Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

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The issue this case presented for the Vermont Supreme Court's review centered on whether a non-resident plaintiff could obtain a relief-from-abuse (RFA) order under Vermont’s Abuse Prevention Act. Mother and father were married in Massachusetts in 2015. Together, they had a daughter, age six, and a son, age five. The family’s relationship had been affected at times by father’s violent behavior and by mother’s substance abuse. Since 2019, father has lived in Dummerston, Vermont, while mother has maintained residency in Massachusetts. The couple remained married. After a November 2017 incident, mother reported father's abuse to police, and he was prosecuted for felony domestic violence. His contact with mother and the children was limited by a Massachusetts court. In June 2018, father sought emergency custody of the children in Massachusetts. He alleged that the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families had investigated mother for child neglect and that mother had been arraigned on a DUI, second offense, in early July 2018. A Massachusetts court held that despite father’s history of domestic violence, mother’s substance abuse impaired her ability to parent, and awarded custody to father and ordered that mother’s time with the children be restricted to supervised visits. The order also allowed father to move with the children to Vermont. Mother visited the children in Vermont, and on several occasions, father drove the children to Massachusetts to visit mother. When mother and father were getting along, mother had father’s permission to spend the night at his house. Mother’s time with the children was often unsupervised by father. They often spent time with the children together. Between January and April 2021, mother and father reconciled their relationship. By May 2021, this reconciliation had ended. Father told mother she could no longer see the children during unsupervised periods. However, mother still apparently spent considerably more time with the children than the Massachusetts court order allowed. Father subjected the children to corporal punishment and inappropriate outbursts of anger, some of which was witnessed by mother. In August 2021, she filed a complaint for an emergency RFA in Vermont; a Vermont court issued a temporary RFA order the same day. Father moved to dismiss the RFA order, contending that because mother was a resident of Massachusetts, she could not proceed under the Abuse Prevention Act. The family division concluded that mother could obtain both an emergency and final RFA order against father. The Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the family division's order. View "Bacigalupo v. Bacigalupo" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals dismissing Appellant's appeal from the denial of her request for custody of N.E., holding that the doctrine of stare decisis warranted this Court's continued adherence to In re N.A.C., 329 P.3d 458 (Kan. 2014), under which an order terminating parental rights is the last appealable order under Kan. Stat. Ann. 38-2273(a), and post-termination orders are not appealable, even if they address custody.Child-in-need-of-care proceedings began when the State took protective custody of N.E. and ended when N.E. was adopted by her foster family. Appellant, N.E.'s grandmother, sought custody of N.E. during the proceedings and appealed the district court's denial of her request. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court affirmed and dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, holding that section 38-2273(a), as construed under In re N.A.C., barred appellate review of each of the district court orders from which Appellant appealed. View "In re N.E." on Justia Law

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J.T. (father) appealed a juvenile court’s order terminating his parental rights to Kenneth D. (minor) and adopting the recommended findings and orders of the Placer County Department of Health and Human Services (Department). Father’s contentions on appeal were limited to the Department’s and juvenile court’s compliance with the requirements of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), complaining the juvenile court and the Department failed to make the required initial inquiries of father’s ICWA status prior to finding the ICWA inapplicable and terminating his parental rights. Father also argued the Department’s investigation into mother’s possible Native American heritage was inadequate. He contended these errors were prejudicial requiring reversal and that posttermination ICWA inquiries did not cure the alleged noncompliance. To this, the Court of Appeal disagreed: Father did not show the juvenile court’s ICWA determination premised upon information provided by mother was unsupported by substantial evidence, and in light of the augmented record filed May 5, 2022, Father could not show the juvenile court’s and Department’s failure to initially comply with their ICWA duties was prejudicial. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed. View "In re Kenneth D." on Justia Law

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J.V. (Father) appealed a Welfare and Institutions Code section 366.26 order terminating his parental rights to his then three-year-old daughter, Y.M. His sole contention was that the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (the Agency) did not comply with its initial duty to inquire regarding Y.M.’s possible Indian ancestry under section 224.2 (b), which implemented in part the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The Agency conceded that it did not comply with its duty of initial inquiry, but argued its error was harmless. Applying the standard set forth in In re Benjamin M., 70 Cal.App.5th 735 (2021), the Court of Appeal concluded the Agency's section 224.2 (b) initial inquiry error was not prejudicial. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the section 366.26 order. View "In re Y.M." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court establishing child custody, visitation, and child support holding that the district court erred by exceeding the cap set forth in NAC 425.150(1)(f).Father in this case had a monthly income of approximately $38,000, and Mother's monthly income was approximately $5,000. Mother sought an upward adjustment to Father's child support obligation. The district court ordered Father to pay $3,500 per month in child support. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) section 425.150(1)(f) plainly caps the limit of any upward adjustment to Mother's monthly obligation amount; and (2) the district court did not err by basing an upward adjustment on NAC 425.150(1)(f), but the court did err by ordering an upward adjustment in excess of the other party's total obligation. View "Matkulak v. Davis" on Justia Law

