IN RE THE PARENTING OF: P.R.F., a Minor Child, PRESTON ORRIE BALDRY, Petitioner and Appellee, and SHALYNN RAHEL FJELD, Respondent and Appellant.
Submitted on Briefs: May 2, 2018
FROM: District Court of the Fifteenth Judicial District, In
and For the County of Daniels, Cause No. DR-2017-6 Honorable
David Cybulski, Presiding Judge
Appellant: John P. Nesbitt, Jr., Nesbitt Law Office, PC,
Appellee: Terrance L. Toavs, Law Offices of Terrance L.
Toavs, PLLC, Wolf Point, 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
Shalynn Fjeld (Shalynn) appeals from the October 17, 2017
order of the Fifteenth Judicial District Court, Daniels
County, denying her motion to dismiss the parenting plan
action in Daniels County. We affirm.
Shalynn is the biological mother of P.R.F., a minor child.
Preston Baldry (Preston) and Shalynn were engaged in in a
relationship when Shalynn became pregnant. During the
relationship, Preston and Shalynn lived in Scobey, Montana.
Shortly after Shalynn became pregnant, she moved to Belgrade,
Montana. P.R.F. was born in Bozeman, Montana. Shalynn refused
to acknowledge Preston as the father of P.R.F. Shalynn
obtained an Ex Parte Order of Protection in Gallatin County
Justice Court. On August 31, 2017, Preston filed a
Petition to Establish a Parenting Plan in Daniels County. On
September 4, 2017, Preston removed the Order of Protection to
On September 13, 2017, Shalynn filed a Motion to Dismiss the
parenting plan arguing the District Court did not have
jurisdiction. Preston filed a response brief addressing
Shalynn's motion to dismiss the parenting action.
Preston's response brief construed the motion as a motion
to change venue of the parenting action. On September 25,
2017, Preston filed an amended petition clarifying the
statutory basis for his parenting plan and included an action
for paternity. On September 29, 2017, Shalynn filed a reply
brief adamantly objecting to Preston construing her motion to
dismiss as a motion to change venue. She maintained she only
sought to have venue transferred back to Gallatin County for
her Order of Protection. On October 2, 2017, Shalynn filed a
motion to transfer venue of the paternity action in
Preston's amended complaint arguing inconvenient forum.
On the same day, Shalynn filed a motion to dismiss the
amended petition and renewed her assertion the District Court
lacked jurisdiction. The District Court issued its final
Order on Motions denying Shalynn's motions to dismiss,
request to change venue of the Order of Protection, request
for professional fees, and motion to transfer venue of
petition for paternity on October 17, 2017.
The determination of proper venue is a question of law
involving the application of Montana's venue statutes to
the pleaded facts. Our review of a district court's grant
or denial of a motion to change venue is plenary; we merely
determine whether the court's decision is legally
correct. In re B.C.B.W., 2008 MT 147, ¶ 6, 343
Mont. 215, 185 P.3d 327. A district court exercises its
discretion when it assesses the merits of changing venue
based on the convenience of the witnesses and the ends of
justice and we will not disturb the court's decision
absent a clear abuse of that discretion. In re
C.M.R., 2016 MT 120, ¶ 9, 383 Mont. 398, 372 P.3d
1275 (citations and quotations omitted).
On appeal, Shalynn argues that the District Court erred in
denying her motion to dismiss because P.R.F. is not a
permanent resident of Daniels County, Montana. We conclude
the District Court correctly denied Shalynn's motion to
dismiss arguing lack of jurisdiction. A district court of
Montana has jurisdiction to decide parenting matters if
Montana is the home state of the child at the time of
commencement of the proceedings. Section 40-4-211(1)(a)(i),
MCA. P.R.F. was born in Montana and has resided in Montana
since birth. Therefore, Montana is the home state of P.R.F.
See § 40-7-103(7), MCA. We conclude, based on the
applicable statutes, Daniels County District Court has
jurisdiction over the parenting action.
"The proper place of trial for an action brought
pursuant to Title 40, chapter 4, is the county in which the
petitioner or the respondent has resided during the 90 days
preceding the filing of the action." Section
25-2-118(3), MCA. Under this general venue statute, if
Preston's proceeding was brought under Title 40, chapter
4, both Gallatin and Daniels Counties would be proper places
for trial. Preston filed his parenting action in Daniels
County, where he has resided 90 days preceding the filing of
the action; therefore, venue was proper in Daniels County.
Section 40-4-211(4), MCA, is a specific venue statute with
regard to a parenting action. Although Shalynn cited §
40-4-211(4), MCA, a venue statute, she repeatedly and
vehemently denied requesting a change of venue for the
parenting action in her motion to dismiss and instead
asserted lack of jurisdiction to argue for dismissal of the
parenting action. Therefore, we conclude the District Court
properly denied Shalynn's motion to dismiss based on
Furthermore, the District Court properly denied Shalynn's
request to change venue on the paternity action. Section
40-6-109, MCA, is contained within Montana's Uniform
Parentage Act (Act). Section 40-6-109(3), MCA, provides an
action brought under the Act may be brought in the county in
which the child or the alleged father resides. As Preston
brought the paternity action under the Act in Daniels County
where he resides, venue is appropriate in Daniels County.
Even though Daniels County is a proper venue, Shalynn argues
inconvenient forum. Shalynn failed to support her assertion
of inconvenient forum. Thus, the District Court did not abuse
its discretion in denying Shalynn's request to change
venue of the paternity action as an inconvenient forum.
We have determined to decide this case pursuant to Section I,
Paragraph 3(c) of our Internal Operating Rules, which
provides for memorandum opinions. In the opinion of the
Court, the case presents a question controlled by settled ...