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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Mother's parental rights to her two children, holding that the district court did not err its findings of unfitness and its best interest determination. The Department of Health and Human Services petitioned for the termination of Mother's parental rights to both of her children. The court subsequently terminated Mother's rights to the children. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the court's factual findings of unfitness and best interest were not clearly erroneous; and (2) the court's ultimate determination of best interest was not an abuse of discretion. View "In re Children of Christine A." on Justia Law

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In this dispute over custody of a child, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting Mother's motion to strike Father's motion for an order relinquishing permanent child custody jurisdiction to the tribal court, holding that the district court properly concluded that it retained exclusive continuing jurisdiction to make permanent custody determinations regarding the child. The district court granted Mother primary custody of the parties' child. Father, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, kept the child on the South Dakota reservation and refused to relinquish custody to Mother. Father sought orders from the district court and the trial court transferring jurisdiction over the custody matter to the tribal court. The tribal court dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction because the custody action was pending in the district court and Mother was not a tribal matter. In the district court, Father argued that the tribal court acquired jurisdiction over the custody matter by issuing emergency child custody and/or protection orders. The district court granted Mother's motion to strike Father's motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court properly concluded that it retained exclusive continuing jurisdiction to make permanent custody determinations regarding the child. View "Mitchell v. Preston" on Justia Law

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In this case between former spouses who disagreed about the ex-husband's entitlement to visitation with two dogs the parties acquired during their marriage, the Supreme Court affirmed the order of the family court approving the marital settlement agreement (MSA) entered into between Diane and Paul Giarrusso and ordering that Paul had the dogs Tuesdays through Thursdays, as provided in the MSA. Diane and Paul entered into a MSA formalizing the terms of the dissolution of their marriage. The final judgment dissolving the marriage incorporated the MSA. The MSA gave Diane title and interest in and to the two dogs and permitted Paul to take the dogs for weekly visits. After Diane unilaterally ceased allowing the visits, Paul filed a motion for post-final judgment relief. Diane also filed a motion for relief, claiming that Paul had breached the MSA regarding the dogs. The hearing justice denied Diane's requested relief, finding that the MSA unambiguously gave Paul the right to visitation with the dogs every week from Tuesday to Thursday and that Paul acted in good faith with respect to the dogs. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the hearing justice did not err in not withdrawing the court's approval of the MSA and did not overlook or misconceive any evidence. View "Giarrusso v. Giarrusso" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff's administrative claim for an increase in the family's adoption assistance program (AAP) payments based on California State Foster Parent Assn. v. Wagner, (9th Cir. 2010) 624 F.3d 974, 978, was denied, the trial court granted his petition for writ of mandate. The Court of Appeal reversed and held that the foster care maintenance payment rate increases mandated by Wagner and California State Foster Parent Assn. v. Lightbourne, (N.D. Cal., May 27, 2011, No. C 07-05086 WHA) 2011 U.S.Dist. Lexis 57483, *8, do not apply retroactively to plaintiff's adopted children. The court explained that the California Legislature specifically amended Welfare and Institutions Code section 16121 to confirm that initial adoption assistance agreements that predated Lighthouse were not subject to the new rate structure. View "California Department of Social Services v. Marin" on Justia Law

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This case presented two issues for the Court of Appeals' review: (1) whether the nonmarital biological child of an absentee father who never openly held her out as his own have standing under Code of Civil Procedure section 377.60 to sue for his wrongful death if she failed to obtain a court order declaring paternity during his lifetime?; and (2) if she did not have standing, did section 377.60 violate the state or federal equal protection clauses? Upon the specific facts of this case, the Court concluded the child did not have standing, and there was no equal protection violation. "We cannot imagine the Legislature intended to confer wrongful death standing on a child who had no relationship whatsoever with the decedent to the exclusion of the decedent’s other family members with whom he did have a relationship." View "Stennett v. Miller" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court enforcing the terms of Appellant's divorce decree at the request of her late ex-husband's estate, holding that there was no error in the district court's decision. On appeal, Appellant argued that the district court erred by not modifying the terms of the divorce settlement agreement and the divorce decree, erred in failing to apply laches, and erred in concluding that Appellant was not entitled to storage fees or mortgage contributions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court correctly determined that a divorce agreement that has merged into a divorce decree cannot be modified by oral agreement of the parties, and Acton v. Acton, 406 P.3d 1279 (Wyo. 2017) is overruled because it states otherwise; (2) Appellant failed to demonstrate that she was entitled to relief from the decree under Wyo. R. Civ. P. 60(b); (3) Appellant could not use the doctrine of laches to prevent enforcement of the judgment; and (4) the district court properly held that Appellant was not entitled to storage fees or mortgage contributions. View "Meiners v. Meiners" on Justia Law

