IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF: KRISTIN K. STRATFORD, Petitioner and Appellant, and STEPHEN J. ELDREDGE, Respondent and Appellee.
Submitted on Briefs: February 6, 2018
FROM: District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, In and
For the County of Missoula, Cause No. DR 98-87207 Honorable
Leslie Halligan, Presiding Judge
Appellant:Richard A. Reep, Reep, Bell, Laird & Jasper,
P.C., Missoula, Montana
Appellee:Stephen J. Eldredge, self-represented, South Jordan,
Pursuant to Section I, Paragraph 3(c), Montana Supreme Court
Internal Operating Rules, this case is decided by memorandum
opinion, 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.
Kristin Stratford (Stratford) appeals the judgment of the
Montana Fourth Judicial District Court, Missoula County,
setting aside two prior judgments related to delinquent child
support pursuant to M. R. Civ. P. 60(b). We reverse and
remand for entry of a corrected judgment in accordance with
In 1999, the District Court ordered Stephen Eldredge
(Eldredge) to make monthly child support payments in the
amount of $600 to Stratford following the dissolution of
their marriage. Stratford asserts that Eldredge has since
made only sporadic payments, both directly and through
Montana and Utah child support enforcement agencies. She
asserts that nearly $100, 000 in unpaid child support and
interest accrued by the time their child reached 18 years
old. In February 2017, Stratford moved for judgment on the
unpaid child support and accrued interest. She served
Eldredge by duplicate mailings to two Utah addresses: one
listed in his 2015 U.S. Bankruptcy Court filing, and one on
record with the District Court and currently utilized by the
Montana and Utah Child Support Enforcement Divisions.
Eldredge did not appear or otherwise respond. On March 10,
2017, the District Court entered an uncontested final
judgment on the entirety of the unpaid child support and
interest claimed by Stratford. On March 21, 2017, the
District Court entered a supplemental judgment for attorney
fees and costs incurred by Stratford in recovery of the
support judgment. On March 16 and 30, 2017, Stratford
respectively served notices of entry of judgment on Eldredge
by mail at both Utah addresses.
On April 18, 2017, Eldredge filed a motion to set aside both
judgments pursuant to M. R. Civ. P. 60(b) on the asserted
grounds of lack of service and notice. Eldredge asserted
that: (1) he did not properly receive notice of the
judgments; (2) the address associated with his bankruptcy
filing was the address of his estranged wife; and (3)
Stratford's unpaid child support and interest
calculations were erroneous based on the nearly twenty-year
history of the obligation.
On April 26, 2017, Stratford filed a response opposing
Eldredge's motion. On May 15, 2017, Eldredge filed a
motion for additional time to reply to Stratford's
response. By order filed June 9, 2017, the District Court
extended Eldredge's reply deadline until July 14, 2017, a
date 87 days after the filing date of his Rule 60(b) motion.
The order did not reference, much less purport to extend, the
court's deadline for ruling on the motion.
On July 17, 2017, Eldredge filed his reply brief, 3 days
after his extended briefing deadline. By order filed July 25,
2017, the District Court granted Eldredge's Rule 60(b)
motion and set aside the subject judgments. Stratford timely
Whether a district court untimely granted a Rule 60(b) motion
in violation of M. R. Civ. P. 60(c)(1) is a question of law
that we review de novo. See Green v. Gerber, 2013 MT
35, ¶¶ 24-29, 369 Mont. 20, 303 P.3d 729
(non-compliance with Rule 60(c)(1) deadline objectionable
error but not jurisdictional). Stratford asserts that the
District Court erroneously granted Eldredge's Rule 60(b)
motion after expiration of the 60-day deadline specified by
M. R. Civ. P. 60(c)(1) and 59(f). We agree.
M. R. Civ. P. 60(c)(1) (2015) states:
Motions provided by Rule 60(b) must be determined within the
times provided by Rule 59 in the case of motions for . . .
amendment of judgment and if the court shall fail to rule on
the motion within the ...