Justia South Dakota Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Family Law
Netter v. Netter
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court dismissing an out-of-state subpoena proceeding as moot, holding that the circuit court properly dismissed the proceedings. During a divorce proceeding in Connecticut between Donald Netter and Stephanie Netter, Stephanie served an out-of-state subpoena duces cecum on South Dakota Trust Company LLC (SDTC) seeking information from certain South Dakota trusts administered by SDTC. Stephanie later filed a motion for a protective order and scheduled a hearing with the South Dakota circuit court because the SDTC and Stephanie were unable to reach an agreement concerning the terms of a protective order for the information sought. SDTC requested additional protections. Before the hearing, Stephanie sought to withdraw the subpoena and the motion for protective order, indicating that the subpoena was no longer necessary. The circuit court allowed Stephanie to withdraw her motion for protective order and dismissed the action for lack of jurisdiction and on mootness grounds. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because the dispute relating to the out-of-state subpoena was the sole controversy before the circuit court and because Stephanie withdrew her subpoena, there was no longer a dispute before the circuit court, and the matter was moot. View "Netter v. Netter" on Justia Law
In re Cleopatra Cameron Gift Trust
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court concluding that the validity of a trust's spendthrift provision prohibiting direct payments of Cleopatra Cameron's child support obligation to her ex-husband, Christopher Pallanck, was recognized by South Dakota law, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion. Cleopatra was a beneficiary of a trust containing spendthrift provisions established by her father. When Christopher filed for divorce, the California family court joined the trust in the divorce action. The family court ordered direct payments from the trust to Christopher. Citing a particular feature of California trust law a California family court previously ordered direct payments of Cleopatra's child support obligation from the trust as part of the couple's divorce. After the situs of the trust was moved to South Dakota Cleopatra sought a declaration as to whether the trust was prohibited from making child support payments directly to Christopher. The circuit court concluded that the trust was prohibited from making child support payments directly to Christopher. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court was not required to submit to the California order compelling direct payments form the trust when the self-executing enforcement was prohibited by South Dakota law. View "In re Cleopatra Cameron Gift Trust" on Justia Law
Taylor v. Taylor
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court dividing marital property, awarding spousal support and attorney fees to Kathleen Taylor in the underlying action for divorce, and levying contempt orders against Bruce Taylor in the proceedings, holding that the spousal support awards and the award of attorney fees must be reversed and remanded. Specifically, the Court held (1) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in dividing the marital assets; (2) the court abused its discretion by failing to reconsider the interim support order and by maintaining the order until the court rendered its decision seven months after trial; (3) the circuit court did not err in finding Bruce in contempt of court; and (4) the circuit court's award of attorney fees to Kathleen was an abuse of discretion because the award was not based upon an itemized statement of fees provided by Kathleen. View "Taylor v. Taylor" on Justia Law
Shelstad v. Shelstad
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting Father's motion to modify custody to award him primary physical custody of the parties' minor children, holding that the record supported the court's decision to award primary physical and legal custody to Father. In 2014, the circuit court entered a judgment and decree of divorce based on irreconcilable differences. The judgment and decree incorporated the parties' stipulation providing that Mother would have primary physical custody of the parties' children. In 2016, Father filed a motion for primary physical custody of the children. The circuit court held that the best interest of the children would be served by modifying the judgment and decree of divorce to award primary physical and legal custody of the children to Father. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court (1) had subject matter jurisdiction to determine custody; (2) did not err in concluding that Father did not have a history of domestic abuse; (3) did not err in determining that Father overcame the presumption under S.D. Codified Laws 25-4-45.5; and (4) did not abuse its discretion in awarding primary physical custody to Father. View "Shelstad v. Shelstad" on Justia Law
In re Interest of E.T.
