Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

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Mother and her children traveled and lived in a van. Mother has mental health problems and is severely delusional. Mother physically abused the children, who did not attend school. Both Montana’s child protective services agency and Washington state child protective services became involved with the family in 2019-2020. As of June 2020, the family was in San Bernardino County, when someone referred them to that county’s child protective services agency. During a subsequent incident, police placed Mother under a psychiatric hold. Mother had no family in California but owned property in southern California. After the six-month review order, Mother challenged the juvenile court’s assumption of jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, asserting that Montana, not California, had jurisdiction.The court of appeal affirmed. California has significant connections to establish jurisdiction under Family Code section 3421(a)(2) and substantial evidence is available in California concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships. When the proceedings began, Mother’s stated intent was to continue traveling within California; her land ownership and litigation in the state also demonstrate her connections to California. View "In re Ari S." on Justia Law

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In separate petitions for extraordinary writ relief, Michael G. (Father) and Kristie G. (Mother) asked the Court of Appeal to set aside the juvenile court’s order at the 18-month review hearing terminating reunification services and setting a permanency planning hearing under Welfare and Institutions Code section 366.26 as to their 16-year-old daughter, A.G. According to the parents, the court should have continued services in light of its finding that the Orange County Social Services Agency (SSA) had provided inadequate services during the most recent review period. Father further contended there was a substantial probability that A.G. could be returned to him with additional services, and the court should have granted a continuance under section 352. Father also argued the court’s ruling denied him fundamental fairness and due process. After review, the Court of Appeal found no reversible error and denied the writ petitions. View "Michael G. v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order issued by the district court concerning the conservatorship and estate planning efforts of Appellant's elderly mother, H.D.K., holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion.Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the district court (1) did not abuse its discretion when it declined to issue a scheduling order; (2) did not abuse its discretion in declining to quash a subpoena for the file of H.D.K.'s attorney; (3) did not abuse its discretion when it concluded the conservatorship hearing after three days; (4) did not err when it issued findings regarding how H.D.K. intended to allocate her estate; (5) did not err by determining the present values of the properties in H.D.K.'s estate; and (6) did not err when it found H.D.K. had testamentary capacity. View "In re H.D.K." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court modifying the court's divorce decree and awarding Father primary physical custody of the parties' son, holding that there was no error.In the divorce decree, the court awarded the parties joint legal custody of the child and gave Mother primary physical custody. Mother subsequently filed a petition to modify custody. In response, Father counterclaimed for custody modification, requesting primary legal and physical custody of the child. After holding an evidentiary hearing, the district court awarded the parties joint custody of the child and Father primary physical custody. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not abuse its discretion in denying Mother's motion to remove and replace the guardian ad litem for the custody modification proceedings; and (2) adequately considered Mother's abuse allegations prior to modifying custody. View "Hays v. Martin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court modifying the decree dissolving the marriage of Donald and Linda Eis, awarding Linda an increased equalization payment of $176,462, holding that there was no error.The district court's decree dissolved the marriage of the parties and divided their real and personal property. Linda later filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment and for a new trial. The district court entered a modified decree, awarding Linda an increased equalization payment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Donald's assignments of error were without merit. View "Eis v. Eis" on Justia Law

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The issue in this child custody matter was whether the trial court applied the correct law in awarding joint custody to Sharon Sullivan, the biological parent, and Billie Cook, a non-parent and Sharon’s former same-sex partner. The court of appeal reversed the trial court, concluding that an analysis of the best interest of the child under La. Civ. Code art. 134 was not warranted, because the evidence did not show that an award of sole custody to Sharon would result in substantial harm to the child under La. Civ. Code art. 133. Finding the trial court committed legal error, the Louisiana Supreme Court did a de novo review of the record, and affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal that reversed the trial court’s judgment recognizing Billie Cook as a legal parent of Sharon Sullivan’s child and awarding the parties joint custody. View "Cook v. Sullivan" on Justia Law

