Justia U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Family Law
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The case involves a Venezuelan couple, Carlos Cuenca Figueredo and Yauri Rojas, who had a son, C.R. After their separation and divorce, they shared custody of C.R. in Venezuela. However, Rojas took C.R. to the United States without Figueredo's knowledge or permission. Twenty months after Rojas left Venezuela with C.R., Figueredo filed a petition in the Middle District of Florida seeking his son’s return under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.The Middle District of Florida found that C.R. was settled in his new environment in the United States. The court considered factors such as C.R.'s stable residence, school attendance, community participation, and Rojas's employment and financial stability. The court also took into account C.R. and his mother's immigration status, noting that Rojas had been granted authorization to remain and work in the United States while her asylum application was pending. Consequently, the court denied Figueredo's petition for C.R.'s return.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision. The appellate court held that a child's immigration status is one relevant factor in determining whether a child is settled in a new environment. The court found that the district court did not err in finding that C.R. was settled in his new environment and did not abuse its discretion in refusing to order his return to Venezuela. View "Alberto Cuenca Figueredo v. Del Carmen Rojas" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the convictions of sisters Tierzah, Charis, and Elisa Mapson in connection with a shooting incident. The victims were Joshua Thornton, the father of Tierzah's daughter, and his wife. The government charged the sisters with interstate domestic violence, interstate stalking, discharging a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, and conspiracy to commit these offenses. The jury found that the shooting was part of a scheme by the sisters to kill Mr. Thornton over a child custody dispute.In their appeal, the sisters argued that the evidence was insufficient to support the jury’s verdicts. Charis also challenged the admission of testimony that she once owned a firearm, claiming it was prejudicial hearsay. Elisa and Charis contested the admissibility of data obtained from automated license plate readers (ALPRs), arguing that its acquisition constituted a warrantless search in violation of their Fourth Amendment rights.The court of appeals found sufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdicts. The court also rejected Charis's challenge to the hearsay evidence, ruling it was admissible as an admission by a party opponent. The court further concluded that the ALPR data was admissible because the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule applied, and its introduction did not require expert testimony. View "United States v. Mapson" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal is whether the district court abused its discretion when it applied the fugitive disentitlement doctrine to dismiss plaintiff's action against defendant, the father of her two daughters. In this case, plaintiff left the United States against the orders of a Florida family court and could be arrested by Florida officials if she were to return to Florida. Plaintiff filed suit attacking the proceedings of the family court while remaining outside its jurisdiction.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, concluding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by applying the fugitive disentitlement doctrine to dismiss plaintiff's lawsuit. The court explained that because plaintiff remains a fugitive, her lawsuit collaterally attacks the very proceedings from which she absconded, and dismissal prevents her from using the judicial process only when it benefits her. The court denied as moot the motion to dismiss the appeal, the motion to strike part of the reply brief, and the motion to strike the appendix to the reply brief. View "Vibe Ener v. Martin" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit denied a motion for a stay of a preliminary injunction that enjoins certain applications of a public health order issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Alabama. The public health order, published on March 27, 2020, mandated the postponement of all dental, medical, or surgical procedures. Plaintiffs, abortion providers in Alabama, sought a temporary restraining order (TRO) preventing enforcement of the public health order as applied to pre-viability abortions. After the district court issued a TRO, the state filed a motion to dissolve the TRO and included clarifications. The district court subsequently adopted the state's clarifications and issued an April 3rd order, staying the TRO in part. The state later changed its interpretation again. Based on the evidence presented at the preliminary injunction hearing, the district court determined that the medical restrictions, as read pursuant to the state's earlier interpretation, violate the Fourteenth Amendment.The court held that the state has not made a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits of its appeal or that it will be irreparably injured absent a stay. In this case, because of the state's shifting interpretations of the March 27th and April 3rd orders, the district court had ample authority to issue a preliminary injunction to preserve the status quo and prevent the state from reverting to its initial and more restrictive interpretations.The district court considered Jacobson v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Smith v. Avino, but read them together with cases holding that the Fourteenth Amendment generally protects a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy. Applying both the Jacobson framework and the Casey undue-burden test together, the district court concluded that the April 3rd order imposed a plain, palpable invasion of rights, yet had no real or substantial relation to the state's goals. The court held that the district court was permitted to reach this conclusion and to issue a status quo preliminary injunction to ensure that the state did not deviate from the Alabama State Health Officer's interpretation of the April 3rd order at the preliminary injunction hearing. View "Robinson v. Planned Parenthood Southeast Inc." on Justia Law

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Mother filed suit under the Hague Convention, seeking the return of her daughter from Florida back to Chile. The district court found that mother made a prima facie case that father hand wrongfully retained daughter, but that mother had consented to the retention and thus was not entitled to the daughter's return.The Eleventh Circuit vacated and remanded, holding that the district court made critical errors of fact and law in its order. The court held that none of the testimony that father did give could be interpreted as constituting a denial that he threatened mother. The court also held that the district court improperly, but expressly, shifted the burden back to mother on the consent issue. Therefore, the district court erroneously treated her allegation that she signed the consent letter as a result of father's threat as a formal allegation of "duress" that she had to prove by a preponderance of the evidence. View "Berenguela-Alvarado v. Castanos" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a petition under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, seeking return of father's child to Guatemala. The district court concluded that mother wrongfully retained her son in the United States and away from Guatemala, his place of habitual residence.The court affirmed and held that the district court correctly ruled that father was endowed the rights of custody under Article 5 of the Hague Convention pursuant to Article 253 of the Guatemalan Code. The court also held that the date consent was revoked constituted the date of wrongful retention. The court noted that the case for such a rule was even stronger where—as here—the custodial parent makes affirmative representations regarding the date of the child's return and then fails to act in accordance with them. View "Diaz Palencia v. Velasquez Perez" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a German citizen, sought the return of his children from the United States to Switzerland under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Respondent, a French citizen who moved with the children from Switzerland to Georgia, opposed the children's return.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the petition to return the children to Switzerland and held that, although petitioner established that the children's habitual residence at the time of removal was Switzerland, he failed to demonstrate that respondent's removal of the children violated his custody rights under Swiss law. In this case, the divorce judgment constituted a decision of the Swiss court and under the divorce judgment, respondent had the sole rights of custody as they pertained to determining whether to move the children to the United States. View "Pfeiffer v. Bachotet" on Justia Law

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In September 2017, Calixto filed a petition, seeking the return of his 5-year old daughter, M.A.Y., to Colombia, under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, as implemented by the International Child Abduction Remedies Act, 22 U.S.C. 9001. Calixto had signed a travel consent form allowing M.A.Y. to travel from Colombia to the U.S. with her mother, Lesmes, from November of 2015 until November of 2016. Calixto alleged that Lesmes had wrongfully retained M.A.Y. in the U.S. and away from Colombia, her country of habitual residence, beyond November of 2016. The district court denied the petition, finding that the parents had shared an intent to change M.A.Y.’s habitual residence from Colombia to the U.S. and that M.A.Y.’s habitual residence had subsequently become the U.S. through acclimatization. The district court did not address whether Calixto’s intent to change M.A.Y.’s habitual residence was conditioned upon his joining Lesmes and M.A.Y. in the U.S. or whether that intent was vitiated once Calixto was unable to come to the U.S. The Eleventh Circuit remanded, stating that the answers to those questions are critical and that shared intent is a factual determination. View "Calixto v. Lesmes" on Justia Law

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Based on Article 18 of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, a court can order the return of a wrongfully removed child who is settled in his new environment. The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court's denial of a petition for removal, holding that the district court abused its discretion by not ordering the children returned to Panama after the mother's second abduction of the children to the United States from Panama. The panel remanded to the district court to grant the petition and enter a judgment ordering the children returned to Panama so custody proceedings could continue. View "Jacinto Fernandez v. Bailey" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court ruling that the Alabama Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act “constitutes an undue burden on abortion access and is unconstitutional” and granting as-applied injunctive relief to Plaintiffs, holding that, under Supreme Court precedent, the Act is unconstitutional.At issue was a method of abortion referred to as dilation and evacuation, or dismemberment abortion, which involves tearing apart and extracting piece-by-piece from the uterus, at the fifteen to eighteen week stage of development, what was until then a living unborn child. The State sought to make the procedure more humane by enacting the Act, which required the one performing the abortion to kill the unborn child before ripping apart its body during the extraction. See Ala. Code 26-23G-2(3). Plaintiffs brought this complaint claiming that the Act was unconstitutional on its face. The district court ruled that the Act was unconstitutional because it would place substantial obstacles before women seeking pre-viability abortions. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed after applying the undue burden test, holding (1) the methods of fetal demise that the State proposed were not safe, effective, or available; and (2) neither the Act’s health exception nor its intent requirement saves the Act. View "West Alabama Women's Center v. Miller" on Justia Law