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In re Marriage of Patterson

Supreme Court of Montana

September 19, 2017

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF: SHANNON R. PATTERSON, Petitioner and Appellee, and JOSH T. PATTERSON, Petitioner and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: August 23, 2017

         APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, In and For the County of Missoula, Cause No. DR 10-368 Honorable Edward P. McLean, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: Josh T. Patterson, self-represented, Missoula, Montana

          For Appellee: Richard A. Reep, Reep, Bell, Laird & Jasper, P.C., Missoula, Montana


         ¶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 non-citable cases published in the Pacific Reporter and Montana Reports.

         ¶2 This appeal arises out of a marriage dissolution proceeding in which a decree was entered in the Fourth Judicial District Court, Missoula County, on June 1, 2010, dissolving the marriage of Josh Patterson and Shannon Patterson, n/k/a Shannon Hayden. The proceedings have been extensive since then, as reflected by the over 350 entries in the District Court docket. The appellate history has been similarly complicated, including the dismissal by this Court of three attempted appeals by Josh, proceeding pro se, prior to the entry of an appropriate final judgment.

         ¶3 Josh's central challenges on appeal are to the parenting order that placed the parties' child, C.P., in the sole care and control of Shannon, and to the District Court's award of attorney fees. These issues were primarily determined in the District Court's order of July 14, 2016, which also placed the custody of the parties' other child, W.P., with Josh. Josh's arguments incorporate objections to parts of other orders as well, but these are the primary issues raised.[1]

         ¶4 The District Court found that the effect of the numerous filings by Josh "was to multiply these proceedings dramatically and to prolong final resolution of outstanding issues, " even though "[t]he record is replete with warnings and admonitions against Josh . . ." by the District Court. "Despite this, Josh persisted in failing to respond to discovery, in filing inappropriate pleadings, and otherwise multiplying these proceedings in a manner which was clearly not in the best interest of the children." The District Court found that "Josh repeatedly resisted the children's counselor and the GAL's recommendations creating litigation which resulted in numerous orders from this Court. Josh failed to comply with the terms of the Decree resulting in unnecessary litigation and orders to compel."[2] The District Court explained that a basis for Shannon's request for attorney fees was Josh's "unnecessary duplication and multiplication of these proceedings."

         ¶5 Regarding Josh's approach to parenting the children, the District Court found that:

Josh has continued to involve both WP and CP in this dispute by discussing financial matters, visitation schedules, and all manner of adult issues. He has been warned to cease such discussions but, by all appearances, neither he nor his family [have] discontinued this campaign against Shannon . . . . This Court finds that Josh has embarked on a significant campaign to alienate the children from their mother, Shannon. Through his continued criticism, slander, and disparagement of Shannon, he has encouraged both WP and CP to disrespect their mother and officers of the legal system and [has] alienated Shannon from the children's love and affection and [has] alienated the children from Shannon's love and affection.

         The District Court thus concluded that "[b]ecause this Court has found that significant parental alienation has occurred, CP's custodial status with Shannon shall be as a sole custodian."[3]

         ¶6 The record further demonstrates that Josh's attacks have included the use of social media, where the parties' two minor children can not only view the content, but can participate by liking and commenting. Josh has complained about the handling of the case, called Shannon derogatory names and even posted sexually explicit photos of Shannon- all of which the children could see. Josh called Shannon derogatory names in text messages to his children and supported the children's use of derogatory names for Shannon on social media. Josh has taken extreme action in the case, including suing the Guardian Ad Litem, attempting to introduce an adult video of Shannon into evidence, and attempting to introduce other evidence of alleged past sexual misconduct by Shannon. Josh's actions are in clear violation of the parenting plan and against the best interest of the children. Josh commonly alleges judicial corruption as the reason for the rulings against him, which we completely reject for lack of factual basis.

         ¶7 "A finding of fact is clearly erroneous if it is not supported by substantial evidence, if the court misapprehended the effect of the evidence or if, upon reviewing the record, this Court is left with the definite and firm conviction that the district court made a mistake." In re S.T., 2008 MT 19, ¶ 8, 341 Mont. 176, 176 P.3d 1054 (citation omitted). The appellant has "the duty to present the supreme court with a record sufficient to enable it to rule upon the issues raised. Failure to present the court with a sufficient record on appeal ...

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