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Family Law

Recent Family Law Case Law

Recent Family Law Cases (current through 7/25/19)
[Opinions available at:  http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions-slip.htm]
By:  Stephen D. Hamilton, CFLS

Dependency Procedure

In Re Harley C.
7/15/19, CA 2/7:  B293323
https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B293323.PDF

TCT did not allow M to testify or call witnesses as her counsel failed to file a joint trial statement required by local rule adopted after trial date had been set. TCT then awarded sole custody to F and terminated its jurisdiction. Reversed. CtA found local rule in question was invalid as it was adopted in violation of state law. The local rule was not published in the general publication of rules as required by CCP §575.1 and CRC Rule 10.614. Additional technical violations of CRC Rule 10.613 were also noted by the CtA.  Further, the local rule conflicted with WIC §358(b)(1), requiring a court to “receive in evidence … relevant and material evidence as may be offered….” Any local rule conflicting with a statewide statute, rule of law, or Judicial Council rule is void under Rutherford v. Owens-Illinois, Inc. (1997) 16 Cal.4th 953.  Further, the rule could not be justified under a goal of expediting proceedings in light of M’s right to present evidence under Elkins v. Superior Court (2007) 41 Cal.4th 1337.

Dependency Restraining Orders

In Re A.M.
7/18/19, CA 2/2: B293062
https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B293062.PDF

F sexually abused minor child and the juvenile court issued a two-year restraining order prohibiting F from having any visitation or contact with child. F appeals no contact order asserting it was not supported by substantial evidence. Affirmed. F based his argument on the contention that since child was mentally resilient, despite the sexual abuse, a no contact order was not necessary to ensure her safety. CtA found F argument “unavailing” in light of evidence that F “groomed and sexually abused minor over many years….” F’s attempt to argue the abuse was not severe sexual abuse, entitling him to reunification services, was rejected on four grounds. First, the TCT did not abuse its discretion in issuing a restraining order under WIC §213.5. Second, as M retained custody of child, F was not entitled to reunification under WIC §361.6(b)(6). Third, F had not raised the severe sexual abuse argument at trial, and it was therefore waived. Fourth, the fact that F’s conduct involved “over the clothing” abuse did not discount or diminish such abuse so as to make it non-severe.

Settlement Agreements Attorneys

Monster Energy Co. v. Schechter
7/11/19, SCT:  S251392
https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/S251392.PDF

Reversing CtA, SCT held that an attorney who signs a settlement agreement as approved as to form and content is bound by a confidentiality clause imposed on the parties and their counsel. Agreement in question stated: “Plaintiffs and their counsel agree that they will keep completely confidential all of the terms and contents of this Settlement Agreement….” If the agreement contained “no provision purporting to bind counsel or otherwise any obligation imposed on him” then “counsel’s signature that he approved the agreement as to form and content could only mean he is approving it for his client’s signature.”

Discovery

Samsky v. State Farm
7/23/19, CA 2/8:  B293885
https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B293885.PDF

In underinsured motorist action, Plaintiff served request for admissions which were denied by Defendant. After prevailing at arbitration, Plaintiff moved for costs under CCP §2033.420. After arbitrator declined to consider request, TCT then denied motion for costs as Plaintiff failed to meet his “burden of proof” in establishing none of the exceptions identified in CCP §2033.420(b) applied. Reversed. The burden of proving exceptions to the cost-shifting provisions of CCP §2033.420 falls on the party asserting the exceptions. Based on substantial evidence in record that Defendant failed to prove reasonable grounds to deny requests, matter remanded to TCT for determination of costs.

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