Articles Posted in Family Law

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Ellen Duff-Kareores and Christopher Kareores were married in 1995 and divorced in 2004. The divorce judgment obligated Christopher to pay Ellen alimony every month. In 2004, Christopher resumed living with Ellen and the parties' children, and in 2012, the parties remarried. In 2013, Ellen filed a complaint for divorce. After a trial, the probate and family court judge concluded that the length of the parties’ marriage for purposes of calculating the durational limits of a general term alimony award to Ellen was eighteen years - the period from the date of the parties’ first marriage through the date that Christopher was served with the complaint in the second divorce. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment establishing the amount and duration of alimony, holding that the alimony award was based on an incorrect calculation of the length of the parties’ marriage, as the judge’s findings did not support a determination that the parties had an economic marital partnership within the meaning of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 208, 48 during the period following the service on Christopher of the divorce complaint in the first marriage in 2003 until the parties began cohabiting in 2007. Remanded. View "Duff-Kareores v. Kareores" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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B.V.G., a young woman with intellectual disabilities, has been in the sole custody of her father for many years. He was named her temporary guardian when B.V.G. reached age 18. Her maternal grandfather sought to intervene in B.V.G.'s father's permanent guardianship proceedings, asserting that his relationship with B.V.G. has been restricted by her father, that B.V.G. has indicated expressly her desire to communicate with him and has sought contact with him via social media, and that such a relationship is in B.V.G.'s best interests. Concluding that the grandfather lacked standing because he was not an "interested person" within the meaning of G.L. 190B, 5-306(c), a judge denied the motion. The Appeals Court affirmed the denial, on different grounds. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reversed, first holding that the grandfather had standing. The statute is intended to provide a means by which an individual interested in the welfare of an incapacitated person can advocate on behalf of that person and the Massachusetts implementation of the Uniform Probate Code encourages a broad right of advocacy in favor of an incapacitated person's protected interest in a limited guardianship. Once a judge has concluded that a proposed intervener is an "interested person," nothing more is required to establish that person's entitlement to intervene. View "Guardianship of B.V.G." on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether a parent whose minor child is the subject of a guardianship petition has a right to counsel when and if the parent petitions to have the guardian removed or to have the terms of the guardianship modified. Plaintiffs, the mothers of minor children for whom guardians were appointed pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 190B, 5-206, commenced this action challenging a written policy of the Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court Department concerning the appointment of counsel in cases involving guardianships of minors under chapter 190B. Specifically, Plaintiffs alleged that by limiting the right to counsel to proceedings for the initial appointment of guardians, the Chief Justice’s policy contravened the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in Guardianship of V.V. and violated their due process rights. The Supreme Judicial Court held that an indigent parent who seeks to remove a guardian for a minor child and to regain custody of the child or seeks to modify the terms of a guardianship by substantially changing the terms of visitation with a minor child has a due process right to counsel and to be so informed, provided that the parent presents a meritorious claim for removal or modification. View "L.B. v. Chief Justice of Probate & Family Court Dep’t" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Petitioner was divorced from Respondent pursuant to a judgment of divorce nidi in 2014. In 2015, Petitioner filed a motion for relief from judgment. A judge of the probate and family court denied the motion. Petitioner petitioned for review. A single justice of the Appeals Court denied the petition and then denied a motion for reconsideration. The Appeals Court struck Petitioner’s notice of appeal. Thereafter, Petitioner filed a substantially similar petition in the county court pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. A single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court denied the petition. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Petitioner did not demonstrate that the denial of relief from the divorce judgment could not be addressed through the ordinary appellate process. View "Lasher v. Leslie-Lasher" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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These cases were appeals of consolidated care and protection petitions concerning six children. The biological mother of the six children, the biological father of the two oldest children, and four of the children appealed from the provisions of decrees of the juvenile court denying parental visitation after termination of the parental rights of the mother, father, and the biological father of the four younger children. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the juvenile court judge’s orders denying posttermination or postadoption parental visitation, holding that there was no error in the judge’s decrees in this case. View "In re Adoption of Douglas" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Plaintiffs, a married couple, filed an application with the Department of Children and Families for a license that would enable them to become foster and preadoptive parents. The Department denied the application because of Plaintiffs’ use of corporal punishment as a form of discipline in their home. A hearing officer affirmed. Plaintiffs appealed, alleging that the Department’s decision was inconsistent with its regulations, was arbitrary and capricious, and was not supported by substantial evidence. Plaintiffs also argued that the Department’s decision impermissibly infringed on their right to the free exercise of their religion under the Federal and State Constitutions because physical discipline is an integral aspect of their Christian faith. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the Department’s decision to deny Plaintiffs’ application was supported by substantial evidence, was not arbitrary or capricious, and was based on a reasonable interpretation of its enabling legislation; and (2) the substantial burden that the Department’s decision imposed on Plaintiffs’ sincerely held religions beliefs was outweighed by the Department’s compelling interest in protecting the welfare of foster children. View "Magazu v. Dep’t of Children and Families" on Justia Law

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In the course of their divorce proceedings, Husband and Wife signed a stipulation that they would sell the marital home. The parties were unable to agree on the details, and a judge in the Probate and Family Court appointed a special master to sell the home and to oversee the removal of personal property from it. Husband filed a petition with a single justice of the Appeals Court pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 231, 118 seeking relief from the order appointing the special master, asserting that he was against the sale of the home. The Appeals Court justice denied the petition. Husband then filed the instant Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 petition. A single justice denied relief. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that relief was properly denied in this case. View "Koll v. Edelstein" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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During the divorce proceedings of Husband and Wife, the trial judge found that Husband’s alleged abuse of one of the parties’ two minor children had not been proved by a preponderance of the evidence. A judgment of divorce nisi issued, which granted Husband unsupervised parenting time with the children. Wife moved for a stay pending appeal. The probate and family court and a single justice of the Appeals Court denied the motions. Wife subsequently filed this petition pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 seeking a stay. A single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court denied the petition without a hearing. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the single justice’s denial of a stay, holding that the single justice did not err or abuse his discretion by denying a stay pending appeal. View "C.E. v. J.E." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Petitioners, J.S. and V.K., a married same-sex couple, filed a joint petition for adoption seeking to adopt their son Nicholas. Nicholas was conceived through in vitro fertilization using a known sperm donor and was born to J.S. Petitioners filed a motion to proceed with the adoption without further notice, arguing that no consent other than their consent was necessary, and no notice to any other person was required. A probate and family court judge denied Petitioners’ motion and reported the following question: Must the lawful parents of a child give notice to the known biological father/sperm donor pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 210, 2 in conjunction with their petition for adoption? The Supreme Judicial Court answered the question in the negative, holding that Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 210, 2 does not require the lawful parents of a child to give notice of the petition for adoption to a known sperm donor. View "Adoption of a Minor" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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After the parties in this case separated, a California court entered a judgment establishing monthly child and spousal support payments payable by Father to Mother. Father subsequently moved to Massachusetts, and the California support order was registered in the probate and family court. Thereafter, the child support division of the Massachusetts Department of Revenue initiated contempt proceedings against Father. A probate and family court judge issued multiple orders that sought to enforce the California support order. The orders incorporated the parties’ stipulated agreements regarding issues that had not been included in the order of the California court. Several years later, the probate and family court found Father in contempt for having failed to make certain payments. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) to the extent the probate and family court orders modified the California support order, they were void, as the stipulated agreements did not extend the jurisdiction of the probate and family court to modify the California support order; and (2) the probate and family court had authority to hold Father in contempt for failing to comply with the probate and family court’s orders that sought to enforce the California support order. View "Cohen v. Cohen" on Justia Law