Massachusetts. Adoption of Yadira, 68 N.E.3d 1175 (Mass. 2017). This case involves four minor siblings who arrived in Massachusetts in 2010 from a Nepalese refugee camp through the Federal Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program. The Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) placed two of the children in a foster home in Fitchburg and the other two in a foster home in Ashby. In early 2013, the children’s mother and father entered the United States and settled in North Dakota and Ohio, respectively. After coming to the United States, both the mother and the father had very limited contact with the children. In 2014, the DHHR petitioned the Probate and Family Court to free the children for adoption by terminating parental rights. The mother moved to deny the petition. The motion was denied and application for direct appellate review was granted. The court held that federal regulation governing adoption of unaccompanied minor refugees upon termination of parental rights authorized the probate court to terminate parental rights, in accordance with state law, as a prerequisite to adoption.
Oklahoma. In re Termination of Parental Rights of Schultz, 389 P.3d 322 (Okla. 2017). A father and adopted son jointly petitioned to set aside the adult adoption that had been granted ten years earlier. The district court concluded it lacked authority to set aside the adoption. The father and son appealed. The supreme court held that the district court had the authority to consider and rule on the father and adult adopted son’s joint petition to vacate the son’s adult adoption.
South Dakota. In re Adoption of J.Q.P., 903 N.W.2d 736 (S.D. 2017). Mother and her husband filed a petition for the husband to adopt child without the biological father’s consent. The court concluded that unless the biological father intentionally abandoned and relinquished parental obligations, he must give consent to the adoption. Mother tried to argue that the biological father lived far away, had not seen the child in years, and did not try to see the child. However, the court found that the biological father tried to see the child but that the mother did not allow him to do so, so he did not voluntarily abandon his child.
Louisiana. Acurio v. Acurio, 224 So. 3d 935 (La. 2017), reh’g denied, 2017 La. LEXIS 1394 (June 29, 2017). After a divorce was filed within the court, ex-wife filed a motion in limine seeking to exclude a matrimonial agreement from the trial on property issues. The district court granted the motion, and the ex-husband appealed. The court of appeals reversed. The supreme court held that the matrimonial agreement was invalid for failure to comply with form requirements. Further, a matrimonial agreement must be made by authentic act or signed and duly acknowledged prior to marriage to have legal validity. Therefore, the matrimonial agreement should have been excluded from trial.
South Dakota. Charlson v. Charlson, 892 N.W.2d 903 (S.D. 2017). Wife brought action against husband seeking judgment to declare their pre-marriage agreement valid and enforceable. Wife brought in an expert consulting group to assess and value the marital property using a “tracing” method to track the movement of wife’s separate property interests when they were placed with the combined marital property. If traceable, the property determined to be separate would be classified as separate property, and if not, it would continue to be marital property. Expert also utilized the concept of “marital loans,” tracking when wife used marital assets when she was short on funds to place that property into the marital pot. Husband alleged that these methods violated the pre-marriage agreement because all property comingled was to be marital property. The court concluded that “tracing” and “marital loans” were valid under South Dakota law and the language in the pre-marriage agreement allowed such methods.
III. Alimony/Spousal Support
Alaska. Easley v. Easley, 394 P.3d 517 (Alaska 2017). Trial court entered judgment of divorce and, as part of divorce judgment, former husband was ordered to pay former wife property distribution payment upon selling marital home. Following former husband’s failure to sell home for seven years after divorce judgment, the lower court entered judgment in amount of the property distribution payment against former husband but denied former wife’s motion for prejudgment interest, attorney fees, and costs. Both parties appealed. The court held that the husband received adequate notice and opportunity to be heard regarding previous divorce judgment’s order prior to trial court’s entrance of judgment against husband, and thus husband’s due process rights were not violated. It further reasoned that the husband was not entitled to offset his spousal support payments to wife against property distribution payment outlined in divorce judgment and that the wife was not entitled to prejudgment interest to compensate her for delay between divorce judgment and trial court’s entrance of judgment against husband. The wife was found to not be the prevailing party under rule governing award of attorney fees to prevailing party in civil cases, and thus was not entitled to partial award of attorney fees.
Delaware. Lankford v. Lankford, 157 A.3d 1235 (Del. 2017).The court held that the family court must give due consideration to all statutory enumerated factors when making its dependency determination for alimony.
Iowa. In re Estate of Gantner, 893 N.W.2d 896 (Iowa 2017). In an appeal on whether or not a widow could receive spousal allowance from decedent’s individual retirement account, the court ruled that spousal allowance cannot be taken from an IRA if the decedent designated someone other than the spouse as a beneficiary.
Maine. Savage v. Savage, 157 A.3d 252 (Me. 2017). Husband was required to pay ex-wife spousal support in the sum of $3,000 until he reached the age of 60, after which time the support would be reduced to $1 per year. A federal law went into effect shortly after the entry of the divorce judgment extending the retirement age from 60 to 65. Husband continued working past the age of 60 and ex-wife moved to modify spousal support. The district court granted the motion, and ex-husband appealed. The court held that ex-husband’s current mandatory retirement age was a substantial change from the “baseline” of what the court and the parties anticipated when the divorce judgment was issued so as to warrant modifying spousal support.
Massachusetts. Popp v. Popp, 75 N.E.3d 1118 (Mass. 2017). Husband and wife were married twice and separated twice (1988–94 and 1996–2011). The parties’ separation agreement provided for the husband to pay the wife $12,000 per month in alimony. In 2014, the husband sought to modify his alimony obligation, claiming a material change of circumstances because his income had decreased by fifty-five percent. The judge agreed that the husband’s decreased income was a material change of circumstances warranting modification and reduced the monthly alimony payments to $8,575. The judge also applied the durational limits of the Alimony Reform Act of 2011 to the agreement and ordered that, based on the length of the parties’ second marriage, the husband’s alimony obligation would terminate in August of 2020.The Probate and Family Court judge declined to award alimony to the wife beyond the durational limits of the Alimony Reform Act and she appealed, claiming imposition of durational limits of the Act was unconstitutionally retroactive. The court held that the trial court acted within its discretion in ordering alimony to terminate on the presumptive termination date provided for in the Act.
Massachusetts. Snow v. Snow, 68 N.E.3d 1138 (Mass. 2017). Husband and wife were married for eighteen years before the husband filed for divorce in New York, claiming constructive abandonment by the wife. The wife failed to answer husband’s verified complaint, comply with discovery obligations, and appear for her deposition, so the judge found her in default and entered a judgment for divorce in accordance with New York Domestic Relations Law § 211. As to alimony, the judge found that the wife requested maintenance of $1,000 per week on her statement of net worth but did not pursue the claim, so no maintenance was awarded. The wife brought action for modification of a foreign divorce with respect to alimony in Massachusetts, where both parties were domiciled. She asked that the final judgment of divorce be modified with respect to alimony, which was not addressed. She explained that circumstances had changed in that the husband had been supporting her with payments of $1,000 per week since September of 2013, but he had stopped such payments in June of 2014, and, as a result, she was homeless and living in her automobile. The Probate and Family Court judge awarded the wife $810 per week in general term alimony. Both parties appealed. The court held that the wife’s complaint in Massachusetts was an initial complaint for alimony, rather than a complaint for modification; that the durational period for the wife’s general term alimony began to run on the award of general term alimony, not on the date of the New York divorce judgment or the date of the award of temporary alimony; that the Probate and Family Court judge was required to consider the husband’s post-judgment overtime income in determining the award of alimony on former wife’s initial complaint for alimony; and that the Probate and Family Court judge was required to make an explicit determination regarding the wife’s health insurance coverage.
Massachusetts. Young v. Young, 81 N.E.3d 1165 (Mass. 2017). Husband and wife had been married for twenty-four years when the husband filed for divorce. The wife also filed for divorce one week later and the two proceedings were combined. The judge found that the husband works as a “high level executive” with a financial institution who receives substantial compensation in various forms. Apart from his annual base salary (which was $350,000 in 2014) and an annual bonus (which was $1.6 million in 2013), he receives compensation through at least seven different compensation programs or share plans, including several types of stock options, a special bonus program, investor entity units, and opportunities to purchase shares of common stock at a discount. The judge found that the parties agreed early in their marriage that the husband would work and the wife would “be a stay-at-home parent and not be employed outside the home.” As a result, the wife has not worked outside the home since 1992, and the judge found that she “has no ability to be employed at a level to allow her to maintain a lifestyle post-divorce similar to that maintained during the marriage without alimony.” The Probate and Family Court judge ordered the husband to pay thirty-three percent of his annual gross income as alimony. He appealed, and the appeal was transferred. The court held that the wife’s need for spousal support was the amount required to enable her to maintain the standard of living she had at the time of separation leading to divorce; and that the wife was not entitled to an award of alimony based on percentage of husband’s income.
North Dakota. Glass v. Glass, 889 N.W.2d 885 (N.D. 2017). Former husband sought to terminate his spousal support obligation due to former wife’s remarriage. Former wife appealed. The supreme court held that the former wife failed to establish extraordinary circumstances to justify the continuation of child support following her remarriage.
Vermont. Weaver v. Weaver, 171 A.3d 374 (Vt. 2017). Wife appeals from lower court’s reduction of obligation for spousal support to zero. The lower court concluded the husband’s job loss caused his reasonable expenses to exceed his income. The court held the lower court erred when determining that the obligor spouse’s change in financial circumstances alone was enough to reduce the support obligation to zero. The court should have taken into account how much of the maintenance award was compensatory, whether the husband’s inability to pay was due to an unexpected change, and their original agreement.
