Articles Posted in Family Law

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With certain exceptions, a sex offender can rebut the presumption established by the Child Protection From Sex Offenders Act by demonstrating his compliance with the conditions in the statute. This appeal raised one issue: whether the Sex Offenders Act and its rebuttable presumption operated outside of Family Court custody proceedings. The Delaware Supreme Court concluded, as did the Family Court, that the General Assembly intended that the Act and its rebuttable presumption to operate only when the Family Court determines custody, residency, and visitation as part of a Family Court custody proceeding. The Court therefore affirmed the Family Court’s order. View "Division of Family Services v. O'Bryan" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Supreme Court in this case was the Family Court’s determination that only one-third of a substantial bonus paid to Wife after separation but before divorce qualified as marital property. According to the Family Court, because two-thirds of the bonus payment was subject to forfeiture after the couple’s divorce, only one-third of the bonus was actually earned during the marriage and qualified as marital property. The Supreme Court reversed the Family Court’s decision because the entire bonus was earned during the marriage and qualified as marital property. “Although Wife’s bonus might have been subject to forfeiture post-divorce, it was nonetheless earned … during the marriage.” The case was remanded for the Family Court to determine how to equitably divide the full bonus amount. View "King v. Howard" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Wife Leslie Lankford appealed a family court order awarding her alimony. In an ancillary order, the family court found that Wife was dependent on her ex-husband, Evan Lankford, Jr. and therefore entitled to alimony. On reargument, the court recalculated Wife’s income and expenses and determined that Wife was not dependent on Husband for the purposes of alimony based solely on Wife’s monthly surplus of $260. She appealed. After review, the Supreme Court held that the family court abused its discretion by basing its dependency determination solely on one of the statutory factors provided in 13 Del. C. sec. 1512(c). Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded this case back to the family court for reconsideration of dependency in light of all relevant factors enumerated in Section 1512(c). View "Lankford v. Lankford" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Husband-appellant Alexander Jones appealed a Family Court order that entered the parties’ stipulation on property division, awarded wife-appellee Adriana Jones alimony, and ordered Husband to pay Wife an additional monthly amount for unpaid interim alimony. Husband also appealed another Family Court order denying the parties’ motions for reargument. After review of the arguments made on appeal, the Supreme Court found no merit to most of Husband’s contentions, but remanded on his claims regarding Wife’s medical and health insurance expenses. View "Jones v. Jones" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Husband Gary Glanden appealed a Family Court order dividing marital property and granting alimony to Wife Terry Quirk following their divorce after twenty-two years of marriage. The court divided the non-retirement assets 65% in Wife’s favor, and divided the remaining marital property equally. The court awarded alimony for an indefinite period.Husband argued the trial judge erred by including in the marital estate part of a January 2013 payment from his law firm received after the couple separated. Husband also claimed that the court abused its discretion by dividing the couple’s assets favorably to Wife, and in awarding Wife alimony. After review, the Supreme Court found that Husband’s argument about his law firm payment was at odds with the plain language of his employment agreement, where the disputed payment represented “the balance of [Husband’s] prior year’s base compensation,” and therefore was partially includable in the marital estate. The Court also found that Husband’s other arguments essentially asked for reconsideration of Family Court decisions which were amply supported by the evidence entered into the record. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the Family Court's decision. View "Glanden v. Quirk" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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"Adam" was born in early 2015 addicted to narcotics. Adam was eventually released to his parents, David Hunt and Carey Land. A few months later, Adam was found unconscious and unresponsive. He was transported to the hospital. The parents offered no explanation as to why Adam had been found unresponsive or unconscious. Though they were home when emergency personnel arrived, neither parent accompanied the child to the hospital. Due to the seriousness of the child's condition, he was transported to a trauma center. Medical personnel determined the child had sustained multiple trauma caused by "unexplained abusive trauma." In addition to multiple fractures, Adam's other diagnoses included chronic bilateral subdural hematomas, destruction of brain tissue, seizures, respiratory failure, malnourishment and splitting of the layers of the retina in his left eye. Emergency custody would ultimately be awarded to the Department of Family Services. This expedited proceeding was the parents' appeal of a Family Court decision granting the attorney guardian ad litem's motion to instruct Adam's medical providers to de-escalate intervention and place a do-not re-intubate order and a do-not-resuscitate order and a "comfort measures" order on Adam's medical chart. The appeal presented four issues for the Delaware Supreme Court's review: (1) whether the Family Court had jurisdiction to de-escalate medical care, a no re-intubate order and do not resuscitate order on the minor's chart; (2) whether the Family Court had authority to allow such orders when the parental rights have not been terminated; (3) whether the Family Court violated the parents' procedural due process rights by not providing the parents adequate notice and process prior to issuing the orders; and (4) were the parents' due process rights violated without receiving evidence from an independent medical expert. The Supreme Court found no reversible error in the Family Court's decision, and affirmed. View "Hunt v. DFS & Office of the Child Advocate" on Justia Law

