Articles Posted in Family Law

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Assuming fraudulent intent, the Uniform Voidable Transactions Act, formerly known as the Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act (UFTA), can apply to a premarital agreement in which the prospective spouses agree that upon marriage each spouse's earnings, income, and other property acquired during marriage will be that spouse's separate property. In this case, plaintiff obtained a judgment in bankruptcy court against defendant. Plaintiff alleged a single cause of action under UFTA to set aside the alleged transfer of defendant's community property interest in the wife's earnings and income. The trial court sustained defendant's demurrer and found that defendants were entitled to alter the presumptions under Family Code 760 and Family Code 910 that property acquired during the marriage is community property and that the community estate would be liable to satisfy any judgments against defendant. The Court of Appeal reversed in light of the legislative language, history, and the strong policy of protecting the creditors from fraudulent transfers. Therefore, the court held that the Legislature must have intended that UFTA can apply to premarital agreements in which the prospective spouses agree that each spouse’s earnings, income, and property acquired during marriage will be that spouse's separate property. View "Sturm v. Moyer" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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In this divorce proceeding involving disputes over the characterization of community property assets, the Court of Appeal held that the trial court did not err by adopting husband's tracing, which was adequate and satisfied his burden of proving his separate property. The court also held that the trial court's findings that husband did not breach fiduciary duties when he used community property funds to establish an irrevocable life insurance trust for the benefit of the children were supported by substantial evidence. The court held that the trial court abused its discretion when it retrospectively modified 2014 pendente lite child and spousal support, because it based the modification on the parties' 2013 tax returns, rather than their 2014 tax returns, which were then available. Accordingly, the court reversed in part and remanded for recalculation of the awards and the spousal support award. View "Marriage of Ciprari" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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M.F., the son of Nicole W. and Stephen C., appealed orders at the 12-month review hearing under Welfare & Institutions Code section 366.21 (f) directing the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency to extend the reunification period for an additional six-month period and setting the 18-month review hearing more than 23 months from the date he first entered foster care. M.F. challenged the juvenile court's finding that Agency did not provide reasonable services to his father. He also contended the juvenile court lacked authority to order continued services beyond the 18-month review date absent special circumstances not present here. The Court of Appeal concluded there was substantial evidence to support the juvenile court's finding that reasonable services were not provided or offered to the parent, that the juvenile court was authorized to extend reunification services up to the 24-month review date if the court determined reasonable services were not provided or offered to the parent, and the juvenile court was not required to consider the need for a continuance under section 352 when extending services. View "In re M.F." on Justia Law

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In this child custody dispute, the trial court imposed $50,000 in sanctions jointly and severally against an attorney and her client for disclosing information contained in a confidential child custody evaluation report. The Court of Appeal affirmed in part and held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by imposing sanctions on the attorney. In this case, the attorney intentionally asked questions regarding a child custody evaluation that included a psychological evaluation which disclosed highly personal information about the child and her family. The court concluded that the attorney's actions were reckless. However, the court reversed in part and held that there was nothing in the record to suggest that the client directed or even encouraged the attorney to disclose privileged information. View "Anka v. Yeager" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment denying defendant's request from relief from default under Code of Civil Procedure section 473, subdivision (b), two orders granting motions to quash subpoenas filed by plaintiff, and an order denying her request under Family Code section 7605 that plaintiff pay her attorney fees. After defendant gave birth to a daughter who was born with heroin in her system, the child was detained by DCFS. Plaintiff, the father, then petitioned to establish parental relationship, and defendant was found in default after she failed to respond to the petition. The court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding that section 473, subdivision (b)'s mandatory provision was only mandatory unless the trial court found that the default or dismissal was not in fact caused by the attorney's mistake, inadvertence, surprise or neglect; the trial court did not abuse its discretion by granting plaintiff's motions to quash VISIONS and Cedars-Sinai subpoenas; the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it denied defendant's request for attorney fees; and there was no error in the trial court's orders that required reversal of the judgment. View "Darab N. v. Olivera" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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C.E. was three years old at the time of the relevant hearing. Mother's family and friends were actively involved in C.E.’s life. Appellant, Mother’s sister, cared for C.E. on Mondays and every other weekend. C.E. also spent significant time with Grandmother. Mother’s close friend, B, was considered to be like a sister to Mother and spent a lot of time with C.E. Mother died after a drowning accident in 2015. After Mother’s death, C.E. initially lived with Father; he also spent time with Appellant, B, and the rest of Mother’s family; they eventually became concerned about Father’s ability to parent C.E. Father was the subject of a domestic violence restraining order involving his children from a prior relationship. They filed a guardianship petition. The court granted temporary guardianship and subsequently conducted a hearing. Although Father initially appeared to challenge the petition, he left the courthouse after the court denied him a continuance. The court granted the petition. Six months later, Appellant filed a petition to be appointed as C.E.’s replacement guardian. Appellant also sought adoption. Father supported Appellant’s petition as did Appellant’s other family members. The court of appeal reversed the denial of the petition. The trial court erred when it failed to consolidate the guardianship action with the adoption proceeding, resulting in prejudice to Appellant. View "Guardianship of C.E." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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A responding party's request for sanction-based attorney fees under Family Code section 271 is not a request for affirmative relief. In this dissolution case, the Court of Appeal affirmed the award of sanctions in the form of attorney fees. The court held that, because wife's request for attorney fees under section 271 was not a request for "affirmative relief," she did not run afoul of section 213 by requesting those fees in her responsive pleadings. The court also held that, because this issue was one of first impression based on husband's colorable interpretation of the law, the court denied wife's request that it order husband to pay her attorney fees on appeal as a sanction for filing an appeal that was "totally and completely without merit." Finally, the court held that wife’s request for attorney fees under section 271 was not a request for “affirmative relief,” she did not run afoul of section 213 by requesting those fees in her responsive pleadings. Finally, husband's argument that wife's February 2016 request was barred by the doctrines of collateral estoppel and res judicata was foreclosed. View "Perow v. Uzelac" on Justia Law

