Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

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The Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division One, State of California reviewed a case involving a mother (E.V.) who argued that the juvenile court lacked the authority to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) and a permanent restraining order under Welfare and Institutions Code section 213.5. This section, in conjunction with section 311, implies that such authority is limited to dependency petitions filed by a probation officer rather than petitions filed by a social worker under section 300. The case arose after the juvenile court removed E.V.'s children from her custody due to drug use and negligence. Subsequently, the court granted a TRO request filed by one of the children (A.D.) against E.V. and later issued a permanent restraining order protecting A.D. from E.V. for a three-year period.The court, in this case, rejected E.V's argument, stating that in the context of the statutory scheme, probation officers and social workers are deemed the same. The court cited the legislative authority that allowed the delegation of duties from probation officers to social workers, making both terms interchangeable in juvenile dependency cases. Therefore, the court concluded that the juvenile court had the authority to issue a TRO and a permanent restraining order under Welfare and Institutions Code section 213.5 in cases where the petition was filed by a social worker under section 300. The court affirmed the order of the juvenile court. View "Bonds v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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The defendant, Jacob Palmer, was found guilty of felony Partner or Family Member Assault (PFMA) by the Eleventh Judicial District Court, Flathead County, following an incident where he attacked his girlfriend, K.Y., with whom he had been in a relationship for over a decade. During his trial, evidence was presented regarding prior altercations between Palmer and K.Y. Palmer appealed to the Supreme Court of the State of Montana, challenging the District Court's decision to admit this evidence.The issue before the Supreme Court of Montana was whether the District Court had abused its discretion by admitting evidence of Palmer's prior altercations with K.Y. in his PFMA trial. The Supreme Court held that the District Court had not abused its discretion. The court reasoned that the evidence of Palmer's previous altercations with K.Y. was relevant and admissible under Montana Rule of Evidence 404(b). The court explained that such evidence can provide context about the complex dynamics of domestic violence, including the cycle of abuse and the reasons why victims such as K.Y. might not immediately report the abuse or might be reluctant to discuss the abuse with law enforcement. The court further determined that the probative value of this evidence was not significantly outweighed by its potential prejudicial effect against Palmer. As such, the court affirmed the District Court's decision to admit the evidence and upheld Palmer's conviction. View "State v. Palmer" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of the State of Montana was tasked with determining whether the Municipal Court had sufficient evidence to enter a permanent order of protection against the appellant, Alda Bighorn. Bighorn was prohibited from having contact with her grandchild, L.D.F.S, unless supervised, due to allegations made by L.D.F.S's mother, Camille Fritzler. Fritzler alleged that Bighorn had taken L.D.F.S to a family gathering while intoxicated and seeking narcotics, and was planning to enroll L.D.F.S with a Native tribe to gain custody over her. These allegations were not corroborated by any witness testimony or other evidence, but the Municipal Court granted a permanent order of protection against Bighorn. Bighorn appealed this decision, and the District Court affirmed the Municipal Court's ruling.The Supreme Court of the State of Montana reversed the lower courts' decisions, ruling that the Municipal Court had abused its discretion by granting the permanent order of protection without any substantial, credible evidence supporting Fritzler's allegations. The Supreme Court noted that hearsay allegations may be sufficient to support issuing a temporary order of protection, but not a permanent one. Furthermore, the court deemed it improper for the lower court to issue a visitation order for a grandparent in a protection order proceeding, stating that grandparent visitation should be established by filing a petition under the relevant statute. The case was remanded to the Municipal Court to vacate and rescind the permanent order of protection against Bighorn. View "Fritzler v. Bighorn" on Justia Law

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In this case, the Supreme Court of Alaska ruled on the legal process applying to the Office of Children's Services (OCS) when it seeks to admit a child in its custody to a hospital for psychiatric care. The case centered on a minor named Mira J., a member of the Native Village of Kwinhagak (the Tribe), who was placed in OCS custody and hospitalized for 46 days for psychiatric treatment without a hearing to determine if the hospitalization was justified.The Tribe argued that her hospitalization should have been governed by the civil commitment statutes or, alternatively, that the constitution did not permit OCS to hospitalize a child for such a long time without a court hearing to determine whether the hospitalization was justified. The court rejected the Tribe's statutory argument but agreed that Mira's due process rights under the Alaska Constitution were violated.The court held that while OCS was not required to follow the civil commitment statutes when admitting Mira to either hospital, due process required OCS to promptly notify parties to the child in need of aid (CINA) case when admitting a child to the hospital for psychiatric care. Further, due process required the court to hold a hearing as soon as reasonably possible to determine whether the hospitalization was justified. The court held that the 46-day wait between Mira's first admission to the hospital and the hearing was too long to satisfy due process, and thus reversed the lower court's order authorizing Mira's continued hospitalization. View "Native Village of Kwinhagak v. State of Alaska" on Justia Law

