Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
by
Jason Stevenson appeals a district court judgment awarding Rhonda Biffert primary residential responsibility of the parties’ minor child. The judgment also ordered a sale of the parties’ house and ordered Stevenson to pay Biffert $13,000 for a loan and a vehicle. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the court’s award of primary residential responsibility to Biffert was not clearly erroneous. The Court determined the trial court’s findings had support in the record, and it was "not left with a definite and firm conviction a mistake has been made." View "Stevenson v. Biffert" on Justia Law

by
Kyle Vetter appealed from a district court judgment awarding primary residential responsibility of the parties’ minor daughter, B.L.V., to Michelle Vetter and dividing the parties’ assets and debts. On appeal, Kyle argued the district court erred in awarding primary residential responsibility to Michelle Vetter because its findings on factors c, d, and e under N.D.C.C. 14-09-06.2(1) were clearly erroneous and because the court’s findings on factor j should have been afforded greater weight. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Vetter v. Vetter" on Justia Law

by
Jill Carlson appealed a district court judgment awarding Royce Carlson primary residential responsibility and decision-making authority over daycare/afterschool provider decisions and non-emergency medical decisions of the parties’ minor children. Jill argue the district court’s findings on best interest factors a, b, d, e, f, h, j, k, and l under N.D.C.C. 14-09-06.2 were clearly erroneous. The North Dakota Supreme Court found the record in this case included evidence implicating the presence of domestic violence: "[t]he incident in which Royce shot a gun into the air during the squabble between Jill and J.R.C. and the testimony that Royce repeatedly used corporal punishment as a form of discipline is evidence that domestic violence may exist. The use of corporal punishment, however, does not alone establish evidence of domestic violence, but may be considered as evidence of domestic violence if excessive or unreasonable, or if it gives rise to the presumption under factor j." The Supreme Court remanded the case for further findings on whether a presumption of domestic violence applied. If not, the Court mandated an explanation of why evidence of domestic violence did not change its award of primary residential responsibility. In light of the Supreme Court's opinion, the district court also had to determine on remand whether its findings on factor j affected its findings on the other best interest factors and its decision awarding Royce primary residential responsibility and decisionmaking authority. Because the case was remanded for further findings, Jill's remaining arguments were not considered. View "Carlson v. Carlson" on Justia Law

by
Glenvin Albrecht (“Glen”) appealed judgment entered in favor of the Estate of Sharleen Albrecht (“Estate”) regarding certain assets in which he had an ownership interest. In February 2010, Glen sued Sharleen for divorce after nearly 50 years of marriage. Sharleen died on July 29, 2013, before a final divorce judgment was entered. The district court entered a final divorce judgment after her death, and the North Dakota Supreme Court reversed, holding Sharleen's death abated the divorce action. Sharleen had a will, and Sharleen and Glen's son, Mark Albrecht, was appointed personal representative of the Estate. In February 2017, the Estate petitioned for the return, partition, and sale of estate assets. The Estate alleged Sharleen owned a one-half interest in various farm machinery, equipment, and vehicles, which were in Glen's control. The Estate alleged a partition and sale of the assets was necessary to satisfy estate expenses. Glen objected to the petition, arguing Sharleen did not have an ownership interest in the assets. A trial was conducted in 2018, the result of which ended with judgment in favor of the estate. Glen argued on appeal that the district court erred by finding Sharleen had an interest in the assets at issue, and the court abused its discretion by allowing personal representative’s and attorney’s fees. Finding no reversible error or abuse of discretion, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Estate of Albrecht" on Justia Law

by
Blaine Konkel appealed an amended judgment entered after the district court denied his request to modify his parenting time with the child he has with Courtney Amb, and clarified the location of the parenting time exchanges. Konkel argued the district court erred by finding a material change in circumstances did not exist, and also by amending the parenting plan without finding a material change in circumstances. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Konkel v. Amb" on Justia Law

by
Matthew and SummerLee Thomas were married in 2008 and had two children, H.M.T. and C.M.T. In 2018, a divorce was initiated and following trial in February 2019, the district court issued a judgment, granting the parties joint residential responsibility of the children. Matthew appealed the judgment and argued the court erred in applying the best interest factors. Matthew argued factors (a) and (c) were not supported by the evidence. He also argued the court erred in applying factor (j) by not applying a pattern of domestic violence. He additionally argued the court erred by failing to include all of the stipulated parenting plan or make findings that the terms were not in the children’s best interests. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the court’s finding on factors (a) and (c), but remanded with instructions for the court to further specify its reasoning on factor (j) and to include the stipulated parenting plan or make findings that the terms were not in the best interests of the children. After the district court made amended findings and conclusions in accordance with the instructions, Matthew appealed again, arguing there were additional errors in the amended findings and conclusions. The Supreme Court affirmed, as modified, with instructions. View "Thomas v. Thomas" on Justia Law

by
Chris and Anna Cook were divorced in 2016 under the terms of a stipulated judgment which awarded Anna residential responsibility for their minor children and granted Chris parenting time subject to certain conditions. Chris was also ordered to pay child support. Three months after judgment was entered, Chris was found in contempt for failing to comply with provisions of the divorce judgment and was ordered to pay Anna's attorney fees and costs. During summer 2018, Anna petitioned the juvenile court to terminate Chris' parental rights, but voluntarily dismissed the petition. Continued disagreements between the parties ultimately resulted in competing motions to hold the other in contempt. Chris appealed the denial of his request to hold Anna in contempt of court for violating the parties’ divorce judgment. Because the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Cook v. Cook" on Justia Law

by
Warren Runyan appealed a judgment granting Heather Presswood’s request for divorce while reserving division of the parties’ property and allocation of the parties’ debt. Runyan argued the district court erred in granting the divorce because Presswood failed to file a brief in support of her motion and he was denied due process by the court’s failure to rule on his objection to Presswood’s motion. The North Dakota Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, concluding the judgment was not final and was not appealable. View "Presswood v. Runyan" on Justia Law

by
James Aldinger appeals from a second amended judgment modifying his child support obligation for the child he has with Marcella Aldinger. In October 2010 the amended judgment was entered, ordering James to pay $427 in child support for the child. On April 17, 2019, the State moved to modify James' child support obligation, requesting an increase to $748 per month. On April 26, 2019, James answered, and filed a second answer on May 1, 2019, moving to dismiss the motion, and contending his employment changed and the State disregarded the change. The distict court modified the support order, calculating the correct child support for James' income was $701 per month. A second amended judgment was entered. James argued to the North Dakota Supreme Court that the district court abused its discretion by failing to dismiss the State’s motion to modify when it determined that different income calculations were appropriate. He also argued the court did not have jurisdiction to modify the child support obligation because he no longer lived in North Dakota and the court erred as a matter of law by applying the North Dakota child support guidelines. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the second amended judgment. View "Aldinger v. Aldinger" on Justia Law

by
Kevin Johnson appeals from an amended judgment granting Julie Lessard a divorce and from orders denying his motions for a new trial and for contempt. Johnson and Lessard were married in 2006, and had three minor children together. Johnson argued the court’s property division was not equitable and the court did not explain the disparity in the division, and the court did not properly apply the best interest factors in deciding primary residential responsibility for the children. Johnson also moved to amend the judgment and to hold Lessard in contempt. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined the district court did not act in an arbitrary or unreasonable manner and did not misinterpret or misapply the law. Therefore, the Supreme Court concluded the court did not abuse its discretion by denying Johnson’s motion for contempt without holding an evidentiary hearing. The district court judgment was affirmed. View "Lessard v. Johnson" on Justia Law