Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries
In re C.B.C.
The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's order terminating Father's parental rights to his minor child, C.B.C., on the grounds of neglect and willful abandonment, holding that the trial court's conclusion that grounds existed pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-1111(a)(7) was sufficient in and of itself to support termination of Father's parental rights. After Father was convicted of multiple felonies and began serving his sentence Petitioners filed a second petition to terminate Father's parental rights. After a hearing, the trial court terminated Father's parental rights, finding that grounds existed to terminate Father's parental rights based on neglect and willful abandonment and that termination was in C.B.C.'s best interests. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in terminating Father's parental rights pursuant to section 7B-1111(a)(7). View "In re C.B.C." on Justia Law
Lew v. Lew
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the judgment of the district court ordering Mother to reimburse funds she removed from the college account she managed for one of the parties' two children and awarding post-judgment interest, holding that the district court erred as a matter of law when it ordered payment of statutory post-judgment interest. In accordance with the divorce decree of Father and Mother, Father agreed to establish college accounts in the amount of $50,000 for each of the parties' two children. Mother managed one account, and Father managed the other account. The district court later ordered Mother to reimburse funds she removed from the account she managed. Mother appealed, arguing that the court abused its discretion in awarding damages in the amount of $50,000 and in awarded post-judgment interest. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the district court did not err when it found damages in the amount of $50,000; and (2) the district court erred as a matter of law when it awarded ten percent post-judgment interest from September 2007. The court then remanded the matter for further proceedings on interest. View "Lew v. Lew" on Justia Law
Krieger v. Marvin
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the family court naming Terry Garvin and Donna Krieger K.R.K.'s de facto custodians and awarding them sole permanent custody, holding that the court of appeals erred in holding that individuals who are members of an unmarried couple cannot both be deemed as a child's de facto custodians. The family court named as K.R.K.'s de facto custodians Terry, K.R.K.'s maternal grandfather, and his long-term girlfriend, Donna, with whom he cohabited, and awarded them sole permanent custody. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the family court erred in naming more than one individual as K.R.K.'s de facto custodian. Specifically, the court held that because Terry and Donna were unmarried, they could not qualify as a single unit for purposes of Ky. Rev. Stat. 403.270. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that Terry and Donna were not precluded form being K.R.K.'s de facto custodians simply because they were an unmarried couple. View "Krieger v. Marvin" on Justia Law
Commonwealth v. K.S.
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals vacating and remanding the family court's decision determining that K.S.'s son was a neglected child and terminating K.S.'s parental rights, holding that the family court's decision was supported by clear and convincing evidence. In vacating the family court's judgment terminating the parental rights of K.S. the court of appeals concluded that the evidence was insufficient to prove the child was neglected because K.S. never had the opportunity to parent the child independently where the child had always been committed to the custody of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the court of appeals erred to the extent it held there must be actual past or present abuse or neglect for a trial court to make a finding of abuse or neglect because proof of a potential threat of abuse or neglect is sufficient to support such a finding; and (2) the family court's decision to terminate K.S.'s parental rights was supported by the record. View "Commonwealth v. K.S." on Justia Law
In re C.M.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Mother's parental rights to her child, holding that the district court did not err by concluding that the Department of Public Health and Human Services had made reasonable efforts to help Mother, Mother had not complied with her treatment plan, and the condition rendering Mother unfit was unlikely to change within a reasonable time. The district court found by a preponderance of the evidence that Mother had failed to complete most of her treatment plan, that the treatment plan was appropriate, and that Mother had failed to complete it and her unfitness was unlikely to change within a reasonable time. The court then ordered termination of Mother's rights. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the department made reasonable efforts to help Mother complete her treatment plan and that the district court's did not err by terminating Mother's parental rights. View "In re C.M." on Justia Law
Goodwin-Mitchell v. Mitchell
Carolyn helped obtain a green card for her Jamaican first husband. Her second husband, Michael, is also from Jamaica. In January 2015, Carolyn met him online. Michael told Carolyn he wanted to move to the U.S. to live with her, start a restaurant business, and join the Army. In June 2015, Carolyn went to Jamaica and first met Michael. They married during that visit. Carolyn obtained a two-year conditional visa for Michael. In November 2016, Michael flew to the U.S. and moved in with Carolyn. Carolyn claims that Michael immediately began engaging in sexual relationships with other women. Michael insists that he did not have sexual relations with other women during the marriage. Carolyn sought annulment of the marriage on the basis of fraud. The court of appeal reversed a declaration of annulment. Carolyn did not prove the requirements of Family Code section 2210(d), which states: “A marriage is voidable and may be adjudged a nullity if ... the consent of either party was obtained by fraud, unless the party whose consent was obtained by fraud afterward, and with full knowledge of the facts constituting the fraud, freely cohabited with the other" as his spouse. Carolyn continued to cohabit with and have sexual relations with Michael for eight months after discovering his infidelity. View "Goodwin-Mitchell v. Mitchell" on Justia Law