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This case concerns a child custody dispute between Kelly K. Fitzgerald and James W.A. Jackson. The parties have two minor children, who have dual citizenship of the United States and Australia. The children have lived in Rhode Island with the Plaintiff since 2015. The Defendant, an Australian citizen, argued that the Family Court of Rhode Island lacked jurisdiction over the dispute, contending that there was a simultaneous case in Australia and that he had no personal ties to Rhode Island.The Supreme Court of Rhode Island affirmed the Family Court's decision over the custody dispute, confirming that Rhode Island had jurisdiction over the matter. The Supreme Court confirmed that the Family Court has subject-matter jurisdiction over child-custody cases as a matter of law and that the defendant had waived the issue of personal jurisdiction and consented to jurisdiction in Rhode Island by availing himself of the laws of Rhode Island.The Court found that the Family Court had jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) because Rhode Island was the children's home state at the time the proceedings were commenced, and no other state would have jurisdiction under the criteria specified in the act. The UCCJEA treats a foreign country as if it were a state of the United States for the purpose of applying its provisions. The Court also noted that the Australian court had declined to exercise jurisdiction over the case, further supporting the Family Court's jurisdiction.The Court also rejected the defendant's argument that the Family Court should not have issued orders regarding child support and custody without first making a jurisdictional finding, noting that the defendant himself had filed a motion for custody, participated in mediation, and submitted a form prior to a hearing on child support. The Court concluded that the hearing justice did not err in finding that the Rhode Island Family Court has subject-matter jurisdiction over the matter.Finally, the Court concluded that the hearing justice erred in not ruling on the defendant's emergency motion for temporary orders, apparently seeking visitation with the children during the summer, because at the time, no order had been entered divesting the Family Court of jurisdiction, and no appeal had been filed. The matter was remanded to the Family Court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. View "Fitzgerald v. Jackson" on Justia Law

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In a case heard by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, plaintiffs Mark Bambach and his minor children sued defendants Gina Moegle and Susan Shaw, employees of Michigan's Children’s Protective Services, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiffs alleged that Moegle and Shaw violated their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by removing the children from Bambach's custody without a warrant and failing to return them after Bambach revoked his consent for the children to stay with their mother during an investigation into allegations of child abuse. The court found that no clearly established law put the state defendants on notice that they were violating the Bambach's Fourteenth and Fourth Amendment rights. The court determined that the key factual dispute underpinning the remaining claims was whether Bambach’s children were removed from his custody without his consent from December 29, 2015, to January 14, 2016. The court found that a reasonable jury could determine that Bambach had revoked his consent to his children’s placement with their mother by expressing to Moegle that he wanted to see his children and wanted to know when they would be back. But the court did not assess whether those constitutional rights were clearly established at the time of the violations. The court found that Moegle and Shaw were entitled to qualified immunity as they could not have been on notice that their actions were unconstitutional. The court reversed the district court’s denial of summary judgment and remanded for entry of an order dismissing the plaintiffs' claims against the defendants. View "Bambach v. Moegle" on Justia Law

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This case concerns the dissolution of a marriage between Diana and Andreas Lietz. The primary point of contention was the valuation of the family home. Diana presented an appraisal report valuing the home at $1.1 million, while Andreas's appraisal report valued it at $1,020,000. Both appraisal reports stated the home was on a 9,000 square feet lot. However, Diana attempted to argue that the lot size was more than 9,000 square feet. The trial court found Andreas's appraiser more credible and accepted his valuation. On appeal, Diana argued that the court erred by preventing her from presenting evidence and testimony suggesting that the lot size was larger than 9,000 square feet. The Court of Appeal of the State of California Fourth Appellate District Division Three affirmed the trial court's decision. The appellate court concluded that the trial court followed the correct procedure when it sustained objections to Diana's attempts to present evidence about the larger lot size due to the lack of competent evidence supporting her claim. The court emphasized that an expert witness could not assert case-specific facts in hearsay statements unless they were independently proven by competent evidence or covered by a hearsay exception. View "In re Marriage of Lietz" on Justia Law

