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Harvey v. Harvey

Supreme Court of North Dakota

December 20, 2016

Christine Rasmussen Harvey, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
Jerry Harvey, Defendant and Appellant

         Appeal from the District Court of Cass County, East Central Judicial District, the Honorable Susan L. Bailey, Judge.

         AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, AND REMANDED.

          Leah J. duCharme (argued) and Christel A. Croxen (appeared), for plaintiff and appellee.

          James R. Brothers, for defendant and appellant.

          OPINION

          VandeWalle, Chief Justice.

         [¶ 1] Jerry Harvey appealed from a district court order and second amended judgment finding him in contempt and modifying his parenting time. We affirm those parts of the judgment finding Harvey in contempt and modifying his parenting time, but we reverse and remand the district court's order of attorney's fees.

         I

         [¶ 2] Harvey and Christine Rasmussen Harvey divorced in January 2014. The parties have three minor children together, and Rasmussen was awarded primary residential responsibility of the children. In December 2015, Rasmussen moved to modify Harvey's parenting time and requested the court find Harvey in contempt. In April 2016, the district court granted Rasmussen's motion, modified Harvey's parenting time, found Harvey was in contempt, and ordered Harvey pay Rasmussen's attorney's fees and costs.

         II

         [¶ 3] Harvey argues the district court erred by finding him in contempt and amending the parties' parenting plan to reduce his parenting time. He contends the court's findings are not sufficient to support its decision.

         [¶ 4] The district court has broad discretion in deciding whether contempt has been committed, and the court's decision will not be overturned on appeal unless there is a clear abuse of discretion. Peterson v. Peterson, 2016 ND 157, ¶¶ 3, 6, 883 N.W.2d 449. A district court's decision to modify parenting time is a finding of fact, subject to the clearly erroneous standard of review. Schurmann v. Schurmann, 2016 ND 69, ¶ 8, 877 N.W.2d 20. "A district court must adequately explain the evidentiary and legal basis for its decision, allowing the parties and this Court to understand the decision." Curtiss v. Curtiss, 2016 ND 197, ¶ 13, 886 N.W.2d 565 (quoting In re Estate of Nelson, 2015 ND 122, ¶ 13, 863 N.W.2d 521). The court's findings are sufficient if they afford a clear understanding of the court's decision and assist this Court in conducting its review. Topolski v. Topolski, 2014 ND 68, ¶ 7, 844 N.W.2d 875.

         [¶ 5] The district court's findings are not a model, but they are sufficient to discern the factual basis for the court's decision. After reviewing the entire record, we conclude the district court did not abuse its discretion by finding Harvey in contempt and the court's decision to modify Harvey's parenting time is not clearly erroneous. We summarily affirm the district court's contempt and parenting time decisions under N.D.R.App.P. 35.1(a)(2) and (4).

         III

         [¶ 6] Harvey argues the district court abused its discretion by ordering him to pay Rasmussen's attorney's fees and costs. He contends the court was required to consider the parties' needs and ...


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