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The Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families (the “Department”) appealed a September 18, 2014 Family Court order finding that the Department failed to establish probable cause at a Preliminary Protective Hearing (“PPH”) to retain an infant in the Department's custody. The Department filed an emergency ex parte petition on September 12, 2014, alleging that A.F., a newborn infant, was dependent, neglected, or abused by Mother, John Tower, and Unknown Father. An investigative worker for the Department, testified that the Department received a hotline report on August 1, 2014, claiming Mother had given birth into a toilet and had appeared to the hotline reporter to be high on drugs, with glassy eyes and slurred speech. The worker contacted Mother at St. Francis Hospital, where Mother and child had been taken following the birth. A.F. was born with methadone and benzodiazepines in his system and remained in the hospital at the time of the PPH for opiate dependence treatment. After hearing all the evidence, the Family Court concluded in its September 18 order that the Department did not establish probable cause to believe that A.F. was dependent, neglected, or abused in the care of Mother and Tower. According to the Family Court, the Department failed to establish that any of the drugs Mother was taking were taken without a doctor's knowledge of her condition or in violation of her physicians' instructions. The court also credited Tower's account of the circumstances of A.F.'s birth over the report from the hotline. The court viewed the remainder of the Department's evidence as insufficient to justify removal of the child from the custody of his parents. The Department argued on appeal that the Family Court failed to apply the correct probable cause standard when it dismissed the Department's petition. The Supreme Court found no merit to the Department's argument and affirmed the Family Court. View "Dept. of Serv. Children Fam. v. Fowler" on Justia Law

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Dana Fuller appealed a Family Court decision denying her petition for expungement of her juvenile record because she had committed three traffic violations as an adult. In this case, the Family Court held that Fuller's violations of Title 21, which governs motor vehicles, were "subsequent . . . adult convictions." But the Family Court has reached different conclusions in other cases as to whether a traffic violation under Title 21 of the Delaware Code is a subsequent adult conviction that precludes expungement of a juvenile record. On appeal, Fuller argued that Title 21 offenses were not "subsequent adult convictions" and the denial of her expungement was therefore erroneous. After review, the Supreme Court held that a "subsequent adult conviction” is a later conviction only for a crime in violation of Title 4, 7, 11, 16, or 23 of the Delaware Code, and does not include a violation of Title 21. Accordingly, we reverse the Family Court's decision. View "Fuller v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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In 2011, wife Stacey Thomas filed for divorce from husband Calvin Thomas, which was granted in early 2012. After that, the Family Court rendered final decisions on several ancillary matters. Husband raised six issues on appeal of those decisions: (1) the Family Court erred by not equally dividing the marital property; (2), erred by determining that the Wife was dependent and therefore entitled to alimony; (3) erred by applying a 2.5 percent interest rate to calculate the Wife’s income from her inheritance, instead of some higher interest rate; (4) erred when it refused to retroactively modify the amount of the interim alimony award; (5) the Family Court imposed an impermissible punitive fine when it found Husband in contempt of its interim alimony order; and (6) the Family Court erred when it awarded Wife a portion of her attorney’s fees. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded the Family Court erroneously applied the alimony statute in making its final award. The other issues raised by the Husband were without merit. Therefore, the judgment of the Family Court was affirmed in part, and reversed in part. The case was remanded to the Family Court for further proceedings. View "Thomas v. Thomas" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Appellant (Husband) Austin Taylor appealed a Family Court decision denying his Motion to Reopen an Alimony Order, which was entered by the court without his participation. On appeal, Husband argued that a default judgment was not appropriate under Rule 60(b) because he was not properly served, and he did not have a fair opportunity to contest the amount of the obligation imposed upon him. "The decision to reopen an alimony order lies in the sound discretion of the Family Court. But this case involves unusual circumstances," and the Supreme Court concluded that the Family Court abused its discretion in denying the Husband’s motion to reopen. View "Taylor v. Taylor" on Justia Law