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In this case, the Supreme Court of the State of North Dakota dealt with a dispute between divorced parents, Nickolette Keller and Michael Keller, over tax exemptions for their children. The divorce judgement had allocated the right to claim the oldest child to Michael Keller and the younger child to Nickolette Keller. In 2023, Michael Keller attempted to claim his eldest child on his taxes, but received a letter from the child, facilitated by Nickolette Keller, stating the child would be filing his own taxes. Consequently, Michael Keller filed a motion for contempt against Nickolette Keller.The district court found Nickolette Keller in contempt for willful and inexcusable intent to violate the court order and awarded Michael Keller attorney’s fees up to when Nickolette Keller provided the necessary tax form. The Supreme Court of the State of North Dakota affirmed the district court's decision, holding that Nickolette Keller's refusal to comply with the divorce judgement and her facilitation of the child's letter constituted contempt.Michael Keller cross-appealed, arguing the district court erred in not awarding him the full amount of attorney’s fees. The Supreme Court denied his claim, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in not awarding Michael Keller attorney’s fees incurred after Nickolette Keller provided him the IRS form. Michael Keller also unsuccessfully requested attorney’s fees on appeal, which the Supreme Court denied due to inadequate briefing and argument. View "Keller v. Keller" on Justia Law

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In this case from the Supreme Court of North Dakota, Derrick Sherwood appealed a district court order denying his motion to vacate a domestic violence protection order (DVPO) under N.D.R.Civ.P. 60. The court held a hearing and entered a DVPO restraining Derrick Sherwood from having contact with Valerie Sherwood, his ex-wife, and their two minor children. The order also required Derrick Sherwood to surrender his firearms to law enforcement. Later, the court amended the DVPO to remove the restriction on Derrick Sherwood’s possession of firearms. Derrick Sherwood later moved to vacate the DVPO altogether.The Supreme Court of North Dakota held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Derrick Sherwood’s request to treat Valerie Sherwood as a hostile witness or in denying Derrick Sherwood’s motion to vacate the DVPO. The court also held that the district court did not err in awarding Valerie Sherwood attorney’s fees.Furthermore, the court held that Derrick Sherwood did not have standing to challenge the constitutionality of N.D.C.C. § 14-07.1-02(4)(g), which allows a DVPO to require, under certain circumstances, that the respondent surrender any firearm or other specified dangerous weapon. As the DVPO was amended to allow Derrick Sherwood to possess firearms, he did not have a justiciable controversy regarding the constitutionality of this statute.The court affirmed the district court's decision. View "Sherwood v. Sherwood" on Justia Law

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In this divorce case between Stacey Jean Dimmler and Dustin Scott Dimmler, the Supreme Court of North Dakota reviewed several issues. The couple had two children and disputed matters of property division, child support, and primary residential responsibility. Both parties appealed the decision of the District Court. Dustin argued that the court erred in valuing and distributing the marital estate, in determining primary residential responsibility, in calculating child support, and by refusing to remove a parenting investigator. Stacey cross-appealed, arguing that the court erred by not making child support retroactive to the date of the interim order, not awarding her attorney’s fees, and not ordering Dustin to repay her the cost of her parental capacity evaluation.The supreme court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. It affirmed the district court's valuation of the Florida property and the parties’ personal property, its decision on primary residential responsibility, its calculation of Dustin's child support payments, its refusal to retroactively award child support to Stacey, and its denial of attorney’s fees or reimbursement of Stacey's fees for a parental capacity evaluation. However, the court found error in the district court's calculation of the farmland's value. The supreme court held that the district court should have included the debt from the life estate in calculating the value of Dustin's remainder interest in the farmland. It remanded the case for further proceedings to properly evaluate the farmland’s value and to equitably divide the marital estate. View "Dimmler v. Dimmler" on Justia Law