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W.C. v. J.H.

Supreme Court of North Dakota

June 27, 2019

W.C., Plaintiff and Appellant
v.
J.H. and T.H., Defendants and Appellees

          Appeal from the District Court of Ward County, North Central Judicial District, the Honorable Stacy J. Louser, Judge.

          Aften M. Grant, Minot, ND, for plaintiff and appellant.

          John S. Steinberger (argued), Kenmare, ND, and Tom P. Slorby (argued), Minot, ND, for defendants and appellees.

          OPINION

          CROTHERS, JUSTICE.

         [¶1] W.C. appeals from a district court order denying his petition to adjudicate paternity and seeking a determination of residential responsibility, decision making responsibility, parenting time, and child support. W.C. argues the district court abused its discretion in granting a motion quashing discovery. We affirm.

         I

         [¶2] W.C. alleges he is the father of a child born to J.H. in November 2013. W.C. and J.H. commenced a romantic relationship in late 2012 while J.H was married to T.H. The couple divorced in June 2013. Because J.H. gave birth to the child within 300 days of the divorce, T.H. is the presumed father under N.D.C.C. § 14-20-42. The child's birth certificate does not list a father.

         [¶3] In 2018, after the statute of limitations for challenging a presumed father expired, W.C. commenced an action to adjudicate paternity of the child, seeking a determination of residential responsibility, decision making responsibility, parenting time, and child support. The district court scheduled an evidentiary hearing. Before the hearing J.H. filed a motion to quash discovery, arguing W.C.'s requests for financial and medical records were not relevant, onerous, grossly invasive, and even if provided could not establish facts to support the relief sought in the petition. On August 7, 2018, the district court conducted a hearing on the motion to quash discovery. The district court granted the motion to quash discovery, finding medical and financial records were not relevant, and even if provided could not support W.C.'s argument pursuant to N.D.C.C. § 14-20-42.

         [¶4] On August 13, 2018, the district court conducted an evidentiary hearing on the paternity claim and heard testimony from W.C., J.H., and T.H. During the hearing W.C. introduced a packet containing T.H.'s answers to interrogatories, requests for admissions, and requests for production of documents. The packet included photos of T.H. and the child at family functions, answers to questions regarding family activities, and division of financial responsibilities. The packet also contained T.H.'s objections to the disclosure of financial and medical records. W.C. argued the lack of financial and medical discovery impaired his ability to fully present his case and meet the burden to challenge T.H.'s status as a presumed father.

         [¶5] Based on testimony and interrogatory answers from T.H. the district court found W.C. failed to disprove the parent-child relationship. The district court also found W.C. failed to establish T.H. and J.H. did not cohabitate nor engage in a sexual relationship during the probable time of conception. The district court denied W.C.'s petition.

         II

         [¶6] A district court has broad discretion regarding the scope of discovery, and this Court will not reverse on appeal absent an abuse of discretion. Bertsch v. Bertsch, 2007 ND 168, ¶ 10, 740 N.W.2d 388. An abuse of discretion by the district court is never assumed, and the burden of proof is on the party seeking relief to establish it. Flattum-Riemers v. Flattum-Riemers, 2003 ND 70, ¶ 7, 660 N.W.2d 558. The district court abuses its discretion when it acts in an arbitrary, unreasonable, or unconscionable manner, or when its decision is not the product of a rational mental process leading to a reasoned determination. Schaefer v. Souris River Telecomm. Coop., 2000 ND 187, ¶ 10, 618 N.W.2d 175. We will not overturn the district court's decision merely because it is not the decision we may have made if we were deciding the motion. Gepner v. Fujicolor Processing, Inc., 2001 ND 207, ¶ 13, 637 N.W.2d 681.

          III

         [¶7] W.C. argues the district court abused its discretion in ...


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