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Johnson v. Johnson

Supreme Court of North Dakota

May 16, 2017

Tina Andrea Johnson n/k/a Tina Andrea Berndt, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
Matthew Vaughn Johnson, Defendant and Appellant

         Appeal from the District Court of McHenry County, Northeast Judicial District, the Honorable Lee A. Christofferson, Judge.

          Michael S. McIntee, Towner, ND, for plaintiff and appellee.

          Kyle R. Craig, Minot, ND, for defendant and appellant.

          OPINION

          VandeWalle, Chief Justice.

         [¶ 1] Matthew Johnson appealed a district court's order awarding two of the three tax exemptions for the children to Tina Johnson. Matthew Johnson argues the district court erred by not holding an oral argument and failing to make explicit findings on who would benefit the most from having the tax exemptions. Matthew Johnson did not request an oral argument and the district court's findings were not clearly erroneous; therefore, we affirm.

         I.

         [¶ 2] Tina Johnson and Matthew Johnson have three minor children and were divorced in 2013. Through a stipulation, Tina Johnson was awarded primary residential responsibility with Matthew Johnson paying $596 a month in child support. The stipulation also laid out a schedule for claiming the tax exemptions for the children: Tina Johnson and Matthew Johnson would alternate claiming two children one year and one child the next.

         [¶ 3] In October 2016, Tina Johnson filed a motion to enforce the judgment asking the district court to require Matthew Johnson to pay the debt on a vehicle and to award her two of the children's tax exemptions permanently. Tina Johnson requested an oral argument on her motion and a date was set. Matthew Johnson opposed Tina Johnson's request for the tax exemptions. The district court canceled the oral argument and granted Tina Johnson's request for the tax exemptions.

         II.

         [¶ 4] On appeal, Matthew Johnson argues the district court: (1) erred when it issued its order without holding the requested oral argument and (2) was clearly erroneous when it awarded Tina Johnson two tax exemptions.

         A.

         [¶ 5] Rule 3.2(a)(3) of the North Dakota Rules of Court states:

If any party who has timely served and filed a brief requests oral argument, the request must be granted. A timely request for oral argument must be granted even if the moving party has previously served notice indicating that the motion is to be decided on briefs. The party requesting oral argument must secure a time for the argument and serve notice upon all other parties.... If the party requesting oral argument fails within 14 days of the request to secure a time for the argument, the request is waived and the matter is considered submitted for decision on the briefs.

         [¶ 6] Tina Johnson timely served and filed her brief, requested oral argument, secured a date, and notified Matthew Johnson. The oral argument was scheduled for December 22, 2016; however, on December 1, the district court granted Tina Johnson's motion. Matthew Johnson argues the district court erred in granting Tina Johnson relief without holding the oral argument. Matthew Johnson did not request an ...


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