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Thompson v. Thompson

Supreme Court of North Dakota

January 22, 2018

Brent Thompson, Plaintiff and Appellant
v.
Jeanna Thompson, Defendant and Appellee

         Appeal from the District Court of Wells County, Southeast Judicial District, the Honorable James D. Hovey, Judge.

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

          Denise C. Hays-Johnson, Minot, ND, for defendant and appellee.

          OPINION

          VandeWalle, Chief Justice.

         [¶ 1] Brent Thompson appealed the district court's judgment awarding split residential responsibility and requiring Brent to pay spousal support. We affirm, concluding the district court's award of split residential responsibility and spousal support was adequately supported by the record.

         I

         [¶ 2] Brent and Jeanna Thompson married in 1999, and Brent filed for divorce in 2015. The parties have three minor children, C.M.T., C.F.T., and C.L.T. When the parties initially separated in 2015, C.F.T. chose to reside with Jeanna and C.M.T. chose to reside with Brent--C.L.T. went back and forth between the two households.

         [¶ 3] At trial, Brent requested primary residential responsibility of all three children. Each of the children expressed a preference for primary residence. C.F.T. and C.L.T. prefer to reside primarily with Jeanna, and C.M.T. prefers to reside with Brent.

         [¶ 4] The district court entered a divorce judgment dividing the parties' assets and debts, granting split residential responsibility, and awarding Jeanna spousal support. In coming to its determination for spousal support, the district court utilized the Ruff-Fischer guidelines; for residential responsibility, the district court utilized the best interest factors outlined in N.D.C.C. § 14-09-06.2.

         II

         Split Residential Responsibility

         [¶ 5] Section 14-09-06.2(1), N.D.C.C., provides factors for evaluating the best interests and welfare of the child in awarding residential responsibility. The best-interest factors include:

a. The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parents and child and the ability of each parent to provide the child with nurture, love, affection, and guidance.
b. The ability of each parent to assure that the child receives adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and a safe environment.
c. The child's developmental needs and the ability of each parent to meet those needs, both in the present and in the future.
d. The sufficiency and stability of each parent's home environment, the impact of extended family, the length of time the child has lived in each parent's home, and the desirability of maintaining continuity in the child's home and community.
e. The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child.
f. The moral fitness of the parents, as that fitness impacts the child.
g. The mental and physical health of the parents, as that health impacts the child.
h. The home, school, and community records of the child and the potential effect of any change.
i. If the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that a child is of sufficient maturity to make a sound judgment, the court may give substantial weight to the preference of the mature child. The court also shall give due consideration to other factors that may have affected the child's preference, including ...

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