Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court

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Shane Martin appealed an order denying his N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b) motion for relief from default judgment. Martin was the biological father of Cheri Poitra's child, I.R.P. Martin and Poitra were unmarried tribal members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. In August 2017, Poitra began receiving services from Bismarck Regional Child Support Unit (BRCSU). The State sought to establish a child support obligation from Martin and served him with a summons and complaint. Martin completed a financial affidavit and returned it to BRCSU on October 8, 2017, but did not file an answer or other responsive pleading. On November 7, 2017, the State filed a N.D.R.Ct. 3.2 motion for default judgment. More than 21 days had passed since Martin was served and he had appeared but had not filed an answer or other responsive pleading. On November 17, 2017, Martin filed a notice of special appearance. The notice of special appearance did not contain an accompanying affidavit, motion, request for action, or response to the allegations. Instead, the notice stated only that Martin's attorney was entering a special appearance to contest "both subject matter and personal jurisdiction." Included with the notice was a copy of a summons and a petition for custody filed by Martin with the Turtle Mountain Tribal Court on November 16, 2017. A hearing on the "notice of special appearance" was held January 2018. During the hearing, the district court stated numerous times that the notice was not a motion on which the court could act and instructed Martin to file a motion. In February, 2018, the district court entered its findings of fact, conclusions of law, and order for judgment finding Martin in default. Judgment was entered February 21, 2018. Martin argues that his return of the financial affidavit and filing of a notice of special appearance was sufficient to preclude a default judgment under N.D.R.Civ.P. 55(a) and thus the district court erred in denying his Rule 60(b) motion. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed: the district court did not err in denying a Rule 60(b) motion for relief from judgment where Martin was properly provided notice and served with the motion for default judgment. View "North Dakota v. Martin" on Justia Law

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Dalyn Vollrath appealed a district court order requiring him to pay Pembina County, North Dakota $5,000 for guardian ad litem fees. Because the order was issued after the conviction was final and the issue was not preserved, the North Dakota Supreme Court found the district court lacked jurisdiction to amend the sentence. The Court, therefore, vacated the order requiring payment of guardian ad litem fees. View "North Dakota v. Vollrath" on Justia Law

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Trevor Rustad appealed the district court's judgment granting primary residential responsibility of his two children to their mother, Mary Baumgartner, and setting a parenting time plan for Rustad. He argued the district court's judgment was clearly erroneous because the court did not include in its analysis or findings evidence that was beneficial to him or detrimental to Baumgartner. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the judgment granting primary residential responsibility to Baumgartner but reversed the parenting time plan and remanded for further proceedings. “Rather than the findings of risk to physical or emotional harm to the child that may justify such restrictive parenting time, it appears the district court has affirmatively found the absence of such risks. Thus, we are left with a definite and firm conviction a mistake has been made, and conclude the district court's order regarding parenting time is clearly erroneous.” View "Rustad v. Baumgartner" on Justia Law

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Chad Schultz appealed a final judgment and decree of divorce entered on January 17, 2018 dissolving his marriage to Kelli Schultz. Chad and Kelli were married in September 2008 following a one and one-half- year period of cohabitation. In February 2016, after approximately seven and one-half years of marriage, the parties separated and Chad moved out of the marital home. Chad appealed the district court's valuation of marital assets and the allocation of the marital estate. The parties agreed that Chad would receive the farmland in the property distribution, but disagreed whether a reciprocal value should be allocated to Kelli. Chad argued that when considering the length of the marriage and that he inherited the property prior to marriage, the property should be allocated to him without a reciprocal allocation of value to Kelli. Kelli requested an equal division of the farmland's value through post-judgment payments to her from Chad. The district court's property division allocated a reciprocal value to Kelli and ordered a series of post- judgment equalization payments from Chad to Kelli. The post-judgment payments included an interest rate of 4%.The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, finding no reversible error. “There is no bright-line rule to distinguish between short and long-term marriages.” When a distribution of property includes periodic cash payments from one spouse to another, a district court has broad authority to provide for the payment of interest in order to achieve an equitable distribution of the property. View "Schultz v. Schultz" on Justia Law

