Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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J.B. appealed a juvenile court order terminating her parental rights to her two children. She argued there was not evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to support the court’s determination under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) that continued custody by J.B. was likely to result in serious emotional or physical damage to the children. Retaining jurisdiction under N.D.R.App.P. 35(a)(3), the North Dakota Supreme Court remanded to the juvenile court for detailed findings under ICWA, allowing for additional testimony from the qualified expert witness if necessary to make the required findings. After receiving additional testimony, the district court made additional findings, denied the petition to terminate J.B.’s parental rights, and ordered the children be removed from J.B.’s custody for nine months. No party requested additional briefing or argument following the order on remand. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the juvenile court order. View "Interest of K.B." on Justia Law

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Tyson Lerfald appealed a district court order denying his motion to modify his child support obligation and the parenting time provisions of the amended judgment. Lerfald argued the district court erred by denying his motion to modify the parenting time provisions, contending the parenting time provisions required him to maintain a valid driver’s license and be solely responsible for parenting time transportation, which caused his parenting time to be contingent on having a valid driver’s license. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, concluding the court’s finding that Lerfald failed to establish a material change in circumstances was not clearly erroneous, and the court did not err in denying Lerfald’s motion. View "Lerfald v. Lerfald" on Justia Law

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Rebecca Benjamin appealed an order denying her motions for interim relief and to modify primary residential responsibility. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, concluding the district court did not err in determining Benjamin had not established a prima facie case warranting an evidentiary hearing. View "Klundt v. Benjamin" on Justia Law

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In July 2018, Leanne Hoff Bilger sued Joshua Bilger for legal separation. Bilger executed an admission of service, acknowledging he received the summons and complaint, settlement agreement and an exhibit relating to division of property and debts. The parties executed the settlement agreement which stated Bilger was a member of the armed forces. The district court issued an order for judgment, and the clerk of court entered a judgment granting the parties a legal separation. Joshua appealed a district court order denying his motion to dismiss and vacate the judgment for legal separation, arguing the court erred in finding the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act did not apply. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the Act applied; however, Bilger failed to invoke the protections of the Act. View "Bilger v. Bilger" on Justia Law

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Nicholas Froehlich appealed an amended judgment entered on September 7, 2018, and an interim order entered on August 25, 2020. Because the appeal of the amended judgment was untimely and the interim order was not an appealable order, the North Dakota Supreme Court dismissed the appeal. View "Froehlich v. Froehlich, et al." on Justia Law

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Jennifer Williams appealed a second amended divorce judgment, arguing the district court failed to make findings supporting its modification of parenting time. She also contended the court erred when it terminated a parenting coordinator, and the court violated her right to due process when it removed a specific provision of the judgment without a request from either party. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Williams v. Williams, et al." on Justia Law

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Ryan Scott appealed a district court order denying his motion to modify primary residential responsibility. Scott argued the district court erred by failing to find a material change in circumstances existed and failing to analyze the best interest factors. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Scott v. Scott" on Justia Law

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Justin Fisketjon appealed a judgment determining primary residential responsibility of the parties’ minor child and awarding child support. Fisketjon claimed the district court improperly included his roommate’s share of rent as income in its child support calculation. To this, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court erred as a matter of law. Fisketjon and his roommate had an equal obligation to pay their landlord the full amount of the rent under the terms of the lease. The rental obligation was money owed to the landlord; it was not money owed to Fisketjon. Thus, the roommate’s share of the rent was not a “payment . . . owed to an obligor” as required by the N.D.C.C. 14-09-09.10(9) definition of income. Finding no error with the residential responsibility portion of the district court judgment, the Sipreme Court affirmed that portion, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Eubanks v. Fisketjon, et al." on Justia Law

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J.B. appealed a juvenile court order terminating her parental rights. On appeal, J.B. argued that the district court erred in terminating her parental rights, because the qualified expert witness’s testimony did not satisfy the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The North Dakota Supreme Court remanded for additional, specific findings under the ICWA: "A qualified expert witness’s expressed preference to deny termination of parental rights does not preclude the court from making findings sufficient to satisfy ICWA and ordering termination." View "Interest of K.B." on Justia Law

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Amanda Johnshoy, now known as Amanda Fry, appealed a district court order denying her motion to modify primary residential responsibility. Fry and Zachary Johnshoy divorced in November 2014, and the court awarded Johnshoy with primary residential responsibility of the parties’ two minor children. Since the divorce, Johnshoy moved to a different city within North Dakota. Fry remarried following the divorce. In June 2020, Fry moved to modify primary residential responsibility and parenting time and requested an evidentiary hearing. Fry included two affidavits with the motion: her own and one from the parties’ elder child. The district court denied the motion to modify primary residential responsibility, concluding that Fry had not established a prima facie case warranting an evidentiary hearing. On appeal, Fry argued the district court erred in concluding that her affidavit and her child’s affidavit had not established a prima facie case warranting an evidentiary hearing. “[T]o establish a prima facie case that modification is necessary to serve the best interests of the children requires more than the improved circumstances of the party moving to modify primary residential responsibility.” The North Dakota Supreme Court found Fry’s affidavit did not provide facts showing how a change in circumstances affected the children. "Fry’s affidavit fails to show how a change in custody is necessary to serve the best interests of the children and thus fails to establish a prima facie case for modification of primary residential responsibility." Accordingly, judgment was affirmed. View "Johnshoy v. Johnshoy" on Justia Law