In re Marriage of Boettcher
At the time of the dissolution of their marriage, Ryan Boettcher (“father”) and Christina Boettcher (“mother”) agreed that neither party would pay child support. Several years later, mother, citing a substantial change in father’s income, sought a modification of the original decree so that she could receive child support. The district court conducted an evidentiary hearing to determine whether modification was appropriate. At the hearing, the parties admitted evidence of their incomes showing that mother earned $13,343 per month and father earned $92,356 per month—a combined monthly income far exceeding the highest combined income of $30,000 per month listed in the schedule contained in the statutory child support guidelines. Father requested that the district court impose a monthly child support obligation of $1,424.82, which would be the presumptive award amount if the parties combined income were $30,000 per month. Father argued that the presumptive amount of child support for that income level was also the presumptive amount for any higher income level. If the court ordered a higher payment, father argued, such payment would constitute a deviation from the statutory presumptive amount and would require specific findings under section 14-10-115(8)(e) C.R.S. (2019). Mother disagreed, contending the district court should extrapolate father’s monthly child support obligations from the uppermost level of the guidelines in light of the parties’ actual combined income. This approach would result in a monthly support payment of $5,024. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded the plain language of the statute provided that the uppermost award identified explicitly in the schedule was the minimum presumptive award for families with higher incomes, and the district court could, within its discretion, aware more than that amount so long as the court supports its order with findings made pursuant to 14-10-115(2)(b). View "In re Marriage of Boettcher" on Justia Law
Minor Children v. Arkansas Department of Human Services
The Supreme Court vacated the opinion of the court of appeals dismissing for lack of subject matter jurisdiction the appeal from a dependency-neglect case in which the circuit court entered an order awarding permanent custody, holding that the appeal was timely filed. The circuit court entered an order awarding permanent custody of four minor children to the children's foster parents and closed the dependency-neglect case that the Arkansas Department of Human Services had brought against the children's parents. After the four minor children unsuccessfully filed a motion for relief from judgment they filed a notice of appeal. The court of appeals dismissed the matter for lack of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals' opinion and remanded the case for further action, holding that the appeal from the order awarding permanent custody was timely filed. View "Minor Children v. Arkansas Department of Human Services" on Justia Law
In re I.A.
B.A. (Mother) and D.V. (Father) were the parents of six-year-old I.A.-V. (I.) and eight-year-old Is.A.-V. (Is.). Mother and Father had a history with child protective services due to ongoing domestic violence and neglect issues, resulting in the removal of their children from their care. I. and Is. were first removed from Mother in 2015. At the close of the first dependency, Mother’s reunification services were terminated, and Father received legal and physical custody. In 2017, I. and Is. were removed from Father’s custody and placed with Mother as a previously noncustodial parent. The second dependency resulted in Mother receiving legal and physical custody of the children and termination of Father’s reunification services. The third and current dependency commenced in 2018 after I., Is., and A.A. were removed from Mother’s care for the same reasons as previously. At the dispositional hearing, the San Bernardino County Children and Family Services (CFS) recommended to bypass reunification services pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 361.5 (b)(10) as to all three children. The juvenile court agreed to bypass Mother’s services as to A.A. However, the court interpreted I. and Is. to be “the same child” under the statute and granted Mother reunification services as to I. and Is. Counsel for I. and Is. subsequently appealed, arguing the juvenile court erred in ordering reunification services for the parents in I. and Is.’s case after it found the bypass provision under section 361.5(b)(10) did not apply. The Court of Appeal agreed: the juvenile court’s finding that section 361.5(b)(10) did not apply to this case was reversed and the matter remanded to the juvenile court to enter an order denying reunification services to the parents in I. and Is.’s case, and to set a permanency planning hearing pursuant to section 366.26. View "In re I.A." on Justia Law
Malhan v. Secretary United States Department of State
Over the past eight years, the Hudson County family court has required Malhan to pay $300,000 in child and spousal support to his putative ex-wife, Myronova. Malhan claims that New Jersey officials violated his federal rights when they failed to reduce his support obligations after he was awarded custody of their two children and Myronova obtained a job that pays more than his own. The district court dismissed Malhan’s second amended complaint, holding that it lacked jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine and that to the extent it had jurisdiction, it declined to exercise it under Younger v. Harris. The Third Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. Malhan does not complain of injuries caused by a state court judgment; none of the interlocutory orders in Malhan’s state case are “judgments.” Rooker-Feldman does not apply when state proceedings have neither ended nor led to orders reviewable by the U.S. Supreme Court. With respect to “Younger abstention,” the court noted that Malhan’s wife, not the state, began the family court case. The case has not sought to sanction Malhan for wrongdoing, enforce a parallel criminal statute, or impose a quasi-criminal investigation. Malhan is not trying to “annul the results” of a past garnishment. View "Malhan v. Secretary United States Department of State" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Family Law, US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit