Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court

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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

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Mother’s parental rights to her two children. The Department of Public Health and Human Services, Child and Family Services Division (DPHHS) filed a petition to terminate Mother’s parental rights based on her failure to complete her second treatment plan. That same day, Mother notified DPHHS that she wanted to relinquish her parental rights. Mother then signed an affidavit waiving all her parental rights and relinquishing her children for adoption. Thereafter, Mother moved to revoke her relinquishment of parental rights. The district court denied the motion. Based on the relinquishment, the district court terminated Mother’s parental rights. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err by denying Mother’s motion to set aside her relinquishment of parental rights where Mother’s relinquishment was not obtained by duress. View "In re N.R.A." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court terminating Mother’s parental rights to her minor child. During the termination hearing, the Department of Public Health and Human Services moved for admission of a psychological evaluation of Mother performed as part of Mother’s treatment plan. Mother objected to the evolution’s admission on grounds that it was inadmissible hearsay. The district court admitted the psychological evaluation as a business record and limited its use to the recommendations made therein. Mother appealed, arguing that the district court erred in admitting the psychological evaluation into evidence. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that a psychological evaluation of a parent ordered by a court during an abuse and neglect proceeding may be used by the court throughout an abuse and neglect proceeding, and the court may consider any part of the evaluation for purposes of disposition of the case. View "In re M.C." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the summary dismissal of Mother’s petition to modify the parenting plan for her two sons with Father, holding that the district court did not err by dismissing the petition without conducting a hearing. In her petition to modify the parenting plan, Mother noted the children’s ages and their desire to live primarily with her. Father moved to dismiss the motion on the ground that it failed to demonstrate changed circumstances necessary for a hearing. The standing master summarily denied the motion. The district court affirmed, concluding that Mother failed to meet the threshold showing for a hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court correctly concluded that the standing master’s decision dismissing the petition was legally correct as failing to demonstrate a change in circumstances. View "In re Parenting of R.J.N." on Justia Law

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In this action dissolving the marriage between Donald and Sandra Broesder, the district court erred by failing to consider the tax consequences of the distribution of the marital estate, resulting in an inequitable distribution. The district court had affirmed and adopted the standing master’s findings of fact, conclusions of law, and decree of dissolution. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that the standing master erred as a matter of law by failing to consider the tax consequences of the likely result that certain marital property would be sold to satisfy the judgment, and the district court erred in adopting this conclusion. View "In re Marriage of Broesder" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the jury court convicting Defendant of abuse or exploitation of an older person for whom Defendant was appointed a guardian and a conservator in a separate case. The court held (1) Defendant was not entitled to a hearing on his request to disqualify the presiding trial judge because the judge entered orders against Defendant’s interest in the guardianship and conservatorship case; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion when it allowed the State to present certain documents and witness testimony that the prosecutor disclosed shortly before trial; and (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion when it determined that alleged juror misconduct did not warrant a new trial. View "State v. Strang" on Justia Law

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This contempt proceeding arose from the failure of Petitioner, the birth father’s counsel in a youth in need of care proceeding, to appear at a termination of parental rights hearing before the Honorable Gregory G. Pinski. After Judge Pinski issued the order of contempt, Petitioner filed a petition for writ of review, arguing that the contempt hearing was criminal in nature and that she was not afforded due process. The Supreme Court denied Petitioner’s petition for a writ of review, holding (1) the district court had jurisdiction of these contempt proceedings pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 3-1-511; and (2) substantial evidence supported the order of contempt. View "Cross Guns v. Eighth Judicial District Court" on Justia Law

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Mother appealed an amended parenting plan issued by the district court, arguing that it was contrary to the best interests of her child and that the court failed to make sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law. The district court found that it was “in the best interest of the child to spend Fall and Spring in school in Columbia Falls and Summer in Missoula.” The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the district court’s order contained insufficient findings of fact related to the child’s best interest, and the findings it did contain were clearly erroneous; and (2) the district court abused its discretion in amending the parenting plan. View "In re Parenting of G.M.O." on Justia Law

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After a hearing, the district court terminated the parental rights of Mother to her two children, C.B.D. and P.M.P. Mother appealed this order only as it pertained to the P.M.P.’s placement, not the termination of her parental rights. Specifically, Mother argued that the Department of Health and Human Services violated her due process rights when the child was moved into the home of R.W. and J.A. without affording her ten days of notice and an opportunity to participate, as required by the Indian Child Welfare Act. The Supreme court affirmed, holding that Mother lacked standing in the matter because she failed to show an injury to her civil or property rights or that her injury would be alleviated by successfully maintaining her action. View "In re C.B.D." on Justia Law

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The marriage of Darin and Deborah Brockington was dissolved in 2007. In 2008, an order establishing parenting plan was entered providing that the parties’ child would reside primarily with Deborah and that Darin would have parenting time both in Montana and his place of residence. In 2014, Deborah filed a motion to amend the 2008 parenting plan based on the child’s desire to stay in Montana over the summers. The district court amended the parenting plan and ordered that Darin was to have parenting time in Virginia, his place of residence, with the child during the month of July for the next three years. When the child did not travel to Virginia, Darin filed a motion for show cause and for contempt against Deborah. The court held Deborah in contempt and assessed costs and attorney’s fees for the contempt proceedings against her. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the district court’s order amending the parenting plan, holding that the court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the amended parenting plan was in the child’s best interests; and (2) dismissed, without prejudice, Deborah’s appeal of the contempt order, holding that the order was not a final judgment because it lacked the court’s decision regarding the amount of attorney’s fees and costs. View "In re Marriage of Brockington" on Justia Law