Illinois. In re Marriage of Goesel, 84 N.E.3d 364 (Ill. 2017). Wife filed a petition for dissolution of marriage and a motion for interim attorney fees. The court ordered the husband’s former attorney to disgorge $40,952.61 in attorney fees paid, and then the court held the attorney in contempt for noncompliance with the order. The attorney appealed. The supreme court overruled In re Marriage of Squire, 403 Ill. Dec. 17, 53 N.E.3d 71 (2015), holding the fees earned by the attorney in the proceeding were not “available” for allocation on wife’s motion for interim attorney fees.
Tennessee. Eberbach v. Eberbach, 535 S.W.3d 467 (Tenn. 2017). Ex-husband and wife created a marriage dissolution agreement with the provision that if one party was not complying with the agreement and legal action had to be taken, the losing party would pay the winning party’s attorney fees. Here, ex-husband initiated a few legal actions but would withdraw or end them after discovery. Wife requested legal fees, but they were denied on the appellate level. Tennessee uses the American Rule for attorney fees, meaning that they can only be granted with a prior contact or agreement of some sort. The court ruled that the MDA was a valid contract and that the wife should have been awarded attorney fees even on the appellate level.
V. Child Custody and Visitation
Alabama. In re D.B. & K.S. v. K.S.B., No. 1160541, 2017 WL 4215191 (Ala. Sept. 22, 2017). After custody had been awarded to the grandparents, the mother petitioned for modification, which the Alabama Supreme Court denied. The grandparents argued that there was insufficient evidence to modify custody and a modification would be inconsistent with case law, which provides: “Where a parent has transferred to another, the custody of h[er] infant child by fair agreement, which has been acted upon by such other person to the manifest interest and welfare of the child, the parent will not be permitted to reclaim the custody of the child, unless [s]he can show that a change of the custody will materially promote h[er] child’s welfare.” In agreement with the grandparents, the court held that “there was insufficient evidence to support a conclusion that a change in custody would materially promote the best interest and welfare of the child so that the positive good brought about by the modification would more than offset the inherently disruptive effect of the change in custody.”
Alaska. Benjamin S. v. Stephenie S., No. 1654, 2017 WL 5505389 (Alaska Nov. 15, 2017). The parties had joint legal custody of their younger son, with the mother having primary physical custody. While the younger son was visiting his father, the father moved for a custody hearing, alleging that the mother was abusive and that the son was deeply disturbed at the thought of returning to her after the visit. The mother responded with a motion alleging custodial interference. The trial court concluded that the father was not credible and had not demonstrated a substantial change in circumstances. It denied the request for a hearing and ordered the father to return the child. The father appealed, arguing that the court was wrong to deny the request for a hearing and to judge his credibility based only on written filings. He also appealed several other of the court’s decisions. This court remanded for a hearing on custody and affirmed the superior court in all other respects.
Alaska. Dara v. Gish, 404 P.3d 154 (Alaska 2017). Maternal grandmother and step-grandfather filed a petition for custody of grandchild. The lower court granted joint legal custody of child to mother and maternal grandmother and step-grandfather, granted primary physical custody of child to maternal grandmother and step-grandfather, and awarded mother visitation. Mother appealed. The court held that the mother was not entitled to appointed counsel in child custody dispute and her due process right to direct the upbringing and education of her child was not violated by the trial court’s order granting maternal grandmother and step-grandfather primary physical custody of child. It further held that clear and convincing evidence supported finding that child would suffer clear detriment if mother was given sole custody of child.
Alaska. Dennis O. v. Stephanie O., 393 P.3d 401 (Alaska 2017). Mother moved to modify custody order, seeking sole legal and primary physical custody of all four children, and after referral by the superior court, family court master denied father’s request for court-appointed counsel. The lower court adopted the master’s recommendations and awarded mother primary physical and sole legal custody of the children. Father appealed. The court held that any error by the superior court in failing to address the master’s denial of father’s request for court-appointed counsel when the court adopted the master’s custody recommendations was harmless. The indigent father did not have an individual due process right to counsel in child custody case and statutory provision that required the Office of Public Advocacy (OPA) to represent indigent parents in cases involving child custody in which the opposing party is represented by counsel provided by a public agency, but did not require the OPA, or any other state-appointed counsel, to represent indigent parents if the opposing party is represented by private counsel, did not violate indigent father’s equal protection rights under state constitution.
Alaska. Rogers v. Babcock, No. S-16128, 2017 WL 655747 (Alaska Feb. 15, 2017). The supreme court held that the lower court abused its discretion when it ordered 64/36 custody split in wife’s favor, without explanation, after orally finding that 50/50 shared custody was in the child’s best interests.
Connecticut. In re Natalie S., 163 A.3d 1189 (Conn. 2017). The Connecticut Supreme Court held that the trial court did not have exclusive continuing jurisdiction over the mother’s motion for visitation; that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the state in which the father and child resided was a more convenient forum; and that the mother’s unpreserved challenge to the trial court’s failure to conduct an evidentiary hearing prior to declining to exercise jurisdiction did not deprive her of her constitutionally protected parental rights.
Georgia. Voyles v. Voyles, 799 S.E.2d 160 (Ga. 2017). Following a divorce proceeding, husband filed a contempt petition against wife for property distribution provisions and various portions of the parenting plan and sought to be named the child’s primary physical custodian. Wife counter-filed for contempt and modification of custody. Trial court entered an order granting wife’s motion to dismiss husband’s contempt and counterclaim and granting her motion for contempt and modification. Husband filed a motion to set aside the order and sought a new hearing on the grounds he was unaware of a hearing because he did not receive proper notice. The trial court denied the motion and the husband appealed. Under Rogers v. McGahee, 278 Ga. 287 (1), 602 S.E.2d 582 (2004), a motion to set aside an order that was ruled on petitions for contempt involving a divorce decree was under the Georgia Supreme Court’s subject matter jurisdiction. The supreme court found that the “issue-raised-on-appeal” rule applies to appeals from orders or judgments in child custody case. Thus, the court disapproved of Edge v. Edge, 290 Ga. 551 (2012), and Collins v. Davis, 318 Ga. App. 265 (2012), and held that the husband was required to follow the discretionary application procedures set forth in the statutes that governed appeals from domestic relations cases.
Idaho. Doe v. Doe, 395 P.3d 1287 (Idaho 2017). Biological mother’s former same-sex partner petitioned to establish parentage, custody, and visitation with a child conceived through artificial insemination during the parties’ relationship. The magistrate court dismissed the partner’s claim for parentage but granted visitation rights. The parties sought expedited appeals. The supreme court held that the partner did not have a legal recognized, protected relationship with the child and lacked standing to raise an Equal Protection challenge to the Artificial Insemination Act.
Idaho. Martinez (Portillo) v. Carrasco (Mendoza), 396 P.3d 1218 (Idaho 2017). Unwed father sought judgment for joint legal and physical custody of parties’ minor child. The magistrate court entered default judgment against the mother, who had moved to California. The court also ordered parties to change physical custody of the child every three weeks. The Supreme Court of Idaho held the father waived entry of default judgment against the mother, and the trial court abused its discretion in ordering a change in the physical custody every three weeks.
Maryland. Burak v. Burak, 168 A.3d 883 (Md. 2017). Wife and husband had a child two years after they were married. Wife, husband, and another woman engaged in a polyamorous relationship and would use illicit drugs. The wife would schedule these encounters on a calendar and take the child to its paternal grandparents during these encounters. Wife and husband purchased a marital home with funds provided by the paternal grandparents and eventually moved the other woman into the basement. Things got rocky between the triad and the wife, husband, and other woman attended counseling because the wife no longer wanted to participate in the sexual encounters with the other woman and wanted her to leave the home. The sexual encounters ended, but the wife and other woman maintained a nonsexual relationship. Later on, the wife obtained restraining orders against the husband for two violent incidents. Husband ultimately moved out of the home and wife filed for divorce. Wife got custody of the child and father had visitations that were to be supervised by his parents. Wife and husband were to undergo drug screening and counseling. Husband passed his drug tests, but wife had tested positive for marijuana. Custody order remained the same. The paternal grandparents filed a motion to intervene, seeking custody of child due to the drug use and actions of the wife and husband. The circuit court granted grandparents’ motion to intervene, awarded physical and legal custody of the child to the grandparents, and ordered the wife and husband to pay child support to the grandparents. The wife appealed. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part and the wife sought certiorari review. The court held that a third party seeking to intervene in a custody action must make a prima facie case showing that either the parents are unfit or exceptional circumstances exist; that the grandparents’ motion for permissive intervention was sufficient to support the trial court’s decision to allow their intervention; that the trial court abused its discretion in relying on erroneous findings to support a conclusion of parental unfitness; and that the evidence did not support a finding of transferred constructive custody to the grandparents, as would warrant a finding of “exceptional circumstances.”
North Dakota. Hoverson v. Hoverson, 889 N.W.2d 858 (N.D. 2017). The trial court entered judgment in a parenting time dispute between ex-spouses. The parties’ parenting coordinator sought clarification, so the lower court entered an order resolving the dispute. The ex-wife appealed. The supreme court held that the term “vacation” was merely a clarification of judgment and not a modification that could trigger due process rights.