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In this declaratory judgment action in which ex-husband (Husband) sought a declaration that he was entitled to one-half of the proceeds of a home awarded to the ex-wife (Wife) in the divorce decree and sold two years later when Wife decided to remarry, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court declaring that Wife had timely refinanced the house and that, therefore, Husband was not entitled to one-half of the proceeds from its later sale, holding that the district court's judgment was correct. A provision in the dissolution decree stated that Wife would have the home refinanced into her own name within twelve months of entry of the decree and that, if she did not, the house should be sold and the parties should equally divide any proceeds. Wife was approved for refinancing within one year of the entry of the dissolution decree, but the bank did not schedule closing on the refinance until thirteen months after the entry of the dissolution decree. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Wife made a good faith effort to complete refinancing within twelve months and Husband did not incur any harm as a result of the delay in closing, the sale of the house and equal division of the proceeds was not required. View "Bayne v. Bayne" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the circuit court determining disposition of Petitioner's child without first allowing him a meaningful opportunity to be heard at the dispositional hearing, which resulted in the child being placed in the legal and physical custody of guardians, holding that Petitioner must be afforded a full and complete opportunity to present witnesses and to testify on his own behalf. Petitioner was the father of one child and the stepfather of the other child. The dispositional order at issue on appeal granted Petitioner a disposition in which parental rights were not terminated but the children were placed in the care, custody, and control of the guardians. On appeal, Petitioner argued that the circuit court erred when it divested him of his rights to parent his child without first allowing him a meaningful opportunity to be heard. The Supreme Court agreed and remanded the case for the limited purpose of affording Petitioner an opportunity to be heard at the dispositional hearing, which the circuit court had previously denied Petitioner, holding that the circuit court erred when it determined disposition regarding his child without first allowing him a meaningful opportunity to be heard at the dispositional hearing. View "In re T.S." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court holding that the juvenile and domestic relations district court (JDR court) had no jurisdiction to modify an award of child support, holding that the JDR court had jurisdiction to enter the order. After Spear and Nawara Omary were divorced by an order of the circuit court. Later, thee Department of Social Services, Division of Child Support Enforcement filed a motion in the JDR court to modify the child support order. The JDR granted the motion. Omary appealed, arguing that the JDR court did not have jurisdiction to enter the order. The circuit court agreed and vacated the order. Spear appealed, arguing that the JDR court did have jurisdiction because he had previously withdrawn an appeal from the JDR court to the circuit court, and therefore, remand happened automatically by operation of law. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Va. Code 16.1-106.1(F), by operation of law, effects an automatic remand whenever a circuit court enters an order noting the appellant's withdrawal of an appeal from the JDR court; and (2) therefore, the circuit court, not the JDR court, had jurisdiction to modify the child support order. View "Spear v. Omary" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the appellate court's decision affirming the trial court's judgment dismissing Plaintiff's appeal from the decree of the probate court monitoring use of a September 11th Victim Compensation Fund award that had been paid to Plaintiff, the surviving spouse, as a "representative payee" for the benefit of her minor child, holding that the probate court lacked jurisdiction over the fund award. Plaintiff's husband died in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and died intestate. Plaintiff filed a claim for compensation from the fund. Plaintiff was awarded $1,153,381, and the couple's minor child was awarded $1,271,940, which Plaintiff was to be paid on behalf of the minor child. The probate court appointed a guardian ad litem for the minor child in the estate administration proceedings and directed that the minor child's share of the benefits from the fund be placed into a guardianship account. Plaintiff unsuccessfully moved to dismiss the guardianship proceedings for lack of jurisdiction, and the trial court dismissed Plaintiff's probate appeal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the probate court lacked jurisdiction over the fund award paid to Plaintiff as a representative payee because that award was neither the property of the decedent's estate nor the property of the minor child. View "Hynes v. Jones" on Justia Law