Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court

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The district court erred in treating Bryan Larson’s appeal of the justice court’s denial of his motion to dissolve a final order of protection as an appeal of the order of protection. After Shoshon Anderson and Bryan Larson were divorced, Anderson filed for a temporary order of protection. The justice court issued a final order of protection against Larson in 2015. The final order of protection expires in 2019. In 2017, Larson filed a motion to dissolve the final protection order. The justice court denied the motion. Larson appealed. The district court treated the appeal as an appeal of the order of protection itself and denied it as untimely. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred in denying Larson’s appeal as untimely because Larson sought to dissolve the final order of protection, not to appeal it. View "In re Marriage of Anderson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the district court terminating Father’s parental rights to his minor children, X.B. and I.B. On appeal, Father argued that the district court abused its discretion in determining that he did not successfully complete his treatment plan and in concluding that the conduct or condition rendering him unfit was unlikely to change within a reasonable time. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that Father failed successfully to complete an appropriate treatment plan and did not err in concluding that Father’s conduct or condition rendering him unfit to parent was unlikely to change within a reasonable amount of time. View "In re X.B." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court denying Petitioner’s request to review the Standing Master’s order denying Petitioner relief in this dissolution proceeding on the basis that Petitioner's objections to the order lacked specificity under Mont. Code Ann. 3-5-126(2). After Petitioner’s marriage was dissolved, Petitioner moved the district court to enforce the debts and liabilities provision incorporated into the parties’ dissolution decree. The Standing Master denied relief. Petitioner filed a notice of specific objections to the Standing Master’s order and a motion requesting that the district court review it. The district court denied the request, concluding that Petitioner’s objections to the order lacked specificity. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred in determining that Petitioner failed specifically to object to the Standing Master’s order under section 3-5-126(2). View "In re Marriage of Scrantom" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order terminating the parental rights of Mother and Father to their children, holding that the district court abused its discretion in admitting the parents’ respective drug test results at the termination hearing, but the error was harmless. At the termination hearing, the district court admitted each parent’s drug testing results through the children’s court appointed special advocate (CASA) worker. The district court subsequently terminated Mother’s and Father’s parental rights to their children, finding that the parents each failed to complete several aspects of their respective treatment plans. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, based on the plain language and legislative history of Mont. Code Ann. 41-3-112(4), the district court erred in admitting the parents’ drug test results at the hearing, but the error did not result in substantial prejudice to the parents and did not warrant reversal. View "In re I.M." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court denying Mother’s motion to amend parenting plan on the basis that Mother failed to establish a changed circumstance and granting Father’s motion for child support calculation and motion for attorney fees. The Court held (1) the district court erred in concluding that there was no change in circumstance pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 40-4-219(1) that would require a hearing, and this case must be remanded for a hearing and determination of whether amendment of the parenting plan was in the child’s best interests; (2) because reversal on the above issue was required, the court’s award to Father of attorneys’ fees and costs must be vacated; and (3) because this case had been remanded, it was appropriate to vacate the monthly child support calculated by the district court and remand for calculation of child support consistent with this opinion. View "In re Marriage of Schilling" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court terminating Mother’s parental rights to her minor child, L.D., holding that the court erred in proceeding with termination of parental rights in the absence of a conclusive tribal determination regarding L.D.’s status as an Indian child as defined in the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). In its order terminating Mother’s parental rights to L.D., the district court noted that the State and Mother agreed that ICWA did not apply because L.D. was not an Indian child as defined by the ICWA. The Supreme Court held that the district court abused its discretion in terminating Mother’s parental rights to L.D. without a conclusive tribal determination of tribal membership status and enrollment eligibility. The court remanded the case for a determination of whether L.D. was an Indian child based on a conclusive tribal determination of tribal membership and eligibility. View "In re L.D." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order terminating Mother’s parental rights to her son after holding a termination hearing. The Court held (1) based on the competent substantial evidence presented at the hearing, the district court did not clearly err in finding that Mother’s chemical dependence, which rendered her unfit to parent, was unlikely to change within a reasonable time; (2) Mother was not entitled to a new hearing on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel or plain error; and (3) the district court properly gave priority to the child’s best interests and did not abuse its discretion in ordering termination of Mother’s parental rights. View "In re J.E.L. III" on Justia Law

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The district court erred in awarding visitation, pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 40-4-228, to a minor child’s paternal grandparents over the mother’s objection without determining whether the mother was a fit parent. The Supreme Court held that the district court in this case erroneously applied section 40-4-228 to this case involving grandparent visitation, where Mont. Code Ann. 40-9-102 is the controlling statute. When determining whether to order grandparent visitation, a court must make a determination as to whether the objecting parent is a fit parent and and then grant visitation over a fit parent’s objection only if the court finds that contact with the grandparent would be in the best interest of the child and that the presumption in favor of the parent’s wishes has been rebutted. The Court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Schwarz v. Brockway" on Justia Law

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In this appeal from an action dissolving a long-term marriage, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court distributing the marital assets upon dissolution and awarding Wife maintenance of $3,000 per month for a period of twenty-four months. On appeal, Husband challenged the award of maintenance and the inclusion of his investment accounts in the calculation of the marital estate. The Supreme Court held (1) the district court’s award of maintenance was supported by substantial evidence and was not clearly erroneous; and (2) the district court’s equitable apportionment of the marital assets between the parties was supported by substantial evidence. View "In re Marriage of Hollamon" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order denying Daniel Orr’s motion to modify maintenance, which was incorporated into the parties’ divorce decree from a marital property settlement agreement. In denying the motion, the district court concluded that the agreement could not be modified absent a written agreement of the parties and, further, that Montana law precludes a district court from modifying maintenance when an agreement prohibits modification. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the maintenance provision was an inseparable part of the property distribution provided in the agreement and could not be separately modified by a court upon Daniel’s motion; and (2) enforcement of the parties’ agreement was not unconscionable. View "In re Marriage of Orr" on Justia Law