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court granting the Oglala Sioux Tribe's motion to transfer jurisdiction of an abuse and neglect proceeding to tribal court, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion when it granted the Tribe's motion to transfer without hearing the testimony of the child's physician. After the child in this case was born, the State alleged that the child was abused or neglected. At the outset of what was to have been the final disposition hearing, the Tribe orally moved to transfer the abuse and neglect case to tribal court. The circuit court ultimately granted the Tribe's motion to transfer. The child's counsel appealed, challenging the circuit court's order transferring jurisdiction to tribal court. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion when it granted the Tribe's motion to transfer without hearing the testimony of the child's physician, who was present in the courtroom. The Court remanded the case for further proceedings to determine the Tribe's motion for transfer anew. View "In re Interest of E.T." on Justia Law
Anderson v. South Dakota Retirement System
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court affirming the decision of the South Dakota Retirement System (SDRS) denying Debra Lee Anderson’s application for survivor spouse benefits under Deborah Cady’s retirement plan with the SDRS, holding that Anderson was not entitled to receive survivor benefits. Anderson and Cady both worked for the Rapid City Police Department. In 2012, Cady retired from the department. In 2015, Anderson and Cady married. In 2017, Cady died. Anderson applied for survivor spouse benefits, but the SDRS denied the application because Anderson and Cady were not married at the time of Cady’s retirement and because Anderson did not meet the definition of a “spouse” under S.D. Codified Laws 3-12-47(80). The South Dakota Officer of Hearing Examiners and circuit court both affirmed the SDRS. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under the relevant statutes, Anderson could not meet the definition of “spouse” and therefore was not entitled to Cady’s survivor benefits under South Dakota law; and (2) there was no discrimination on the basis of Anderson’s gender or sexual orientation. View "Anderson v. South Dakota Retirement System" on Justia Law
Andersen v. Andersen
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court dismissing this divorce action between Charlotte Anderson and Arthur Anderson, holding that the circuit court did not err in concluding that Arthur’s death deprived it of jurisdiction to act. After Charlotte brought this action, the parties informed the court that all issues associated with the divorce had been stipulated to. As relevant to this appeal, the parties agreed that the judgment and decree of divorce would be entered nunc pro tunc to March 1, 2018 and apply retroactively to December 31, 2017. The stipulation was read into the record, and the court orally bound the parties to the stipulation, but before the decree was entered, Arthur died. The circuit court dismissed the divorce action, concluding that it lacked jurisdiction to enter a decree of divorce because Arthur’s death had dissolved the marriage. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Arthur’s death abated the jurisdiction of the circuit court to enter a nunc pro tunc decree. View "Andersen v. Andersen" on Justia Law
Green v. Green
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court in this appeal from a judgment and decree of divorce, holding that the court did not abuse its discretion in awarding attorney fees, calculating child support, and dividing property. Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the circuit court (1) did not abuse its discretion in awarding attorney fees to Wife; (2) did not err in calculating child support and awarding adoption subsidies to Wife; (3) did not abuse its discretion dividing the credit card debts of the parties and requiring Husband to pay a cash property settlement; and (4) did not abuse its discretion in requiring Husband to pay any judgments against him not covered by the sale of the marital home within one year from the date of the judgment and decree of divorce. View "Green v. Green" on Justia Law
In re Guardianship & Conservatorship of I.L.J.E.
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court granting Mother's brother and sister-in-law’s petition for guardianship of Father’s child, holding that that, considering all the evidence in the record, the circuit court did not clearly err or abuse its discretion in granting the guardianship to the child’s maternal aunt and uncle. The child’s mother in this case was killed by Father was the child was in the custody and care of the mother’s brother and sister-in-law. The maternal aunt and uncle petitioned for guardianship of the child, and Father opposed the petition, requesting that his sister by appointed the child’s guardian. The circuit court overruled Father’s objection and granted the petition for guardianship. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in granting the maternal aunt and uncle’s petition for guardianship. View "In re Guardianship & Conservatorship of I.L.J.E." on Justia Law
In re Interest of M.D.
The Supreme Court affirmed the dispositional order terminating Father’s parental rights of his four-year-old son (Child) in this Indian Child Welfare Act case, holding that there was no trial court error in terminating Father’s parental rights. In terminating Father’s parental rights, the trial court found that Father failed to act as a caregiver to Child and that his and Mother’s continued custody of Child would likely resolution in serious emotional or physical damage to them. In addition, the court concluded that active efforts were made to prevent the breakup of the family but were unsuccessful and that termination of all parental rights was the least restrictive alternative in the children’s best interests. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Father's argument that the South Dakota Department of Social Services failed to make active efforts to prevent the breakup of his Indian family was without merit; and (2) therefore, the trial court properly terminated Father’s parental rights. View "In re Interest of M.D." on Justia Law