Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court

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Kathleen Varty appeals from an amended divorce judgment, arguing the district court erred in reducing Thomas Varty's spousal support obligation. "The evidence supports the facts recited by the district court. The court did not misapply the law. Therefore, the court's findings are not clearly erroneous," and the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the amended judgment reducing Thomas Varty's spousal support obligation. View "Varty v. Varty" on Justia Law

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Trina Iverson appealed a district court order finding a prima facie case for modification of primary residential responsibility had not been established with regard to the parties' two youngest children, G.I.H. and G.O.H. Iverson also claimed the district court erred when it denied her motion to amend the findings and order. Because the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded a prima facie case was been established for G.I.H. and G.O.H., it was unnecessary to determine if the district court erred when it denied Iverson's motion to amend the findings and order. The Court concluded Iverson established a prima facie case for modification of primary residential responsibility of G.I.H. and G.O.H. and was entitled to an evidentiary hearing. Therefore, it reversed the district court's order and remanded for further proceedings to determine if modification of primary residential responsibility for G.I.H. and G.O.H. was appropriate. View "Heidt v. Heidt" on Justia Law

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Charlotte Horst appealed a judgment establishing primary residential responsibility, child support and parenting time of two children. Horst claimed she was denied due process when the district court issued an emergency ex parte custody order and refused to appoint counsel. She also claimed imposing child support was unconstitutional, the district court erred in awarding Hagen primary residential responsibility, and the district court erred in ordering supervised parenting time until Horst completed parenting and anger management classes and establishes residential stability. The North Dakota Supreme Court summarily affirmed the judgment, finding the district court's findings on the best interest factors contained sufficient specificity to show the factual basis for its award of primary residential responsibility to Hagen and was not clearly erroneous. Further, the district court decision to condition parenting time on completion of classes and residential stability was supported by evidence of Horst's parenting deficiencies and was not clearly erroneous. View "Hagen v. Horst" on Justia Law

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Dustin Erman appealed a district court judgment awarding Trista Dick primary residential responsibility of the parties' minor child. A district court's award of primary residential responsibility is a finding of fact, which will not be reversed on appeal unless it is clearly erroneous. Absent a reason for denying it, some form of extended visitation with a fit non-custodial parent is routinely awarded. A district court's ruling on decision-making responsibility is a finding of fact, reviewed under the clearly erroneous standard. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgment as to primary residential responsibility and decision-making responsibility, but reversed with regard to extended parenting time and remanded for further proceedings. View "Dick v. Erman" on Justia Law

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Daniel Friesner appealed a district court divorce judgment awarding Angelina Friesner marital property, primary residential responsibility of the parties' minor children, spousal support, and attorney's fees. "A district court's choice for primary residential responsibility between two fit parents is a difficult one, and the Supreme Court will not retry the case or substitute its judgment for that of the district court when its decision is supported by the evidence." Permanent spousal support may be appropriate when there is a substantial income disparity between the spouses that cannot be remedied by property division or rehabilitative spousal support. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Friesner v. Friesner" on Justia Law

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Gaye Swanson appealed a judgment dividing marital property between her and her former husband, Roy Swanson. On appeal, Gaye Swanson contends the district court erred by inequitably dividing the marital estate, by not considering Roy Swanson's fault in the deterioration of the marriage and the parties' finances, and in finding that she, rather than her children, owned property included in the marital estate. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court's findings on division of property were not clearly erroneous and affirmed the judgment. View "Swanson v. Swanson" on Justia Law

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S.E.L. appealed dismissal of his action seeking to adjudicate the paternity of the child, J.J.M. The child was born to biological mother J.A.P. Shortly after the child's birth, J.A.P. and J.M. executed an acknowledgment of paternity, claiming J.M. was the child's father. S.E.L. filed a complaint challenging paternity, alleging the paternity acknowledgment was executed based on fraud and deceit, and requesting the court order genetic testing and declare he was the child's father. S.E.L. filed an affidavit in support of his complaint, stating he was in a sexual relationship with J.A.P. in Montana during the period of conception, J.A.P. moved to North Dakota after the child was conceived and entered into a relationship with J.M., J.A.P. never informed S.E.L. she was pregnant, and he learned about the child in the fall of 2015. He stated he attempted to establish paternity by filing paperwork with the Child Support Enforcement Division in Montana, but he learned that J.M. signed an acknowledgment of paternity in 2014. S.E.L. admitted it had been more than two years since the acknowledgment of paternity was signed, but he claimed the acknowledgment was based on fraud and deceit and should be declared void. S.E.L. also alleged the child had been removed from J.A.P. and J.M.'s care and placed in a foster home in February 2016, J.A.P. was to be released from jail in Nevada in August 2016, and J.M. was currently incarcerated in North Dakota. After a hearing, the district court ordered S.E.L.'s action be dismissed. The court found J.A.P. and J.M. were in default. The court held S.E.L. commenced the proceeding more than two years after the effective date of the paternity acknowledgment, challenges to an acknowledgment of paternity had to be commenced within two years after the effective date of the acknowledgment under N.D.C.C. 14-20-44(2), and S.E.L. was not permitted to challenge the acknowledgment because his action was untimely. The court ruled all other issues pending before the court were moot and required no further adjudication because the matter was dismissed. Judgment was entered. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed dismissal. View "S.E.L. v. J.A.P." on Justia Law

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Wayne Helbling appealed an amended judgment providing payment terms and security for his remaining obligations to Janet Helbling under their original divorce judgment. After review of that judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in concluding the parties had not modified the divorce settlement agreement and had not entered into an oral agreement to amend the judgment. Furthermore, the Court concluded the trial court did not err by failing to find Janet was estopped from demanding payment of the remaining balance and did not err in entering the amended judgment containing an amortization schedule to pay his remaining obligations over a ten-year period with interest. View "Helbling v. Helbling" on Justia Law

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Lee Cody appealed a divorce judgment that distributed the parties' property and debts. District courts have broad discretion in deciding evidentiary matters, including whether to admit telephonic testimony. Interlocutory orders generally are not appealable and may be revised or reconsidered any time before the final order or judgment is entered. Claims for ineffective assistance of counsel have not been extended to civil actions for divorce. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the trial court record supported the district court's denial of his request to appear telephonically at trial and the court did not err when it clarified its opinion before the final judgment. Furthermore, the Court concluded his issue claiming ineffective assistance of trial counsel was without merit because this type of claim did not extend to divorce actions. View "Cody v. Cody" on Justia Law

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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