Articles Posted in Family Law

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Shauna R. appealed an order terminating parental rights to her son, Cody R., contending the order should have been reversed because the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (Agency) did not give preferential consideration to relatives when determining Cody's placement. After considering the parties' supplemental briefing on the issue of standing, the Court of Appeal concluded Shauna did not have standing to appeal the order terminating parental rights. "A parent's appeal from a judgment terminating parental rights confers standing to appeal an order concerning the dependent child's placement only if the placement order's reversal advances the parent's argument against terminating parental rights." Shauna overlooked the fact she did not challenge on appeal the court's finding there were no exceptions to termination of parental rights. "She alludes to the possibility that if Cody had been placed in the care of a relative, the relative would not have been able to adopt and the court would have ordered a permanency plan of guardianship, thus preserving Shauna's parental rights. Speculation about a hypothetical situation is not sufficient to support standing." Furthermore, the Court found the record did not support Shauna's claims there were relatives willing to provide a home to Cody and the Agency failed to apply the relative placement preference. In not bringing the placement issue to the juvenile court's attention at any time during Cody's dependency proceedings, Shauna has forfeited the issue on appeal. View "In re Cody R." on Justia Law

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In 2014, Martindale obtained a three-year domestic violence prevention restraining order (Fam. Code 6200) against Ochoa, the father of her then five-year-old daughter. Before the order was set to expire, she sought permanent renewal of the order. Following a hearing, the trial court denied the request, finding she had not shown “ ‘reasonable apprehension’ of future abuse.” The court of appeal affirmed. Although Martindale’s 2014 testimony plainly supported the issuance of the original restraining order, collateral estoppel does not apply. As the trial court stated: The granting of the original restraining order does not confirm that this Court made a finding that every allegation made by [Martindale] was true, but that this court found a sufficient factual basis to determine that spousal abuse had occurred.” The “issue” decided in the prior proceeding was whether Martindale established a basis for issuance of a restraining order, not whether all the incidents to which she testified were true. View "Marriage of Martindale & Ochoa" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Court of Appeal reversed the juvenile court's jurisdictional order asserting that the children fell under Welfare and Institutions Code section 300, subdivision (b), but finding no substantial risk of serious harm to the children from the parents' actions. At the dispositional phase, the juvenile court returned the children to the custody of the parents, finding that the parents did not constitute "any kind of risk to the children." The court held that the juvenile court failed to make the findings required by statute finding that the children were at substantial risk of serious harm. View "In re Israel T." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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In a child custody proceeding arising under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), the Court of Appeal held that the trial court erred by granting mother's motion to quash temporary emergency orders on child custody and visitation. The trial court had found that a Belarus residency action was a child custody proceeding within the meaning of the UCCJEA, and the Belarus court had jurisdiction substantially in conformity with the UCCJEA. The court held that the UCCJEA mandates that before a child custody determination is made, notice and an opportunity to be heard must be given to all persons entitled to notice. In this case, father received no notice of the Belarus action, and notice was not given in a manner reasonably calculated to give actual notice. Therefore, the Belarus court did not have jurisdiction in conformity with UCCJEA standards. The court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "W.M. v. V.A." on Justia Law

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In May 1995, Charlene’s parents created CJPM Family Partnership, Ltd. Charlene’s parents are the general partners. Charlene, her parents, and her siblings are limited partners of CJPM. Philip and Charlene married in June 1995. CJPM made three loans to Philip totaling $150,000, which were credited against Charlene’s partnership interest. Philip did not repay the debt. The two divorced in 2011. Their stipulated dissolution judgment awarded Charlene all interest to any community interest in CJPM, assigned to Philip, as his separate obligation, his debt to CJPM, and required Philip to indemnify Charlene from that debt. Philip filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. All of his debts, including his CJPM loan, were discharged. Years later, Charlene unsuccessfully moved to reopen bankruptcy proceedings to obtain a ruling that Philip’s debt to CJPM was nondischargeable. Charlene then moved to recover Philip’s CJPM debt in state court. The trial court determined that Philip’s CJPM debt was nondischargeable under the 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(15) exemption and calculated that Philip owes Charlene $345,963. The court of appeal affirmed. When the nature of a debt is such that its discharge will directly and adversely impact the finances of the debtor’s spouse or former spouse, it is nondischargeable in bankruptcy, even if it is not directly payable to the spouse. View "Marriage of Vaughn" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy, Family Law

