Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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W.A. appealed a district court order finding P.K. the father of V.G.A. and awarding P.K. and W.A. equal decision-making responsibility, P.K. primary residential responsibility, W.A. parenting time, and ordering W.A. to pay child support. W.A. argued the district court did not follow proper procedure in adjudicating primary residential responsibility to P.K. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "North Dakota, et al. v. P.K." on Justia Law

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This action concerned child support for the parties’ child, J.T.G. A Nevada court granted Vickie Lenard (aka Gooss) primary residential responsibility for J.T.G. The court awarded Jeffrey Gooss parenting time and required him to pay child support at $350.00 per month, which included $50.00 in child support arrears. In the event Lenard relocated from Nevada to Colorado, Gooss’s child support obligation would be waived, and he would only bear travel expenses for himself and J.T.G. However, Lenard never relocated to Colorado, but she did relocate on multiple occasions to several other states with J.T.G. North Dakota requested a modification of child support when Lenard moved to North Dakota in 2019. Gooss challenged the district court’s jurisdiction to modify the child support originally ordered by the Nevada court. Gooss argued travel expenses were part of the parenting plan, and North Dakota lacked jurisdiction to modify the child custody arrangement issued by another state under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”). Gooss also challenged the calculation of child support, argued imposing child support was inequitable, and claimed a deviation for travel expenses was necessary. The district court held a hearing on the motions where it heard testimony and considered evidence and ultimately modified the child support obligation. Finding the North Dakota trial court had jurisdiction to modify the obligation, and no other reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the modification. View "Gooss v. Gooss, et al." on Justia Law

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Cody Muscha appealed a domestic violence protection order, arguing he was provided with the wrong date for the hearing, therefore, he was deprived of his due process right to be heard. In affirming the district court's order, the North Dakota Supreme Court found that contrary to Muscha’s argument, the requirements of procedural due process were satisfied. Notice was provided to Muscha on January 8, 2020, well in advance of the January 16 hearing. The notice was reasonably calculated to inform him of a proceeding which had the potential to adversely affect his legal interests. Muscha’s failure to recognize the discrepancy between what he was allegedly told by the deputy and what the hearing notice stated, and his failure to appear at the hearing, could not be imputed to the district court, even assuming Muscha was provided with an incorrect date. Therefore, the district court did not err by issuing the permanent domestic violence protection order. View "Krolik v. Muscha" on Justia Law

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M.L.B. appealed a district court order denying her petition to terminate T.D.R.’s parental rights. M.L.B. and T.D.R. had one child together, C.A.R., born in 2015. In May 2018, M.L.B. petitioned for termination of T.D.R.’s parental rights, claiming T.D.R. had not seen C.A.R. since February 2017 and T.D.R. failed to pay child support except for one payment in January 2018. In a separate action, M.L.B.’s husband, A.G., petitioned to adopt C.A.R. After a September 2019 hearing, the district court found T.D.R. had not abandoned C.A.R. The court found T.D.R.’s lack of contact with C.A.R. was justified because T.D.R. relied on his counsel’s advice during the pendency of his criminal case. The court also found T.D.R.’s failure to financially support C.A.R. before a child support order was in place did not support an intent to abandon C.A.R. The court found a child support order was not in place until August 2017, after its entry T.D.R. maintained substantial compliance, and T.D.R. was current on his support payments at the time of the hearing. The court thus denied M.L.B.’s petition to terminate T.D.R.’s parental rights. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying M.L.B.’s petition to terminate T.D.R.’s parental rights. The court’s findings had support in the record, and it did not act in an arbitrary, unconscionable, or unreasonable manner in making its decision. View "Interest of C.A.R." on Justia Law

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Jeremy Hoffarth appealed an order denying his motion for relief from a divorce judgment and his subsequent motion to reconsider. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the appeal of his motion for relief from the judgment was untimely. The Court therefore affirmed the order denying his motion to reconsider because the district court did not abuse its discretion. View "Hoffarth v. Hoffarth" on Justia Law

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Sabrina Bickel appealed a second amended judgment modifying Matthew Bickel’s child support obligation, order for amended judgment, and order on her motion to compel discovery. She argued the district court erred by miscalculating child support, incorrectly setting the commencement date for the modification of child support, and failing to award her attorney’s fees. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court determined the district court did not "show its math" with respect to calculating the child support obligation. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Bickel v. Bickel" on Justia Law

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Tim O’Keeffe appealed district court orders denying his motion to terminate spousal support and awarding attorney’s fees to Kari O’Keeffe. Because the district court erred in concluding spousal support was rehabilitative rather than permanent, the North Dakota Supreme Court reversed the order denying Tim O’Keeffe’s motion to terminate spousal support. The Court affirmed the award of attorney’s fees. View "O'Keeffe v. O'Keeffe" on Justia Law

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Abbey Gifford appealed a judgment granting her and Brian Woelfel equal residential responsibility for their minor child and determining child support. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court erred by including an “automatic” change of custody provision that purported to modify the original residential responsibility decision without consideration of the child’s best interests at the time of a potential move. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Woelfel v. Gifford" on Justia Law

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Brandi Koffler appealed a second amended judgment modifying Beau Koffler’s child support obligation. She argued the district court erred by finding there was a material change in circumstances warranting a modification of child support. After review of the facts specific to this case, the North Dakota Supreme Court reversed and remanded, concluding the court’s finding of a material change in circumstances warranting modification of the child support obligation was clearly erroneous. View "Koffler v. Koffler" on Justia Law

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Alysha Instasi appealed a district court judgment dismissing her motion to amend a Washington child custody judgment for lack of jurisdiction. Instasi and Jeremy Hiebert had two children. In December 2015, a judgment was entered in Washington relating to residential responsibility, parenting time, and child support. In July 2018, Instasi moved to amend the Washington judgment in North Dakota district court. In an affidavit supporting the motion, Instasi stated that she and the children have been living in North Dakota since October 2015. The district court entered a default judgment after Hiebert failed to respond to Instasi’s motion. In June 2019, Hiebert moved to vacate the default judgment, arguing the North Dakota court lacked jurisdiction to decide Instasi’s motion to amend the Washington judgment. After a hearing, the court vacated the default judgment and dismissed Instasi’s motion. The court concluded it lacked jurisdiction to modify the initial child custody determination made in Washington. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed dismissal for lack of jurisdiction in North Dakota. View "Instasi v. Hiebert" on Justia Law