Articles Posted in Family Law

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Faisal is a citizen of the United Kingdom, residing in London. Mardia is a U.S. citizen. They married in Bangladesh in 2009, while Mardia was a student in Michigan. She remained in Michigan to complete her studies. In 2011, Mardia moved to London; in 2013 she applied for Indefinite Leave to Remain, In 2014, Mardia, then pregnant, traveled to Knoxville, where she had lived previously. The couple disputes whether she intended to return to the UK. Faisal traveled to Knoxville on a three-month visa. Mardia gave birth to twins in Knoxville and the family moved into an apartment. Faisal’s visa expired; he returned to London. Mardia insists she told him then that she intended to remain in the U.S. with the children. Faisal visited the U.S. in April 2015. The next month, the entire family traveled to the UK. The parties dispute their intentions. In July 2015, Mardia traveled with the children to Bangladesh. Their tickets indicated they were scheduled to return to London on August 5. Mardia claims she told her husband that she would not return. Faisal claims he did not learn her plans until August 4, when she flew to Knoxville with the children. He sought their return under the Hague Convention, as implemented by 22 U.S.C. 9001. The Sixth Circuit affirmed denial of Faisal’s petition, finding that he failed to establish that the UK was the children’s habitual residence at the time Mardia retained them. View "Ahmed v. Ahmed" on Justia Law

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Kentucky’s Health and Family Services commenced a Dependency, Neglect, and Abuse proceeding. The mother stipulated to neglecting her children. Kentucky placed both boys in foster care. R.O., the mother’s aunt, sought custody of the children. The state conducted a standard home evaluation and criminal background check on R.O. and eventually both children were placed in her home by court order. The family court closed the action and granted joint custody to the mother and R.O., though the boys remained living with R.O., who sought foster care maintenance payments. The family court declined to rule on the issue, “indicating that permanency had been achieved.” R.O. then sued the state, arguing that the federal Child Welfare Act, 42 U.S.C. 672(a), required the state to provide maintenance payments, and that the failure to make payments violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses. The state removed the case to federal court. The district court dismissed, reasoning that the Child Welfare Act provides no privately enforceable rights, that the family lacked a property interest in the payments, and that Kentucky’s scheme rationally distinguished between relative and non-relative foster care providers. The Sixth Circuit reversed, finding that the Act creates a private right of action. View "D.O. v. Glisson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and Henry married in 1987 and divorced in 1993. The Divorce Judgment granted Plaintiff one-half of the pension benefits Henry had accrued during the marriage, with full rights of survivorship. Henry was forbidden from choosing a payment option that would deprive Plaintiff of these benefits. Henry worked for Chrysler from 1965 to 1992, and began receiving retirement benefits in 1994, under a “Lifetime Annuity Without Surviving Spouse” option, in violation of the Judgment. Plaintiff’s attorney submitted the Judgment to the Plan administrator, who stated that the Judgment lacked information required by 29 U.S.C. 1056(d)(3)(C) to qualify as a “qualified domestic relations order,” so it could not override ERISA’s anti-alienation provision. Plaintiff did not contact the Plan again until after Henry had died in 2007. The Plan denied her benefits request, noting “the participant does not have a remaining benefit to be assigned.” For six years, Plaintiff unsuccessfully attempted to have the Plan qualify the Judgment. The Plan noted that changing the type of benefit was impermissible under plan the rules. In 2014, plaintiff obtained a nunc pro tunc order, correcting the Judgment. The Plan again denied benefits. Plaintiff filed suit under ERISA. The district court granted Plaintiff summary judgment, reasoning that, to the extent Plaintiff’s claim was based on the 2014, denial of benefits based on the Nunc Pro Tunc Order, it was timely and that the Order relates back to 1993. The Sixth Circuit reversed, finding the claim untimely. View "Patterson v. Chrysler Group, LLC" on Justia Law

