Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decree of dissolution issued by the district court, holding that the district court had jurisdiction to divide a portion of the proceeds from Shannon Moore's California personal injury lawsuit in the decree and did not err when it denied Kayle Jo Hardman's request for half of the proceeds from Shannon's California personal injury lawsuit. Kayle and Shannon married in California. Shannon was injured in California and filed a personal injury lawsuit. After living in Montana for 100 days, Kayle filed a petition for dissolution and served it on Shannon in California. The district court entered a decree. Thereafter, Shannon received a jury verdict in his personal injury lawsuit. Kayle sought to be awarded half of the proceeds of the lawsuit under the decree. The district court granted Kayle fifty percent of the proceeds from Shannon's personal injury lawsuit. The court later vacated its order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) had jurisdiction to divide a portion of the proceeds from Shannon's California personal lawsuit in the decree; and (2) correctly denied Kayle's request for half of the proceeds from Shannon's California personal injury lawsuit. View "In re Marriage of Moore" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's decree of dissolution of the marriage between Sonia Frank and Brian Frank, distributing marital assets, and awarding Sonia five years of spousal maintenance, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining the amount and duration of the maintenance award granted to Sonia. On appeal, Sonia argued that the district court failed properly to consider the relevant factors to a determination of maintenance under Mont. Code Ann. 40-4-203(2). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court employed conscientious judgment, did not act arbitrarily or outside the bounds of reason, and did not clearly err in its findings. View "In re Marriage of Frank" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Father's parental rights to Child, holding that Father was not denied due process and that his treatment plan was appropriate. In terminating Father's parental rights the district court determined that Father did not successfully complete his treatment plan and that the condition rendering him unfit, unable, or unwilling to parent was not likely to change within a reasonable time. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Father's due process rights were not violated when the district court terminated Father's parental rights; and (2) Father waived his right to appeal the appropriateness of the court-ordered treatment plan, and the district court's approval of the treatment plan did not constitute a manifest miscarriage of justice or compromise the integrity of the proceedings. View "In re B.J.J." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's award of prejudgment interest on a sum Pamela Fossen was directed to pay in a marriage dissolution action and the court's award of attorney fees incurred in a separate action to Allen Fossen, holding that the district court abused its discretion in admitting certain evidence to support the calculation of attorney fees and costs. Specifically, the Court held that the district court (1) erred in awarding Allen attorney fees under terms of the parties' dissolution settlement agreement for defending Pam's third-party complaint against Allen in a separate action; (2) did not abuse its discretion in admitting certain evidence to support the calculation of attorney fees and costs; and (3) erred in awarding prejudgment interest. The Court remanded the case for further proceedings to determine the amount of fees. View "In re Marriage of Fossen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court that denied Mother's motion to set aside her earlier conditional relinquishment of parental rights, terminated her parental rights, and granted permanent legal custody of her child to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, Child and Family Services Division, holding that the district court erred when it terminated Mother's parental rights based on the conditional relinquishment Mother executed in a prior proceeding. Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the district court violated Mother's due process rights when it terminated her parental rights based on the earlier conditional relinquishment because (1) neither condition in Mother's conditional relinquishment occurred before the court dismissed the first abuse and neglect case, and (2) Mother executed the conditional relinquishment as part of a previously-dismissed abuse and neglect case. View "In re K.B." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court terminating Mother’s parental rights to her child, S.C.L., holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that Mother did not overcome the presumption that termination was in S.C.L.’s interests or in terminating Mother’s parental rights to S.C.L. On appeal, Mother conceded that she did not comply with the approved treatment plan but argued that the conduct or condition rendering her unfit was likely to change without a reasonable time. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the district court’s consideration of Mother’s history and her inability to care for her older children did not violate Mont. R. Evid. 404(b); (2) overwhelming evidence supported the district court’s determination that the conduct or condition rendering Mother unfit, unwilling, or unable to parent was unlikely to change within a reasonable time; and (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion when it found that termination of Mother’s parental rights was in S.C.L.’s best interests. View "In re S.C.L." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Mother’s and Father’s parental rights to J.D., holding that although the district court abused its discretion by issuing a subpoena for privileged communication between Father and his therapist and by allowing certain cross-examination, the errors were harmless. At issue on appeal was whether the district court abused its discretion in granting a court appointed special advocate (CASA) a subpoena to review notes from Father’s therapist and in allowing the CASA to question witnesses at the termination of the parental rights hearing. The Supreme Court held that the district court did abuse its discretion as to these issues, but because the record supported the district court’s decision to terminate the parents’ parental rights without reference to the material that should have been excluded, the district court’s decision did not warrant reversal. View "In re J.D." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Mother’s parental rights to her two minor children for failure to comply with a reunification-oriented treatment plan, holding that the district court’s failure to properly determine whether the children were Indian children before terminating Mother’s parental rights was harmless. On appeal, Mother asserted that the district court abused its discretion by failing properly to confirm or dispel a reason to know that the children were Indian children as defined by the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, 25. U.S.C. 1901, et seq. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, in light of a subsequently and conclusive tribal determination that neither child was eligible for tribal enrollment, the district court’s abuse of discretion in failing to comply with 25 U.S.C. 1912(a) and 25 C.F.R. 23.107(b) and 23.108 was harmless. View "In re S.R." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Montana district court temporarily suspending a previously imposed parenting plan for L.G.B., a minor child, holding that the district court did not erroneously grant and maintain a temporary emergency order pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 40-4-220(2)(a)(ii) without an adequate showing and finding of changed circumstances under Mont. Code Ann. 40-4-219(1) and -220(1). Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the district court (1) did not erroneously modify the parties’ prior parenting plan without a sufficient finding of changed circumstances as required by section 40-4-219(1); (2) did not erroneously limit Mother to supervised visitation without making a sufficient finding under section 40-4-218(2); (3) did not erroneously fail to refer this matter to Family Court Services in violation of the then-governing local rule; and (4) did not abuse its discretion in precluding admission of a psychological evaluation report authored by a non-testifying mental health professional. View "In re Marriage of Bessette" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court affirming the order of the standing master denying Mother’s request to relocate with the parties’ child and ordering the parenting plan, which provided for the child to continue to reside on a primary basis in Montana, holding that the district court’s affirmation of the standing master’s decision was not in error. In a stipulated final parenting plan, both parents were given nearly equal parenting time. Mother subsequently filed a notice of intent to relocate, seeking to move to Boston with the child. Father objected, and a hearing was held before the standing master. The standing master denied Mother’s request to relocate, and the district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the standing master’s findings were supported by the evidence presented and were not clearly erroneous, and the district court did not err or abuse its discretion in affirming the standing master’s findings of fact and conclusions of law. View "Northcutt v. McLaughlin" on Justia Law