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Debra Krueger, N/K/A Deborah Bentz, Plaintiff and Appellee v. Gregory Krueger

July 13, 2011

DEBRA KRUEGER, N/K/A DEBORAH BENTZ, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLEE
v.
GREGORY KRUEGER, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT



Appeal from the District Court of Stark County, Southwest Judicial District, the Honorable Harlan Patrick Weir, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sandstrom, Justice.

N.D. Supreme CourtKrueger

v.

Krueger,

This opinion is subject to petition for rehearing. [Go to Documents]

[Download as WordPerfect] Concurring & dissenting opinion filed.

2011 ND 134

AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, AND REMANDED.

Opinion of the Court by Sandstrom, Justice.

[¶1] Gregory Krueger appeals from the district court's order denying his motion to enforce visitation, and from the court's subsequent order increasing his child support obligation.*fn1 We affirm the denial of Krueger's motion, concluding the March 2009 order remains in effect and currently restricts full visitation. We reverse the order increasing Krueger's child support obligation, because the district court did not make independent, specific findings regarding his net income, and remand for these findings to be made.

I

[¶2] Gregory Krueger and Deborah Krueger, now known as Deborah Bentz, were married in 1992 and divorced in 1999. They had one child, L.K., who was born in 1994. Upon divorce, Bentz was given custody of L.K., but Krueger maintained liberal visitation rights. Numerous motions, mostly concerned with adjustments in visitation and child support, have been filed since the divorce.

[¶3] The district court amended its original judgment in 2003. This amended judgment allowed Bentz to retain custody of L.K. and restricted Krueger's visitation rights. Krueger's previously "unobstructed visitation" was altered to "reasonable visitation," with contact time reduced and exchanges taking place at a safe visitation center. This arrangement continued until August 2007, when an incident occurred while L.K. was visiting Krueger. This incident allegedly turned physical, with both the 13-year-old L.K. and Krueger pushing each other. The relationship between L.K. and Krueger became strained, and all visitation apparently ceased following this incident.

[¶4] Krueger again moved to amend the judgment, seeking "a more detailed specific visitation schedule" that would restore his visitation with L.K. In 2009, the district court ordered visitation should resume in the form of joint counseling sessions between L.K. and Krueger. The court directed that these sessions "shall address all unresolved issues in the relationship between [L.K.] and Gregory." Following these sessions, future unrestricted visitation was to proceed at the advice of the court-appointed therapist, Shelly Hall, Ph.D.: "Visitation shall then proceed to a neutral area outside Dr. Hall's office . . . . Once Dr. Hall determines that the original visitation outlined in the Judgment (or any amendments thereto) is beneficial, the said visitation shall resume as previously ordered."

[¶5] After the new order was in place, the therapy sessions quickly broke down, and the unrestricted visitation contemplated in the order never materialized. Krueger again moved to amend the judgment and require visitation to occur. One month later, the Southwest Area Child Support Enforcement Unit separately moved to amend the judgment to increase Krueger's child support obligation because of an increase in income he was allegedly realizing from a new business venture.

[¶6] The district court heard testimony on both motions during the same hearing. Dr. Hall testified the six joint counseling sessions were not successful. She testified that L.K. refused to meet any further with his father and that it would be counterproductive to hold more sessions or force visitation between the two. Dr. Hall further noted in her written findings, "I do not feel it would be beneficial to force him to meet his father, although I do believe it is important for him to have a relationship. Forcing him to do this will likely only create even more resistance to this."

[ΒΆ7] The court also interviewed L.K. in chambers. In its written order, the court found that the 16-and-a-half-year-old L.K. had "had it" with counselors, experts, and interviews. The district court further found that given time and autonomy, L.K. was in the best position to restore a relationship with his father. Given these findings, the court concluded in its order denying Krueger's motion that there was "nothing ...


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