Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated a portion of the divorce judgment entered by the district court in this case and otherwise affirmed, holding that the trial court failed to make the specific finding required by statute establishing why it was equitable and just to allocate a tax exemption to the parent without primary residency.The amended divorce judgment at issue granted Husband contact with the parties' two children three weekends per month, ordered Husband to pay child support, and allocated one child dependency tax exemption to Husband. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated in part and affirmed in part the judgment below, holding that the district court (1) did not abuse its discretion in its allocation of overnight child contact; (2) did not abuse its discretion in declining to make the award of child support retroactive; and (3) erred in its allocation of the child dependency exemptions. View "Proctor v. Childs" on Justia Law

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The issue in this appeal is whether section 5241 precludes the obligee from seeking a determination of arrearages allegedly owed by the obligor, where the obligor’s employer is subject to a valid earnings assignment order. The family court ruled section 5241 precludes such a request, but reached that conclusion by answering a different question: whether section 5241 precludes an obligee from seeking to enforce arrearages against an obligor whose employer is subject to an earnings assignment order. The court concluded section 5241 precludes such a request. As a result, the family court denied a request by Plainitff for an order to determine child and spousal support arrearages against her former husband, Defendant. The court also granted Defendant’s request for monetary sanctions against Plaintiff’s attorney.   The Second Appellate District reversed the family court’s order and directed the court to determine the amount of arrearages, if any, Defendant owes Plaintiff.  The court explained that based on the language and legislative history of section 5241, we conclude that, where an employer is subject to an earnings assignment order, section 5241 protects obligors only from being held in contempt or subject to criminal prosecution for nonpayment of the support. Contrary to the family court’s ruling the statute does not preclude an obligee like Plaintiff from seeking arrearages or a determination of arrearages from an obligor like Defendant. Which in turn means Plaintiff’s request for an order determining arrearages was not frivolous for the reasons stated by the family court and did not support an award of sanctions against Appellant. View "Brubaker v. Strum" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the district court on Appellant's complaint for divorce from Appellee, holding that the trial court's findings were insufficient to support the parental rights portions of the judgment and that the court erred in determining Appellee's income.On appeal, Appellant argued, among other things, that the court's orders concerning parental rights and responsibilities, the parties' child's residence, and Appellee's contact with the child constituted an abuse of discretion. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed and vacated the judgment below, holding (1) remand was required for the trial court to issue an amended judgment that included additional findings as necessary to set forth the basis for the same or different determinations regarding parental rights and responsibilities, contact, and residence; and (2) the record did not support the court's finding that Appellee's annual gross income was only $24,666. View "Whitmore v. Whitmore" on Justia Law

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Ross Lamm and Leslie Preston each began separate businesses during their marriage. After Lamm filed for divorce from Leslie Preston, they stipulated to a custody and support order for their children, as well as the division of most of their marital estate; however, they could not reach an agreement on the valuations of their respective businesses. Following a bench trial, the magistrate court determined that the couple’s 25% interest in one of those businesses, Black Sage Acquisition, LLC, was worth $163,373 based on its fair market value. All remaining value was found to be Lamm's personal goodwill. Preston first appealed the magistrate court’s valuation and division of certain business assets in her divorce proceedings to the district court, which upheld the magistrate court’s ruling. She then appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the magistrate court's order. View "Lamm v. Preston" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from a contempt order entered against Jeff Katseanes (“Jeff”) and an order of disgorgement entered against his attorney, Justin Oleson. As part of a divorce agreement between Judy Katseanes, now Judy Yancey (“Judy”), and Jeff, Jeff was required to pay Judy spousal support. Following several years of insufficient payments, Judy filed a lawsuit to seek enforcement of spousal support. During the proceedings, the district court orally granted Judy’s request for a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (“QDRO”) assigning Judy 100% of Jeff’s 401k plan. After the court orally issued its order in open court, but before the district court signed a written order reflecting the oral ruling, Jeff withdrew all of the funds from the 401k. The district court ordered Jeff to return the funds and provide an accounting. When the accounting was not timely provided, the district court held Jeff in criminal contempt and sentenced him to five days in jail. The court also granted an order of disgorgement against his attorney after discovering Jeff’s attorney fees had been paid with funds from the 401k. Jeff appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court, arguing the order of contempt and order of disgorgement were improper because the QDRO did not become effective until the written order was signed by the court. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Katseanes v. Katseanes" on Justia Law

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The Alaska Office of Children’s Services (OCS) took custody of a newborn child due to concerns about the parents’ drug use and the father’s history of sexual abuse. The mother later voluntarily relinquished her parental rights, and after a trial, the superior court terminated the father’s rights. The father appealed the termination order, arguing: (1) the order improperly relied on drug-treatment records that were not admitted at trial; and (2) in proposing a new process to govern a parent’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, he established a prima facie case of ineffective assistance and the Alaska Supreme Court should remand the case to the superior court for an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court was not convinced by either argument, and affirmed the termination order because relying on the unadmitted drug-treatment records was harmless error and because the father did not show he received ineffective assistance of counsel. However, the Court took the opportunity to clarify its approach to ineffective assistance claims in child in need of aid (CINA) cases. View "Penn P. Jr. v. Alaska Dept. of Health & Soc.Srvs" on Justia Law

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In this divorce action, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court in all respects, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion its division of the parties' marital property.On appeal, Wife challenged the district court's division of marital property, arguing that the district court abused its discretion in its calculation of the equalization payment due to Wife from Husband. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Wife failed to demonstrate clear grounds for altering the property distribution; and (2) the court's disposition of the marital estate was neither so unfair nor so inequitable that it was unreasonable. View "D'Anzi v. D'Anzi" on Justia Law

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C.K. (Father) and I.B. (Mother) appealed the juvenile court’s order terminating their parental rights to their infant child, D.B. They argued the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services failed to comply with its duty of initial inquiry into Father’s Indian ancestry under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, and related California law (ICWA), and thus the juvenile court erroneously found that ICWA did not apply. To this, the Court of Appeal agreed and found that the error was prejudicial. It therefore conditionally reversed and remanded to allow the Department to fully comply with ICWA. View "In re D.B." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated in part the judgment of the district court ordering Husband's divorce from Wife and awarding sole parental rights and responsibilities of the parties' two children to Wife, holding that the trial court abused its discretion in ordering that Husband disclose all counseling records to Wife in order to have contact with their children.Six to seven years before Wife filed the complaint for divorce Husband's mental health began deteriorating. The trial judge granted Wife a divorce, ordered that Wife would have sole parental rights and responsibilities of the children, and ordered that Husband provide his counseling records to Wife to help convince Wife to allow visitation with the children and when this should occur. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment in part, holding that the term "counseling records" could include information that Wife may not have a right to access under federal and state law, and therefore, the district court abused its discretion in imposing this condition. View "Doe v. Walsh" on Justia Law

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Chad Quamme appealed an amended judgment setting his child support obligation and ordering him to pay spousal support to Ashley Quamme. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court failed to properly calculate Chad's child support obligation and the evidence in the record did not support the court’s spousal support decision. Judgment was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Quamme v. Quamme" on Justia Law