IN RE THE PARENTING OF: G.M.O., A Minor Child. CRISTY PEDERSON, f/k/a CRISTY PICKETT, Petitioner and Appellant, and ANDREW ORVIS, Respondent and Appellee.
Submitted on Briefs: May 10, 2017
From District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, In and
For the County of Missoula, Cause No. DR-11-806 Honorable
John W. Larson, Presiding Judge
Appellant: Marybeth M. Sampsel, Measure, Sampsel, Sullivan
& O'Brien, P.C.
Appellee: Andrew Orvis, Self-Represented, Missoula, Montana
Cristy Pederson appeals the amended parenting plan issued by
the Fourth Judicial District Court on the grounds that it is
contrary to the best interests of her child and that the
District Court failed to make sufficient findings of fact and
conclusions of law. She requests that we vacate the order
amending the parenting plan and remand for a new hearing to
establish an appropriate parenting plan.
We reverse and remand.
AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
Andrew Orvis and Cristy are the parents of a seven-year-old
child, G.M.O. The District Court adopted a parenting plan in
August 2012 when G.M.O. was two years old. Under the plan,
G.M.O. resided primarily with Cristy, and Andrew had
parenting time every week from Tuesday morning to Thursday
evening. Both parents lived in Missoula at the time. G.M.O.
has been in Cristy's primary care ever since.
Cristy worked as the general manager of a Taco Bell in
Missoula. In early 2016, Cristy was offered the general
manager position for Taco Bell in Kalispell. The position
included a pay raise, a better schedule, and an opportunity
for growth in the company. Cristy accepted the position and
managed the Kalispell location while still living in
Missoula. Cristy commuted to and from Kalispell a few times a
week for several months. ¶5 In April 2016, Cristy
provided notice of her intent to move to Columbia Falls.
Andrew filed a motion opposing Cristy's intent to move.
The District Court denied Cristy's motion and set an
August hearing date to review the parenting plan.
Both Cristy and Andrew testified at the hearing. Cristy
offered evidence and testified extensively that allowing her
to maintain primary care of G.M.O. in Columbia Falls would be
in the child's best interest. Andrew provided little
testimony regarding G.M.O.'s best interests. The court
did not make any oral findings during the hearing. The court
did state, however, that "there are worse things than
having to go to two different schools in a year, and I know
there's a lot of kids go to two different schools in a
year without, you know, too much harm."
The District Court issued a brief order amending the
parenting plan on August 23, 2016. The order did not contain
any substantive findings of fact or conclusions of law. It
provided that G.M.O. would attend school in Columbia Falls
from the beginning of the school year until Thanksgiving. At
that point, G.M.O. would move back to Missoula and attend
school there until Easter. At Easter, G.M.O. would again move
back to Columbia Falls to finish the school year. Following
the school year, G.M.O. would move back to Missoula to spend
the first third of the summer there. She would spend the
second third of the summer in Columbia Falls, and the last
third of the summer back in Missoula. At the end of the
summer, G.M.O. would move back to Columbia Falls to begin the
school year. The District Court found this schedule to be
"in the best interest of the child." Cristy
appeals. Andrew did not submit a response brief on appeal.
We review a district court's findings of fact related to
a parenting plan to determine whether the findings are
clearly erroneous. In re Parenting of C.J., 2016 MT
93, ¶ 12, 383 Mont. 197, 369 P.3d 1028. A finding is
clearly erroneous if it is not supported by substantial
evidence, if the district court misapprehended the effect of
the evidence, or if our review of the record convinces us
that the district court made a ...