Davis v. Davis

Davis v. Davis, 2016 MT 52 (March 8, 2016) (Rice, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether district court erred in affirming the standing master’s order amending the parenting plan and awarding primary custody to mother during the school year.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: Jennifer and Russell are parents of HD, 5 years old. Jennifer lives in Jackson, Wyoming, and Russell lives in Great Falls. The couple divorced in 2012, and their stipulated parenting plan split HD’s time equally between her parents, two weeks at a time. As kindergarten approached, the parents realized the parenting plan would have to be modified.

Russell moved to modify in November 2014, and Jennifer responded with her own proposed parenting plan.

Procedural Posture & Holding: The standing master held a hearing and issued findings, conclusions, and an order amending the parenting plan so that HD lives with Jennifer during the school year. Russell filed objections, and the district court affirmed. Russell appeals, and the Supreme Court affirms.

Reasoning: Jennifer testified that when HD was with Russell, she had trouble communicating with HD through Skype or phone, and that Russell had blocked her number on his phone. Russell admitted he had not been participating recently in transporting HD to the mutually agreed exchange location, halfway between the parties’ homes, having his parents do so to avoid contact with Jennifer. When asked if he had spoken to Jennifer about his decision to take HD to a different church, he acknowledged he had not.

The standing master entered detailed findings on the mandatory best interest factors in § 40-4-212(1)(a) – (m), MCA. The district court applied the correct standard of review, and the Court finds no error.