Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court

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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

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Michael Estes and Beverly Sue Estes were married in 2002. In 2015, Michael filed for dissolution. The next year, the district court issued its findings of fact, conclusions of law, and decree of dissolution. The decree divided the parties’ marital estate and and denied Michael maintenance. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion (1) by excluding premarital property from the marital estate; (2) in apportioning the marital estate; (3) when it denied Michael’s request for maintenance; and (4) when it declined to award Michael attorney fees. View "In re Marriage of Estes" on Justia Law

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Lloyd filed a petition requesting that he be appointed guardian of M.D., his mother, due to her inability to manage her own affairs. Robert and Doug, Lloyd’s brothers, opposed Lloyd’s petition and asked the court to appoint Robert as guardian for M.D. The district court found M.D. to be an incapacitated person and in need of a full guardian. The court then exercised its discretion to determine that Lloyd was best qualified to serve as M.D.’s guardian. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s appointment of Lloyd as full guardian for M.D., holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in appointing Lloyd, rather than Robert, as full guardian for M.D. View "In re Estate of M.D." on Justia Law

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Shortly after giving birth to Child, Child’s mother signed an affidavit relinquishing her parental rights and consenting to Child’s adoption by Appellants. Mother was living in Havre and Child was living with Appellants in Illinois when Appellants filed a petition in the Montana Twelfth Judicial District Court in Hill County to formally terminate Mother’s parental rights and ultimately adopt Child. The district court dismissed the petition for lack of venue jurisdiction. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the adoption statute did not deprive the district court of jurisdiction to consider Appellants’ petition to adopt Child and that Hill county was the proper venue to hear Appellants’ petition. View "In re Adoption of C.J.L." on Justia Law

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Following a trial of the marriage dissolution proceeding between Wife and Husband, a standing master issued a report with a decree of dissolution. The master awarded Wife the family home, required Husband to pay Wife back temporary family support, required Husband to pay over $2,000 per month in child support, and awarded Wife attorney’s fees. The master also gave Wife primary residential custody of the children. Husband filed a motion for review of the standing master’s report. The district court denied the motion, concluding that Father’s objections lacked the specificity required by statute. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court properly found that Husband failed to specifically object to the master’s report as required by Mont. Code Ann. 3-5-126(2). View "In re Marriage of Taylor" on Justia Law

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This appeal was part of an ongoing parenting and child support proceeding that has been before the district court for more than a decade. Mother and Father had a child together. In 2014, Mother and Father entered into the current parenting plan assigning primary physical custody of the child to Mother. The plan provided that child support shall be paid as ordered by the Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED). After Mother petitioned CSED for recalculation of the child support obligation between the parties, CSED issued a final order eliminating Mother’s monthly support obligation and imposing a $679 monthly support obligation on Father. In 2015, Father moved for judicial modification of the CSED order, alleging that he lacked sufficient resources to pay $679 per month and requesting a reduction to $200 per month. The district court granted relief, concluding that Father’s change in circumstances gave justifiable reason to vary from the CSED guidelines. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, while Father’s previous child support was correctly calculated under the CSED guidelines, there was sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the CSED-determined obligation would be unjust or inappropriate. View "Myrick v. Skolrud" on Justia Law

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Child was adjudicated a youth in need of care. Temporary legal custody was granted to the Department of Public Health and Human Services, Child and Family Services Division, and Child was placed with Jared and Cindy Watson. Patrick and Corinne Gilbert, who had custody of two of Child’s biological half-siblings, intervened in the case. The district court subsequently terminated Mother’s and any and all putative fathers’ parental rights and granted permanent legal custody to the Department. After a placement hearing, the district court concluded that it was in Child’s best interests to remain in her current placement with the Watsons for adoption. The Gilberts appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err approving the Department’s placement of Child with the Watsons. View "In re B.W.S." on Justia Law