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In re Marriage of Rorabaugh

Supreme Court of Montana

January 8, 2019

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF: JASON L. RORABAUGH, Petitioner and Appellee,
v.
NIKKI L. ZELENKA f/k/a/ RORABAUGH, Respondent and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: September 5, 2018

          Amended: January 8, 2019

          APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Eighteenth Judicial District, In and For the County of Gallatin, Cause No. DR 11-369B Honorable Rienne H. McElyea, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: James J. Screnar, Screnar Law Firm, Bozeman, Montana

          For Appellee: Christopher J. Gillette, The Law Office of Christopher J. Gillette, P.C., Bozeman, Montana

          LAURIE MCKINNON 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 Nikki Zelenka, formerly known as Nikki Rorabaugh (Nikki), appeals an order from the Eighteenth Judicial District Court, Gallatin County, adopting the Standing Master's findings of fact, conclusions of law, and a final decree of dissolution (Final Decree) of her marriage with Jason Rorabaugh (Jason). We affirm.

         ¶3 Nikki and Jason married in 1994. They had four children while married. During their marriage, Jason had a bachelor's degree and worked as a Petroleum Division Manager at Rocky Mountain Supply, earning approximately $80, 000 per year. Nikki also had a bachelor's degree, but she primarily worked as a stay-at-home mother, homemaker, and homeschool teacher for the parties' children. Around 2009, Nikki began attending graduate school full-time to obtain her Master's Degree in Health and Human Development.

         ¶4 Nikki and Jason separated in March 2010. Jason moved out of the marital home and into a condominium the parties purchased. Both parties agreed their marriage was irretrievably broken, so in September 2011, Jason filed a petition for dissolution of their marriage. At that time, the parties' major assets were the marital home, the condominium, and Jason's 401(k) retirement account. After the parties' separation, Jason continued to support Nikki and the children by depositing his paychecks into the parties' joint bank account, and Nikki paid the marital home mortgage and other expenses using funds from the account. In October 2011, Jason discontinued depositing his paychecks into the joint account, began paying the marital home mortgage and a few other expenses himself, and elected to directly pay Nikki $1, 000 per month.

         ¶5 From there, the matter quickly became contentious. In December 2011, Nikki filed a motion for temporary family support requesting that Jason pay her $3, 200 per month. The Standing Master held a hearing in August 2012 to address Nikki's motion. During the hearing, the Standing Master asked each party to later follow up and submit proposed financial distribution plans. She also encouraged the parties to sell the marital home and take other measures to reduce their monthly expenses, stating: "The reality is the parties are split, they're separate, they have four children, their lifestyle is not going to be the same. And the sooner everybody accepts that, then the more likely it is that we can move forward in this case."

         ¶6 After the parties submitted their proposed financial distribution plans, the Standing Master did not rule on Nikki's motion for temporary family support. Nikki subsequently asked Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED) to calculate child support. In August 2013, CSED entered a final agency decision requiring Jason to pay monthly child support of $1, 892. CSED's decision also provided that after Nikki graduated with her master's degree, in January 2014 Jason's support requirement would decrease to $1, 555 per month.

         ¶7 In December 2013, the Standing Master held a three-day trial regarding the dissolution of the parties' marriage. After trial, the matter lingered, unresolved, for well over three years until the Standing Master issued the Final Decree in June 2017. The Final Decree evenly divided the marital home, the condominium, and Jason's 401(k) retirement account between the parties according to the assets' values at the time of the parties' dissolution; held each party liable for liens against the parties' real property filed under their individual names; held each party liable for one half of Nikki's student loan debt; generally held each party solely liable for his or her own individual debts incurred after March 2010; declined to award maintenance to either party; held each party liable for their own attorney fees; required each party to begin maintaining his or her own health insurance coverage; declined to require either party to pay back their children for amounts taken from the children's funds to cover family expenses; and was "dispositive of all other pending motions."

         ¶8 Nikki filed several objections to the Standing Master's Final Decree of Dissolution, and the District Court held a hearing on Nikki's objections in October 2017. The District Court subsequently overruled Nikki's objections and adopted the Standing Master's Final Decree in its entirety. Nikki then filed a motion to reopen the case to admit additional ...


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