Family Law

Recent Family Law Cases

Please share:

FAMILY LAW (current through 11/21/2022)

By:  Andrew Botros, CFLS

Marriage of Blake & Langer

11/10/2022, CA 2/4: B311966

The voluntary dismissal of a joinder complaint does not divest the trial court of jurisdiction to award sanctions under Family Code section 271. Although most orders entered after dismissal are void and have no effect, an exception to this rule includes motions related to attorney fees and sanctions. Applying this rule in this manner is consistent with section 271, which is designed to punish parties who have unreasonably increased the cost of litigation.

City of Los Angeles v. PriceWaterHouseCoopers, LLC

10/20/22, CA 2/5: B310118

Code of Civil Procedure section 2023.030 provides that a court may impose sanctions “against anyone engaging in conduct that is a misuse of the discovery process.” Similarly, Code of Civil Procedure section 2023.010 also references “[m]isuses of the discovery process.” This Court held, however, that “[t]he plain language of the statutory scheme does not provide for monetary sanctions to be imposed based solely on the definitional provisions of sections 2023.010 or 2023.030.” Since “the question of the court’s authority to award sanctions under sections 2023.010 and 2023.030 was not squarely raised in the trial court, and no prior case law held that the statutory language of section 2023.030 requires monetary sanctions to be authorized by another provision of the Discovery Act,” the order was reversed and remanded. 

The Court further held that when a court is authorized under the Civil Discovery Act to impose sanctions, they retain jurisdiction to do so even after the lawsuit is dismissed.

Finally, the Court held that the timeliness of a motion for monetary sanctions following a successful discovery motion is a matter within the trial court’s discretion.

Justice Grimes would have affirmed the order in full. She disagreed with the majority’s conclusion that sections 2023.010 and 2023.030 are “definitional statutes [that], standing alone or read together, do not authorize the court to impose sanctions in a particular case.”

DEPENDENCY (current through 11/22/2022)

By:  John Nieman

In re A.H.

10/19/22, CA 1/2:  A163882

Failures of the Social Services Agency and Juvenile Court to comply with legal requirements related to parent-finding due diligence and parentage inquiry caused a fatal notice defect and ultimate failure to provide Due Process to an alleged (or legal, or presumed -read on) father (appellant father) that resulted in reversal. There was evidence received that the appellant father was a legal parent pursuant to a default child support judgement, including that he had provided some support to the minor and had been visiting with her. Additionally, his name was on the birth certificate, indicating that he had executed a voluntary declaration of paternity, which would have made him the presumed father. The minor was familiar with the appellant father and had, at least early in the case, an arguably positive attachment to him. While there had been sporadic communication between the Social Services Agency and appellant father from nearly the outset and leading up to the termination of parental rights hearing, appellant father had never been informed about the nature of the proceedings and potential actions (read: opportunity to establish parentage and participate because termination of your parental rights might happen) by the Juvenile Court. While supposedly some notices of the many required were afforded the appellant father, by and large notice was mostly absent. The Agency’s claim that any error was harmless under any standard was rejected by the Court of Appeal. Reversed and remanded to comply with Welfare and Institutions Code (W&I) §316.2 and for appellant father to have an opportunity to file a W&I §388 petition challenging orders back to Jurisdiction and parentage determinations.

In re K.H.

10/21/22, CA 5:  F084002

This is an Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) case. Father appealed the termination of parental rights orders, alleging the trial court erroneously found the ICWA did not apply. The Department of Human Services (DHS) conceded its failure to conduct an adequate initial and ongoing inquiry into facts pointing to the possible application of the ICWA. As is seemingly common practice in such cases these days, DHS asserted that the error was harmless as there was no evidence to show a reasonable probability that an outcome more favorable to appellant would result from a remand (as would be required by People v. Watson (1956) 46 Cal.2d 818). This appellate court agreed with others that have rejected this position. This appellate court analyzed the factual circumstances in terms of the level of development of the record related to information about potential applicability of the ICWA. It also pointed out the remedial purpose of the ICWA and so (among other reasons) decided to apply the analysis of harm set out in In re A.R. (2021) 11 Cal.5th 234. A.R. claimed application of the Watson standard was not appropriate under circumstances where it provided inadequate protection of the rights at issue. This court analogized the failure of a tribe’s potential to protect its interest under the ICWA to the impact on a parent’s opportunity to defend their parental rights in a dependency case with ineffective counsel (who failed to file an appeal, the A.R. situation). This court painstakingly reviewed the various appellate approaches to ICWA inquiry errors. Conditionally reversed but without disturbing the outcome unless warranted by the outcome of a proper ICWA inquiry.

In re Oscar H.

10/27/22, CA 2/8:  B318634

This is an Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) case. Mother appealed the termination of parental rights orders, alleging there was an inadequate initial inquiry by the Department of Children and Family Servies (DCFS) into the possible applicability of the ICWA. The appellate court found that primarily there was an inadequate initial inquiry by DCFS of paternal relatives about Native American ancestry. DCFS however claimed that the error was harmless as the child was placed with (and set to be adopted by) the maternal grandmother. The appellate court disagreed because placement with a relative alone, while compliant with the requirements of a bona-fide ICWA case, did not equate to the results of an inquiry that resulted in the application of the ICWA. The main problem in this case was that DCFS never asked the father nor various other relatives about possible Native American ancestry. According to the case, this could have been done fairly easily. Conditionally remanded, preserving the judgement unless change required to comply with the proper ICWA inquiry.

A concurring opinion said the inadequate inquiry obviated the need to respond to the placement with the maternal grandmother defense.

A dissent claims that the error was harmless because of placement with the maternal grandmother.

In re E.C.

11/7/22, CA 5:  F084030

This is an Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) case. Mother appealed the termination of parental rights orders, alleging there was an inadequate further inquiry by the Department of Human Servies (DHS) into the possible applicability of the ICWA. No further inquiry as made when it was alleged that maternal great grandmother and maternal great uncles were Apache Tribe members. The appellate court agreed with mother’s contention that this evidence created a “reason to believe” the minor may be an Indian child. DHS’s failure to conduct further inquiry did not comport with the law and the Juvenile Court’s reliance on DHS’s conclusion to that effect was error. DHS requested that the Appellate Court apply Code of Civil Procedure §909 to consider post-judgement evidence that allegedly answered the factual question about the applicability of the ICWA once and for all. The appellate court declined to grant the request because exceptional circumstances are required and §909 should be used sparingly according to In re Zeth S. (2003) 31 Cal.4th 396 at 405. (This is the same appellate panel that decided In re K.H., see above.) Even so it opined that accepting the facts at face value as presented in the §909 motion would not prevent a reversal. Conditionally remanded, preserving the judgement as permitted by the subsequent proper ICWA inquiry.

Forgot Password

Enter the email associated with you account. You will then receive a link in your inbox to reset your password.

Personal Information

Select Section(s)

CLA Membership is $99 and includes one section. Additional sections are $99 each.