North Dakota. State v. Winegar, 893 N.W.2d 741 (N.D. 2017). The father lived with the child in Iowa and filed a motion to modify child custody. The district court denied the mother’s motion to transfer jurisdiction to Iowa under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). The mother appealed. The supreme court held, as a matter of first impression, that a child retained significant connection with North Dakota, so North Dakota retained exclusive, continuing jurisdiction under the UCCJEA.
South Dakota. Moulton v. Moulton, 904 N.W.2d 68 (S.D. 2017). Ex-wife challenged custody agreement and sought primary physical custody of her son after he had an asthmatic attack due to father’s smoking. The court will look at the facts surrounding the circumstances and will only change the decision of the trial court if there is a “definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made.” The court did the best-interest-of-the-child analysis and determined that the son was used to staying with his father and had developed a good relationship with his stepmother, the father was mentally fit, and the son had a more stable life with the father. The court also affirmed the order for the ex-wife to pay the ex-husband’s legal fees because she was financially much better off and brought the action knowing it would financially burden the ex-husband.
Tennessee. Aragon v. Aragon, 513 S.W.3d 447 (Tenn. 2017). Father, who is the primary caretaker of child, requested to move with child to Arizona. The court initially ruled that father did not meet the requirements of the relocation statute, Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-108, because he did not have a “significant purpose” in relocating with the child. However, the father spent most of the time with the child, was moving to Arizona for a better job, and would be close to his parents and extended family. The court revisited the relocation statute and determined that the father did not need a significant purpose because he was spending the most significant time with the child. A parent in that position shall be permitted to relocate with a child unless the court finds that the parent opposing the relocation has proven one of the enumerated grounds within the statute.
Vermont. In re P.K., 164 A.3d 665 (Vt. 2017). A mother entered into a post-adoption contact agreement with the child’s grandmother and voluntarily relinquished her parental rights. After the child was taken from the grandmother’s home due to neglect, the mother moved to set aside the termination order. The court held that the mother did not enter the agreement under mistaken belief and was fully aware of the consequences. Therefore, a mother who voluntarily relinquishes her rights may not regain them even when the child is taken from the other party in the agreement.
Vermont. Quinones v. Bouffard, 179 A.3d 173 (Vt. 2017). A custodial mother appeals from a lower court decision determining that she could not move because it was not in the child’s best interest. The court here reversed, holding that the lower court should not have considered whether the move was in the child’s best interest. The lower court should have looked at which custodial parent serves the child’s best interest when taking into account the relocation. A court cannot tell the custodial parent she is not allowed to move.
Washington. In re Marriage of Black, 392 P.3d 1041 (Wash. 2017). The lower court designated the father as the primary residential parent with sole decision-making authority regarding education and religion. At trial, the children’s therapist made a recommendation but based it somewhat off of the fact that the mother was gay. The court held that the lower court failed to remain unbiased and neutral when considering the mother’s sexual orientation in their decision. Therefore, a trial court may not consider a parent’s sexual orientation as a factor for child custody decisions absent an express showing of harm to the children.
VI. Child in Need of Care
Alaska. Alex H. v. State Dep’t of Health & Soc. Servs., 389 P.3d 35 (Alaska 2017). Office of Children’s Services (OCS) petitioned to terminate incarcerated father’s parental rights. Father sought order requiring the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to transport him from jail to the courthouse so that he could attend the termination trial in person. The lower court denied father’s request and terminated father’s parental rights. Father appealed. The court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying father’s statutory request for transportation to attend in person his termination of parental rights trial and that the trial court’s failure to sua sponte address all eight factors in conducting its prisoner transport analysis was not plain error. It further reasoned that the trial court did not exact penalty for father’s assertion of his right against self-incrimination by considering father’s decision not to testify in determining whether to grant father’s request for transportation; and the father’s due process rights were not violated by trial court’s denial of his request for transportation.
Alaska. Kylie L. v. State Dep’t of Health & Soc. Servs., 407 P.3d 442 (Alaska 2017). Office of Children’s Services (OCS) petitioned to terminate parental rights to child. After finding that OCS had failed to demonstrate it had made reasonable efforts to reunify a family, the lower court found that OCS’s failure was “excused” and terminated mother’s parental rights. Mother appealed. The court held that the trial court’s determination that OCS failed to demonstrate it had made reasonable efforts to reunify mother with child was supported by evidence in the record. It further reasoned that trial court was required to find by clear and convincing evidence that one of the bases in Child In Need of Aid (CINA) statutory provision governing reasonable efforts requirement applied to excuse OCS from making reasonable efforts, and thus court was not permitted to exclusively rely on its conviction that further efforts would be pointless in excusing OCS’s failure.
California. In re R.T., 399 P.3d 1 (Cal. 2017). Evidence in a child dependency proceeding was sufficient to support a finding that the child’s risk of serious physical harm was a result of the mother’s inability to protect and supervise the child, even if there was evidence that the mother tried to control the child’s behavior and the child’s disobedience was the primary reason the mother was unable to provide protection or supervision. The record supports that the mother’s inability to provide appropriate supervision was due to the child’s chronic runaway behavior, self-destructive behavior, and refusal to return to the mother’s home and care. However, when the child’s behavior places her at a substantial risk of serious physical harm, and a parent is unable to protect or supervise that child, the juvenile court’s assertion of jurisdiction is authorized under Welfare and Institutions Code § 300(b)(1).
Colorado. People v. C.O., 406 P.3d 853 (Colo. 2017). The court held that the trial court’s failure to enter an order adjudicating a child’s status as neglected or dependent did not divest the trial court of personal jurisdiction to terminate the mother’s parental rights.
Connecticut. In re Elianah T.-T., 165 A.3d 1236 (Conn. 2017). Connecticut General Statutes § 17a-10(c) does not authorize the Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families to vaccinate children committed to her temporary custody without parental consent because vaccinations do not constitute “medical treatment” as the term is used in that statute. The term “medical treatment” should be construed to include procedures undertaken to cure existing illness, injury, or disease, rather than preventative care.
Connecticut. In re Natalie S., 160 A.3d 1056 (Conn. 2017). Department of Children and Families had no obligation to continue reunification efforts between the mother and child after the father was awarded temporary custody and guardianship of the child, and the Department’s continuing involvement in the form of reunification efforts was not necessary to protect the mother’s constitutional right to family integrity.
Connecticut. In re Santiago G., 157 A.3d 60 (Conn. 2017). In a proceeding for the termination of parental rights, a purported guardian of a child does not have a colorable claim of intervention as of right.
Georgia. In re Formal Advisory Opinion No. 16-2, 808 S.E.2d 735 (Ga. 2017). The State Bar of Georgia filed a petition for a discretionary review of an opinion issued by the Formal Advisory Opinion Board that interpreted the rules of professional conduct governing the ethical responsibilities for attorneys serving as both legal counsel and guardian ad litem to a child in cases involving termination of parental rights. The supreme court approved the Formal Advisory Opinion and held that attorneys serving as both counsel and GAL to a child must withdraw as GAL if it becomes clear that there is irreconcilable conflict.
Maine. In re Evelyn A., 169 A.3d 914 (Me. 2017). Twins that were born prematurely were removed from their parents at the hospital and placed in foster care, where they have continued to reside. One of the twins has cerebral palsy that affects her ability to walk, but otherwise the twins are healthy. The twins were removed from their parents because the parents had prior criminal convictions related to the death of their first child due to abuse, and the DHHR filed the parental rights termination proceedings based on these charges. The parents have never accepted this finding and argued that there was some other reason for the death of their first child. The Lewiston District Court entered the order terminating parents’ parental rights. Parents appealed the judgment and moved for relief from judgment of termination and initial finding of jeopardy, asserting ineffective assistance of counsel claims. The Lewiston District Court vacated the termination order on the basis that trial counsel had been ineffective during the jeopardy stage and required the DHHR to negotiate a reunification plan for the parents but declined to make findings regarding counsel’s effectiveness in the termination proceeding. The DHHR appealed. The court held that the parents were not entitled to amend their motion for relief from the judgment terminating their parental rights to include allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel at a prior jeopardy proceeding, and that trial court was required to determine whether the DHHR met its burden of proof regarding the statutory presumption of parental unfitness, based on the aggravating factor of the parents’ prior criminal convictions, not whether the parents rebutted the presumption, in terminating parents’ parental rights.
Massachusetts. Care and Protection of Walt, 84 N.E.3d 803 (Mass. 2017). In 2016, the Department of Children and Families received a report alleging that the child, then three years old, was being neglected by his mother and father at the home of the child’s paternal grandmother. A Department worker made an unannounced visit to the home and found the mother smoking marijuana and the house in disarray with trash and debris. The child was unattended in his bedroom, which was also so cluttered that a person could not walk through without tripping. The worker took custody of the child. The Department filed a care and protection petition for emergency custody of the child. The Juvenile Court judge issued an ex parte emergency order transferring temporary custody of the child to the Department for up to 72 hours pending a hearing. The Juvenile Court judge ruled that custody would remain with the Department pending the final hearing on the merits. The father petitioned for interlocutory relief. A single justice of the appeals court found that the Department did not make reasonable efforts to eliminate the need for removal prior to removing the child and reported his order to a panel of the appeals court to determine the legal issues. The Supreme Judicial Court, on its own initiative, transferred the case from the appeals court. The court held that the Juvenile Court judge was required to make a determination that the Department made reasonable efforts to prevent the need for the child’s removal prior to removing the child from his parents’ custody at the 72-hour temporary custody hearing before continuing the Department’s custody of the child, even though a reasonable efforts determination was made by the judge at the emergency hearing; that exigent circumstances did not excuse the Department from making reasonable efforts to prevent the need for the child’s removal prior to removing him from his parents’ custody where none of the four exceptions to the reasonable efforts requirement applied; and that the single justice, who found that the Department failed to fulfill its duty to make reasonable efforts to prevent removal prior to removing the child from his parents’ custody, had equitable authority to order the Department to permit the father to visit with the child four times each week, to permit his participation in the child’s special education meetings, and to explore alternative housing for the family.