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Hayes, a U.S. citizen, married Pliego, a Spanish diplomat. Their child was born in 2011. In 2012, the family moved to Turkey, where Pliego served in the Spanish embassy. In 2014, Hayes took the child to Kentucky, stating she would not return. Pliego sought the child’s return under the International Child Abduction Remedies Act, 22 U.S.C. 9001–9011 (ICARA), which implements the Hague Abduction Convention. The district court determined the child’s country of habitual residence was Turkey and that removal of the child violated Pliego’s joint custody rights under Turkish law. Convention Article 13(b) creates a defense to a child’s return if “there is a grave risk” of “physical or psychological harm” or “an intolerable situation.” Hayes alleged, and Pliego denied, that Pliego had abused her and the child. The court concluded that the evidence of “physical or psychological harm” was not “clear and convincing.” Pliego and the child returned to Turkey. Hayes followed and obtained temporary custody from a Turkish court. That court subsequently dismissed the temporary custody order based on Pliego’s diplomatic status, but Hayes and the child had fled to the United States. Pliego filed his second ICARA petition; the court granted Pliego temporary custody while Pliego waived diplomatic immunity to seek permanent custody in Turkey. During visitation, Hayes photographed bruises on the child; she alleged that Turkish courts could not protect the child due to Pliego’s diplomatic status. The court found credible Pliego’s and his mother’s testimony that the “bruises” were actually mosquito bites, held that custody litigation could proceed in Turkey, held that Hayes had failed to make out a defense under Article 13(b), and awarded Pliego $100,471.18 in fees and costs. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The Spanish government’s waiver of Pliego’s diplomatic immunity sufficiently permits the Turkish courts to adjudicate custody. View "Pliego v. Hayes" on Justia Law

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Eaton sought custody of his infant son, claiming that the child’s mother would endanger the child’s safety. The mother responded that Eaton had substance abuse issues. The court ordered both to undergo testing at Lexington's Community Alternative Program. The mother’s results were clean. Eaton tested positive for cocaine and opiates. The court ordered additional testing. Eaton took around 120 urine tests through the program. He tested positive for drugs at least 10 times and for alcohol at least 20 times. He unsuccessfully moved to strike the results as inaccurate. Several times, Eaton gave a sample at both the community program and an alternative site on the same day. He tested positive in four drug tests and one alcohol test. Apparently, the two sites' results never conflicted. The court granted sole custody to the mother. Eaton filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action, alleging that tests at the community program violated his Fourth Amendment rights and that the program “fail[ed] to use adequate procedures to allow for reasonable reliability of the test results.” The district court dismissed claims for declaratory and injunctive relief because they interfered with ongoing state litigation and stayed the damages claims, but later granted Lexington summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Eaton did not offer sufficient evidence to support his claim. View "Eaton v. Lexington-Fayette Urban Cnty." on Justia Law

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A family member reported to Michigan Children’s Protective Services (CPS) that Barber was neglecting J.B. Miller, a CPS social worker, interviewed J.B. at his public elementary school without a court order or Barber’s consent. Miller interviewed Barber, who defended his marijuana and prescription-drug use as medically authorized. Days later, Miller again interviewed J.B. at school without a court order or parental consent and spoke with J.B.’s paternal grandmother. Miller obtained a court order, placing J.B. in protective custody pending a hearing, Mich. Comp. Laws 722.638, and picked J.B. up from school. After a hearing, the judge found probable cause to support the petition, but returned J.B. to Barber’s custody conditioned on: Barber’s abstaining from marijuana, submitting to drug screening, and ensuring that J.B. has constant adult supervision. Barber sued Miller under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for violating his substantive due process rights by interviewing J.B. without a court order or parental consent; falsehoods in the petition; and removing J.B. from school, and challenged the statute as facially unconstitutional. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal on grounds of absolute and qualified immunity and found that Barber lacked standing for his constitutional challenge to the statute. View "Barber v. Miller" on Justia Law

