Articles Posted in Family Law

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Alexander Ferguson appealed a fourth amended judgment increasing his child support obligation. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court retained jurisdiction to modify his child support obligation under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act ("UIFSA"), as enacted in N.D.C.C. ch. 14-12.2, and that the court did not err in determining his support obligation. View "Ferguson v. Ferguson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Kevin Hoff appealed a divorce judgment that, among other things, determined a parenting plan for the parties' children. After review of the district court record, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the judgment, concluding the district court's parenting plan decision was supported by sufficient findings and was not clearly erroneous. "A district court need not make separate findings for each best interests factor but, as with custody, the court's findings must contain sufficient specificity to show the factual basis for the decision." View "Hoff v. Hoff" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Mark Rath appealed an order denying his motion to amend the parties' parenting time schedule to allow an overnight, out-of-state family vacation during the summer of 2018 and awarding attorney fees to Kayla Rath. He argued the district court improperly denied his motion to amend the parties' parenting time schedule and abused its discretion in awarding attorney fees. He further argued the trial judge acted prejudicially and with bias, warranting immediate recusal and relief through this Court's issuance of a supervisory writ. A claim for relief is frivolous only if there is such a complete absence of actual facts or law a reasonable person could not have expected a court would render a judgment in that person's favor. The authority to issue supervisory writs is exercised rarely and cautiously, and only to rectify errors and prevent injustice in extraordinary cases in which there is no adequate alternative remedy. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court's denial of his motion to amend the parties' parenting time schedule, reversed the court's award of attorney fees, and denied his request for a supervisory writ. View "Rath v. Rath" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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A.D., the mother of P.T.D., C.R.D., P.A.D., P.P.D., and N.A.D., appealed a juvenile court order finding her five children were deprived under N.D.C.C. 27-20-02(8). The North Dakota Supreme Court previously concluded the juvenile court did not make sufficient findings of fact and remanded the case for further findings. Upon review of the additional findings, the Court affirmed the juvenile court's Amended Juvenile Findings of Fact and Order for Disposition entered on December 15, 2017. Those additional findings included: (1)one or more of the children were afraid in the family home because of the respondents' arguing and fighting; (2) one or more of the children did not feel safe in the family home; (3) one or more of the children had been physically harmed from being slapped, "smacked," or thrown; (4) one or more of the children usually "got crackers for breakfast when the parents would sleep in, and sometimes toast;" (5) the oldest child (then approximately 11 years old) would assume parental responsibilities when the respondents would sleep in until 11:00 a.m. or noon and when the respondents would leave the home sometimes as late as 9:00 p.m.; (6) the living conditions for the children were unsanitary and unsafe, including the house being a mess with garbage, dirty dishes, and dirty diapers; (7) the children were exposed to domestic violence; (8) one of the respondents broke down a door into a bedroom where the other respondent had fled with the children following an argument; and (9) respondents did not make sufficient efforts to participate in the recommended marriage counseling, anger and depression counseling, or counseling for coping with stress. View "Interest of P.T.D.; C.R.D.; P.A.D.; P.P.D.; and N.A.D." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Gene Grasser appealed an amended judgment entered from March 2017, awarding primary residential responsibility to Stephanie Grasser and distributing marital property and debts. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Gene's request for recusal or by finding Gene in contempt and awarding sanctions which it did not reimburse. Furthermore, the Court concluded the court did not clearly err by awarding Stephanie primary residential responsibility of the parties' child or by distributing the parties' marital property and debts. View "Grasser v. Grasser" on Justia Law

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Gene Grasser appealed an amended judgment entered from March 2017, awarding primary residential responsibility to Stephanie Grasser and distributing marital property and debts. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Gene's request for recusal or by finding Gene in contempt and awarding sanctions which it did not reimburse. Furthermore, the Court concluded the court did not clearly err by awarding Stephanie primary residential responsibility of the parties' child or by distributing the parties' marital property and debts. View "Grasser v. Grasser" on Justia Law

