IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF: DARIN BROCKINGTON, Petitioner and Appellee, and DEBORAH BROCKINGTON, n/k/a DEBORAH BROWN, Respondent and Appellant.
Submitted on Briefs: December 19, 2018
FROM: District Court of the Eleventh Judicial District, In
and For the County of Flathead, Cause No. DR-06-110 (C)
Honorable Heidi Ulbricht, Presiding Judge
Appellant: Katherine P. Maxwell, Maxwell Law, PLLC,
Appellee: Peter F. Carroll, Attorney at Law, Kalispell,
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
Deborah Brown (Mother) appeals from an order of the Eleventh
Judicial District Court, Flathead County, finding her in
contempt and ordering her to pay Darin Brockington's
(Father's) attorney fees and costs. We affirm.
We previously set forth the extensive procedural and factual
history of this parenting dispute in In re Marriage of
Brockington, 2017 MT 92, ¶¶ 3-17, 387 Mont.
260, 400 P.3d 205. In that appeal, Mother appealed the
District Court's order finding her in contempt for
failing to transfer the parties' minor child, A.E.B., to
Father. Brockington, ¶¶ 32-35. The
District Court, however, had not yet determined how much
Mother owed Father. We accordingly concluded that, while
Mother could appeal the contempt order in this family law
matter, the District Court's order was not a final
judgment. Brockington, ¶ 35 (citing M. R. App.
P. 6(3)(j) and Kuzara v. Kuzara, 211 Mont. 43, 48,
682 P.2d 1371, 1374 (1984)). We therefore dismissed
Mother's appeal without prejudice. Brockington,
The District Court subsequently issued its decision ordering
Mother to pay Father $5, 572.73, from which Mother appeals.
An aggrieved party may appeal from "a contempt judgment
or order in a family law proceeding when, and only when, the
judgment or order appealed from includes an ancillary order
entered as a result of the contemptuous conduct which affects
the substantial rights of the parties involved." M. R.
App. P. 6(3)(j); accord § 3-1-523(2), MCA. We
already determined Mother's appeal is appropriate. In
re Marriage of Brockington, No. DA 18-0353, Or. (Mont.
Sept. 25, 2018).
A contempt proceeding in a family law matter "is
entirely independent of the civil action out of which it
arose." Kuzara, 211 Mont. at 48, 682 P.2d at
1374. We review a contempt order to determine whether the
District Court acted within its jurisdiction and whether the
evidence supports the contempt. Marez v. Marshall,
2014 MT 333, ¶ 23, 377 Mont. 304, 340 P.3d 520;
Novak v. Novak, 2014 MT 62, ¶ 37, 374 Mont.
182, 320 P.3d 459. Because trial courts have continuing
jurisdiction over parenting matters, the District Court acted
within its continuing jurisdiction when it held Mother in
contempt. See Marez, ¶ 26.
We conclude the evidence supports the District Court's
contempt order. Disobedience of a lawful court order is
grounds for contempt. Section 3-1-501(1)(e), MCA;
Novak, ¶ 37. The District Court held that
Mother disobeyed its order by not transferring A.E.B. to
Father for his parenting time. Mother contends she did
everything within her power to get A.E.B. to board the plane
to visit Father but that the teenager steadfastly refused.
The District Court specifically found, however, that Mother
"encouraged, if not solicited outright, A.E.B.'s
active involvement in defiant actions to withhold from
[Father] parenting time granted to him in a court ordered
parenting plan." Brockington, ¶ 16. We
will not substitute our judgment for that of the District
Court when the evidence supports the court's contempt
order, as it does here. We further conclude the District
Court acted within its discretion by awarding Father his
reasonable attorney fees and costs. We accordingly affirm the
District Court's decision ordering Mother to pay Father
Father asks us to award him his attorney fees and costs for
defending Mother's appeal. We already denied Father's
request for an award of attorney fees and costs in defending
this appeal and no new facts have arisen necessitating a need
to reconsider that decision. See In re Marriage of
Brockington, No. DA 18-0353, Or. (Mont. Sept. 25, 2018).
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, ...