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In re Parenting of R.W.W.

Supreme Court of Montana

July 11, 2017

WALTER E. WOLF, Respondent and Appellee. TRINA J. WOLF, Petitioner and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: June 21, 2017

         APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Eighteenth Judicial District, In and For the County of Gallatin, Cause No. DR-13-380C Honorable Brenda Gilbert, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: Michael J. Uda, Dylan A. Wright, Uda Law Firm, P.C., Helena, Montana.

          For Appellee: Leanne M. Schraudner, Schraudner & Hillier, Bozeman, Montana Troy Greenfield, Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt, P.C., Seattle, Washington.


          Laurie McKinnon Justice.

         ¶1 Pursuant to Section I, Paragraph 3(c), Montana Supreme Court Internal Operating Rules, this case is decided by memorandum opinion and shall not be cited and does not serve as precedent. Its case title, cause number, and disposition shall be included in this Court's quarterly list of noncitable cases published in the Pacific Reporter and Montana Reports.

         ¶2 Trina J. Wolf (Trina) appeals the Final Parenting Plan ordered by the Eighteenth Judicial District Court, Gallatin County, on October 16, 2016. The District Court, the Honorable Brenda R. Gilbert presiding, ordered a Final Parenting Plan prepared in accordance with the court's Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order dated July 20, 2016. We affirm.

         ¶3 Trina and Walter E. Wolf (Walter) are the biological parents of R.W.W., born in October of 2004. The parties' marriage was dissolved in 2011 and a Final Decree was entered incorporating the terms of their agreed parenting plan. The parenting plan provided for parenting to be shared between the parties. The court appointed Kathleen Rock (GAL Rock) as guardian ad litem for R.W.W. upon Trina's recommendation and familiarity with Rock as a guardian ad litem for her children from a prior marriage.

         ¶4 In January of 2014, GAL Rock became concerned that Trina was engaging in behaviors detrimental to R.W.W.'s best interests, such as applying significant pressure on R.W.W. to lie about his dad to law enforcement personnel, Child and Family Services (CFS) personnel, and other third parties. More specifically, GAL Rock related in an affidavit that Trina took R.W.W. to the Bozeman Police Station and presented a story of Walter and others plotting during a Thanksgiving celebration to kill Trina, all in front of R.W.W. Trina presented the same story to CFS. Upon investigation, the story turned out to be false. Further, GAL Rock related that when she saw R.W.W. in January 2014, he was in extreme distress and presented in a fetal position, with his hood pulled over his eyes. When GAL Rock asked what was wrong, R.W.W. repeatedly said that he could not say and that his mom told him he would go to jail if he did. Eventually, R.W.W. recounted that Trina had made him lie about the incident.

         ¶5 GAL Rock requested emergency relief from the court and filed an affidavit detailing her concerns with Trina's behavior. Trina then sought to have GAL Rock removed as R.W.W.'s guardian ad litem and was adamantly opposed to GAL Rock being involved in the proceeding. The District Court suspended GAL Rock's role as guardian ad litem on February 13, 2014. Pursuant to § 40-4-215, MCA, the court appointed Dr. Christopher Hahn to investigate and make recommendations to the court regarding R.W.W.'s welfare.

         ¶6 Dr. Hahn met with R.W.W. on ten different occasions and conducted in-home observations in each parent's home. The court characterized Dr. Hahn's relationship with R.W.W. as open and trusting. On September 22, 2014, Dr. Hahn issued a Parenting Investigation Report which the court implemented on November 6, 2014, as an interim parenting plan. The interim plan provided that R.W.W. would spend two weeks with Walter and one week with Trina on a rotating basis, with a recommendation that, once some deficiencies were met regarding Trina's parenting, the schedule would move to alternating weeks between the parents.

         ¶7 On January 7, 8, and 9, 2015, the court conducted a trial on the request for emergency relief and modification of the parenting plan. Dr. Hahn had conducted two more interviews of R.W.W. in December 2014, in order to update the court regarding any changes since his September recommendation, as well as to testify concerning the entire period of his investigation. Dr. Hahn testified that Trina's behavior had worsened in the past few months and that R.W.W.'s stress level, clarity, and tolerance for her behavior had significantly changed. R.W.W. made it clear to Dr. Hahn that he wanted the court to know his desire was to live with his father. Dr. Hahn related that R.W.W. said Trina makes him feel guilty, annoyed, and sad. R.W.W. told Dr. Hahn that his mother wanted him to lie about his father to law enforcement and make false reports. R.W.W. said he did not want to be with his mother until she "gets better" by not yelling, not making him lie, and by getting control of her emotions.

         ¶8 When Dr. Hahn made recommendations contrary to Trina's wishes, Trina and her attorney issued subpoenas to Dr. Hahn's licensing board prior to trial. Although the subpoenas were withdrawn, Trina reissued the subpoenas several days after conclusion of the trial. The District Court addressed the matter of the post-hearing subpoena issued by Trina's counsel by separate order. Additionally, Trina and her attorney submitted a disciplinary complaint against Walter's counsel which the District Court concluded was meritless.

         ¶9 Thereafter, following submission of proposed parenting plans by the parties, the court ordered on April 21, 2015, a second interim parenting plan, which continued the schedule of two weeks with Walter and one week with Trina. The court hoped that tensions between R.W.W. and Trina would subside and that the parenting schedule could move towards alternating weeks with each parent. However, in an effort to deflect stress to R.W.W. from ongoing litigation, the court appointed a parenting coordinator, Dr. Michael Butz, to coordinate therapeutic efforts between the ...

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