Nebraska. In re Interest of Becka P., 894 N.W.2d 247 (Neb. 2017). The district court appointed an educational surrogate for the three children, who would have all educational rights for the three children, following the failure of the parents and the Department of Health and Human Services to comply with the juvenile court’s orders of adjudication regarding the three minor children, which placed custody of the children with DHHS and required speech and language and early childhood development assessments for the children. The parents appealed. The Nebraska Supreme Court held that the juvenile court’s order appointing an educational surrogate affected the parents’ right to direct education of their children and was thus appealable. The court also held that the juvenile court had statutory authority to rule on the county’s affidavit and application for an order to show cause and issue an order appointing an educational surrogate. The decision was affirmed.
Nebraska. In re Interest of Becka P., 902 N.W.2d 697 (Neb. 2017). After the supreme court affirmed the decision noted above, the county court declined to adopt a case plan and the court report recommended by DHHS, ordered that the care of the children remain with DHHS, and instructed DHHS to update the children’s immunizations. The parents appealed. The Nebraska Supreme Court held that the juvenile court had the authority to require DHHS to immunize the children.
Nebraska. In re Interest of Carmelo G., 896 N.W.2d 902 (Neb. 2017). The State sought temporary custody of the minor child. The Separate Juvenile Court entered an ex parte order granting immediate temporary custody to the Department of Health and Human Services and held a hearing on and sustained the State’s motion for continued temporary custody eight months later. The mother appealed. The Nebraska Supreme Court held that the eight-month delay before the hearing violated the mother’s due process rights. The decision was vacated and remanded.
Nevada. Downs v. State, 401 P.3d 211 (Nev. 2017). This is an appeal from a judgment of conviction, pursuant to a jury verdict, of first-degree kidnapping and three counts of abuse, neglect, and/or endangerment of a child resulting in substantial bodily and/or mental harm. The court held “that the district court’s jury instruction regarding Downs’ child abuse charges was erroneous because it omitted the modifier ‘substantial’ from the term ‘mental harm.’ In addition, the district court erred in permitting a detective to provide expert medical opinion regarding the child’s injuries.”
Rhode Island. In re Kurt H., 152 A.3d 408 (R.I. 2017). The child was placed in the care, custody, and control of the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) due to the father’s incarceration and the mother’s dependency on alcohol. Father appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in determining that the child had been neglected by the father. Father argued that he kept up the household and did all that he could to financially support the child for as long has he could. The trial court determined that he was not able to support the child because of his 18-month sentence in the Adult Corrections Institution. The court also found that the father was aware of the mother’s dependency issues. The court held that because the father failed to set up provisions for the child in the event that the mother relapsed, and that because the father was unable to properly care for the child due to his incarceration, the finding of neglect was well supported. The previous ruling was affirmed.
South Dakota. People in Interest of A.K.A., 898 N.W.2d 5 (S.D. 2017). Mother had been involved in three abuse and neglect cases with child due to repeated drug use. She challenged her termination of parental rights because she said the court used evidence of her being terminated from drug court improperly and terminating her rights was not the least restrictive alternative. The court concluded that a court may consider programs and services that the drug court offered to the mother. Additionally, she failed to point to specific evidence used that proved an error. The court also had sufficient evidence of the mother’s repeated abuse of drugs to terminate her parental rights.
Virginia. Commonwealth v. Wiggins, 2017 WL 4988480 (Va. Nov. 2, 2017). Man appeals conviction of felony child neglect due to charges of possession with intent to distribute. The court held that in these situations, there must be a review of the totality of the evidence, not solely the location of the child with respect to the contraband. All significantly probative evidence and related inferences should be considered. In this case, that evidence established that defendant was engaged in illegal drug trafficking, which plainly tends to support his conviction of felony child neglect.
VII. Child Support
Alaska. Barton v. Means, No. S-16448, 2017 WL 6094551 (Alaska Dec. 6, 2017). A father sought to enforce a Texas child support order against a mother living in Alaska, arguing that she owed him thousands of dollars in unpaid child support and medical support. The lower court denied his request. He appeals, arguing that the court’s denial amounted to a retroactive modification of the Texas order and that the court incorrectly calculated child support. This court vacated the lower court’s order and remanded so that the parties can address their medical support obligations under Texas law, and the superior court can clarify its findings with regard to the parties’ respective child support obligations.
Georgia. Wynn v. Craven, 799 S.E.2d 172 (Ga. 2017). The doctrine of laches did not bar a mother from seeking the collection of more than $72,000 of unpaid child support.
Hawaii. P.O. v. J.S., 393 P.3d 986 (Haw. 2017). Father moved to modify his child support obligation. The family court determined the father owed past due support and denied father’s motion. The father appealed. The Intermediate Court of Appeals affirmed in part and vacated in part. The father sought certiorari. The supreme court held the father was entitled to judicial review of his support obligation without having to show a change in circumstances.
Kansas. State ex. rel. Sec’y of Dep’t for Children & Families v. Smith, 392 P.3d 68 (Kan. 2017). The secretary filed a petition for support of a minor child against a man who was not the biological father. He had signed a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. The court ruled that as long as an acknowledgment followed the statute, it did not have to be notarized. Acknowledgments are enforceable even if a person claims not to have read it or understood the terms. If there is substantial evidence that supports it is in the child’s best interest, it should be concluded that the person is the child’s legal father or mother.
Maine. Dunwoody v. Dunwoody, 155 A.3d 422 (Me. 2017). Husband and wife divorced and husband was ordered to pay child support. Father never directly paid child support, as the children received dependent disability benefits due to husband receiving disability benefits, and so both husband and wife believed that husband did not have to pay. Mother sought child support enforcement services from the DHHR, and the DHHR issued a notice of debt against the father. Father filed a motion to modify his child support obligation and argued that he did not owe any arrearages. The Family Law Magistrate granted father’s request to modify child support but denied his request for a declaration that he did not owe any past due support. The district court adopted the magistrate’s decision. Father appealed. The court held that the father was not entitled to credit the excess of dependent disability benefits his children received that were over the amount of father’s child support obligation against his past due support, that the defense of waiver did not apply to preclude the collection of child support arrearage from him, and that equitable estoppel did not preclude the collection of child support arrearages from him.
Maine. Mitchell v. Krieckhaus, 158 A.3d 951 (Me. 2017). Husband and wife filed for divorce. They reached a settlement agreement and waived their right to appeal from the judgment that would result from it. A stipulated order on child support was signed by the court at the same time as the settlement agreement was entered. Child support was to be paid pursuant to Maine’s Child Support Guidelines based on wife’s base income and husband’s anticipated income. Parental rights and responsibilities were to be shared. Husband’s child support worksheets stated that the parties provided substantially equal care for their son, and husband’s worksheet provided that wife pay the husband child support in different increments after certain times. Wife stated that the parties did not provide substantially equal care for their son even though they shared the same residence and submitted a worksheet proposing that husband pay her child support. The court entered the child support order based on husband’s worksheet and wife filed a motion for findings of fact and conclusions of law. The district court entered the divorce judgment and denied wife’s motions for findings of fact and conclusions of law, deviation from child support guidelines, and reconsideration. Wife appealed. The court held that the stipulated order on children’s issues did not preclude wife from appealing denial of motion for deviation from child support guidelines and that trial court was required to hold an evidentiary hearing on the issue of whether parties provided substantially equal care prior to issuing child support order.
Mississippi. Dennis v. Dennis, 234, So. 3d 371 (Miss. 2017). Great-grandmother and step-great-grandfather were given custody of a child, and then the great-grandparents divorced and the step-great-grandfather was ordered to pay child support. Step-great-grandfather filed a motion to terminate child support, and it was denied. He appealed. The supreme court held that the step-great-grandfather could not be relieved of his child support duty because he was not the child’s parent and had no statutory duty.
Washington. In re Marriage of Zandi, 391 P.3d 429 (Wash. 2017). A child support order was agreed upon prior to this action, which required the father to pay one hundred percent of “uninsured medical expenses.” The daughter had a kidney stone removed, and the payment fell under uninsured medical expenses. The lower court modified the original order and required the father to pay seventy-five percent and the mother to pay twenty-five percent. The court held that the order may not be modified without evidence of changed circumstances. Therefore, because the payments of medical bills of this sort were previously agreed upon, the lower court erred in modifying the order absent changed circumstances.
Connecticut. O’Brien v. O’Brien, 161 A.3d 1236 (Conn. 2017). Husband filed to dissolve his marriage to his wife. While the action was pending, the husband sold stock without receiving permission. The court held that the trial court had authority to compensate for the loss caused by the stock sale, even though the trial court did not find the husband in contempt, and that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by awarding greater than even distribution of the marital property.
