IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF: STEVAN STREIT WILLIAMS, Petitioner and Appellee, and LINDSAY MARIE WILLIAMS, Respondent and Appellant.
Submitted on Briefs: August 8, 2018
District Court of the Twenty-Second Judicial District, In and
For the County of Stillwater, Cause No. DR-2015-13 Honorable
Blair Jones, Presiding Judge
Appellant: Craig R. Buehler, Buehler Law Office, Lewistown,
Appellee: Jo Messex Casey, Hendrickson Law Firm, P.C.,
Lindsay Williams (Lindsay) appeals from the Twenty Second
Judicial District Court's Findings of Fact and
Conclusions of Law dated October 11, 2017 setting forth the
court's ordered parenting plan which provides for the
parties' children to reside on a primary basis in
Columbus, Montana. We affirm.
We restate the issue on appeal as follows:
the District Court abuse its discretion in ordering the
parenting plan which provides for the children to reside on a
primary basis in Columbus?
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Lindsay and Stevan Williams (Stevan) met in college when a
professor requested she take notes for him as he is deaf.
They married in July 1999. Prior to having children, the
parties moved to Columbus where Stevan began working in his
family's business. The parties have three children:
G.M.W., born in 2003, G.L.W., born in 2007, and T.R.W., born
in 2008. G.M.W and T.R.W. were born deaf and have cochlear
implants. The parties separated near the end of the school
year in 2015. Prior to the parties' separation they
resided as a family in Columbus. Post-separation, Stevan
remained in Columbus and Lindsay relocated from Columbus to
Lovell, Wyoming, then to Bearcreek, Montana, and then later
to Lewistown, Montana. The parties alternated parenting of
their children on a weekly basis during the summer of 2015,
then agreed to continue this 50/50 schedule for the 2015-2016
school year with the children attending school in Columbus.
The parties entered into a written Stipulated Marital and
Property Settlement Agreement filed November 17, 2016
resolving all non-parenting issues associated with their
dissolution. The District Court adopted the parties'
Agreement and signed a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage on
November 18, 2016. As part of the dissolution, the parties
entered into a Stipulated Interim Residential Schedule filed
November 7, 2016, which was approved and adopted by the
court. This interim plan provided for the children to reside
on a primary basis with Stevan and for Lindsay to parent the
children on weekends (designated by her but assuring Stevan
would parent at least two weekends of each month),
alternating major holidays, and time in the summer.
On July 17, 2017, the parties appeared with their respective
counsel for trial. At the outset of the hearing, the parties
confirmed resolution of all non-parenting issues in their
dissolution and proceeded to trial on the remaining parenting
issues. The following week, both parties filed post-trial
findings. The District Court issued an Order Re: Interim
Parenting Plan and Parenting Schedule on August 8, 2017, to
remain in effect until the court issued a final parenting
order. This interim plan provided for the children to
continue to attend school and reside in Columbus. It also
provided that in the event Lindsay relocated back to
Columbus, the children would reside with her on a primary
basis in Columbus. Subsequently, the District Court issued
its Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law setting forth the
District Court's parenting plan on October 12, 2017 from
which Lindsay now appeals. Additional facts will be
referenced in the discussion below.
We review the underlying findings in support of a districts
court's decision regarding a parenting plan under the
clearly erroneous standard. Guffin v.
Plaisted-Harman, 2010 MT 100, ¶ 20, 356 Mont.
218, 232 P.3d 888. We review a district court's
conclusions of law to determine if they are correct. In
re Parenting of C.J., 2016 MT 93, ¶ 12, 383 Mont.
197, 369 P.3d 1028. A district court has broad discretion
when considering the parenting of a child, and we must
presume the court carefully considered the evidence and made
the correct decision. In re Parenting of C.J.,
¶ 13 (citation omitted). It is not this Court's
function to reweigh conflicting evidence or substitute its
judgment regarding the strength of the evidence for that of
the district court. In re A.F., 2003 MT 254, ¶
24, 317 Mont. 367, 77 P.3d 266. Rather, the ultimate test for
adequacy of findings of fact is whether they are sufficiently
comprehensive and pertinent to the issues to provide a basis
for decision, and whether they are supported by the evidence
presented. In re Marriage of Wolfe, 202 Mont. 454,
458, 659 P.2d 259, 261 (1983). Accordingly, absent clearly
erroneous findings, we will not disturb a district
court's decision regarding parenting plans unless there
is a clear abuse of discretion. In re Parenting of
C.J., ¶ 13.
Did the District Court abuse its discretion in ordering
the parenting plan whichprovides for the children