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Brittany Green appealed a district court's order denying her motion to relocate with the parties' minor child and granting Scott Swiers' motion to modify parenting time. Green argued the district court erred in denying the motion to relocate because it did not properly analyze and weigh the Stout-Hawkinson factors. Green also argued the district court erred in finding a material change in circumstance sufficient to justify modification of parenting time. Finding no such errors, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Green v. Swiers" on Justia Law

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A.E., the mother of A.L.E., appealed a judgment terminating her parental rights. The record revealed that A.E. has struggled with substance abuse before and after A.L.E.'s birth. Her substance abuse resulted in multiple periods of incarceration. Her substance abuse required, at the time of the hearing, that A.L.E. be in foster care and in the custody of Social Services for 707 days of the days since her birth in 2015. A.E.'s drug usage has also adversely affected A.L.E.'s health. A.L.E.’s father did not participate in the termination proceedings and did not appeal termination of his parental rights. A.E., however, challenged the juvenile court’s determination that A.L.E. was deprived and that the causes of deprivation were likely to continue. Furthermore, she argued reasonable efforts were not made to reunify her with A.L.E. Because the juvenile court correctly applied the law, the record contains evidence to support the juvenile court's decision, and it was not left with a definite and firm conviction a mistake has been made, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Interest of A.L.E." on Justia Law

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C.S. appealed a district court's order terminating his parental rights to A.S. and Z.S. C.S. argued the district court erred in finding he abandoned the children and finding the causes of deprivation were likely to continue. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, concluding the district court did not clearly err in finding the causes of deprivation were likely to continue. View "Adoption of A.S. and Z.S." on Justia Law

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James Nolan appealed an order holding him in contempt and requiring that he reimburse Heather Upton for parenting time travel expenses and pay her attorney fees. Upton and Nolan, both members of the United States Air Force, were divorced in Maryland in 2010. Nolan was awarded "primary physical custody" of the couple's child and Upton was awarded shared custody of the child based on two schedules depending on whether the parties resided less than or more than 50 miles apart. Under the parties' court-approved parenting agreement, if the parties resided more than 50 miles apart Upton was allowed physical custody of the child during the summer, winter and spring school breaks, with the parties equally sharing all travel expenses. In May 2017 Upton was stationed in Kyrgyzstan, and Nolan was stationed in North Dakota. Upton registered the Maryland divorce orders in North Dakota and moved to hold Nolan in contempt for violating the parties' parenting plan. Following a hearing, the district court found Nolan in contempt for frustrating parenting time and communication between Upton and the child, failing to reimburse Upton for travel expenses, and failing to properly communicate with Upton. The court declared that "communication between the parties is not restricted to the OFW [Our Family Wizard] site." The court ordered Nolan to reimburse Upton for his share of travel expenses and to pay $1,000 for her attorney fees. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in amending the parties' divorce judgment and in ordering Nolan to reimburse Upton for his share of parenting time travel expenses. Furthermore, the Court concluded the trial court did not abuse its discretion in holding Nolan in contempt and in awarding Upton attorney fees. View "Upton v. Nolan" on Justia Law

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Joshua Rose appealed a district court order denying his motion to reinstate his driver's license. Because the district court was without subject matter jurisdiction to review the Minot Regional Child Support Unit's decision to suspend Rose's license, the North Dakota Supreme Court vacated the orders relating to his suspension. View "North Dakota v. Rose" on Justia Law

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Tamra Knudson appealed a judgment that granted her a divorce from Mark Knudson, but denied her request for spousal support, and ordered her to pay child support. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court's decision denying Tamra Knudson's request for rehabilitative spousal support was not clearly erroneous and the court did not misapply the law in calculating her child support obligation. View "Knudson v. Knudson" on Justia Law