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Respondent San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (Agency) did not oppose termination of the dependency of N.O., rather, the Agency recommended it. N.O.'s counsel opposed termination of dependency jurisdiction over the objection of N.O.'s parents. Mexico declined to exercise jurisdiction over Minor, who was detained in California when Minor's mother A.R. (Mother) was arrested at the international border for transporting a large amount of marijuana. Minor was ultimately placed by a California juvenile court with maternal grandmother in Mexico. A few months after her arrest, Mother was released from custody and returned to Mexico, where she participated in services through the agency Desarrollo Integral de la Familia (DIF), which services were ordered and overseen by the juvenile court and Agency. Because Mother made substantial progress in services under her Agency care plan, Minor was returned to Mother's care. After a domestic violence (DV) incident between Mother and Minor's father S.G. (Father) in late December 2016 came to light in February 2017, Agency recommended Mother receive DV services, which were to be administered through DIF because Mother could no longer cross the border into the United States. When the court terminated jurisdiction in May 2018 it was unclear whether Mother had participated in such DV services. However, perhaps more important for purposes of this appeal, it also was unclear whether DIF had offered Mother such services, or believed they were even necessary. After multiple continuances of the section 364 review hearing, the juvenile court on March 8, 2018, granted Minor's counsel one last continuance, noting that it was "comfortable" closing the case based on the information then available to it and that it did not appear additional information regarding Minor would be forthcoming from DIF. On appeal, Minor contends the juvenile court's finding that conditions no longer existed in May 2018 that would justify the initial assumption of dependency over Minor in August 2015 was not supported by substantial evidence; that the court abused its discretion in not continuing the family maintenance review hearing until Minor was found and assessed; and that the juvenile court violated Minor's statutory right to counsel. The Court of Appeal determined Minor did not meet her burden of showing conditions still existed to justify the Agency's jurisdiction over her, and affirmed termination. View "In re N.O." on Justia Law

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Mother challenged the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the jurisdiction finding against her in this dependency case. The Court of Appeal held that the evidence presented at the adjudication hearing was insufficient to support jurisdiction where there was no nexus cited between the child's hygiene and any medical or dental condition. In this case, nothing in the record indicated that having body odor or wearing clothes that were dirty or too small—the only circumstances alleged in the petition the juvenile court sustained—placed the child at substantial risk of physical harm or illness. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded to the family court for a hearing on custody and visitation. View "In re Roger S." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's judgment and held that a "Trust Transfer Deed," signed by husband, granting certain real property to his wife, did not met Family Code section 852(a)'s express declaration requirement. The court held that without an express statement specifying what interest in the property was granted to wife, the reference to a "Trust Transfer" left the document's purpose ambiguous and thus rendered the purported transmutation invalid under section 852(a). The court held that the deed was fairly susceptible of at least two interpretations―the one wife proffered, whereby husband granted all of his interest in the property to her, thereby transmuting the residence into her separate property, and the one husband proffered, whereby he granted only an interest in trust to wife for the couple's estate planning purposes. View "Begian v. Sarajian" on Justia Law