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Alexander filed a suit, claiming that nine individuals—all of whom had some connection to child support proceedings related to Alexander’s son—conspired against him and violated his civil rights by imposing child support obligations that he did not owe; providing false information about those obligations to the IRS; and extorting money from him through “bribery” and “terror tactics.” Among other relief requested, Alexander asked that his child support payments “be abated.” The district court dismissed claims against the federal and the state court judges on grounds of absolute judicial immunity and remaining federal claims after finding that they fell within the domestic relations exception to federal jurisdiction. The Sixth Circuit affirmed on grounds of failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted, noting that the Supreme Court has indicated that the domestic relations exception is narrow and finding that this case did not fall within the exception. View "Alexander v. Rosen" on Justia Law

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During the course of their marriage, Caroline, a citizen of Canada, made more than $75,000 in loans to Kimberly, of Ohio, which were never repaid. A federal district court dismissed Caroline’s contract and tort lawsuit. While appeal was pending, Kimberly died and Caroline substituted the Estate as the real party in interest. The Sixth Circuit reversed the dismissal, finding that neither the domestic relations exception nor the probate exception to federal diversity under 28 U.S.C. 1332(a) applied. Because a court in Canada had dismissed divorce proceedings upon notice of Caroline’s death, there was no risk of a decision incompatible with a divorce decree, and, at the time Caroline filed the federal complaint, the property that she sought was not “in the custody of a state probate court.” View "Chevalier v. Barnhart" on Justia Law

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Same-sex couples living in Michigan. Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee successfully challenged a variety of state laws concerning marriage. The Sixth Circuit reversed the district court rulings after exploring Supreme Court precedent. None of the theories invoked by plaintiffs--rational basis review; animus; fundamental rights; suspect classifications; evolving meaning--makes the case for constitutionalizing the definition of marriage and for removing the issue from the place it has been since the founding: in the hands of state voters. The court reasoned that a change in the law may result from the Supreme Court constitutionalizing a new definition of marriage to meet new policy views or by “the traditional arbiters of change—the people.” The court noted that in 11 years, 19 states and the District of Columbia, accounting for nearly 45 percent of the population, have exercised their sovereign powers to expand a definition of marriage that until recently was universal. “When the courts do not let the people resolve new social issues like this one, they perpetuate the idea that the heroes in these change events are judges and lawyers.” View "Love v. Beshear" on Justia Law

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Thomas and Jennifer married and purchased a family home with a first mortgage, then obtained a second mortgage. In a 2003 divorce consent decree, Thomas agreed to relinquish any interest in the home. Jennifer agreed to assume and hold him harmless from the obligation to pay both mortgages. Thomas agreed to pay child support. The couple remarried in 2004, but, in 2007, this marriage also ended in divorce. The 2007 consent decree waived spousal support; Thomas again agreed to give up any interest in the house, which he had never conveyed under the 2003 decree. Jennifer agreed to assume the first mortgage. Thomas's child support obligation was reduced and they agreed to split the second mortgage obligation. Thomas deeded his interest in the house. A $8,082.37 judgment lien was not addressed in the 2007 decree although it attached to the property before the second divorce. Jennifer sold the house in 2008. The first and second mortgage debts were satisfied. Jennifer negotiated release of the judgment lien for $5,000.00 and paid $836.14 to close the transaction. The state court entered an order in the 2007 divorce proceeding, requiring Thomas to reimburse Jennifer $7,500.00 for the second mortgage and $5,000.00 for the judgment lien. Thomas filed a petition for Chapter 13 bankruptcy relief, listing an unsecured priority claim for child support and a $15,000.00 unsecured claim on Schedule F. Jennifer asserted a priority unsecured claim for “[a]limony, maintenance, or support” of $12,500.00 for the second mortgage and judgment lien debts. Thomas objected, arguing that the claim was “satisfied when the real estate was sold,” and not a domestic support obligation. The bankruptcy court applied the Calhoun test and found Jennifer’s claim was in the nature of “alimony, maintenance or support.” The Sixth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel affirmed. View "In re: Thomas" on Justia Law