Justia New Hampshire Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Family Law
In re J.H.
Respondent, the mother of J.H. (Mother), appealed a circuit court order finding that she neglected her son, J.H. On appeal, Mother argued the trial court erred because, as a matter of law, she could not be found neglectful when another person was the legal guardian of J.H. In the alternative, she contended the evidence in the record was insufficient to support the neglect finding. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "In re J.H." on Justia Law
In re H.C.
Respondent, the mother of H.C., appealed a circuit court order that terminated her parental rights after the court found that she had been convicted of a felony assault which resulted in injury to H.C.’s sibling. The issues this case presented to the New Hampshire Supreme Court were: (1) whether RSA 170-C:5, VII(d) applied in this case when H.C. was born after the date of the felony assault; (2) whether RSA 170-C:5, VII(d) applied to convictions obtained outside the State of New Hampshire; and (3) whether the trial court erred in finding that termination of the respondent’s parental rights was in H.C.’s best interest. Because the Supreme Court concluded RSA 170-C:5, VII(d) applied and that the trial court did not err in ruling that termination of the respondent’s parental rights was in H.C.’s best interest, the Court affirmed its decision. View "In re H.C." on Justia Law
In the Matter of Kauble
Petitioner Brianna Kauble appealed a circuit court order granting the request of intervenor Herbert Novell for grandparent visitation. Because the New Hampshire Supreme Court determined the intervenor lacked standing under RSA 461-A:13 to seek grandparent visitation, the judgment was reversed. View "In the Matter of Kauble" on Justia Law
In the Matter of Albrecht
Petitioner Dana Albrecht appealed a circuit court order denying his post-final-divorce-decree motion alleging that Respondent Katherine Albrecht was in contempt of the parties’ parenting plan. Petitioner claimed that respondent had violated the parenting plan by, among other things, removing the children from school a few days early for a week-long vacation without first notifying him. The contempt motion was filed in 2019, but not scheduled for a hearing until 2022. In the meantime, numerous other post-divorce disputes and collateral proceedings arose between the parties. The motion was ultimately denied on July 22, 2022. The trial court observed that respondent and children, at that time, were coping with the recent death of a close family member, and that respondent had made appropriate arrangements with the children’s school for the vacation. Such conduct, according to the trial court, violated neither the joint decision-making provision nor the provision requiring the parties to promote healthy relationships between the children and the other parent. The New Hampshire Supreme Court found no abuse of discretion nor reversible error in that judgment and affirmed. View "In the Matter of Albrecht" on Justia Law
In re E.R.; In re H.R.
The New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) and Court Appointed Special Advocates of New Hampshire (CASA) appealed a circuit court order denying DCYF’s petitions to terminate the mother’s parental rights over E.R. and H.R. The mother had five children; E.R. and H.R. were the youngest. The fathers of E.R. and H.R. were unknown. In November 2019, the circuit court found the mother neglected four of her children, including E.R. and H.R. The circuit court held a nine-month review hearing in October 2020 and found the mother to be in partial compliance with a case plan filed at the beginning of DCYF's involvement. The court ultimately transferred legal custody to DCYF, and E.R. and H.R. were removed from the mother’s care. In October 2021, the circuit court held a permanency hearing. Both DCYF and CASA recommended adoption as the permanency plan and termination of the mother’s parental rights over E.R. and H.R. In denying the termination, the trial court concluded that while it is in the children’s best interest to remain out of their mother’s care, it is not in their best interest that her parental rights be terminated. DCYF and CASA moved for reconsideration, which the circuit court denied. Finding no abuse of discretion, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's order. View "In re E.R.; In re H.R." on Justia Law
Loik v. Loik
Plaintiff David Loik appealed a superior court order dismissing his petition for the partition and sale of real estate. At issue was whether the superior court or the circuit court had subject matter jurisdiction over this matter. Because the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that, under the applicable statute, the circuit court and not the superior court had subject matter jurisdiction, it vacated and direct the superior court to transfer the petition to the circuit court. View "Loik v. Loik" on Justia Law
In re J.R.; In re S.R.; In re B.R.
