Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

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A.M. (Mother) appealed the juvenile court’s order terminating her parental rights as to her two children, 11-year-old A.M. and six-year-old J.T., Jr. In late 2017, DPSS received an immediate response referral with allegations of general neglect and sexual abuse. It was reported that Mother had allowed her two sons to go into a hotel room for hours with an 18-year-old male stranger who sexually abused them. After Mother discovered the sexual abuse, she failed to report the alleged crime to law enforcement. Instead, the suspect disclosed what he had done to his mother, who then drove the suspect to the police station to turn himself in. On appeal, Mother argued: (1) the order terminating her parental rights should have been reversed because the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) failed to comply with the inquiry and notice requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and with Welfare and Institutions Code section 224 et seq; and (2) all orders had to be reversed because the juvenile court failed to comply with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) because California did not have subject matter jurisdiction. The Court of Appeal rejected Mother’s contentions and affirmed the judgment. View "In re A.M." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing Defendant's conviction of felony deprivation of parenting rights in violation of Minn. Stat. 609.26, subd. 1(3) on the grounds that the evidence was insufficient because the circumstances proved supported a reasonable inference that Defendant did not have a subject intent to substantially deprive her child's father of parenting time, holding that the court of appeals erred when it concluded that the State presented insufficient evidence to support the conviction. Implicit in the court of appeals' analysis was an assumption that section 609.26, subd. 1(3) required the State to prove that Defendant had the subjective intent substantially to deprive the father of his parental rights. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) section 609.26, subd. 1(3) establishes an objective standard that focuses on the nature of the defendant's action; and (2) the only reasonable inference that can be drawn from the circumstances proved here was that Defendant's actions, viewed objectively, manifested an intent substantially to deprive the child's father of court-ordered parenting time. View "State v. Culver" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals that a parent is not entitled to dismissal of a termination of parental rights petition due to the juvenile court's failure to complete a hearing within the statutorily required 180 days where the parent affirmatively waived that requirement, holding that relief is not available under these circumstances. The Indiana Department of Child Services filed petitions to terminate Mother's parental rights regarding her two children. The evidentiary hearing on the petitions was completed more than 180 days after the petitions were filed. Thereafter, the court terminated Mother's parental rights. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Mother affirmatively waived the 180-day requirement and invited the court to conduct the hearing without regard to it, Mother was precluded from later successfully invoking it as a basis for reversal. View "J.C. v. Indiana Department of Child Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court issued a permanent writ of prohibition ordering the circuit court to vacate its order sustaining Father's amended motion for temporary custody of his minor child and awarding Father temporary custody of the child without a hearing, holding that the circuit court exceeded its authority by awarding temporary custody without first conducting a hearing. After Mother filed a petition for dissolution of marriage against Father the parties filed competing motions for temporary custody of their child. Without holding a hearing on the motions, the circuit court awarded temporary legal and physical custody of the child solely to Father. Mother filed a petition for a writ of prohibition, asserting that the circuit court acted in excess of its authority. The Supreme Court granted the writ, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, the circuit court exceeded its authority by awarding temporary custody without a hearing. View "State ex rel. Koehler v. Honorable Midkiff" 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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Appellant Kyle Linley Everard (Kyle) appealed a trial court's order granting reciprocal domestic violence restraining orders (DVROs) against Kyle and respondent spouse Valerie Ann Everard (Valerie). In issuing the DVROs, the trial court found, pursuant to Family Code section 6305, both parties acted as primary aggressors and neither acted primarily in self-defense in multiple domestic violence incidents. Kyle claimed the trial court erred in including him in the DVROs based on its admission of an unauthenticated 2013 police report offered by Valerie, which report Kyle claimed was allegedly the exclusive basis for the court's findings against him under section 6305. Because the Court of Appeal conclude substantial evidence in the record supported the court's findings independent of the 2013 police report, and because it further concluded the court's findings satisfied section 6305, the DVRO against Kyle was affirmed. View "Marriage of Everard" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Shell in an action brought by plaintiff under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In this case, the day after Shell formally disciplined plaintiff for violating its attendance policy, she missed her scheduled shift because she got arrested for drunk driving and wrecked her truck. The court held that employees cannot immunize themselves from legitimate termination by taking FMLA leave. In regard to plaintiff's FMLA retaliation claim, the court held that Shell produced evidence that plaintiff would have been lawfully terminated had she not taken leave, and thus she had no right to return to work. The court held that plaintiff failed to make a prima facie case under the ADA because she did not present admissible evidence establishing that she was disabled or that Shell regarded her as disabled. Even if plaintiff had made a prima facie case, her argument failed for the same reasons her FMLA retaliation claim failed. View "Amedee v. Shell Chemical, L.P." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal reversed a restraining order issued against defendant under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act (DVPA). The court agreed with defendant that the trial court's finding that she disturbed the peace was not supported by substantial evidence. In this case, the single, private Facebook post accusing plaintiff of abusing her, was insufficient to support the issuance of a domestic violence restraining order. The court also held that the remaining allegations do not support issuance of the restraining order because the trial court improperly shifted the burden of proof to defendant. Finally, the trial court abused its discretion when it extended the restraining order for an additional year. View "Curcio v. Pels" on Justia Law

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The maternal grandparents of C.P. argued that the absolute statutory bar to placement of the child in their custody, either through approval as a resource family pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 16519.5 or on an emergency basis pursuant to section 361.4, was unconstitutional as applied to them. The bar was triggered in this case by a disqualifying misdemeanor criminal conviction the grandfather had dating to 1991. The child (born 2011) was removed from mother’s custody in May 2017, after he was sexually abused by a maternal uncle; at the time of removal, mother, child, and uncle all resided in the home of the grandparents. The uncle is now incarcerated on a 20-year sentence for child molestation. Mother has been out of contact with CFS, and reportedly has moved out of state. The child was initially placed with a foster family, but in June 2017 he was moved to a group home capable of addressing his special health care needs related to autism. Mother failed to reunify with the child. The child was ordered to remain in the group home under a planned permanent living arrangement, with the goal of identifying an appropriate placement for legal guardianship. The grandparents started the resource family approval process, with the goal of having the child placed in their care, almost immediately after the child was removed from mother’s custody in May 2017. A social worker characterized grandparents as the “only constant” in the child’s life. The Court of Appeal agreed with grandparents that the absolute statutory bar to placement of the child in their custody would have been unconstitutional as to them if they could establish they had a parental relationship with the child, not just a grandparental relationship. The case was therefore remanded to the trial court to make the predicate factual findings and for consideration of the issue anew from that perspective. View "In re C.P." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the final order of the circuit court affirming the family court's order denying Mother's motion to relocate to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with her two children and designating Father as the children's primary residential parent, holding that not only did the family court erroneously rely upon a single factor in its analysis of the children's best interests, but its conclusion as to that factor was not supported by the record. The family court denied Mother's motion to relocate the children to Myrtle Beach, designated Father as the primary residential parent, and adjusted child support obligations accordingly. On appeal, Mother argued that the family court failed to conduct a proper analysis of the children's best interests for purposes of determining where they should reside following her relocation. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the family court's order contained insufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law to support its determination that it was in the best interests of the children to reside primarily with Father and that the family court should have undertaken an assessment of the custodial responsibility each parent was undertaking to determine which statutory principle to apply under W. Va. 48-9-403(d). View "Stacey J. v. Henry A." on Justia Law