Section of Family Law : Masthead
Case Update Newsletter : Title

January 2010

Volume 14 : Number 1



Family Law Cases from Around the Nation

January 1 through January 31, 2010

Attorneys' Fees

Larsen Ball v. Ball

No. E2007-02220 SC R11 CV
(Tennessee Supreme Court, January 14, 2010)

Attorney fee in amount of $17 million acquired by husband for his work as class action attorney after wife filed complaint for divorce but prior to final divorce hearing was marital property subject to equitable distribution in divorce.

Read opinion (TN Court System @

Child Custody

Mullins v. Picklesimer

No. 2008-SC-000484-DGE
(Kentucky Supreme Court, January 26, 2010)

Mother waived her superior right as natural parent to custody of child in favor of a joint custody arrangement with her same-sex partner, and thus partner was entitled to share custody of child following dissolution of relationship between mother and partner, where mother and partner had jointly decided to start a family, sperm donor had been selected based in part on partner's characteristics, partner had cared for child from birth until after dissolution of parties' relationship, mother had encouraged, fostered, and facilitated an emotional and psychological bond between partner and child, and parties had attempted to enter into an agreed judgment giving partner parental rights; mother's actions were an absolute waiver of her right to be the sole decision-maker regarding her child and the right to sole physical possession of the child.

Read opinion (KY Supreme Court Opinions @

Edwards v. Edwards

No. 20090043
(North Dakota Supreme Court, January 12, 2010)

Trial court's award to stepfather in divorce proceeding of right to participate in equal basis in making major decisions concerning child's upbringing, including education, health care, and religious training, right to mutually discuss and develop workable agreement with mother concerning child's education, and right to attend child's educational conferences, constituted award of decision-making authority, and thus was inappropriate, in that it was inconsistent with trial court's award of visitation, but not custody, to stepfather.

Read opinion (ND Supreme Court @

Child Custody - Relocation

Arthur v. Arthur

No. SC08-1675
(Florida Supreme Court, January 14, 2010)

Trial court found that relocation of child with wife was not in the best interests of child at the time of the hearing on the petition for relocation and, thus, should have denied the petition, rather than authorize relocation 20 months after the hearing; court stated that "[b]ut for the Court's concern for the Husband's ability to bond with his son, the Wife's relocation would have been granted without further delay," and found that requiring wife to wait until child turned three years old allowed husband and child the time necessary to form a lasting bond with each other.

Read opinion (FL Supreme Court @

Child Custody - UCCJEA

White v. White

No. 2008-CA-01246-SCT
(Mississippi Supreme Court, January 28, 2010))

Father's alleged failure to make disclosures under oath as required by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) did not deprive chancery court of jurisdiction over child custody matter.

Read opinion (MS Judiciary @

Child Support

In re Marriage of Wilson

No. 100,780
(Kansas Court of Appeals, January 29, 2010)

District court's child support order, requiring husband to pay $6,000 per month in child support and requiring wife to place $3,500 of that amount each month into a trust fund for child's special needs or future education, was beyond the court's authority because it provided post-majority support; while written journal entry did not specifically mention use of trust fund for education past majority, it did not say anything that conflicted with that intention either, court's child support award appeared to have been based upon intention that some of money could be used for education after child turned 18, and court could not require that husband send money to wife to be put into account to be used for education past majority.

Read opinion (KS Judicial Branch @

Hicks v. Smith

No. 54A01-0904-CV-189
(Indiana Court of Appeals, January 19, 2010)

The custodial parent is the trustee of the non-custodial parent's obligation to pay child support and may not contract away the benefits of the constructive trust. Custodial parent who has advanced his or her own funds to provide food, clothing, and shelter to the child has discharged the trusteeship and is entitled to collect the arrears from the non-custodian.

Read opinion (IN Courts @

Rosemann v. Salsbury, Clements, Bekman, Marder & Adkins, LLC

No. 39, Sept. Term, 2009
(Maryland Court of Appeals, January 13, 2010)

Federal mandate requiring States to give child support collection priority over any other legal process did not require that former husband's attempts to execute on child support arrearages judgments against former wife be given priority, when he attempted to garnish funds held by law firm on behalf of former wife as a result of settlement of former wife's personal injury claim against airline, as the federal mandate applied to "income," and personal injury settlement did not fall under the federal mandate's definition of "income."

Read opinion (MD Judiciary @

Divorce Procedure

Kay v. Kay

No. a-93-08
(New Jersey Supreme Court, January 6, 2010)

Equity demanded that deceased husband's estate be allowed to intervene and continue divorce proceedings to adjudicate equitable distribution of marital estate and to resolve claim raised by husband prior to death that wife had diverted marital assets for benefit of her and her daughter.

Read opinion (Rutgers-Camden Digital Law Library @

Marriage - Common Law Marriage

In re Estate of Duval

No. 25065
(South Dakota Supreme Court, January 6, 2010)

Evidence supported finding that a Mexican concubinage was not the legal equivalent of a common-law marriage in the United States, in probate action in which girlfriend alleged she was decedent's surviving spouse as they had a common-law marriage; a concubinage did not confer on the parties all of the rights and duties of marriage.

Read opinion (SD Unified Judicial System @

Property Division

Johnson v. Johnson

920 N.E.2d 253
(Indiana Supreme Court, January 28, 2010)

Former wife with lien on former husband's farm to secure his obligations to her under property settlement agreement impliedly agreed that bank lien securing the ordinary, continuing business operations following the pattern to which she had grown accustomed would maintain priority over her judgment lien and would not become subordinate upon renewal of husband's line of credit, but wife did not impliedly agree to subordinate her lien to a lien for a loan to finance husband's payments to her; continued operation of the farm required renewal of lines of credit, but the funds for husband to pay wife were not implied as necessary to the agreement.

Read opinion (IN Courts @

Editor's Note

Re: Grelier v. Grelier

2060810 (Alabama Court of Civil Appeals, December 30, 2009)
December 2009 Case Update

The link that we provided for the case referenced above was for the opinion that was withdrawn. We apologize for the error. The new opinion (December 30, 2009) that supersedes the old opinion (December 19, 2008) is available on Westlaw at 2009WL5149267. It is not yet released for publication and we are unable to provide another link at this time.



Case Updates This Issue

Attorneys' Fees

Child Custody

Child Custody - Relocation

Child Custody - UCCJEA

Child Support

Divorce Procedure

Marriage - Common Law Marriage

Property Division

Editor's Note


Cases digested from the following sources: Aspen Family Law Update, The Family Law Reporter (BNA), FindLaw Family Law Update, and USA Lawyers’ Weekly.