IX. Dissolving the Marital Relationship
Hawaii. Brutsch v. Brutsch, 390 P.3d 1260 (Haw. 2017). The Hawaii State Family Court denied husband Category 3 credit for gifts and inheritance in a divorce proceeding. The court also denied husband’s motion for attorney fees. The husband appealed. The Intermediate Court of Appeals affirmed in part and vacated in part; the wife filed a petition for writ of certiorari. The supreme court held the family court was required to reconsider the husband’s entitlement to Category 3 credits, and the family court rules governing settlement did not apply to divorce proceedings.
Kentucky. Weber v. Lambe, 513 S.W.3d 912 (Ky. 2017). A father filed a petition for dissolution of marriage in family court. The Jefferson Circuit Court entered a decree of dissolution after a bench trial. The decree included a division of marital assets and an award to mother of child support and nine years of maintenance. Both parties appealed, and the Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Kentucky Supreme Court held that family court was allowed to consider the mother’s share of the living expenses for the parties’ two children in its calculation of mother’s monthly living expenses. Further, the supreme court held that the family court made sufficient findings to support its judgment in favor of the mother of nine years of maintenance due to the frail physical and emotional conditions of the mother and one child. Finally, the supreme court held that the family court did not abuse its discretion by ordering father to pay only $15,000 of the $75,000 that mother requested for attorney fees.
Nevada. Klabacka v. Nelson, 394 P.3d 940 (Nev. 2017). Divorce proceedings were initiated, and the parties’ self-settled spendthrift trusts were added as necessary parties. Wife filed unjust enrichment and other claims against husband’s trust and its former distribution trustees. The family court entered a decree of divorce, and the husband appealed. The supreme court remanded in order to determine if trust assets were community property by tracing assets.
X. Domestic Violence
Idaho. State v. Anderson, 402 P.3d 1063 (Idaho 2017). Defendant was convicted of felony and misdemeanor domestic battery. He appealed. The supreme court held the state failed to establish the victim’s mental illness was so severe that she was unavailable to testify, as required for admission of her preliminary hearing testimony, and the admittance of victim’s preliminary hearing testimony was not harmless.
Kentucky. Marchese v. Aebersold, 530 S.W.3d 441 (Ky. 2017). A woman filed for an emergency protective order (EPO) and domestic violence order (DVO) that was based on her ex-boyfriend’s stalking and threatening to post sexually explicit photos of her on the Internet. The Jefferson Family Court granted the EPO and DVO. Ex-boyfriend appealed. The Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed the family court’s order. Ex-boyfriend appealed judgment again. The Kentucky Supreme Court reversed because the family court considered the ex-boyfriend’s conviction when making its decision. The supreme court held that the conviction could not be judicially noticed because the conviction was not generally known in the venue in which the hearing took place. Further, the ex-boyfriend’s failure to be heard on the issue of the prior convictions violated his procedural due process rights provided by the Constitution.
North Dakota. Gagnon v. Gagnon, 891 N.W.2d 742 (N.D. 2017). In divorce proceeding, lower court awarded mother primary residential responsibility of parties’ three children. Father appealed. The supreme court held that evidence was sufficient to support a finding that husband failed to overcome presumption against him being awarded primary residential responsibility of children due to his previous domestic violence against wife/mother.
South Carolina. Jane Doe v. State of South Carolina, 808 S.E.2d 807 (S.C. 2017). Victim of assault by her same-sex fiancé sought an order of protection from the Richland County Family Court. The family court denied victim the order, claiming she did not have original jurisdiction. The court claimed that, according to the Code of Laws of South Carolina § 20-4-20(b), the fiancé did not fall under the definition of “household member.” Victim argues that because the definition of household member says “male and female who are cohabitating or formerly have cohabitated,” same-sex victims of abuse are left without the same protections heterosexual victims are given. The Supreme Court of South Carolina held that although the definitions and the statute were facially valid, they were constitutional as applied to the victim. Therefore, the statutory provisions cannot be used to prevent those in same-sex relationships from seeking orders of protection.
Washington. Aiken v. Aiken, 387 P.3d 680 (Wash. 2017). The lower court entered a protective order that restrained father’s contact with eldest daughter due to her claims that he had repeatedly tried to suffocate her, among other things. Father appealed claiming he had a due process right to cross-examine his daughter. The court held the commissioner was correct in holding cross-examination was not proper in this case, and it would have harmed the child. Further, there is no statutory right to cross-examine a minor child in a domestic violence protection order proceeding and father’s right to due process was not violated.
Washington. Rodriguez v. Zavala, 398 P.3d 1071 (Wash. 2017). A mother sought a protection order for her son arguing that the defendant’s repeated threats to her son constituted “domestic violence.” The lower court excluded the child from the protective order because the child was not present during the assaults or threats. The mother appealed, claiming her fear the defendant would hurt their son should have been enough. The court held that domestic violence includes a mother’s fear of harm to her child by the father. Therefore, the child should have been included in the protection order.
XI. Equitable Distribution
Alaska. Wagner v. Wagner, 386 P.3d 1249 (Alaska 2017). Wife filed suit for divorce. After denying husband’s request for continuance of trial, the lower court entered judgment of divorce and distributed parties’ marital estate following hearing at which only wife appeared, after determining that husband’s absence was unexcused. Husband appealed. This court reversed and remanded. On remand, the lower court entered judgment dividing marital assets and liabilities, and husband appealed. The court held that the trial court’s determination that wife’s student loan debt, including premarital student loan debt that was consolidated with two loans taken out during marriage, was marital debt, was not clearly erroneous. The court further stated that the trial court’s finding that wife did not waste student loan funds on gambling was not abuse of discretion and trial court’s adverse rulings and refusal to sua sponte schedule evidentiary hearing regarding wife’s premarital student loan debt was not evidence of impermissible judicial bias. Affirmed.
XII. Estate Planning and Probate
Alaska. Estate of James V. Seward, 401 P.3d 976 (Alaska 2017). Man claiming to be decedent’s son filed motions in probate proceeding requesting genetic testing on decedent’s cremated remains and attempting to share in decedent’s estate. Man’s mother filed numerous motions claiming to be creditor of decedent’s estate and seeking recovery of child support. Man petitioned for review by Alaska Supreme Court, which converted petition for review into appeal and ordered full briefing. The court held that the paternity adjudication could be made during probate estate proceedings to determine whether man claiming to be decedent’s son was in fact decedent’s son. It also ruled that laches was not available as a defense to preclude man and his mother from pursuing their requests for declaratory judgment and related legal relief. It reasoned that even if man was decedent’s son and man’s mother had standing to assert her claim for long-past-due child support, ten-year statute of limitations period barred mother’s claim as creditor of decedent’s estate for child support. Further, the court ruled that the personal representative’s mistake in including the wrong year that the will was executed in her paperwork opening the estate did not affect superior court’s acceptance of the will for probate. The court also ruled that the man claiming to be decedent’s son was in fact decedent’s son; man could not obtain statutory homestead allowance or family allowance from decedent’s estate; and if the man claiming to be decedent’s son was in fact decedent’s son, man could obtain statutory exempt property allowance from decedent’s estate.
Alabama. Ivey v. Estate of Ivey, No. 1160280, 2017 WL 3929008 (Ala. Sept. 8, 2017). The court held that if a testator’s will does not provide for the testator’s surviving spouse who married the testator after the execution of the will, the omitted spouse is entitled to an intestate share of the testator’s estate unless one of two exceptions applies: (1) if it appears from the will that the omission of the surviving spouse was intentional or (2) if the testator provided for the surviving spouse with transfers outside the will with the intent that those transfers were in lieu of a provision in the will. If neither exception applies, the surviving spouse “shall receive” an omitted-spouse share of the testator’s estate.
Massachusetts. Ferri v. Powell-Ferri, 72 N.E.3d 541 (Mass. 2017). A trust (1983 Trust) was settled by a father for the sole benefit of his son (or beneficiary) when the son was eighteen years old. The trust was created in Massachusetts and is governed by Massachusetts law. The trust established two methods by which trust assets are distributed to the beneficiary. First, the trustee may pay to or segregate irrevocably trust assets for the beneficiary. Second, after the beneficiary reaches the age of thirty-five, he may request certain withdrawals of up to fixed percentages of trust assets, increasing from twenty-five percent of the principal at age thirty-five to one hundred percent after age forty-seven. The son married in 1995 and the wife filed for dissolution of the marriage in 2010 in Connecticut. A Declaration of Trust was then created with the son as the sole beneficiary (2011 Trust) and the assets of the 1983 Trust were distributed among the creators of the 2011 Trust as trustees of the 1983 Trust. The 1983 Trust was decanted out of the fear that the son’s ex-wife would reach the assets of the 1983 Trust. The son was not informed of this nor was his consent gained. At the time of the decanting, pursuant to Art. II.B of the 1983 Trust, the son had a right to request a withdrawal of up to seventy-five percent of the principal. During the course of this action, his vested interest matured into one hundred percent of the assets of the 1983 Trust. The trustees brought action in Connecticut against the son and his ex-wife, seeking declaration that the trustees validly distributed substantially all of the first trust’s assets to themselves as trustees for the newly created trust and that the ex-wife had no interest in the assets of the second trust. The Connecticut Superior Court granted the ex-wife’s motion for summary judgment and later ordered restoration, an accounting, and attorney fees. The Connecticut Supreme Court certified three questions to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. First, under Massachusetts law, did the terms of the 1983 Trust empower its trustees to distribute substantially all of its assets (that is, to decant) to the Declaration of Trust for the 2011 Trust? Second, if the answer to question 1 is “no,” should either seventy-five percent or one hundred percent of the assets of the 2011 Trust be returned to the 1983 Trust to restore the status quo prior to the decanting? And third, under Massachusetts law, should a court, in interpreting whether the 1983 Trust’s settlor intended to permit decanting to another trust, consider an affidavit of the settlor offered to establish what he intended when he created the 1983 Trust? The court held that the trustees had authority to distribute substantially all of trust’s assets to the second trust (answered “yes” to the first question) and that the superior court should have considered the settlor’s affidavit to interpret whether the trust permitted decanting (answered “yes” to the third question). The court did not answer the second question.
