Justia Rhode Island Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decree of the family court terminating Mother's parental rights to her four minor children pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws 15-7-7(a)(2)(vii) and 15-7-7(a)(3), holding that this Court will not disturb the trial justice's finding that termination of Mother's parental rights was in the best interests of the children.The trial justice ruled that it was in the best interests of the children that Mother's parental rights be terminated because the child had been in the custody of the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) for at least twelve months, Mother had been offered services to correct the situation leading to the children's placement, there was no a substantial probability that the children could safely be returned to Mother's care, and that Mother had exhibited behaviors seriously detrimental to the children rendering her future care for the children improbable. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial justice adequately protected Mother's due process rights by ensuring that she was represented at all times; (2) the trial justice did not err when he found that DCYF made reasonable efforts to address the underlying issues leading to the termination of Mother's parental rights; and (3) the termination of Mother's parental rights was in the best interests of the children. View "In re Manuel P." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the family court denying Mother's motion to relocate with the parties' minor child and vacated the order granting Father's motion to modify child support, holding that the trial justice erred by failing to consider the circumstances concerning the child's needs or Father's ability to pay child support.The parties entered into a property settlement agreement, which was incorporated by reference but not merged into the final decree, that provided for joint custody of the child with physical placement to be with Mother. Father was ordered to pay child support in the amount of $1,471 per month. Mother later filed a motion to relocate with the child to New Jersey. Father objected and filed a motion to modify child support. The trial justice denied Mother's motion to relocate and granted Father's motion to modify. The Supreme Court held (1) the trial justice did not overlook or misconceive material evidence in denying Mother's motion to relocate; and (2) the trial justice's reasoning in granting Father's motion for child support was not proper. View "Andrade v. Andrade" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the family court entered in favor of Plaintiff granting her motion for relief after final judgment and ordering that Defendant comply with the terms of a previously entered consent order, holding that there was no error.When the parties in this case divorced they executed a property settlement agreement that was approved by the family court. Later, a consent order was entered reflecting an agreement between the parties that Defendant's child support obligations would be modified and that the adjustment was in consideration of Defendant agreeing to pay one-half of private and/or Catholic educational expenses, up to and including college. Plaintiff subsequently filed a complaint for relief after final judgment alleging that Defendant refused to pay what he owed for the child's tuition. The family court entered judgment for Plaintiff. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the family court properly exercised jurisdiction in both entering and enforcing the consent order; and (2) the trial justice properly ruled that Defendant breached his contract to pay for one-half of the child's private university tuition. View "Alessandro v. Caniglia" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decree of the family court terminating Mother's parental rights to her son, holding that Mother's arguments on appeal were unavailing.The trial justice found that was not in the child's best interest to be placed with Mother, that Mother was unfit, and that the child was thriving with foster parents who could offer him permanency. The trial justice then found that it was in the child's best interest that mother's parental rights be terminated. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the finding of unfitness was supported by clear and convincing, legally competent evidence; (2) the trial justice's finding that reasonable efforts were made to reunify Mother and the child was supported by legally competent evidence; and (3) the trial justice's finding that Mother's termination of parental rights was in the child's best interest was supported by legally competent evidence. View "In re Gelvin B." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the family court denying Defendant's motion seeking visitation with his minor daughter, whom he shared with Plaintiff, holding that the family court did not err or abuse its discretion.Upon Defendant's incarceration, Plaintiff filed a complaint for divorce. The family court entered a judgment of divorce awarding Plaintiff sole legal custody and physical placement of the parties' son and daughter and denying visitation rights to Plaintiff. Plaintiff later filed a motion seeking visits with his daughter at the Adult Correctional Institutions. The trial justice denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice did not err in denying Defendant's motion to modify visitation. View "Brooks v. Brooks" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the family court denying Plaintiff's motion to modify visitation and contact with the two children he shared with Defendant, holding that the family court did not err.In denying Plaintiff's motion, the trial justice found that there was "not a scintilla of evidence" in the record to show that it was in the children's best interests to see or communicate with Plaintiff while he was incarcerated. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the family court did not err or abuse his discretion in denying Plaintiff's request to restore visitation and mandate contact with the children where he found no evidence to indicate that it was in the children's best interests to have a relationship with Plaintiff while he was incarcerated. View "Murray v. Jones" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of the family court granting joint custody of the parties' minor child to Mother and Father, with physical placement awarded to Mother, and finding Mother in contempt of a prior visitation order, holding that there was no error.The trial justice issued a written decision and order awarding Mother and Father joint custody, with Mother having physical placement of the child and Father having unsupervised visitation. The trial justice later found Mother in contempt for failure to comply with a prior visitation order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice did not err in finding Mother in contempt and that Mother's remaining claims of error were unavailing. View "Harris v. Evans" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial justice in this case terminating Defendant's marriage to Plaintiff on the grounds of irreconcilable differences, holding that the trial court did not err.After a trial, the trial justice granted both Plaintiff's complaint and Defendant's counterclaim for divorce. The justice awarded the parties joint custody of the children and divided the marital property. Defendant appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial justice did not misconceive evidence and was not clearly wrong in reaching several of his findings; (2) the trial justice did not err in addressing the debts Defendant owed to his parents; and (3) the trial justice did not err in failing to accord Defendant any of the marital appreciation of Plaintiff's premarital accounts. View "Sullivan v. Sullivan" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decree of the family court terminating Father's parental rights to his daughter, holding that the family court did not abuse its discretion.After a termination trial, the trial justice terminated Father's parental rights to his daughter, concluding that Father was unfit to parent his child due to his failure to address his mental health and substance abuse issues and his refusal to attend counseling and that it was in the child's best interest that Father's parental rights be terminated. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice was not clearly wrong in concluding that Father was unfit as a parent and that there was no substantial probability that the child could be placed in Father's care within a reasonable period of time. View "In re Elana W." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the superior court revoking Appellant's pension benefits and denying his request for return of his retirement contributions paid into the Employees' Retirement System of the State of Rhode Island (ERSRI), holding that the superior court erred in part.The superior court revoked Appellant's pension benefits, denied his request for return of his retirement contributions paid to the ERSRI, and ordered that retirement payments made to his spouse be applied towards his restitution obligations. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment in part, holding that the trial justice (1) did not err in revoking Defendant's pension benefits; (2) did not err in declaring that Appellant's spouse was an innocent spouse and awarding pension payments; (3) erred in directing the spouse to pay her payments as an innocent spouse towards Defendant's restitution obligations; and (4) vacated the portion of the judgment declining to apply Appellant's pension contributions to his restitution obligations. View "Retirement Board of Employees' Retirement System of State of R.I. v. Randall" on Justia Law