Articles Posted in Family Law

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In January 2010, 15-year-old Robert arrived at a Detroit Police station wearing no shirt, no shoes, and a pair of shorts. Employees of Wayne County Department of Health Services (DHS) opened an investigation into his parents, the Brents, visited the Brents’ home, and allegedly took photographs without their consent. A petition to remove the five Brent children from their home detailed the poor conditions, concerns about lead-based paint on the walls, and that the Brents’ youngest child, age 10, appeared to have a severe speech impediment. The Brents claim that the petition contained falsehoods, that the judge did not actually sign the order, that officers used abusive tactics in removing the children, and that Robert became ill because he was given cough medicine that had expired while in a residential facility. Brents claim that officials threatened to and did interfere with their visitation with the children. The children were released to the Brents in June 2010 but remained under DHS supervision until September 2010. The Brents sued “seemingly every person or agency involved in the removal, custody, and care” of the children. The Sixth Circuit reinstated gross negligence claims against the state defendants but affirmed the rejection of those claims as to city defendants; affirmed summary judgment for city defendants on intentional infliction of emotional distress claims; rejected failure-to-train and failure-to-supervise claims against the city; and rejected 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims against police officers. View "Brent v. Wayne County Department of Human Services." on Justia Law

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Zank, a U.S. citizen, and Moreno, an Ecuadorian citizen, divorced and had joint custody of BLZ, born in Michigan in 2006. The decree prohibited Moreno from taking BLZ to Ecuador without prior notice to Zank. In 2009, Moreno took BLZ to Ecuador. Zank obtained a Michigan state court temporary sole custody order, contacted the State Department, and filled out a Hague Convention petition with the Embassy in Ecuador. Zank did not complete the process by filing the petition with the Ecuadorian courts. The State Department labeled Ecuador as noncompliant with its Hague Convention obligations. In Ecuador, Moreno enrolled BLZ in school. BLZ flourished, participating in extracurricular activities and making many friends. In 2010, Moreno permitted Zank to visit BLZ in Ecuador. Zank did not take BLZ to the Embassy or pursue a Hague Convention petition. Moreno obtained an ex parte order from an Ecuadorian court prohibiting BLZ from leaving the country. The parents eventually filed an agreement in Ecuador: Moreno received full legal custody and an increase in child support; Zank waived issues concerning BLZ's arrival in Ecuador. The "no travel" order was lifted. BLZ visited Zank in 2014. Moreno and Zank reiterated their agreement, for filing in the U.S.; it was filed in the wrong court. In 2016, BLZ visited Zank. Zank claims that BLZ told him that Moreno had physically abused her and that she did not wish to return to Ecuador. BLZ voiced a preference for living permanently with Zank. The Michigan court granted Zank custody. Moreno filed this Hague Convention petition in federal court, which held that the original abduction meant that Ecuador could not be the child’s habitual residence. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The proper remedy for the initial kidnapping was a Hague Convention petition in Ecuador, subject to applicable defenses, not self-help. View "Moreno v. Zank" on Justia Law

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Medical personnel treated three infants, between 19-days old and six-months-old, in the emergency room of Nationwide Children’s Hospital for serious injuries, including skull fractures and a broken leg. Nationwide’s physicians suspected child abuse. They conducted testing to identify additional injuries, then alerted Franklin County Children Services of their concerns. One family did not appeal the finding that the suspicion of child abuse was “substantiated’ or the designation of their case for “ongoing supportive services.” In another case, the county found no evidence of abuse. The parents of the infants filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim against Nationwide and the County, alleging that the medical testing violated their children’s right to be free from unreasonable searches and their own right to familial association. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. State action did not prompt Nationwide, a private hospital, to perform the diagnostic tests, and the county had nothing to do with the tests. The court noted that the parents consented to the tests. View "Thomas v. Nationwide Children's Hospital" on Justia Law

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Bruce and Bridget married in 1993. Their only child, Sierra, was born in 1995. In 2003, Bruce signed up for a life insurance plan sponsored by his employer and governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Bruce listed his uncle as the sole beneficiary. Bruce and Bridget divorced in 2006. Bruce died in 2013, insured for $48,000 in basic life insurance and $191,000 in optional life insurance. In their 2006 divorce decree, Bruce and Bridget agreed to maintain any employer-related life insurance policies for the benefit of Sierra until she turned 18 or graduated from high school. Bruce had not changed his beneficiary. The district court ordered payment to Sierra. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The divorce decree suffices as a qualified domestic relations order that, incorporating the Jacksons’ separation agreement and their shared parenting plan, “clearly specifies” Sierra as the beneficiary under 29 U.S.C. 1056(d)(3)(C). Her parents’ (alleged) non-compliance with the decree does not limit Sierra’s rights under ERISA. View "Sun Life Assurance Co. v. Jackson" on Justia Law

Posted in: ERISA, Family Law

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Taglieri, a citizen of Italy, was studying in Chicago when he met Monasky, an American citizen. They married and together decided to move to Italy. Taglieri was licensed to practice medicine in Italy and would have had to meet onerous requirements to practice in the U.S.. Monasky had a fellowship in Milan. Monasky became pregnant. Monasky alleges that Taglieri was sexually abusive and frequently hit her. Taglieri acknowledges “smack[ing]” Monasky once. Taglieri’s work required frequent travel; Monasky encountered professional difficulties and did not speak much Italian. Monasky applied for jobs in the U.S., contacted divorce lawyers, and researched American childcare options. The couple also investigated Italian child-care. Monasky sought an Italian driver’s license; the two moved to a larger apartment under a lease in Monasky’s name. The couple disputes whether the ensuing weeks involved Monasky planning to stay or return to the U.S. After an argument, Monasky took baby A, sought refuge in a safe house, and left Italy with eight-week-old A. Taglieri obtained termination Monasky’s parental rights in Italy, and filed a petition in Ohio, seeking A's return. The Sixth Circuit affirmed that A’s habitual residence (the location that she should be returned to) was Italy, that Monasky had no definitive plans to return to the U.S. until the final altercation, and that the other Hague Convention requirements were satisfied: Taglieri had properly exercised his custody rights, A’s removal was wrongful, Monasky had not shown by clear and convincing evidence that Taglieri posed a grave risk of harm to A. If a child lives exclusively in one country, that country is presumed to be the child’s habitual residence. View "Taglieri v. Monasky" on Justia 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