Articles Posted in Family Law

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The Court of Appeal reversed the juvenile court's jurisdictional findings regarding Mother's two children. Mother is schizophrenic and suffered from manic episodes. The court held that substantial evidence did not support the juvenile court's finding that the father failed to protect the children from Mother's dangerous conduct or that Mother's condition created a substantial risk of physical harm to the children in the future. In this case, the juvenile court's intervention was not needed because no one was injured and the family immediately took steps to resolve the problem. Nor was there any reason to believe that the father and the family would be unable to safely handle any future problems. View "In re A.L." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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In a previous appeal, the court concluded that the minors’ mother revoked maternal uncle Rafael’s Indian custodian status under the Indian Child Welfare Act, 25 U.S.C. 1901, shortly after the children were detained. The court determined that compelling evidence supported the refusal to place the minors with Rafael as an extended family member—an ICWA "preferred placement"—given their special needs and Rafael’s cognitive deficits. The court rejected Rafael’s challenge to permanent plan orders continuing long-term foster care, concluding that Rafael was no longer a party to the dependency proceedings. While those appeals were pending, Rafael filed a new action, attacking a permanent plan order continuing the minors in foster care. Rafael argued that active efforts have not been made to prevent the breakup of the Indian family, specifically with regards to visitation; and that foster care was neither necessary nor appropriate, as he is willing and able to take custody. The court of appeal dismissed, finding that Rafael lacked standing. The minors have been in permanent plans for several years, so services should be tailored to support their compelling need for stability and permanency. Rafael can continue to appear in juvenile court and request visitation as an interested relative and the Tribe remains involved, arguing for increased contact among the minors, Rafael, and the grandmother. Rafael only lacks standing to challenge the minors’ permanent plans. View "In re E.R." on Justia Law

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T.C. appealed the juvenile court's dispositional order placing her minor daughter, A.F., in the care of her paternal grandmother, Donna F. T.C. contended the court erred by failing to comply with the placement preferences required under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) (25 U.S.C. 1901 et seq.) and argued the juvenile court should have continued A.F.'s placement with T.C.'s maternal cousin. The Court of Appeal agreed with the Agency that the juvenile court's dispositional order complied with the applicable placement preferences and affirm the order. View "In re A.F." on Justia Law

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Fred Kamgar appealed a judgment ordering him to pay his wife Moira Kamgar $1,952,056.50 for breach of his spousal fiduciary duties in failing to disclose to her that he engaged in options trading, and traded an additional $8 million more than the $2.5 million in community assets she agreed he could trade in their investment account. The trial court determined Fred’s undisclosed and reckless trading resulted in a loss of almost $4 million, in addition to losing the initial $2.5 million. Fred contended the evidence did not support the conclusion he violated his fiduciary duties. Moira contended she was entitled to more than the $1.9 million award she received as her community interest in the $4 million loss. Finding the law and the evidence amply supported the trial court’s award, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "In re Marriage of Kamgar" on Justia Law

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Cynthia Vargas appealed a court order awarding father Christopher Ross primary physical custody of their minor children. Vargas was awarded temporary custody while Ross was deployed overseas. Upon his return, the issue of the children’s custody went to trial. Mother and father both testified at trial and numerous family court services reports, along with the mediators’ recommendations, were admitted into evidence. At the conclusion of trial, the court said if it were ruling on “straight best interest analysis, what’s in the best interest of [the children], my ruling would be that mother should be the primary custodial parent." However, the court found the case law interpreted the military deployment presumption in Family Code section 3047 to mean the children would return to the father once he returned. Mother argued the trial court misinterpreted section 3047, and the Court of Appeal agreed. The trial court was directed to evaluate the evidence and issue a custody order based on the best interest of the children, and consistent with the Legislature’s intent and the express terms of section 3047. View "In re Marriage of Vargas & Ross" on Justia Law

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H.C. a nonminor dependent of the juvenile court, appealed an order terminating her dependency case, contending the court erred by determining that H.C.'s marriage rendered her ineligible for nonminor dependency jurisdiction. H.C. contended the court erred by terminating her nonminor dependency case based on her marriage. The Court of Appeal found neither of the applicable statutes, state or federal, mentioned marriage. Rather, the statutes covered only a nonminor dependent's age, his or her relationship to the Agency, and his or her transitional living plan. A nonminor dependent's marriage does not necessarily affect any of those eligibility criteria. View "In re H.C." on Justia Law

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The family court has jurisdiction under Family Code section 6345, subdivision (a) to renew domestic violence restraining orders (DVROs) initially granted by the juvenile court. The Court of Appeal held that the legislative history of the Family Code and the Welfare and Institutions Code indicates the Legislature intended juvenile and family courts to work together to protect victims of domestic violence. The court explained that it construed both statutes broadly, avoiding a formalistic reading that would require domestic violence victims who receive a DVRO from the juvenile court to repeat the process in family court. In this case, the court reversed the family court's conclusion that it lacked authority to renew a DVRO granted by the juvenile court. View "Priscila N. v. Leonardo G." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Husband Patrick Steiner was an active duty military service member and had a group life insurance policy issued under the Servicemen's Group Life Insurance Act of 1965 (the SGLIA). As part of a status-only dissolution judgment, Husband and Alicja Soczewko Steiner (Wife), stipulated to an order requiring Husband to maintain Wife as the beneficiary of all of Husband's current active duty survivor and/or death benefits pending further court order. Notwithstanding the stipulated order, Husband changed the beneficiary of his life insurance policy to Husband's sister, Mary Furman, who received the policy proceeds upon Husband's death. The court subsequently found applicable federal law preempted the stipulated order and Furman was entitled to the policy proceeds. Wife appealed, contending federal law did not preempt the stipulated order or, alternatively, the fraud exception to federal preemption applies. The Court of Appeal concluded to the contrary on both points and affirmed the order. View "Marriage of Steiner" on Justia Law

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Wife and Husband both appealed from the trial court's postjudgment orders enforcing one of the terms of the parties' stipulated judgment, which required an equalization payment from Husband to Wife following a joint appraisal of certain real property. The Court of Appeal agreed with wife's claims that the trial court erred in awarding interest on that payment from the date of the trial court's ruling rather than the date the payment was due, about 19 months earlier. Accordingly, the court reversed the trial court's orders only with respect to the date when interest on the equalization payment began to accrue. View "Dalgleish v. Selvaggio" on Justia Law

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A father objected to a California court order confirming the registration of an Italian child and spousal support order pursuant to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA). On appeal, Father argued the trial court: (1) “misallocated to Father the burden of proving that Italy is not a state under UIFSA,” (2) “improperly deprived Father of an evidentiary hearing to refute the notion that Italy is such a state,” (3) “erroneously refused to render a statement of decision,” and (4) “erred as a matter of law in concluding that Italy is a state under UIFSA.” Finding no merit to these contentions, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s order. View "Cima-Sorci v. Sorci" on Justia Law