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In re Parenting of L.G.L.

Supreme Court of Montana

November 27, 2018

IN RE THE PARENTING OF: L.G.L., A Minor Child. NELSON LUKE OYLER, Petitioner and Appellee, and LYNDSEY LALICKER, Respondent and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: September 12, 2018

          District Court of the Eighteenth Judicial District, In and For the County of Gallatin, Cause No. DR-14-172B Honorable Rienne McElyea, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: Kevin S. Brown, Paoli & Brown, P.C., Livingston, Montana

          For Appellee: Margaret Sullivan Braun, Bridger Law, Bozeman, Montana

          OPINION

          James Jeremiah Shea, Justice.

         ¶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 noncitable cases published in the Pacific Reporter and Montana Reports.

         ¶2 Lyndsey Lailicker (Mother) appeals the Order of the Eighteenth Judicial District Court, Gallatin County, denying Mother's Notice of Objections and granting Nelson Luke Oyler (Father) visitation rights to L.G.L., their minor child. We affirm.

         ¶3 On November 1, 2013, Mother and Father were married. On July 9, 2014, the marriage was declared invalid on the grounds that Father lacked the ability to consent to marry due to mental health issues. At the time of the Declaration of Invalidity, Mother was pregnant with L.G.L.

         ¶4 On September 5, 2014, Father filed a Petition for Voluntary Relinquishment of his Parental Rights to L.G.L. in the First Judicial District Court, Broadwater County. On October 9, 2014, the Broadwater County District Court denied Father's Petition. In November 2014, Mother initiated an administrative action with the Montana Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED) to determine Father's child support obligations.

         ¶5 On September 1, 2015, Father filed a Petition to Establish a Parenting Plan in the Eighteenth Judicial District Court, Gallatin County. On February 15, 2017, the Standing Master held a hearing on the Petition, during which Mother and Father both presented evidence and testified. Father called Dr. Thomas Heriza, his medical provider, and Gallatin County Father Engagement Specialist Patrick Duganz to provide testimony as to Father's ability to safely parent L.G.L. On June 30, 2017, the Standing Master issued its Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Final Parenting Plan granting Father supervised parenting of L.G.L.

         ¶6 On August 29, 2017, Mother, acting pro se after her attorney withdrew following the hearing, filed a Motion for the Court to Grant Relief from Judgment. On October 30, 2017, the Standing Master denied the Motion, determining that Mother failed to establish grounds for relief and that no specific objections to the Final Parenting Plan were filed within the time provided by statute.

         ¶7 On November 8, 2017, Mother filed her Notice of Objections. On January 11, 2018, the Gallatin County District Court, despite the untimeliness of the Notice of Objections, held a hearing. On February 1, 2018, the Gallatin County District Court denied the Notice of Objections and amended the Standing Master's Findings of Facts, Conclusions of Law, and Final Parenting Plan to provide a modified legal analysis. Mother appeals.

         ¶8 We review de novo a district court's decision to adopt a standing master's report to determine whether it applied the correct standards of review to the standing master's findings of fact and conclusions of law. Patton v. Patton, 2015 MT 7, ¶ 17, 378 Mont. 22, 340 P.3d 1242 (citing In re G.J.A., 2014 MT 215, ¶ 11, 376 Mont. 212, 331 P.3d 835). In a case tried before a standing master, "we apply the same standard of review to an adopted [standing] master's report that we do to any other district court order." Maloney v. Home & Inv. Ctr., Inc., 2000 MT 34, ¶ 28, 298 Mont. 213, 994 P.2d 1124.

         ¶9 We review a district court's findings of fact in parenting plan orders to determine whether they are clearly erroneous. Healy v. Healy, 2016 MT 154, ¶ 18, 384 Mont. 31, 376 P.3d 99. A finding of fact is clearly erroneous if "it is not supported by substantial evidence, if the district court misapprehended the effect of the evidence, or if our review of the record convinces us that the district court made a mistake." Healy, ¶ 18 (citation omitted). "We review a district court's conclusions of law to determine if they are correct." Healy, ¶ 18 (citation omitted). 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 C.J., 2016 MT 93, ¶ 13, 383 Mont. 197, 369 P.3d 1028 (citation omitted). A district court abuses its discretion when it acts "arbitrarily ...


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