EDGAR A. FARMER, II, Petitioner and Appellant,
MARTA CASSADY, Respondent and Appellee.
Submitted on Briefs: March 28, 2018
District Court of the Twentieth Judicial District, In and For
the County of Sanders, Cause No. DR-10-59 Honorable James A.
Manley, Presiding Judge.
Appellant: David C. Humphrey, Humphrey Law Office, Polson,
Appellee: Emily A. Lucas, Brandi R. Ries, Ries Law Group,
P.C., Missoula, Montana
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
The Twentieth Judicial District Court, Sanders County,
dissolved the parties' marriage in 2012. Here, Edgar A.
Farmer, II (Buddy), appeals the District Court's 2017
order amending the parenting plan included in that decree. We
Buddy raises two issues on appeal: whether the court erred in
adopting Marta Cassady's proposed revised findings of
fact and conclusions of law, and whether the court erred when
it designated Marta as the primary residential parent of
their minor son.
The parenting plan entered in the parties' 2012
dissolution of marriage designated Buddy as the primary
residential parent for their three children-Marta was awarded
parenting time, but without a set schedule. Two of the
parties' children have since reached the age of majority.
In November 2016, Marta filed a motion to amend the parenting
plan. She alleged that Buddy had been refusing to allow her
to exercise parenting time with their youngest son, who had
expressed his desire to reside primarily with her.
A court may amend a parenting plan if it finds, based on
facts that have arisen since the prior plan was entered or
facts unknown to the court at the time the prior plan was
entered, that a change has occurred in the circumstances of
the child and the amendment is necessary to serve the
child's best interests. Section 40-4-219(1), MCA. Here,
the District Court held two days of hearings on Marta's
motion to amend, after which it entered findings and
conclusions and adopted Marta's proposed amended
parenting plan. The court ordered that Marta will be the
residential parent and that Buddy's parenting time will
be supervised until he demonstrates six months of sobriety.
On appeal, Buddy first argues that the District Court adopted
Marta's proposed findings and conclusions verbatim, and
by so doing committed error. This Court has discouraged the
verbatim adoption of proposed findings of fact and
conclusions of law; we nonetheless uphold such findings and
conclusions where they are comprehensive, pertinent, and
supported by substantial evidence. See, e.g., In re
Marriage of Allison, 269 Mont. 250, 265, 887 P.2d 1217,
Our review of the record in this case reveals that the
District Court partially revised the findings proposed by
Marta. The court found that the parties' minor son is
bonded with both Marta and Buddy. It found that Buddy,
however, has willfully and consistently refused to allow
their son to have contact with Marta, and has attempted to
frustrate or deny contact, which the court found was contrary
to the child's best interest. The court further found
that Buddy has a history of physical abuse toward Marta and
had physically abused their son on at least one occasion, and
that Buddy has abused prescription medication and mixed his
medication with consumption of alcohol. The court found that
when Buddy drinks, he is angry, unstable, and unsafe.
To the extent the testimony in the record is conflicting, we
have long recognized that a trial court sits in the best
position to observe and judge witness credibility, and we
will not second-guess a trial court's determinations
regarding the strength and weight of conflicting testimony.
See, e.g., Kulstad v. Maniaci, 2009 MT 326, ¶
90, 352 Mont. 513, 220 P.3d 595. The District Court's
findings and conclusions are sufficiently comprehensive and
pertinent to provide a basis for the court's decision,
and they are supported by substantial evidence in the record.
The court made no legal error when it concluded that the
child's circumstances had changed since the 2012 decree,
and it did not abuse its discretion in amending the parenting
We have determined to decide this case pursuant to Section I,
Paragraph 3(c) of our Internal Operating Rules, which
provides for memorandum opinions. This appeal presents no
constitutional issues, no issues of first impression, ...