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Lance Brian Morris v. Ceisha Dawn Moller

April 10, 2012

LANCE BRIAN MORRIS, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLANT
v.
CEISHA DAWN MOLLER, DEFENDANT AND APPELLEE



Appeal from the District Court of Burleigh County, South Central Judicial District, the Honorable David E. Reich, Judge.

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

N.D. Supreme CourtMorris v. Moller,

2012 ND 74

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

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AFFIRMED.

Opinion of the Court by Kapsner, Justice.

[¶1] Lance Morris appeals from a district court judgment awarding Ceisha Moller primary residential responsibility of the parties' two children. We conclude the court's judgment was not clearly erroneous, and we affirm.

I

[¶2] Morris and Moller were not married but lived together from the latter part of 2004 through February 2009. They had two children--C.M., a son, and J.M., a daughter--before separating. Moller also had a daughter, A.G., from a previous relationship; A.G. resided with the parties and their children. After the parties separated, Morris filed suit for primary residential responsibility of the children. Moller answered, seeking primary residential responsibility herself, and she moved for an interim order awarding her temporary primary residential responsibility. The court entered an interim order granting Moller's motion and allowing Morris reasonable visitation. Following a motion by Moller, the district court ordered the appointment of a parenting investigator.

[¶3] On July 22 and 23, 2010, a trial was held to determine parental rights and responsibilities. Both parties alleged the other had abused drugs during their relationship. Morris asserted Moller used methamphetamine during her pregnancies with C.M., who was born in 2005, and J.M., who was born in 2007, which Moller denied. Among the witnesses called at trial were the children's pediatrician and the parenting investigator, the latter of whom Morris claimed was biased toward Moller. After analyzing the best interests and welfare of the children under the factors set forth in N.D.C.C. § 14-09-06.2(1), the district court found it was in the children's best interests for Moller to have primary residential responsibility and for Morris to have reasonable parenting time.

II

[¶4] On appeal, Morris argues the district court erred in awarding Moller primary residential responsibility because sufficient evidence was presented to establish Moller used methamphetamine while pregnant with C.M. and J.M., triggering a rebuttable presumption that Moller may not be awarded residential responsibility. Morris also claims several of the best interest factors should have been found to favor him. He finally contends the court erred by relying on the parenting investigator's recommendations, alleging the parenting investigator was biased toward Moller.

[¶5] A district court's award of primary residential responsibility is a finding of fact, which will not be reversed on appeal unless it is clearly erroneous. Miller v. Mees, 2011 ND 166, ¶ 12, 802 N.W.2d 153. "A finding of fact is clearly erroneous if it is induced by an erroneous view of the law, if no evidence exists to support it, or, although there is some evidence to support it, on the entire record, we are left with a definite and firm conviction a mistake has been made." Doll v. Doll, 2011 ND 24, ¶ 6, 794 N.W.2d 425. When applying the clearly erroneous standard of review, we do not reweigh evidence, reassess witness ...


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