Justia Family Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Montana Supreme Court
Sayler v. Yan Sun
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgments of the district court adjudicating a parental interest and accompanying parenting plan regarding Father's minor child in favor of his non-parent ex-wife (Surrogate), holding that the district court erroneously made a child custody parenting plan determination involving a non-parent without the predicate parental interest implied as a condition precedent to imposition of a best interests-based parenting plan.Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the district court (1) correctly concluded that the preclusive terms of a gestational carrier agreement did not preclude Surrogate from later acquiring or establishing a parental interest and right to the extent independently authorized under Montana law; (2) did not err in finding and concluding that Father voluntarily signed the premarital agreement and that it ws thus a validly formed and enforceable contract; (3) did not erroneously reject Father’s assertion that the parent-child relationship provision was unenforceable as equitably unconscionable; and (4) erroneously adjudicated a non parent "parental interest" in favor of Surrogate without the required predicated finding of fact specified by Mont. Code Ann. 40-4-228(2)(a). View "Sayler v. Yan Sun" on Justia Law
In re R.K.
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court terminating Mother's parental rights to R.K., holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it terminated Mother's parental rights.After a termination hearing, the district court concluded that the Department of Public Health and Human Services, Child and Family Services Division met its burden of presenting clear and convincing evidence regarding all required elements for the termination of MOther's rights and that it was in R.K.'s best interests to terminate Mother's parental rights. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Mother's failure to complete her treatment plan and to maintain consistent vision with R.K. to reestablish a parent-child relationship supported the district court's judgment terminating Mother's parental rights. View "In re R.K." on Justia Law
In re Guardianship of L.R.T.S.
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting guardianship over L.S. and A.S. to David Sammons, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion.In granting guardianship, the district court concluded that L.S.'s and A.S.'s welfare and best interests would best be served if Sammons was appointed as their sole respective guardian. On appeal, Mother argued that the court incorrectly applied the "best interest" standards set forth by Mont. Code Ann. 40-4-212 and -291 and the standards set forth by Mont. Code Ann. 40-4-228 for appointing a temporary guardian. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no basis for the conclusion that the district court acted arbitrarily, without conscientious judgment, or in excess of the bounds of reason in appointing temporary guardianship of L.S. and A.S. to Sammons. View "In re Guardianship of L.R.T.S." on Justia Law
In re Estate of Williams
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting petitions made by Lorri Williams to formally probate the estate of Gerry Williams, her ex-husband, and to remove Vicki Hofedlt as personal representative of Gerry's estate, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion.Gerry and Lorri had two daughters, Brittany Williams and Vicki, during their marriage and later divorced. After Gerry died, Lorri paid for his funeral expenses. Vicki then filed an application for informal probate. Lorri filed a creditor's claim claiming funeral expenses and then filed a petition for formal probate asserting that the divorce decree was a testamentary instrument that needed to be probated along with Gerry's will. Lorri also filed a petition to remove Vicki as personal representative of Gerry's estate. The district court granted both petitions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Vicki was not entitled to relief on her claims of error. View "In re Estate of Williams" on Justia Law
In re L.R.J.
The Supreme Court reversed the determination of the district court that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) did not apply to this proceeding but declined Mother's request to order her three minor children's immediate return to her, holding that remand was required due to noncompliance issues.Grandparents filed a petition to establish parenting and custody of three minor children, alleging that a child-parent relationship as defined by Mont. Code Ann. 40-4-211(6), existed between the children and Grandparents and that Parents had engaged in conduct contrary to the parent-child relationship. Parents and Grandparents subsequently signed a stipulated parenting plan designating Grandparents as the sole guardians of the children. Mother later filed a notice that she was withdrawing her consent to the stipulated parenting plan pursuant to 25 U.S.C. 1913(b), part of ICWA, and a motion for immediate return of the children to her custody. The district court denied relief, ruling that ICWA does not apply to internal family disputes. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court failed to follow ICWA's procedural requirements and that remand was required for further proceedings. View "In re L.R.J." on Justia Law
In re U.A.C.
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Foster Parents' motion to intervene in an abuse of neglect proceeding, holding that abandonment must be alleged before a foster parent is allowed to intervene pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 41-3-422(9)(b).The Department of Public Health and Human Services removed two Indian children for physical neglect and placed them with Foster Parents for three years. The Department later submitted an Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children for the younger child to be placed with her grandmother in Virginia. Foster Parents opposed the placement and filed a motion to intervene. The district court denied intervention, concluding that Foster Parents as a matter of law did not have a right to intervene. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) because section 41-3-422(9)(b) precludes intervention in cases where the Department has not alleged abandonment, the district court did not err in denying Foster Parents' motion to intervene; and (2) Foster Parents were statutorily precluded from asserting a nonparent interest in the parent-child relationship while the proceedings remained pending. View "In re U.A.C." on Justia Law
In re Marriage of Frank
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the district court distributing the marital estate and calculating child support upon the dissolution of Wife's marriage from Husband, holding that while the district court committed some errors, Wife failed to demonstrate that a new trial was required.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the marital estate included Wife's interests in her family business and Husband's retirement earnings up to the date of the parties' dissolution; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion calculating child support; and (3) Wife did not demonstrate that the errors committed by the district court in this case were due to the district court's adoption of Husband's proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law such that they require a new trial. View "In re Marriage of Frank" on Justia Law
In re A.M.G.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating K.H.'s parental rights to her two children, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the conduct or condition rendering Mother unfit to parent was unlikely to change within a reasonable time.After a hearing, the district court granted the petitions filed by the Department of Public Health and Human Services, Child and Family Services Division to terminate K.H.'s parental rights to her children, finding that K.H. had failed the treatment plan and was unlikely to change in a reasonable amount of time. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by terminating Mother's parental right on the basis of its finding that K.H.'s conduct or condition rendering her unfit was unlikely to change within a reasonable time. View "In re A.M.G." on Justia Law
In re Parenting of L.D.C.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court affirming the judgment of the standing master amending the parties' parenting plan regarding their minor child, L.D.C., and the related standing master judgment denying Mother's subsequent motion to transfer jurisdiction to the Tribal Court of the Blackfeet Indian Tribe, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below.Mother and Father, members of the Blackfeet Indian Tribe, entered into a final parenting plan providing for them to co-equally parent L.D.C. The standing master later entered a written judgment amending the parties' parenting plan to place L.D.C. exclusively in Father's custody and care. Mother subsequently filed a state court motion for "transfer" of jurisdiction over the matter to the tribal court and a parallel child custody petition in the tribal court. The standing master denied both motions, and the district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) had jurisdiction to amend the prior parenting plan; and (2) properly amended the prior parenting plan. View "In re Parenting of L.D.C." on Justia Law
Miller v. Miller
In this marital dissolution proceeding, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court awarding child support and failing to award retroactive child support, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion.The district court awarded Wife permanent child support of $1,800 per month from Husband and declined Wife's request for retroactive child support. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err or abuse its discretion in categorizing Husband's income from his father as "gift income," resulting in the exclusion of that income from the court's child support calculation; and (2) did not abuse its discretion when it refused to award Wife retroactive child support. View "Miller v. Miller" on Justia Law