APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Thirteenth Judicial District, In and For the County of Yellowstone, Cause No. DR 09-0594 Honorable Susan P. Watters, Presiding Judge
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mike McGRATH
Submitted on Briefs: August 22, 2012 Decided: September 25, 2012
Chief Justice Mike McGrath delivered the Opinion of the Court.
¶1 Sarah Louise Wheeldon (Sarah) petitioned for dissolution of her marriage to Corey James Wheeldon (Corey) in the Thirteenth Judicial District, Yellowstone County on April 20, 2009. Following a bench trial, the District Court issued findings of fact, conclusions of law, and a decree of dissolution that dissolved the parties' marriage and divided the remaining marital estate. Corey appeals the District Court's division of assets and the court's order granting Sarah primary residential custody of the parties' two children. We affirm.
¶2 Corey presents the following issues for review:
¶3 Issue One: Whether the District Court erred by granting Sarah primary residential custody of the children.
¶4 Issue Two: Whether the District Court erred in its division of the parties' marital assets and liabilities.
PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
¶5 Corey is a deputy sheriff with the Yellowstone County Sheriff's Department (the Sheriff's Department) and lives in Shepherd, Montana. Sarah is currently an agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) with the Behavior Analysis Unit (BAU) and lives near Boston, Massachusetts. Before being hired by the FBI, Sarah lived in Shepherd and worked as a therapist at the Mental Health Center in Billings. The parties were married in July of 2001 and have two children together, C.W. and S.W. Sarah petitioned for dissolution of their marriage on April 20, 2009.
¶6 Corey and Sarah both continued to live in Shepherd and co-parent the children until Sarah left to train for the FBI in February of 2011. The FBI training is a five-month program conducted in Quantico, Virginia, so when Sarah left Shepherd C.W. and S.W. moved in with Corey. Sarah completed her training in August of 2011 and was assigned to the BAU in Boston.
¶7 The District Court held hearings on August 12, August 15, and September 28, 2011. Among the witnesses who testified at trial were the parties, a court services evaluator who had conducted an extensive parenting plan study, and a psychologist who had conducted psychological evaluations of the children. On October 11, 2011, the District Court issued findings of fact and conclusions of law, and three days later it entered a final decree of dissolution of marriage and issued a final parenting plan and order.
¶8 Among other things, the court's orders granted Sarah primary residential custody of the children and divided the marital assets and liabilities. Specifically, the District Court awarded Corey half of the proceeds from the sale of the parties' marital home, a 2006 Dodge pickup truck, half of the marital portion of his defined benefit retirement account through the Sheriff's Department, and assigned him a debt that the parties incurred to fix the roof of their home before they sold it. The court awarded Sarah half of the proceeds from the sale of the marital home, a 2002 Hundai Sonata, the entire value of her retirement account through the Mental Health Center, half of the marital portion of Corey's retirement account, and assigned her the entire marital portion of a student loan debt in her name. The ...