Appellants (father and mother) challenged multiple circuit court orders finding both parents neglected their children and ordering the children's removal from their home. Appellants were the parents of B.R., S.R., and J.R. Both parents had a significant history with the New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF), including reports alleging one or both parents were manufacturing or selling methamphetamines in the home with the children present. In March 2021, based on criminal allegations against mother (relating to her purchase and use of methamphetamine), DCYF filed a motion for ex parte removal of the children from the home. The trial court granted the motion and found that mother’s continued involvement in drug trafficking beginning in 2015, and her risk-taking behavior related thereto, “demonstrate that the children’s health or life are in imminent danger if they are allowed to remain in the parents’ home.” The court awarded DCYF protective supervision of the children. In May 2022, following a dispositional hearing, the court found that return of the children to their home would be contrary to their welfare because neither parent had corrected the behavior that led to the children’s initial removal. Father and mother each appealed separately. The New Hampshire Supreme Court accepted the two appeals and consolidated them. Parents argued both findings were unsupported by the evidence. Father also argued that the court’s orders failed to provide specific written findings as required by RSA 169-C:6-b, III (2022). After review of the circuit court orders, the New Hampshire Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed. View "In re J.R.; In re S.R.; In re B.R." on Justia Law
Petition of New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families
Petitioner, the New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF), petitioned under the New Hampshire Supreme Court's original jurisdiction seeking review of a superior court order denying DCYF’s motion to dismiss a complaint brought against it. In 2019, Respondent filed a complaint as parent and next friend of his children, M.M. and J.M., asserting various claims against both DCYF and the Court Appointed Special Advocates of New Hampshire (CASA). DCYF and CASA moved to dismiss the complaint, with DCYF arguing, inter alia, that the claims were time-barred by RSA 541-B:14, IV. Respondent objected, asserting that RSA 508:8 (2010) tolled the period of limitations in RSA 541-B:14, IV. After a hearing on the motion, the trial court dismissed the claims against CASA as precluded by quasi-judicial immunity, but denied the motion to dismiss the claims against DCYF. In its order, the trial court reasoned that RSA 508:8 operated as a tolling provision and that failing to read the tolling provision into the statute of limitations in RSA 541-B:14, IV would lead to “an absurd, unfair, and unjust result.” In its petition to the Supreme Court, DCYF asked the Court to determine that RSA 508:8 did not apply to claims brought under RSA chapter 541-B. The Supreme Court concurred with Respondent, holding that RSA 508:8 had to be read into RSA 541-B:14, IV in order to comport with the equal protection guarantees afforded to the citizenry under Part I, Articles 2 and 12 of the New Hampshire Constitution. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed. View "Petition of New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families" on Justia Law
In re J.P.S.; In re J.S.
Respondent-Mother appealed a circuit court order finding that her children were abused and neglected. Petitioner New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) filed six abuse and neglect petitions alleging Mother's biological children, J.S. and J.P.S. were born prematurely due to exposure to drugs taken during Mother's pregnancy. J.P.S. was born on October 7, 2021, at Mother and Father’s home. Approximately three days after his birth, J.P.S. began showing signs of distress. Father brought J.P.S. to Catholic Medical Center (CMC) under the so-called “safe haven law,” and stated that the child’s mother was, or was believed to be, an intravenous drug user. Because J.P.S’s needs were so extensive, he was transported to Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH). After three days at BCH, J.P.S. returned to CMC, where he was still being treated at the time of the adjudicatory hearing. He was diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). The circuit court entered findings of “true” with respect to four petitions alleging neglect of J.S. and J.P.S. by Mother and Father. The two remaining petitions alleged abuse of J.P.S. by Father and Mother, respectively, through injuries sustained by J.P.S. after birth, caused by Mother’s prenatal narcotics use. The court entered findings of “not true” with respect to Father and “true” with respect to Mother. Mother appealed, challenging the finding of abuse of J.P.S. and the findings of neglect of both J.P.S. and J.S., and raising other alleged errors. The only question briefed by Mother, however, relates to the finding of abuse of J.P.S. Accordingly, we deem all other issues raised in Mother’s notice of appeal waived. The New Hampshire Supreme Court found no reversible error in the circuit court's judgment and affirmed. View "In re J.P.S.; In re J.S." on Justia Law
In re H.B.; In re G.B.
The New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) appealed a circuit court order dismissing its neglect petitions against respondent, mother of H.B. and G.B. (Mother). DCYF argued the trial court erred when it dismissed the petitions because DCYF did not meet its burden of proving that any deprivation of parental care or control, subsistence, or education identified in RSA 169-C:3, XIX(b) was “not due primarily to the lack of financial means” of the parents. RSA 169-C:3, XIX(b) (2022). To this, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concurred, vacated the decision, and remanded for further proceedings on whether H.B. and G.B. were neglected. View "In re H.B.; In re G.B." on Justia Law