Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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Daniel Raak appealed a district court order: (1) denying his post-judgment motion to redistribute property and request for an evidentiary hearing; and (2) finding him in contempt and from a third amended judgment modifying his child support obligation. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court dismissed as untimely Raak’s appeal of the order denying his motion to redistribute property and request for a hearing. The Supreme Court concluded the district court did not abuse its discretion by finding him in contempt, but erred in determining the parties’ child support obligations. The Supreme Court therefore reversed and remanded to the district court for further proceedings to recalculate child support based on the parties’ monthly net income, the number of children eligible for support and the child support guidelines. Because the Supreme Court remanded, the district court in its discretion could reopen the record to address the issues Raak raised on appeal regarding its child support determination. View "Jacobs-Raak v. Raak, et al." on Justia Law

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Samantha Schweitzer appealed a district court order dismissing her petition for a child custody order. Schweitzer and Blake Miller have one child together, born in Wisconsin in 2014. Schweitzer had primary custody of the child after the child’s birth. On January 6, 2017, Schweitzer and the child moved from Wisconsin to North Dakota. On January 13, 2017, Miller petitioned in Wisconsin for joint custody and parenting time. After an August 2018 hearing, the parties stipulated they would have joint custody of the child and Schweitzer would move to Madison, Wisconsin. The Wisconsin court entered an order on the basis of the parties’ stipulation. In January 2019, Schweitzer petitioned for an emergency child custody order and initial child custody determination or modification of child custody determination in North Dakota. Miller moved to dismiss the petition, arguing the district court did not have subject matter jurisdiction to decide Schweitzer’s petition. Miller claimed the Wisconsin court had jurisdiction to decide custody issues relating to the child. The North Dakota district court determined it lacked jurisdiction to decide Schweitzer's petition, and the North Dakota Supreme Court concurred with that judgment. View "Schweitzer v. Miller" on Justia Law

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Wendy Willprecht appealed and Kevin Willprecht cross-appealed a judgment granting the parties a divorce, distributing the marital estate, awarding primary residential responsibility for the parties’ children, and ordering child support. After review of the trial court record, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court’s property distribution was not clearly erroneous, but the court erred in calculating Kevin's child support obligation. View "Willprecht v. Willprecht" on Justia Law

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T.P.-G. appealed the termination of her parental rights. On appeal, T.P.-G. argued she was denied due process and the juvenile court erred by denying her request to appear by telephone. A petition for involuntary termination of parental rights to a child, A.P.D.S.P.-G., was filed in the juvenile court. After a trial date was set, the mother, T.P.-G, filed a request to appear by phone because she lived in Wisconsin. The court denied the request. At trial, counsel stated T.P.-G. wished to contest the termination, regardless of whether she was able to attend the trial. Counsel stated T.P.-G. regretted being unable to attend, but T.P.-G. was saving her money to travel to see A.P.D.S.P.-G. for his birthday. After trial, the juvenile court found A.P.D.S.P.-G. was a deprived and abandoned child and terminated T.P.-G.’s parental rights to the child. Finding no due process violation, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed termination. View "Interest of A.P.D.S.P.-G." on Justia Law

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Jason Martodam appealed an amended divorce judgment and an order denying his motions for contempt and to amend the amended judgment. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in entering the interim order, denying his ex parte motion, and denying his motions for sanctions. The Court concluded the court did not err in awarding primary residential responsibility to Crystal Martodam and did not abuse its discretion in not holding her in contempt and in excluding exhibits that he had offered. Furthermore, the Supreme Court concluded the court did not err in failing to order a parenting investigator and in calculating child support. The trial court erred in allowing the minor children to decide whether to have parenting time. The amended judgment was affirmed as modified, as was the subsequent order denying the motions. View "Martodam v. Martodam" on Justia Law

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Robert and Clare Messmer were married in 1984. During the marriage, Robert actively engaged in farming and ranching. Clare helped with the farming and ranching activities as well as working outside the home. Clare initiated divorce proceedings in 2016. A trial was held in May 2018, with a judgment entered in August 2018. Robert appeal the amended divorce judgment and order granting a new trial. He argued the district court erred in the inclusion of 320 acres of property in the marital estate, the valuation and distribution of the parties’ property, the denial of an award of spousal support, and the denial of an award of attorney fees. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s inclusion of the 320 acres in the marital estate, reversed the district court’s valuation of the 320 acres, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Messmer v. Messmer" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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