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Thomas Solwey (Solwey) appealed the first amended judgment awarding split residential responsibility of his and Lisa Solwey-Hilbert's (Hilbert) minor children. Solwey and Hilbert were married in 1998 and divorced in 2013. Hilbert was awarded primary residential responsibility of all four children (M.L.S., C.T.S., K.E.S., and K.D.S.). Solwey was ordered to pay $1,247 per month in child support. In August 2015, Solwey moved to modify primary residential responsibility. Under the heightened standard for such motions within two years of the previous order, the district court dismissed the motion without an evidentiary hearing for lack of prima facie case. Solwey did not appeal that order. In November 2015, Solwey moved to modify primary residential responsibility under N.D.C.C. 14-09-06.6(4) and (6). The district court again denied for lack of prima facie case. Solwey appealed to the North Dakota Supreme Court and the district court order was reversed and remanded with an order for evidentiary hearing. An evidentiary hearing was held in March 2017; the district court ruled at the outset of the hearing that only C.T.S. and K.E.S. (twins) would be considered under the motion to modify. Solwey argued the family should be treated as a cohesive unit and therefore K.D.S., the youngest, should also be considered under the motion to modify. The district court ruled the Supreme Court's mandate for evidentiary hearing did not apply to K.D.S. The parties mutually agreed M.L.S., who was no longer a minor, would not be considered. The first amended judgment was entered in August 2017, awarding Hilbert primary residential responsibility of M.L.S. and K.D.S., awarding Solwey primary residential responsibility of C.T.S., and awarding shared joint equal residential responsibility of K.E.S. The district court ordered that Solwey's new child support obligation of $436 per month commence June 2017. Solwey appealed, but only filed a partial transcript of the evidentiary hearing. "The North Dakota Supreme Court has said repeatedly: "The appellant assumes the consequences and the risk for the failure to file a complete transcript. If the record on appeal does not allow for a meaningful and intelligent review of alleged error, we will decline review of the issue." Because the Supreme Court did not have the benefit of a transcript to review the testimony heard by the district court, it concluded Solwey failed to meet his burden of proving the court's findings were clearly erroneous, and “we are not left with a definite and firm conviction a mistake has been made.” View "Solwey v. Solwey" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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A.D.C. appealed a juvenile court's judgments and orders terminating her parental rights. Because A.D.C.'s notice of appeal was untimely, the North Dakota Supreme Court found itself without jurisdiction and dismissed the appeal. View "Interest of T.S.C." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Ricky and Darcy Berg married in 1984 and separated in January 2016. The district court held a trial in June 2017 to determine the distribution of marital property and spousal support. At trial, both parties testified about their marital property, marital debts, income, and expenses. Ricky Berg was represented by counsel, and Darcy Berg represented herself at trial. Ricky Berg appealed the district court’s judgment dividing his and Darcy's marital estate and award to Darcy spousal support. The North Dakota Supreme Court found the district court did not clearly err in dividing property and awarding spousal support when it considered the “Ruff-Fischer” factors and adequately explained its findings regarding property division and spousal support. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Berg v. Berg" on Justia Law

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Glenvin Albrecht ("Glenvin") appealed, and Mark Albrecht ("Mark"), the personal representative of the estate ("the Estate") of Sharleen Albrecht ("Sharleen"), cross-appealed orders in an informal probate denying Glenvin's claims against the Estate. Glenvin argued that the district court's decision to deny Glenvin a recovery of jointly held marital assets transferred by Sharleen to the parties' son, Mark, should be reversed because, prior to Sharleen's death, she transferred the assets in violation of restraining provisions in a pending divorce proceeding. Glenvin further contended the district court abused its discretion in denying Glenvin's request for a recovery under principles of equity and its finding that Sharleen had not engaged in economic misconduct during prior divorce proceedings was clearly erroneous. The Estate argued that the district court improperly extended the time to commence an action against the Estate and erred as a matter of law in determining that Glenvin held the status of a surviving spouse with regard to the Estate. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court's order holding that Glenvin was a surviving spouse, denying Glenvin's request for contempt, the district court's order denying Glenvin's request for equitable relief and the district court's order denying Glenvin's request for relief from Sharleen's economic waste. View "Estate of Albrecht" on Justia Law