Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries
Petition of New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families
Petitioner, the New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF), petitioned under the New Hampshire Supreme Court's original jurisdiction seeking review of a superior court order denying DCYF’s motion to dismiss a complaint brought against it. In 2019, Respondent filed a complaint as parent and next friend of his children, M.M. and J.M., asserting various claims against both DCYF and the Court Appointed Special Advocates of New Hampshire (CASA). DCYF and CASA moved to dismiss the complaint, with DCYF arguing, inter alia, that the claims were time-barred by RSA 541-B:14, IV. Respondent objected, asserting that RSA 508:8 (2010) tolled the period of limitations in RSA 541-B:14, IV. After a hearing on the motion, the trial court dismissed the claims against CASA as precluded by quasi-judicial immunity, but denied the motion to dismiss the claims against DCYF. In its order, the trial court reasoned that RSA 508:8 operated as a tolling provision and that failing to read the tolling provision into the statute of limitations in RSA 541-B:14, IV would lead to “an absurd, unfair, and unjust result.” In its petition to the Supreme Court, DCYF asked the Court to determine that RSA 508:8 did not apply to claims brought under RSA chapter 541-B. The Supreme Court concurred with Respondent, holding that RSA 508:8 had to be read into RSA 541-B:14, IV in order to comport with the equal protection guarantees afforded to the citizenry under Part I, Articles 2 and 12 of the New Hampshire Constitution. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed. View "Petition of New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families" on Justia Law
IDHW v. John Doe (2022-32)
John Doe sought custody of his daughter, Jane Doe, who was removed from the care of her mother in Idaho when a child protection action was initiated by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (“IDHW” or “the Department”). Jane Doe and her maternal half-brother were removed from the custody of their mother in December 2020 due to allegations of abusive conduct. Jane Doe had previously been removed from her mother’s custody in 2018 due to substance abuse issues. John Doe lived in Texas with his wife, who was Jane Doe’s stepmother, and their child, Jane Doe’s paternal half-sibling. At the time of the removal, John Doe was considered a “non-offending parent.” However, the initial “Adjudicatory/Disposition Report of Investigation” filed with the magistrate court noted that John Doe was listed on the Texas Public Sex Offender Website. The magistrate court exercised jurisdiction over Jane Doe in early 2021 and placed her in the Department’s legal custody. As part of the case plan for John Doe, the magistrate court ordered John Doe “to comply with and complete the approval with the [Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (“ICPC”)] process with the state of Texas[,]” to assess the suitability of John Doe as a placement option for Jane Doe. The ICPC process ordered by the court included a home study and a placement determination. Texas denied IDHW’s multiple requests to conduct a home study on John Doe due to John Doe’s history, which included two prior sex offenses and a past child protection order, along with allegations of physical abuse, sexual abuse, negligent supervision, physical neglect, and medical neglect. Texas also noted that John Doe was a registered sex offender who had previously failed to register. As a result, John Doe never completed a home study. John Doe thereafter requested the Idaho magistrate court revise its case plan to strike the requirement he complete the ICPC process. This request was denied, and the issue before the Idaho Supreme Court in this matter centered on whether the ICPC even applied to John Doe as an out-of-state, non-custodial parent. The Supreme Court affirmed the magistrate court’s order modifying the case plan and held that by its plain language, the ICPC did not apply to an out-of-state, non-custodial parent. View "IDHW v. John Doe (2022-32)" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Family Law, Idaho Supreme Court - Civil
O’Holleran v. O’Holleran
Christine and Thomas O'Holleran married in 2005. They had no children. In 2015, Christine filed for divorce and in her complaint alleged “[t]hat [Thomas] is guilty of physical and mental abuse toward [Christine], and such is sufficient that this marriage should be terminated at the fault of [Thomas].” In his response and counterclaim, Thomas requested a divorce on the grounds of habitual intemperance, extreme cruelty, and irreconcilable differences. Christine subsequently moved to amend her divorce complaint to add a tort claim for emotional and physical abuse and requested damages in excess of $10,000. In his answer to Christine’s amended complaint, Thomas asserted an affirmative defense arguing that the magistrate court lacked jurisdiction to hear Christine’s tort claim. The magistrate court granted Christine’s motion to amend her complaint. The magistrate court held a bench trial on the claims asserted in the Amended Complaint, granting