from the District Court of Burleigh County, South Central
Judicial District, the Honorable James S. Hill, Judge.
J. Schaffner, self-represented, Mandan, N.D., plaintiff and
A. Hager, Bismarck, N.D., for defendant and appellee.
1] Paul Schaffner appeals a district court order denying his
petition to modify his parenting time from supervised
visitation to unsupervised. The district court denied his
petition after finding Schaffner failed to show a material
change in circumstances had occurred since the previous order
establishing his parenting time. We affirm, concluding the
district court's findings were not clearly erroneous.
2] Paul Schaffner and Teresa Schaffner ("Hanson")
have one child, N.S., who was born in 2002. In 2012, they
divorced, and a district court awarded Hanson primary
residential responsibility for N.S. Hanson also received a
domestic violence protection order against Schaffner. In an
interlocutory order, the court restricted Schaffner's
parenting time with N.S. to supervised visitation and
appointed a parenting coordinator to facilitate reunification
between Schaffner and his child.
3] In 2013, Schaffner sought to modify his parenting time
from supervised visitation to unsupervised. The district
court found, however, that between 2012 and 2013, Schaffner
had intimidated the parenting coordinator, resulting in her
withdrawal from the case. The court also found
Schaffner's conduct resulted in a second appointed
parenting coordinator withdrawing from the case. It denied
Schaffner's petition to modify his parenting time.
4] In 2014, Schaffner again petitioned the court to modify
his parenting time. He argued he was not a danger to his
child in part by submitting evidence showing he had completed
a domestic violence treatment program. The district court
denied Schaffner's petition, finding his treatment did
not constitute a material change in circumstances. The court
also found supervised visitation served N.S.'s best
interests. Schaffner did not appeal the decision.
5] In 2016, Schaffner, acting pro se, petitioned the court
for a third time to modify his parenting time. He argued his
new employment as a teacher constituted a material change in
circumstances. He also asked the court to remove the domestic
violence protection order against him, but he withdrew his
request after the court explained he would need to file a
motion in the domestic violence case, not the custody case.
The district court denied his petition on January 4, 2017,
finding that his new employment, while an accomplishment, did
not convince the court that a material change in
circumstances had occurred since the previous order.
6] Schaffner moved the court for additional findings and a
new trial, and the district court denied his motion on
January 24, 2017. He appealed, including in his notice of
appeal a preliminary statement of issues that encompassed
both the January 4 and January 24 orders. During oral
argument, Schaffner clarified that his issue on appeal was
whether the district court clearly erred in its January 4
order by finding his new employment did not constitute a
material change in circumstances.
7] The first issue presented to us is whether Schaffner's
appeal is properly before this Court. Hanson argues
Schaffner's appeal is improper because his notice of
appeal referenced the order denying his Rule 52(b),
N.D.R.Civ.P. motion, which is not an appealable order.
Ellendale Farmers Union Co-op v. Davis, 219 N.W.2d
829, 831 (N.D. 1974). Schaffner's notice of appeal
purports to appeal an order dated January 26, 2017, which
matches neither order, and encompasses issues relating to
both the January 4 and January 24 orders. We treat court
orders as final judgments if the district court intended the
order to be a final judgment. Austin v. Towne, 1997
ND 59, ¶ 7, 560 N.W.2d 895. The district court's
January 4 ...