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Mariana L. initiated a paternity and child support action in San Diego County against David L., a Connecticut resident. The trial court denied David's motion to quash service, and he sought writ review. The question this case presented for the Court of Appeal’s consideration was whether California could exercise specific personal jurisdiction over a nonresident in a paternity action where the mother and young child live in California and conception occurred in another state? On the particular facts presented, the Court answered this question in the negative and issued a writ of mandate to prevent the exercise of jurisdiction. David's knowledge that Mariana resided in California and the foreseeability of California effected (a child) from their out-of-state sexual intercourse were insufficient to establish the requisite minimum contacts. Specific jurisdiction must rest on David's own suit-related contacts with California, not merely a plaintiff who lives here. California thus cannot exercise personal jurisdiction over David in this paternity and child support action. View "David L. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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S.Y. and Omar were married in 2013 and had one child, A. On August 29, 2016, Omar was physically violent with S.Y. Omar also grabbed S.Y., forced her and A. out of the house, and locked the door. S.Y. obtained a temporary restraining order against Omar, and Omar obtained temporary restraining orders against S.Y., S.Y.'s mother, and her brother. S.Y.'s order granted her sole legal and physical custody of A., but this order was not properly served on Omar. After hearing evidence from all parties, the court denied the mutual requests for permanent restraining orders and dismissed the temporary orders. There was a report to the Health and Human Services Agency that Omar had emotionally abused A., but the agency closed this referral after investigation. Omar filed a marital dissolution action against S.Y. in October 2016. Three weeks later, he filed a request for an order for joint legal custody and primary physical custody of A. At a preliminary hearing in 2017, the family court awarded S.Y. physical custody of A., with Omar to have supervised visitation twice a week for five hours each time. The visits were to be supervised by Omar's sister, with conditions. The court ordered sole legal custody to S.Y. because she and Omar were not communicating well. S.Y. did not let Omar see A. or talk with him on the phone from the time she moved out in August 2016 until February 2017. The trial court made an initial custody order, finding that, based on S.Y.'s contemporaneous statements to the police and the photographs of her injuries, Omar had been domestically violent toward her. The court applied the Family Code section 3044 presumption and found that Omar had rebutted the presumption that an award of custody to him would be detrimental to A.'s best interest. S.Y. contended the trial court erred when it found Omar rebutted the presumption, and requested the Court of Appeal vacate the trial court's interim order granting joint legal and de facto joint physical custody to both parents, direct the trial court to enter a new order after reconsidering the section 3044 presumption of detriment, and award costs to her. The Court agreed that the trial court erred in considering Omar's greater fluency in English as a factor rebutting the presumption of detriment due to his domestic violence. However, the Court concluded that evidence other than language fluency substantially supported the trial court's ruling that Omar had rebutted the presumption of detriment, and that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting joint legal and physical custody to both parents. View "S.Y. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's issuance of a domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) issued in favor of the wife. The court held that the trial court did not err in considering the wife's testimony that the husband held a gun to her head; the trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to consider evidence to impeach the wife; and substantial evidence supported the trial court's issuance of the DVRO based on domestic violence allegations. View "In re Marriage of Davila and Mejia" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The wife in a married couple (defendants C.P. and J.P., wife and husband) conceived a child with a coworker (plaintiff C.A.), but hid that fact from wife’s employer and initially, from husband. The marriage remained intact and wife and husband parented the child. For the first three years of the child’s life, the couple allowed plaintiff to act in an alternate parenting role, and the child bonded with him and his close relatives. Defendants excluded plaintiff from the child’s life when he filed the underlying petition seeking legal confirmation of his paternal rights. The trial court found that wife misled the court at an interim custody hearing, prolonging what the court later viewed as an unwarranted separation. Despite this period of separation, the court found the child was still bonded to all three parents and found this to be a “rare” case where, pursuant to statutory authority, each of three parents should have been legally recognized as such, to prevent detriment to their child. Defendants appealed, but finding no abuse of discretion, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "C.A. v. C.P." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the juvenile court's jurisdictional findings and dispositional orders declaring Father's children dependents of the court and detaining them from his custody. The court held that the children were indeed at risk of physical harm and, in any event, father's lengthy history of domestic violence against mother and the parents' frequent reconciliations justified the minors' inclusion in the restraining order. View "In re Bruno M." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law