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The child at issue in this case, Grayson, was born on February 14, 2013 to a mother with a significant history of drug abuse; Grayson allegedly had drugs in his system at birth. Shortly thereafter, in March 2013, Grayson was adjudicated a “child in need of care,” placed in the custody of the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (“DCFS”), and entrusted to the physical care of foster parent Samantha Gafford. While in Gafford's, Grayson suffered severe personal injuries, which included brain damage, blindness, and seizures; it was also alleged that the child had bite marks on his thigh and abdomen. Gafford did not disclose these injuries until Grayson was taken to the hospital in May 2013. This suit was filed to recover damages for personal injuries suffered by an infant while in the custody of DCFS and in the physical care of foster parents. After all other claims were dismissed except allegations that DCFS was vicariously liable for the actions of the foster mother, based not only on an employer-employee relationship, but also based on DCFS’s non-delegable duty as the legal custodian of the child, as set forth in Miller v. Martin, 838 So.2d 761 (2003), DCFS filed a peremptory exception pleading the objection of no cause of action, claiming La. R.S. 42:1441.1 barred the application of La. C.C. art. 2320 to DCFS. The district court denied the peremptory exception, and the appellate court denied the ensuing writ application filed by DCFS. The Louisiana Supreme Court affirmed the district court and remanded for further proceedings. View "Kunath v. Gafford" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court granting a motion to modify a divorce decree under Nev. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(6), holding that Rule 60(b)(6) relief was inappropriate in this case.Rule 60(b)(6) allows for relief from a judgment for any justifiable reason besides those otherwise listed specifically in that rule. Your years Appellee moved for relief from the divorce decree pursuant to Rule 60(b)(6) and to modify the decree, arguing that Appellant fraudulently induced her into signing the parties' marital settlement agreement (MSA), which was merged into the divorce decree. The district court modified the decree. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court abused its discretion in modifying the divorce decree pursuant to Rule 60(b)(6), as Appellee's assertions sounded in Rule 60(b)(1) or (3) and Rule 60(b)(6) applies in extraordinary circumstances not address in Rules 60(b)(1)-(5). View "Byrd v. Byrd" on Justia Law

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Steven Smith, as conservator of the estate of B.J. (minor), appealed a circuit court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants Elizabeth Alexander, Amanda Buchanan, and Michael Key on Smith's claims alleging violations of policies promulgated by the State Department of Human Resources ("the State DHR"), negligence, wantonness, and the tort of outrage. In May 2015, Key was employed by the Cullman County DHR as a foster-care supervisor, responsible for supervising Cullman County DHR caseworkers. Key reported to Buchanan, who oversaw the Child Family Services Program, the Child Protective Services Program, and the Foster Care Program for the Cullman County DHR. Buchanan in turn reported to Alexander, the director of the Cullman County DHR. B.J. was placed in the custody of the Cullman County DHR when he was three years old after having suffered physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect at the hands of family members. In 2002, the trial court awarded the Cullman County DHR legal guardianship and permanent custody of B.J. While in the custody of the Cullman County DHR, B.J. was placed in a number of foster homes, group homes, residential facilities, hospitals, and psychiatric institutions. In July 2014, B.J. was placed by the Cullman County DHR at the Altapointe Group Home. While there, B.J. underwent an assessment, which revealed he had regularly exhibited violent outbursts and physically aggressive behavior toward others; he had a history of depression, suicide and delusional thinking; and engaged in impulsive and delinquent behavior. B.J. would ultimately be arrested for such behavior towards others. B.J. had personal funds with which he could post bail, but the decision was made he should have remained in jail pending an arrangement for further mental health counseling. Smith argued defendants' decisions leaving B.J. incarcerated did not follow departmental policies of least-restrictive-placement-possible, and as such, caused B.J. irreparable harm. The Alabama Supreme Court found that each crucial decision made by the defendants -- i.e., the decisions not to place B.J. at the Gateway facility and not to post B.J.'s bond before his court date -- were made with B.J.'s best interests in mind after consideration of all the relevant recommendations and factors. Accordingly, Smith failed to provide substantial evidence demonstrating that the defendants acted willfully in dealing with B.J. and that, therefore, they were not entitled to the protection of State-agent immunity. View "Smith v. Alexander, et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part a decision of the court of appeals that vacated the orders of the circuit court regarding the adoption and custody of two children, holding that the adoption statutes require that the parental rights of both biological parents be terminated upon the grant of an adoption, with the single exception of a stepparent adoption.Following a hearing, the circuit court terminated the parental rights of the unknown biological fathers of the two children at issue and granted the petition to adopt the children filed by David, who was the former husband of the child's mother. David was not the biological father of the children, but he acted as such throughout their lives. Mother filed a motion to dismiss the adoption petitions based in part on David's lack of paternity. The circuit court terminated the putative fathers' parental rights and allowed David to adopt the children while leaving Mother's parental rights intact. The court then granted David and Mother joint custody of the children. The court of appeals reversed the adoption order and the custody order. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court's adoption orders violated Kentucky's adoption statutes and must be vacated. View "J.S.B. v. S.R.V." on Justia Law