Appeal from the District Court of Ward County, Northwest Judicial District, the Honorable Gary H. Lee, Judge.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: VandeWalle, Chief Justice.
N.D. Supreme CourtBachmeier v. Bachmeier,
2013 ND 76 This opinion is subject to petition for rehearing. [Go to Documents]
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Opinion of the Court by VandeWalle, Chief Justice.
[¶1] Jason Bachmeier appealed from a district court order denying his motion to find Natasha Stevens in contempt. We affirm.
[¶2] Jason Bachmeier and Natasha Bachmeier, now Natasha Stevens, were divorced with a judgment entered by stipulation in 2010. They have three children together from the marriage. Stevens' attorney for the divorce prepared a parenting plan to be included in the divorce judgment. The plan was signed by both parties, and was filed with the court. The plan states that the "legal residence of the children for school attendance shall be with [Natasha Stevens]." It also states "Education Decisions will be made by: Mother." At the time of the divorce, the parties lived together in the marital home in Granville, North Dakota. All three children attended Granville school. After the divorce, Stevens moved to Glenburn, North Dakota, where she is employed as a teacher. Glenburn is approximately 30 miles from Granville. Stevens enrolled all three children in Glenburn schools. Bachmeier asked the district court to enter an ex parte order preventing Stevens from enrolling the children in Glenburn schools. The district court refused to do so. After the move to Glenburn, problems arose with transportation to and from school. The parents began different living arrangements, with two children attending Glenburn schools and one attending Granville schools.
[¶3] In April, 2011, Stevens filed a motion to amend the judgment and award her primary residential responsibility. She claimed the school arrangements were not working out and Bachmeier was trying to turn the children against her. Bachmeier responded with a motion to hold Stevens in contempt for changing the school the children attended and for frustrating his parenting time. The district court denied Stevens' motion, but did not rule on Bachmeier's contempt motion. He renewed his motion, and a hearing was held. At the hearing, Bachmeier contended that the judgment did not incorporate the parenting plan, and therefore the parenting plan had no effect. He argued the language in the judgment created a duty sufficient to find Stevens in contempt for changing the school the children attended. He requested the court find Stevens in contempt and require the children attend Granville school. The district court denied the motion for contempt, ruling that the parenting plan applied, that Stevens had the authority to change the school the children attended, and that Stevens had not willfully disobeyed a court order when they had to make transportation and parenting time adjustments because of the change of schools.
[¶4] Bachmeier argues the district court abused its discretion by denying his contempt motion because the parenting plan was not included in the judgment. He claims Stevens violated the terms of the judgment by enrolling their children in Glenburn schools and by denying him parenting time.
Determining whether a contempt has been committed lies within the district court's sound discretion, which will not be overturned on appeal absent an abuse of that discretion. Millang v. Hahn, 1998 ND 152, ¶ 7, 582 N.W.2d 665. "[A] court abuses its discretion when it acts in an arbitrary, unreasonable, or unconscionable manner or when it misinterprets or misapplies the law." Id. Sall v. Sall, 2011 ND 202, ¶ 7, 804 N.W.2d 378 (quoting Prchal v. Prchal, 2011 ND 62, ¶ 5, 795 N.W.2d 693).
[¶5] "A party seeking a contempt sanction under N.D.C.C. ch. 27-10 must clearly and satisfactorily prove the alleged contempt was committed." Sall, 2011 ND 202, ¶ 7, 804 N.W.2d 378 (citing Berg v. Berg, 2000 ND 37, ¶ 10, 606 N.W.2d 903; Flattum- Riemers v. Flattum- Riemers, 1999 ND 146, ¶ 5, 598 N.W.2d 499). "Under N.D.C.C. § 27- 10- 01.1(1)(c), '[c]ontempt of court' includes '[i]ntentional disobedience, resistance, or obstruction of the authority, process, or order of a court or other officer.'" Sall, at ¶ 7 (quoting Harger v. Harger, 2002 ND 76, ¶ 14, 644 N.W.2d 182). "To warrant a remedial sanction for contempt, there must be a willful and inexcusable intent to ...