the divorce on grounds of irreconcilable differences, divided the parties’ real and personal property, and awarded Christine spousal maintenance. The decision did not address Christine’s tort claim. Thomas and Christine both filed motions to reconsider, but neither mentioned the magistrate court’s lack of findings and conclusions regarding Christine’s tort claim. Similarly, the magistrate court did not address Christine’s tort claim in its order denying reconsideration. The issue on appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court was whether the magistrate court had authority to decide a tort claim by one spouse against another as an ancillary matter to a divorce proceeding. The Supreme Court determined Idaho Code sections 1-2208 and 1-2210 and I.C.A.R. 5 limited the case types that could be assigned to magistrate courts to those specified in the Seventh Judicial District’s order on local rules. That order did not give the magistrate court authority to decide civil cases seeking damages in excess of $10,000. Nor was the tort claim an ancillary matter to the divorce proceeding. Accordingly, the district court erred when it determined the magistrate court had authority to decide Christine’s tort claim. View "O'Holleran v. O'Holleran" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Family Law, Idaho Supreme Court - Civil, Personal Injury
In re J.P.S.; In re J.S.
Respondent-Mother appealed a circuit court order finding that her children were abused and neglected. Petitioner New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) filed six abuse and neglect petitions alleging Mother's biological children, J.S. and J.P.S. were born prematurely due to exposure to drugs taken during Mother's pregnancy. J.P.S. was born on October 7, 2021, at Mother and Father’s home. Approximately three days after his birth, J.P.S. began showing signs of distress. Father brought J.P.S. to Catholic Medical Center (CMC) under the so-called “safe haven law,” and stated that the child’s mother was, or was believed to be, an intravenous drug user. Because J.P.S’s needs were so extensive, he was transported to Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH). After three days at BCH, J.P.S. returned to CMC, where he was still being treated at the time of the adjudicatory hearing. He was diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). The circuit court entered findings of “true” with respect to four petitions alleging neglect of J.S. and J.P.S. by Mother and Father. The two remaining petitions alleged abuse of J.P.S. by Father and Mother, respectively, through injuries sustained by J.P.S. after birth, caused by Mother’s prenatal narcotics use. The court entered findings of “not true” with respect to Father and “true” with respect to Mother. Mother appealed, challenging the finding of abuse of J.P.S. and the findings of neglect of both J.P.S. and J.S., and raising other alleged errors. The only question briefed by Mother, however, relates to the finding of abuse of J.P.S. Accordingly, we deem all other issues raised in Mother’s notice of appeal waived. The New Hampshire Supreme Court found no reversible error in the circuit court's judgment and affirmed. View "In re J.P.S.; In re J.S." on Justia Law
M.T. (Mother) v. State of Alaska DHSS, OCS
Mother Miranda T. appealed the superior court’s entry of a disposition order in child in need of aid (CINA) proceedings. She contended the court erred by moving forward with an adjudication hearing without having considered her request for a review hearing on a previously stipulated temporary custody and placement arrangement. She contended the court also erred by later refusing to enforce two subsequent agreements she had reached with the Office of Children’s Services (OCS) about placements for her daughter. Furthermore, Mother contended the evidence did not support the disposition order’s predicate findings that (1) OCS had made sufficiently active efforts to reunify the family and (2) removal of the daughter from the family home was necessary to avoid harm to her. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court rejected the mother’s claims of error and affirmed the superior court’s disposition order. View "M.T. (Mother) v. State of Alaska DHSS, OCS" on Justia Law
Amanda F. v. Daniel K.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court continuing an ex parte sexual assault protection order, holding that the sexual assault protection order was properly continued.Amanda F. was granted an ex parte sexual assault protection order against Daniel K. At the close of the evidence, the district court found that a statutory sexual assault offense had occurred, concluded that the risk of future harm was not a consideration under Neb. Rev. Stat. 28-311.11, the sexual assault protection order statute, and that the protection order should remain in effect for a period of one year. The Supreme Court affirmed the continuation of the sexual assault protection order, holding that Daniel did not carry his burden to show cause why the protection order should not remain in effect. View "Amanda F. v. Daniel K." on Justia Law
Posted in: Family Law, Nebraska Supreme Court, Personal Injury
In re L.B.