Maine. Cabral v. L’Heureux, 157 A.3d 795 (Me. 2017). Father filed a complaint for determination of parental rights and responsibilities and child support. During the time period between the filings, father obtained two orders of protection against the mother: one for protection from abuse at Lewiston District Court and one for protection from harassment at Houlton District Court. At the conclusion of the evidence in the parental rights case, the court decided that it would take judicial notice of the protection orders. The Houlton District Court established rights and responsibilities and awarded father primary physical residence of the parties’ two daughters. Mother appealed. The court held that evidence offered in separate protection from harassment proceedings between father and mother could not be judicially noticed in proceedings to determine parental rights and responsibilities.
Massachusetts. Guardianship of K.N., 73 N.E.3d 271 (Mass. 2017). Child was born in 2005 to a fifteen-year-old mother, and within weeks of her birth, the child’s maternal grandmother was appointed as the permanent guardian. The child has remained with her grandmother ever since. The mother has not approved of the appointment and has petitioned for removal of the child from the guardian, and the child, through counsel, moved for appointment of counsel for her guardian. This is the fourth petition for removal filed by the mother. The Probate and Family Court judge denied the motion, and the child petitioned for direct appellate review. The court held that the guardian did not have a liberty interest in her relationship with her ward sufficient to warrant the appointment of counsel, even if the guardian was a de facto parent of the child, but that the equitable powers of the Probate and Family Court allow a judge of that court to grant a motion requesting the appointment of counsel for an indigent guardian who is the subject of a removal proceeding if, based on the exercise of his or her sound discretion, the judge concludes that doing so would materially assist in determining the best interest of the child and parental fitness.
XV. Indian Child Welfare Act
Montana. In re C.B.D. & P.M.P., Youths in Need of Care, 394 P.3d 202 (Mont. 2017). The Department of Health and Human Services petitioned for termination of the mother’s parental rights to the child, who qualified as an Indian child under the ICWA. The district court terminated the mother’s parental rights. The mother only appealed with respect to the child’s placement. The supreme court held that the mother did not have standing to participate in the child’s placement by appealing only the placement of the child while foregoing an appeal of the termination of her parental rights.
South Dakota. People in Interest of A.O., 896 N.W.2d 652 (S.D. 2017). Mother was involved in child abuse and drug-related case. Her Indian Tribe filed a motion to have the case under the jurisdiction of the Tribe, but the motion was denied because it was made a year after the case had been opened. However, because the case involved the foster care placement of, or termination of parental rights to, an Indian child, the court’s denial of the motion was improper. The court should have held an evidentiary hearing on the question of whether good cause existed to deny the motion to transfer the proceedings to the Tribe’s jurisdiction.
Utah. In re Adoption of B.B. v. R.K.B., No. 20150434, 2017 WL 3821741 (Utah Aug. 31, 2017). The birth father, a member of a Native American tribe, moved to intervene in an adoption matter after the birth mother voluntarily relinquished parental rights and an adoption agency received custody of the child. The district court denied the father’s motion to intervene. The supreme court held that the father was a parent under the ICWA and had a right to notice and to intervene in adoption proceedings. The court also held the birth father had custody of the child under the ICWA.
XVI. Juvenile Justice
District of Columbia. In re M.S., 171 A.3d 155 (D.C. 2017). The court held that the offenses of misdemeanor sexual abuse and fourth-degree sexual abuse merge with the offense of second-degree child sexual abuse. The court also held that the offense of third-degree sexual abuse, which requires proof of force, does not merge with second-degree child sexual abuse.
Illinois. People v. Fort, 88 N.E.3d 718 (Ill. 2017). A minor was convicted of the uncharged offense of second-degree murder and was sentenced as an adult to eighteen years in prison. The minor appealed. The Illinois Supreme Court overruled People v. Toney, 354 Ill. Dec. 345, 957 N.E.2d 939 (Ill. App. 2011), and held the circuit court clearly erred in sentencing minor as an adult because second-degree murder is not subject to mandatory adult sentencing under the Juvenile Court Act of 1987.
Minnesota. State v. Ali, 895 N.W.2d 237 (Minn. 2017). A juvenile defendant was convicted of three counts of first-degree felony murder while committing or attempting to commit aggravated robbery, one count of first-degree premeditated murder, and two counts of second-degree murder. The supreme court vacated the mandatory sentence of life without parole and remanded for resentencing. The district court resentenced defendant to life with possibility of release after thirty years. Juvenile appealed. The supreme court held Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), did not apply to consecutive life sentences with possibility of release after thirty years.
Nevada. A.J. v. Eighth Judicial Dist. in & for Cty. of Clark, 394 P.3d 1209 (Nev. 2017). A juvenile, who was arrested for soliciting prostitution and loitering for the purpose of prostitution but was adjudicated delinquent on the charge of obstructing a police officer, was placed on formal probation, then subsequently adjudicated delinquent on charges of violating her probation, petitioned for a writ of mandamus directing juvenile court to vacate its orders adjudicating her as a delinquent and to apply provisions of the statute governing procedures for juveniles who engaged in prostitution or solicitation of prostitution. The supreme court held that the juvenile was entitled to protections under the statute, and thus the juvenile was entitled to a writ of mandamus.
Nevada. Matter of D.T., 394 P.3d 936 (Nev. 2017). The State filed a certification petition against juvenile offender on charges of sexual assault, battery with intent to commit a crime, burglary, kidnapping, and battery constituting domestic violence, and then sought to try the juvenile offender as an adult. The family court found the juvenile could be tried as an adult, and the juvenile appealed. The supreme court held the family court acted within its discretion in determining the juvenile could be tried as an adult, and being tried as an adult was not a punishment, so it did not violate the Eighth Amendment.
XVII. Marital Property
Alaska. Horning v. Horning, 389 P.3d 61 (Alaska 2017). Husband filed for divorce from wife. Following trial, the lower court entered final property distribution order dividing the marital estate without classifying, valuing, or distributing either party’s healthcare. Wife appealed. This court held that the husband’s post-retirement military health insurance benefit was “marital property” to the extent that it was earned during the marriage. It further concluded that as a matter of first impression, wife’s eligibility to receive Indian Health Service (IHS) healthcare was acquired before marriage, and thus was “separate property,” and that the trial court could not invade wife’s separate property by using that property to offset the value of husband’s marital property. Vacated and remanded.
Alaska. Johnson v. Johnson, 394 P.3d 598 (Alaska 2017). After ex-wife was unable to refinance marital home, which she was awarded in distribution of marital property in divorce decree on condition that she refinanced home in her name, ex-husband exercised option to refinance the home himself and take possession of it, and wife filed a motion to reopen divorce case, a motion to order that items of personal property be delivered to her, a motion to redistribute the marital estate due to the change in the marital home’s ownership, and a motion for change of venue, which wife characterized as a motion to recuse the judge on appeal. The lower court denied wife’s motions. Wife appealed. The court held that the wife did not show that she was entitled to order enforcing divorce decree regarding the return of her personal property and was not entitled to relief from marital property division that was included in divorce judgment. It further reasoned that the trial court acted within its discretion in denying former wife’s motion for disqualification of trial judge.
Connecticut. Powell-Ferri v. Ferri, 165 A.3d 1124 (Conn. 2017). In a divorce proceeding, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in (1) declining to find trust assets decanted from a trust settled by the husband’s father as a marital asset; (2) declining to find the husband in contempt for not bringing a separate action against the trustees for decanting assets from the trust settled by the husband’s father; (3) failing to consider the entire value of the new trust as a marital asset; and (4) structuring the trial court’s award of attorney fees.
Maine. Harper v. Harper, 169 A.3d 385 (Me. 2017). Husband and wife were married for thirty-seven years and amassed considerable assets and managed several businesses. Husband had taken over one of the businesses while wife took a lesser-active role. Under husband’s operation of said business, he made a number of changes that inhibited the profit of the company and also ran up loans on the company during the divorce proceedings that amounted to $350,000. When wife ran the company, profits were up and there was very little debt. Husband was the sole operator of a second business and engaged in a series of transactions through the business that were not related to the business at all. He purchased recreational vehicles for his own personal use and paid himself bonuses. Husband filed for divorce and the proceedings commenced. The court found that husband’s actions in operating the businesses deprived the marital estate of at least $800,000 and imputed that amount to husband and further ordered husband to pay $50,000 to wife for attorney fees. Husband moved to reconsider and amend the divorce judgment. The Business and Consumer Court partially denied motion and husband appealed. The court found that competent evidence in the record supported the trial court’s finding that husband engaged in economic misconduct in his operation of two businesses prior to the court’s entry of the divorce judgment.
