Justia Maryland Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Family Law
Lloyd v. Niceta
The Supreme Court held that Maryland law allows spouse to allocate martial assets in a postnuptial agreement based on whether a spouse engaged in adultery, thereby causing the breakdown of the marriage, thus affirming the judgment of the lower courts.Plaintiff filed a complaint for absolute divorce on the grounds of adultery, requesting that the circuit court incorporate the parties' postnuptial agreement into the decree. The agreement included a $7 million lump sum provision that triggered if Defendant engaged in adultery. The circuit court determined that the lump sum provision was an enforceable penalty and issued a judgment of divorce that incorporated, but did not merge, the agreement. The appellate court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the public policy in Maryland supports intefspousal distributions of marital assets based on adultery in postnuptial agreements; and (2) Plaintiff was entitled to no more than Defendant's "50% share of the Column B Assets." View "Lloyd v. Niceta" on Justia Law
Doe v. Catholic Relief Services
The Supreme Court answered three questions certified by the United States District Court for the District of Maryland in this suit brought against Catholic Relief Services-United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (CRS), which follows the teaching that marriage is between one man and one woman.The district court ruled (1) CRS violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by revoking Plaintiff's dependent health insurance because he was a man married to another man; and (2) Plaintiff was entitled to summary judgment on his federal Equal Pay Act claim. The court then ordered the parties to confer and file proposed questions of law with respect to the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act (MFEPA), Md. Code Ann., State Gov't 20-606, and the Maryland Equal Pay for Equal Work Act (MEPEWA), Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. 3-304. The Supreme Court answered (1) the prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sex in MFEPA does not itself also prohibit sexual orientation discrimination, which is separately covered under MFEPA; (2) MEPEWA does not prohibit sexual orientation discrimination; and (3) MFEPA's religious entity exemption applies with respect to claims by employees who perform duties that directly future the core mission of the religious entity. View "Doe v. Catholic Relief Services" on Justia Law
In re T.K.
The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming the circuit court's award of custody of T.K. under Md. Cts. & Jud. Proc. 3-819(e) to a previously non-custodial father, holding that the juvenile court erred by failing to hold an evidentiary hearing before awarding Father sole legal and physical custody of T.K.At issue was the mechanics of the application of 3-819(e) to situations in which a local department of social services has limited knowledge about one of a child's parents until after an adjudicatory hearing has concluded. The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the circuit court, sitting as a juvenile court, awarding custody in this case, holding that because the record did not contain evidence that Father was able and willing to care for the child and because there was no stipulation to that effect, and because Mother was not given the opportunity to present evidence informing the court's best interest analysis, remand was required. View "In re T.K." on Justia Law
E.N. v. T.R.
The Court of Appeals held that where there are two legal parents, both legal parents must consent to and foster a third party's formation and establishment of a parent-like relationship with a child under the first factor of the test set forth in In re Custody of H.S.H.-K., 533 N.W.2d 419 (Wis. 1995), adopted by this Court in Conover v. Conover, 146 A.3d 433 (Md. 2016).E.N. was the biological mother and D.D. was the biological father of two minor children. When D.D. entered into a relationship with T.R. the children moved in with the couple. T.R. later filed a complaint seeking sole legal and physical custody of the children. The circuit court granted T.R.'s complaint for custody, concluding that T.R. was a de facto parent of the children. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) to establish de facto parenthood where there are two legal parents, a prospective de facto parent must demonstrate that both legal parents consented to and fostered a parent-like relationship with a child, or that a non-consenting legal parent is an unfit parent or exceptional circumstances exist; and (2) the circuit court erred in concluding that T.R. was a de facto parent and in granting her joint legal custody and sole physical custody. View "E.N. v. T.R." on Justia Law
In re R.S.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals vacating the judgment of the circuit court finding that R.S. was a child in need of assistance (CINA), holding that the court of special appeals did not err in holding that the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC) does not apply to out-of-state placements of a child in the care of a biological, non-custodial parent.Based on its determination that the ICPC applied to the placement of R.S. in the care of her biological father, the juvenile court awarded joint custody of R.S. to the non-custodial biological father and parental grandparents. The court of special appeals vacated the judgment, concluding that the plain language of the ICPC, codified in Md. Code, Fam. Law Art. 5-601-5-611, did not apply under the circumstances of this case. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the ICPC does not apply to out-of-state placements with non-custodial biological parents; and (2) because the ICPC did not apply under the circumstances of this case and the court never determined that the biological father was unfit, the CINA order was properly vacated. View "In re R.S." on Justia Law
In re O.P.