The Bureau filed a dependency petition with respect to L.B., Welfare and Institutions Code 300, due to Mother’s failure to protect L.B. from ongoing domestic violence between Mother and her long-term partner, T.Y., and her inability to provide support for L.B. due to her hospitalization for leukemia and consumption of high doses of pain medication. Mother had a history of arrests and had attempted suicide. Despite many reports to the contrary, Mother denied domestic violence, claimed she had no mental health issues, and denied using nonprescribed drugs. L.B.’s school attendance had been poor. L.B. was detained with Father.At the dispositional hearing, Mother testified about her intervening arrest for assault with a deadly weapon and denied telling a social worker that L.B. had seen domestic violence between her and T.Y. The juvenile court found Mother unable to protect the child from ongoing domestic violence and that Mother presented an ongoing risk to L.B. given her domestic violence history, her propensity to engage in violent acts, and her failure to take any preventative steps to allay the court’s concerns. The court granted sole physical custody of L.B. to Father, joint legal custody to both parents, and supervised visitation for Mother. The court of appeal affirmed. There was substantial evidence that L.B. would otherwise be at substantial risk of serious harm. View "In re L.B." on Justia Law
Posted in: California Courts of Appeal, Family Law, Juvenile Law
In re A.A.
C.G. (Mother) and R.A. (Father) appealed a juvenile court’s order terminating their parental rights to three of their minor children. Father’s parents repeatedly denied any Indian ancestry, but Mother reported she was affiliated with the Jemez Pueblo tribe in New Mexico. Father eventually denied having any Indian ancestry or tribal affiliation. The juvenile court found the children might be Indian children and ordered notice to be reported to the Jemez Pueblo tribe and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The Jemez Pueblo tribe required individuals to have a 1/4 Jemez Pueblo blood quantum. Mother provided verification of her tribal registration status with the tribe, which confirmed her Jemez Pueblo blood quantum was over 1/4. A social worker from the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services (the Department) contacted the Jemez Pueblo and was told that none of the children were registered members of the tribe. The social worker reported she contacted Annette Gachupin, a Child Advocate for the Jemez Pueblo and the tribe’s ICWA Representative. Gachupin confirmed that Mother was an enrolled member of the Jemez Pueblo tribe, but the children were not eligible to become registered members because their blood quantum was too low to meet requirements for tribal membership. Instead, the children were eligible for “naturalization,” which would only qualify them for tribal health services while excluding them from receiving federal funds that Jemez Pueblo members receive. Mother never completed the paperwork to have the children naturalized. The Department asked the juvenile court to find that ICWA did not apply because the children were not Indian children. The parents did not object, nor did the children’s attorney. The juvenile court found that the children were not Indian children and therefore ICWA did not apply. The lack of objections notwithstanding, the parents appealed the termination and the ICWA ruling. The Court of Appeal concluded the juvenile court did not err: Indian tribes determine whether a child is a member of the tribe or eligible for membership. Substantial evidence supported the juvenile court’s finding that N., H., and A. were not “Indian children” for ICWA purposes. View "In re A.A." on Justia Law
Hoffman v. Hoffman, et. al.
Travis Hoffman appealed an amended judgment and orders denying his motion to modify residential responsibility and granting Tia Hoffman’s motion for a change of residence to relocate out of state with their minor child. Travis argued the district court erred in denying his motion to modify residential responsibility by applying a heightened standard to his motion and, alternatively, finding he failed to satisfy that standard. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the amended judgment and orders denying the motion to modify residential responsibility and granting the motion for a change of residence. View "Hoffman v. Hoffman, et. al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Family Law, North Dakota Supreme Court
Jensen v. Jensen, et al.
Ayrica Penor, formerly Ayrica Jensen, appealed a district court order denying her motion to modify primary residential responsibility. On appeal, Penor argued the district court erred in determining that she failed to plead a prima facie case and in denying her request for a hearing. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Jensen v. Jensen, et al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Family Law, North Dakota Supreme Court