Maine. Lynch v. Lynch, 158 A.3d 1 (Me. 2017). Husband and wife were living in Sweden with their family when husband and wife decided to divorce. Wife moved back to Maine and husband remained in Sweden, where he initiated divorce proceedings three months after wife left. Wife objected to the proceedings, stating that Swedish courts did not have jurisdiction over her, and the Swedish courts stayed the action for a six-month reconsideration period. The wife filed divorce proceedings in Maine while the Swedish divorce action was still in the reconsideration period. The district court dismissed wife’s divorce complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because a Swedish judgment divorcing the parties precluded litigation of the action in Maine, and wife appealed. The court held that the appellate court’s review of any portion of the judgment that went beyond the granting of the divorce itself, including whether the Swedish court had competent jurisdiction to appoint an administrator to divide the marital property, was premature and that although the Swedish divorce judgment was entitled to comity, insofar as it dissolved the parties’ marriage, it was premature for the Maine court to address issues of property distribution or spousal support.
Maine. Neri v. Heilig, 166 A.3d 1020 (Me. 2017). Wife and husband had purchased properties together while they were married and living in Honduras. They decided to separate and sold the properties and relocated separately to Maine. While living in Maine, wife and husband reconciled for a short time until a complete breakdown of the relationship led the wife to file for separation and the husband to file for divorce. Husband purchased property in his own name using his own retirement funds. The Rockland District Court granted the divorce, divided the assets, ordered husband to pay $2,000 toward wife’s attorney fees, and ordered husband to pay wife spousal support of $1,000 a month. Wife appealed and argued that husband’s property purchased using his retirement funds was marital property. The court held that real estate that husband purchased during his marriage using his nonmarital retirement deferred compensation fund was “nonmarital property” that belonged to the husband alone; that the district court did not abuse its discretion in ordering husband to pay wife $1,000 per month in spousal support for a period of thirty-six months; and that the district court did not abuse its discretion in ordering husband to contribute $2,000 towards wife’s attorney fees and costs.
Maryland. McGeehan v. McGeehan, 167 A.3d 579 (Md. 2017). Husband and wife separated after an eighteen-year marriage. Husband filed for divorce. There was a dispute concerning properties owned by the parties. The circuit court granted the divorce and determined that parties’ oral agreement, with consideration, deeming certain real property to be wife’s sole and separate property was not a “valid agreement” excluding such property from being marital property and the wife appealed. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed and the wife appealed again. The court held that the parties’ oral postnuptial agreement to deem certain real property to be wife’s sole and separate property, made manifest by transfer of property’s title to wife, was a “valid agreement” excluding such property from being deemed marital property upon parties’ divorce.
Montana. In re Marriage of Sandra J. Broesder & Donald W. Broesder, 402 P.3d 1193 (Mont. 2017). In the dissolution of marriage proceeding, the standing master had determined the husband’s interest in the family ranch to be $1,159,541 and the wife’s interest in the ranch to be $1,159,424 and ordered the husband to pay the wife the sum of $1,159,483 for her interest in the ranch. The husband objected and urged the standing master to take into account the tax implications of the sale. The district court adopted the standing master’s order and required the husband to buy out the wife’s interest in the family ranch but did not address the tax consequences in its written order. The husband appealed. The Montana Supreme Court held that the standing master was required to consider the tax consequences of the division of the marital estate and reversed and remanded.
Nebraska. Stephens v. Stephens, 899 N.W.2d 582 (Neb. 2017). Husband was cofounder and president of a C corporation for which he owned thirty-four percent of the stock. Husband filed for dissolution of the marriage. The district court entered the dissolution decree dividing marital property but found that the corporation’s appreciation during the marriage was nonmarital property but granted the wife an award under Grace v. Grace, 380 N.W.2d 280 (Neb. 1986), based on the appreciation of the corporation. The wife appealed. The Nebraska Supreme Court held that the appreciation of value in the corporation was marital property under the active appreciation rule and should not have been excluded from the marital estate and thus the wife was not entitled to a separate monetary award under Grace, abrogating that case’s holding.
West Virginia. Wakim v. Pavlic, 805 S.E.2d 442 (W. Va. 2017). During the marriage, both parties made withdrawals of money from their jointly owned bank accounts. The wife then filed for divorce, but she died while the divorce was pending. The family court dismissed the divorce action with prejudice and did not make any rulings regarding marital property. When the divorce was pending, the husband put the money into an IOLTA account. The estates of the husband and wife are fighting over the account. The supreme court concluded that the husband had a right to withdraw money from the joint accounts. Therefore, the money withdrawn by the husband during the marriage became his sole property.
Virginia. Levick v. MacDougall, 805 S.E.2d 775 (Va. 2017). Wife filed for divorce, and two years later husband filed a motion arguing the marriage was void ab initio because they received their marriage license sixteen days after their ceremony. The court held that the man, woman, and the officiant agreed on the order things would be done, and the statute does not say anything about the required manner and sequencing of the solemnization. Therefore, the fact that the marriage certificate was not filed until after the ceremony did not void the marriage.
Montana. In re Parenting Plan of R.J.N. & H.E.N., Minor Children, 403 P.3d 675 (Mont. 2017). Mother filed a petition to modify the parenting plan for her two children. The district court summarily denied the motion to modify and mother appealed. The Montana Supreme Court held that the fact that the children expressed a desire to live with the mother and one child had reached 14 years of age did not constitute changed circumstances warranting the modification of the parenting plan.
XX. Name Changes
Georgia. Denny v. Denny, 797 S.E.2d 456 (Ga. 2017). Mother did not list father on birth certificate and listed the child’s surname as her maiden name. Mother later filed for divorce, and the trial court found that it was not authorized to change the surname of the child if the parties did not consent. The father then appealed. The supreme court found that while the trial court did have authority to make a finding regarding the child’s surname upon determining paternity, the court should consider the best interest of the child when making a finding in regards to a minor’s surname in which paternity is almost an issue for the court.
Nevada. Petit v. Adrianzen, 392 P.3d 630 (Nev. 2017). Father filed a complaint for divorce and petition to change the child’s surname two months after the child was born. The family court ordered the child’s name to be hyphenated to include both parents’ surnames. The mother appealed. The supreme court concluded that the court must determine the child’s surname based only on considerations of a child’s best interest.
Georgia. Patton v. Vanterpool, 806 S.E.2d 493 (Ga. 2017). While Georgia Code Annotated § 19-7-21 creates an irrebuttable presumption of paternity with respect to children born within wedlock or within the usual period of gestation, it did not extend to children conceived by IVF treatment.
Nevada. Nguyen v. Boynes, 396 P.3d 774 (Nev. 2017). An adoptive father’s former same-sex partner brought an action against adoptive father, seeking paternity and child custody. The family court ordered the partner was entitled to a presumption of paternity, and they were to have joint legal and physical custody of the child. The adoptive father appealed. The supreme court held the equitable adoption doctrine applied, substantial evidence supported grant of paternity to the partner, and award of paternity did not violate equal protection.
XXII. Property Division
Mississippi. Estate of Greer v. Ball, 218 So. 3d 1136 (Miss. 2017). Executor of lessor’s estate brought action against lessor’s daughter contesting the lease’s purported assignment. The lower court ruled the assignment to the daughter was effective, and the executor appealed. The supreme court held that the provision of the lease giving the daughter the rights to the lease on the lessor’s death was testamentary. Because the lease did not comply with the statutory formalities of a will, it was unenforceable.
North Dakota. Holm v. Holm, 893 N.W.2d 492 (N.D. 2017). The wife filed for divorce, and the lower court granted the divorce and divided the marital property. The supreme court held that the stock dividends received by husband from his stock in a closely held corporation for which husband worked were not marital property.
Rhode Island. Corbin v. Corbin, 152 A.3d 1146 (R.I. 2017). Husband had received post-employment compensation as a result of departure agreement with his previous employer before his divorce was final. Husband argues that the trial court erred in determining that his post-employment compensation was marital property and that the trial court erred in awarding counsel fees to wife for husband not notifying her of his new employment because the guardian ad litem timely notified her. The Rhode Island Supreme Court found that the lower court did not err in determining that husband’s post-employment compensation was marital property. Further, the court found that the lower court directly determined that the husband should pay the attorney fees because the notice he gave was not adequate.
South Dakota. Richarz v. Richarz, 904 N.W.2d 76 (S.D. 2017). Ex-husband disputed the court’s valuation of his interest in his LLC and certain real property, along with making him pay twenty-five percent of his ex-wife’s student loans. The ex-wife’s expert valued one piece of property at $210,000, another at $1,004,250, and his interest in the family LLC at $595,000 and assigned him twenty-five percent of his ex-wife’s student loans, totaling $99,000. The court concluded that the values adopted were accurate and that his interest in the LLC was proper because he actively ran the LLC. Additionally, making him pay twenty-five percent of the student loans was proper because the ex-wife was pursuing her veterinary medicine degree in order to help out with the family farm before they got divorced.
Texas. Kramer v. Kastleman, 508 S.W.3d 211 (Tex. 2017). Divorce proceedings were initiated, and the district court approved settlement agreements relating to the marital estate and conservatorship of the child. The district court denied the wife’s motions to set aside property agreement, and the wife appealed. The supreme court repealed Roye v. Roye, 521 S.W.2d 242 (Tex. 1975), by holding the wife’s dominion of the property awarded did not demonstrate acquiescence or prejudice husband, and, as such, the acceptance-of-benefits doctrine did not prevent wife from challenging decree on appeal.
