APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Fourteenth Judicial District, In and For the County of Musselshell, Cause No. DR 11-14 Honorable Randal I. Spaulding, Presiding Judge
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Brian Morris
Submitted on Briefs: August 22, 2012
Decided: October 16, 2012
Justice Brian Morris delivered the Opinion of the Court.
¶1 Gail and Ron Armstrong (Armstrongs) seek a parental interest in child M.M.G. Armstrongs filed a petition for a proposed parenting plan in the Fourteenth Judicial District, Musselshell County. The District Court dismissed Armstrongs' petition for lack of jurisdiction. We reverse and remand.
¶2 Armstrongs present the following issue on appeal:
¶3 Whether the District Court possessed jurisdiction to grant parental rights to Armstrongs even though the natural mother's parental rights have not been terminated.
PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
¶4 Armstrongs began raising M.M.G. when the child was approximately one year old. Gail was stopped at a gas station in Roundup, Montana, one Friday in 2001 when she saw Arrah Lane (Lane) holding the child M.M.G. Gail did not know Lane. Gail commented to Lane what a beautiful child M.M.G. was. Lane then asked Gail if she wanted M.M.G. Lane proceeded to gather M.M.G.'s things from her vehicle and hand them to Gail.
¶5 Armstrongs cared for M.M.G. for the weekend. Lane contacted Gail the following Monday to pick up M.M.G. Gail told Lane she was willing to care for M.M.G. if Lane needed help. Lane began leaving M.M.G. with Gail several days a week. This arrangement progressed to the point where Lane began leaving M.M.G. with Armstrongs for weeks at a time until M.M.G. lived primarily with Armstrongs.
¶6 When M.M.G. was four, Lane informed Armstrongs that she was no longer interested in parenting M.M.G. Lane left M.M.G. with Armstrongs. Armstrongs enrolled M.M.G. in school in Roundup and in associated extracurricular activities. Armstrongs cared for M.M.G. as they would a child of their own. Lane visited M.M.G. a few times a year for the next six years. In 2011, when M.M.G. was ten years old, Lane took M.M.G. for a weekend visit. Lane called Armstrongs to inform them that she was moving to Wyoming with M.M.G.
¶7 Armstrongs filed a petition for a parenting plan. The District Court initially granted an interim parenting plan that provided that M.M.G. would continue to live with Armstrongs.
The District Court reversed course, however, when Lane objected. The District Court concluded that Armstrongs could not seek a parenting plan unless Lane's parental rights had been terminated. The District Court dismissed Armstrong's petition for the parenting plan for lack of jurisdiction. The court further ...