, rather than at the court; and (2) under Utah Code 78B-6-301(4), deceitful conduct during litigation does not rise to the level of contempt unless it is directed at the court. The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals' vacatur of most of the district court's contempt order, holding that the court of appeals (1) correctly reached the interpretation and application of the contempt statute in this case; but (2) erred in reading subsection (4) of the statute to reach only deceit directed at the court because the statute includes deceit in respect to a court's proceedings. View "Rosser v. Rosser" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court determining that Gina Kirkland, Garret Heater (Garret), and John Carlon were the heirs to the estate of John Clifford Heater (Heater), holding that the district court did not err in determining that Carlon was an heir.During the ongoing litigation between Garret and Kirkland regarding the administration of Mr. Heater's estate, Carlon intervened, claiming that Heater was his biological father and that he, therefore, was an additional heir the estate. After genetic testing proved Carlon to be Heater's son, the district court entered an order naming Kirkland, Garret, and Carlon as the heirs to Heater's estate. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Carlon established a parent-child relationship with Heater in this case; and (2) the court of appeals did not err in affirming the district court's ruling that Heater was Carlon's natural father and the order naming Carlon as one of Heater's heirs. View "In re Estate of Heater" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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