Texas. Loya v. Loya, 526 S.W.3d 448 (Tex. 2017). The ex-wife filed for post-divorce division of a work-related bonus, which ex-husband received nine months after the parties divorced. The supreme court held the bonus constituted future income that fell within the provision of the mediated settlement agreement dividing all future income.
Utah. Porenta v. Porenta, 416 P.3d 487 (Utah 2017). A widow filed an action against husband’s mother alleging the transfer of her husband’s interest in the marital home to the mother during the husband’s lifetime was fraudulent. The district court granted the marital home to the widow, and the mother appealed. The supreme court held the property rights determined during the divorce proceedings prior to husband’s death remain effective and become final; the wife’s claim for joint tenancy extends to the husband’s estate, and the transfer of the husband’s interest in the marital home was voidable.
XXIII. Qualified Domestic Relations Orders
Alaska. Thomson v. Thomson, 394 P.3d 604 (Alaska 2017). Following entry of divorce decree, ex-husband moved to amend qualified domestic relations order (QDRO), which divided ex-husband’s Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) retirement account, to require that ex-wife’s benefit under the QDRO be calculated using ex-husband’s salary at the time of divorce, rather than his salary at the time of retirement. The lower court denied motion. Ex-husband appealed. This court held that property settlement agreement that was incorporated into divorce decree did not contain clear language requiring the use of ex-husband’s salary at the time of divorce when calculating ex-wife’s benefit under QDRO, and, thus, ex-wife’s benefit was to be calculated using ex-husband’s highest salary data at retirement.
Alaska. Kollander v. Kollander, 400 P.3d 91 (Alaska 2017). Former wife sought to modify pension division in a QDRO. The lower court found former wife’s claim barred by laches and awarded full attorney fees and costs to former husband. Former wife appealed. This court affirmed trial court’s application of laches but remanded for recalculation of attorney fees. On remand, the lower court awarded enhanced attorney fees to former husband and issued a Rule 11 sanction against former wife’s attorney. Former wife appealed.
The court held that the trial court’s award of enhanced attorney fees to former husband was warranted. It further stated that the former wife’s attorney failed to conduct a reasonable inquiry into the factual basis of his motions for contempt and to show cause accusing former husband and former husband’s attorney of dishonesty, and thus trial court’s issuance of Rule 11 sanctions on former wife’s attorney was warranted. Affirmed.
Alaska. Podems v. Podems, No. S-15751, 2017 WL 1200908 (Alaska Mar. 29, 2017). The husband argued that the lower court erred by not sanctioning wife for delaying production of the retirement account information, by not awarding him a higher percentage of the third retirement account component either as a sanction for wife’s litigation conduct or as an equitable division, and by not ensuring that he received the interest on his share of wife’s retirement account. The court held: “The superior court generally has broad discretion in sanctioning discovery violations. . . .” That discretion includes the decision not to sanction. Despite the delay, wife provided the necessary retirement information. And, more importantly, the delay ultimately did not harm husband: He is still entitled to the same portion of the retirement account. The lower court did not abuse its discretion by declining to sanction wife.
Idaho. Dunn v. Idaho State Tax Comm’n, 403 P.3d 309 (Idaho 2017). Wife, who was an Idaho resident, petitioned for review of a decision assessing a deficiency based on her failure to pay income tax on her one-half community interest in husband’s out-of-state earnings. The lower court affirmed the Commission’s decision, and the wife appealed. The supreme court concluded the wife’s one-half community interest in husband’s Texas income was subject to Idaho taxation, and her one-half interest did not violate the dormant Commerce Clause or the Privileges and Immunities Clause.
Iowa. Tyler v. Iowa Dep’t of Revenue, 904 N.W.2d 162 (Iowa 2017). This is an appeal on whether the Department of Revenue’s definition of stepchild in regard to the inheritance tax statute violated the equal protection rights under the Iowa Constitution. The definition of “stepchild” for the exemption was limited to stepchildren of the decedent who had not divorced the biological parent prior to the decedent’s death. The court ruled that there was a rational basis for the legislature to exclude stepchild post-divorce from the inheritance tax exemption and the definition did not violate the Iowa Constitution’s equal protection clause.
XXVI. Termination of Parental Rights
Nevada. Matter of M.M.L. Jr., 393 P.3d 1079 (Nev. 2017). The State filed a petition to terminate parental rights of a mother, who had been deemed incompetent to stand trial in a separate criminal proceeding due to her mental illness of schizoaffective bipolar disorder. Following numerous continuances of the termination case due to the mother’s inability to regain competence to stand trial in her criminal case, the family court, granted the state’s petition to terminate the mother’s parental rights. The mother appealed. The supreme court held that the trial court acted within its discretion in denying the mother’s request for another continuance on the State’s petition to terminate the mother’s parental rights due to the mother’s incompetency to stand trial in the separate criminal proceeding.
Nevada. Matter of T.L., 406 P.3d 494 (Nev. 2017). A mother entered into a stipulation agreement to the termination of her parental rights, but she reserved the right to participate in a contested pre-termination hearing regarding the child’s placement. The mother did not relinquish her parental rights after the child was placed with the adoptive family. The family court terminated the mother’s parental rights, and she appealed. The supreme court held the mother lacked standing to challenge the order because she was not “aggrieved” by the placement of the child.
Oklahoma. Matter of B.K., 398 P.3d 323 (Okla. 2017). The State filed a petition to terminate mother’s parental rights because she allegedly failed to correct the conditions that led to the deprived adjudication of her child. The lower court terminated mother’s parental rights. The mother appealed. The supreme court held the trial court did not commit a fundamental error by allowing the State to terminate mother’s parental rights based on the mother’s failure to correct her delusional condition even though the State could have alternatively proceeded based on the mother’s diagnosis of delusional persecution disorder.
Pennsylvania. In re Adoption of L.B.M., 161 A.3d 172 (Pa. 2017). After repeated violations of probation and periods of incarceration, mother’s rights to her two children were terminated because mother failed to improve the children’s living conditions. Mother had previously requested that the court appoint counsel for her children, arguing that the children’s guardian ad litem “may be adverse to the [children’s] position.” The trial court denied mother’s motion. Here, mother appeals the termination of her rights, arguing that the court erred in denying counsel to her children and it abused its discretion in terminating mother’s parental rights. Mother argues that the court wrongly decided a previous case, In re K.M., 53 A.3d 781 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2012), which held that Pennsylvania Statute § 2313(a) did not require the appointment of an attorney when a guardian ad litem had been appointed. The Pennsylvania supreme court held that because of the critical nature of termination of parental rights cases, counsel for children in a contested, involuntary termination of parental rights case is required to protect liberty interests and due process rights. In re K.M. was overruled.
Tennessee. In re Bentley D., 537 S.W.3d 907 (Tenn. 2017). Mother and stepfather filed a petition to terminate parental rights of biological father. Father’s response included a signature from his attorney and not him, which mother and stepfather said violated Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-1-124(d). The court concluded that § 36-1-124(d) does not require notice of appeal to be signed personally by the appellant. Because of the father’s timely notice of appeal signed by his attorney, their appeal was not subject to dismissal.
Tennessee. In re Gabriella D., 531 S.W.3d 662 (Tenn. 2017). Foster parents filed a petition seeking to terminate mother’s parental rights to three children and to adopt the children. The court concluded that the foster parents failed to establish that terminating the mother’s parental rights was in the best interest of the children. The court concluded that the right to be a parent is extremely fundamental. The mother separated herself from the toxic and abusive presences in her life and completed all of the tasks the permanency plan required of her; therefore, the court did not terminate her parental rights.
XXVII. Third-Party Visitation
Alaska. Jordan v. Watson, 407 P.3d 497 (Alaska 2017). Paternal grandparents moved to intervene in custody dispute between child’s parents and sought court-ordered visitation. The lower court denied the motion. Grandparents appealed. This court affirmed, holding that, in order to be entitled to grandparent visitation, grandparents were required to allege that child suffered detriment from a lack of court-ordered visitation.
Florida. Ledoux-Nottingham v. Downs, 210 So. 3d 1217 (Fla. 2017). After the death of her husband in Colorado, petitioner moved to Florida with her two minor children. Paternal grandparents filed a timely petition seeking visitation with their grandchildren. Petitioner filed a separate suit in Florida requesting the court determine that the grandparents had no legal right to timesharing with her minor children. Colorado entered a final order granting grandparents visitation, and petitioner sought to domesticate and modify the order, arguing that the under Florida law, enforcement of grandparent visitation was unconstitutional and against public policy. The Florida Supreme Court ruled that the Full Faith and Credit Clause required the Colorado order be enforced, reasoning that Article I, § 23 did not override the requirement to provide full faith and credit to judgments entered by sister states.
New Hampshire. Petition of Willeke, 160 A.3d 688 (N.H. 2017). A maternal great-grandmother and step-great-grandfather petitioned for visitation with great-grandchild. The family court dismissed the petition for lack of standing, and the great-grandparents appealed. The supreme court held that the statute governing grandparent visitation extinguished the courts’ parents patriae power to order grandparent visitation. The family court decision was affirmed.
Connecticut. Munn v. Hotchkiss School, 165 A.3d 1167 (Conn. 2017). The court held that the public policy in Connecticut does not preclude imposing a duty on the school to warn about the risks of serious insect-borne disease when organizing a trip abroad for students.