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Shelby Finnson appealed a judgment awarding primary residential responsibility of the parties’ minor child to Jacob Kershaw. She claimed the district court’s findings were unsupported by the record; the court’s parenting time decision was unreasoned; the court erred when it allowed Kershaw to call an undisclosed witness for purposes of rebuttal; and the presiding judge erred because he failed to certify himself as familiar with the record. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the judgment. View "Kershaw v. Finnson, et al." on Justia Law

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Petitioner Alicia Rudick (Wife) raised a single issue before the South Carolina Supreme Court: whether a former spouse who was both the primary wage earner and caretaker could be a "supported spouse" under South Carolina's statutory scheme governing alimony. The family court awarded Respondent Brian Rudick periodic alimony of $3,000 a month, and the court of appeals affirmed, reducing it by $300 monthly based on a mathematical miscalculation. Wife contended Husband was not a "supported spouse" and therefore did not meet the legal requirement to receive alimony or in the alternative, that the alimony award should have been reduced. Specifically, Wife argued that because Husband did not depress his income by seeking employment which would allow him more time to care for the children, he was not a supported spouse. Additionally, Wife argued the family court overemphasized the statutory factor addressing the parties' standard of living during the marriage. Conversely, Husband argued the court of appeals properly affirmed the family court's decision to award alimony, that Wife's argument elevates the term "supported spouse" to a contrived meaning not contemplated by the General Assembly, and that the term is descriptive only, and simply designates the person who receives alimony. Further, Husband argues the family court properly considered the parties' standard of living as one factor in awarding alimony. The Supreme Court agreed with Husband and affirmed the court of appeals. View "Rudick v. Rudick" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals concluding that an order of partial summary judgment entered in the underlying proceeding to modify custody and child support was immediately appealable as a final order in a special proceeding under Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-1902(1)(b), holding that Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-1315(1) was implicated but was not satisfied.Plaintiff filed a complaint to modify his child support obligation and certain provisions of the parties' parenting plan. Defendant counterclaimed, alleging that the Nebraska court did not have subject matter jurisdiction over the child at issue when the dissolution decree was entered. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendant and voided every provision in the decree and parenting plan related to the child. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals' decision, holding that section 25-1315(1) was implicated in this case, and there was no proper certification under that statute. View "Mann v. Mann" on Justia Law

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N.G. (Mother) appealed a juvenile court’s order terminating parental rights to her children, Ricky R. and Jayden R. Mother argued the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) failed to discharge its duty of initial inquiry under state law implementing the federal Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA). DPSS did not dispute that it failed to discharge its duty of initial inquiry, but it argued that the error was harmless. DPSS also moved to dismiss the appeal as moot on the basis of postjudgment evidence, and it asked the Court of Appeal to consider that evidence under several theories. After review, the Court concluded DPSS prejudicially erred by failing to comply with its duty of initial inquiry under ICWA-related state law. The Court also denied DPSS’s motion to dismiss the appeal and declined to consider the postjudgment evidence of ICWA inquiries conducted while this appeal was pending. To this end, the Court held the juvenile court should consider that evidence in the first instance and determine whether DPSS discharged its duties under ICWA and related state law. View "In re Ricky R." on Justia Law

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D.L. (Mother) is the biological mother of four children: E.L., Child 1, now 15 years old; E.R.O., Child 2, now 11; L.O., Child 3, now 10; and E.O.O., Child 4, now 7. E.O. (Father) is the presumed father of Child 1 and the biological father of the other children. In January 2015, Father began a two-year term in the Ventura County jail. Aida R. was appointed legal guardian of the children.   Mother contends the trial court abused its discretion in denying her request to reopen the evidence to allow her to testify. Mother contends the trial court failed to comply with the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA). Mother argues that ICWA is a substantial right, and her counsel may not waive a substantial right without her consent.   The Second Appellate District affirmed the orders and found that the ICWA does not apply. The court explained that the circumstances here, however, warrant application of Code of Civil Procedure section 909. The court wrote that remand would unnecessarily delay the likelihood of adoption of the children and would achieve the same result the court found here. View "In re E.L." on Justia Law