Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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Trenton Albertson appealed the issuance of a disorderly conduct restraining order that directed he have no contact with Hattie Albertson and C.W.A., the couple's child, for a one-year period. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Trenton's request for a continuance. Because the district court did not make findings of fact to explain the factual basis for granting the disorderly conduct restraining order, the Supreme Court retained jurisdiction under N.D.R.App.P. 35(a)(3)(B) and remanded with instructions for the court to make sufficient findings to enable the Court's review of the disorderly conduct restraining order. View "Albertson v. Albertson" on Justia Law

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Payton Small appealed from a judgment awarding Tess Hillestad primary residential responsibility of the parties’ minor child. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court’s decision awarding primary residential responsibility to Hillestad, setting a parenting time holiday schedule, and granting Hillestad tie-breaking authority was not clearly erroneous. View "Hillestad v. Small" on Justia Law

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Mark Rath appealed a district court order denying Kayla Jones’ petition for a disorderly conduct restraining order. Rath lacked standing to appeal the favorable order because he prevailed in the district court. Rath also raised unappealable issues concerning an interlocutory order and motions that he as a vexatious litigant did not have court authorization to file. None of the issues Rath raised were properly before the North Dakota Supreme Court, so the appeal was dismissed. View "Jones v. Rath" on Justia Law

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Jason Sayler appealed an amended judgment entered after a bench trial on the issue of parental responsibility. He argued the district court’s award of primary residential responsibility to Mari Sayler in Minnesota was procedurally improper because: (1) she did not make a motion to relocate the children to Minnesota; (2) the court erred by failing to apply the Stout-Hawkinson factors; and (3) the court erred by considering circumstances created by the interim order. He further argued the court’s findings on the best interest factors and decision-making authority were clearly erroneous. Finally, he argued the court abused its discretion by awarding attorney’s fees. Finding only that the district court did not make sufficient findings to support its award of attorney’s fees, the North Dakota Supreme Court reversed the court’s award of attorney’s fees and remanded for the court to make further findings on its award of attorney’s fees. The Supreme Court affirmed the parts of the amended judgment awarding primary responsibility and decision-making authority. View "Sayler v. Sayler" on Justia Law

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S.L.S., biological mother of D.M.H., appeals from an order reappointing J.H.T. and L.H.T. as D.M.H’s guardians and adopting a prior visitation schedule as the current visitation schedule. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed: S.L.S. did not cite any statute or case requiring that a visitation schedule be updated or changed at a specific time. "Nor has she cited us to any law prohibiting a juvenile court from adopting a prior visitation schedule. Absent such a law and absent any argument a different visitation schedule would be beneficial to D.M.H., the court did not err by adopting the prior visitation schedule." View "Interest of D.M.H." on Justia Law

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Tyler Vetter appealed a fifth amended judgment entered after the district court denied his motion to hold Amy Salter in contempt and, on its own motion, invoked N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(a) to modify a fourth amended judgment. The district court entered a judgment requiring Vetter to pay Salter child support. The judgment was amended various times (for reasons not relevant to this appeal). In a separate action, the court ordered primary residential responsibility changed from Salter to Vetter. The court subsequently entered a fourth amended judgment requiring Salter to reimburse Vetter child support amounts he paid. Two days after the court entered its order to amend the judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court issued its opinion in Hamburger v. Hamburger, 978 N.W.2d 709, which explained a vested child support obligation could not be retroactively modified. Neither party appealed the fourth amended judgment. Vetter moved for an order to hold Salter in contempt for not paying him the $2,930. In consideration of Hamburger, the court, citing N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(a), ordered the fourth amended judgment “be modified to reinstate the child support obligation of Tyler Vetter” for the earlier period and to “strik[e] the obligation of Amy Salter to make reimbursement.” A fifth amended judgment was entered accordingly. The Supreme Court reversed in part: even if the trial court was correct that its original decision was based upon a mistaken view of the law, Rule 60(a) did not authorize the court’s modification. Therefore, the Court concluded the trial court abused its discretion by misapplying the law when it invoked Rule 60(a) to relieve Salter of her obligations under the fourth amended judgment. View "North Dakota, et al. v. Vetter" on Justia Law

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Savanna Perales appealed a district court order requiring her to return her children to North Dakota. Perales and Erik Gonzalez were divorced by a Texas divorce decree. After the divorce, both parties lived in North Dakota. Perales then relocated with the children to Georgia. The district court, in an ex parte emergency order, ordered Perales to return the children to North Dakota. Later, the court held a hearing and issued the order from which Perales appealed. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded this order was not appealable and dismissed the appeal. View "Gonzalez v. Perales" on Justia Law

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Jerome Lowe, Jr. appealed a domestic violence protection order restraining him from contact with Lori Legacie-Lowe for 12 months. The North Dakota Supreme Court retained jurisdiction and remanded with instructions for the district court to make sufficient findings to enable the Supreme Court to review the order. Upon reviewing the district court’s findings on remand, the Court affirmed the domestic violence protection order. View "Legacie-Lowe v. Lowe" on Justia Law

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Jeffrey Edison appealed a divorce judgment and an amended judgment awarding primary residential responsibility for two children to Signe Edison, arguing error in the form of gender bias and in the court’s finding that Jeffrey Edison was underemployed for purposes of child support. Signe argued Jeffrey waived his gender bias argument and, in the alternative, that the trial court’s judgment was not based on gender bias. Jeffrey also requested the North Dakota Supreme Court award the parties equal residential responsibility and impose a “50/50 parenting plan” or reassign the case on remand to a different trial judge. After review, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded with instructions to reconsider: (1) the decision to award Signe with primary residential responsibility; and (2) the best interests of the children under N.D.C.C. § 14-09-06.2(1) and to recalculate any child support obligations. View "Edison v. Edison" on Justia Law

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Nicholas Otten appealed a district court judgment entered after a bench trial on divorce proceedings. On appeal, he argued the court erred by denying his motion to continue trial. He also argued the court erroneously admitted, reviewed, and relied on Jessica Otten’s evidence, and thereby erred in its division of marital property, consideration of the best interest factors, and award of his parenting time. After review of the trial court record, the North Dakota Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed the judgment. View "Otten v. Otten, et. al." on Justia Law