The Court of Appeals held that a juvenile court's decision to deny continued shelter care in a child in need of assistance (CINA) case is appealable under the collateral order doctrine and that the court may authorize continued shelter care for up to thirty days if makes the necessary findings and may extend shelter care beyond thirty days if it makes the findings by a preponderance standard.Anne Arundel County Department of Social Services placed an infant in emergency shelter care and filed a CINA petition with a request for continued temporary shelter care pending resolution of the CINA petition. After a hearing, the juvenile court denied the Department's request for continued shelter care, concluding that the Department had failed to establish the statutory criteria by a preponderance of the evidence. The court of special appeals affirmed, holding that the juvenile court used the correct standard of proof. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) a juvenile court may continue temporary emergency shelter under conditions set forth in this opinion; and (2) any continuation of shelter care beyond thirty days must be based upon findings made applying a preponderance of evidence standard at the adjudicatory stage of the CINA case. View "In re O.P." on Justia Law
In re Adoption/Guardianship of C.E.
The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the juvenile court declining to terminate the legal relationship between Mother, Father, and Child and ordering Child into the guardianship and custody of a relative, holding that the juvenile court abused its discretion by declining to terminate the parental rights of Father when it found that neither parent could never safely care for Child.In deciding this case, the Court of Appeals reaffirmed that, when considering the termination of parental rights, the pursuit of the best interest of the child remains the overall goal. As to the instant case, the Court of Appeals held (1) there was ample evidence to find that Father was unfit or that exceptional circumstances existed by clear and convincing evidence to terminate his parental rights; and (2) the trial court abused its discretion in declining to terminate Father's parental rights. View "In re Adoption/Guardianship of C.E." on Justia Law
Romero v. Perez
The Court of Appeals explained in this opinion its reasons underlying its December 7, 2018 order, in which the Court issued an order reversing the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals affirming the decision of the circuit court denying Petitioner's motion for an order that included all requisite "Special Immigrant Juvenile" (SIJ) status findings, holding that the circuit court applied a far too demanding and rigid standard in this case.In a proceeding before the circuit court, Petitioner sought sole custody of his seventeen-year-old son (Child), an undocumented minor and Guatemalan native. Petitioner further requested that the circuit court issue an order containing factual findings illustrating Child's eligibility for SIJ status, namely that reunification with Child's mother was not viable due to neglect. The circuit court granted Petitioner custody of Child but concluded that Petitioner failed to establish that reunification with the mother was not viable due to neglect. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that returning Child to the custody of the mother, who inadequately cared for and supervised him, could not be a reunification that was viable. View "Romero v. Perez" on Justia Law
In re Adoption/Guardianship of C.E.
At issue was whether allowing a child to remain indefinitely in the custody of a third party, without termination of the parents’ parental rights, constitutes a proper exercise of judicial discretion consistent with the pertinent provisions of the Family Law Article.The Court of Appeals held that the Family Law Article allows for such discretionary exercise so long as the decision is grounded in statutory requirements and is supported by the record, and pursuit of the child’s best interest remains the overarching goal involving termination of parental rights.The Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the juvenile court in this case, holding (1) the juvenile court did not err in declining to terminate Father’s parental rights because a rational finding existed that a continued relationship with Father served the child’s best interest even where complete custodial reunification was not apparent; and (2) regarding Mother, the juvenile court’s determination that a continued parental relationship served the child’s best interest lack consideration of the relevant statutory considerations found in Md. Code Ann. Fam. Law 5-323. View "In re Adoption/Guardianship of C.E." on Justia Law
In re Adoption/Guardianship of H.W.
When assessing whether exceptional circumstances exist that make continuing the parental relationship detrimental to a child’s best interests, a juvenile court errs by considering custody-specific factors used to determine exceptional circumstances in third-party custody disputes.The Baltimore City Department of Social Services filed a petition for guardianship with the right to consent to adoption or long term care short adoption for Child. The juvenile court analyzed, among other things, the statutory factors set forth in Md. Code Ann. Fam. Law 5-323(d) to determine whether exceptional circumstances existed that made continuing the parental relationship detrimental to Chile’s best interests. The juvenile court concluded that there was not clear and convincing evidence that Father was unfit. The Court of Special Appeals vacated the juvenile court’s decision, concluding that the juvenile court by using four factors related exclusively to custody of the child in deciding to terminate Father’s parental rights. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) factors pertaining exclusively to custody have no place in termination of parental rights assessments under section 5-323; but (2) the juvenile court did not abuse its discretion when, based on an appropriate statutory analysis, it terminated Father’s parental rights. View "In re Adoption/Guardianship of H.W." on Justia Law