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Hausladen v. Knoche

July 8, 2010


Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District, State of Idaho, Kootenai County. Hon. Charles W. Hosack, District Judge; Hon. Barry Watson, Magistrate Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Burdick, Justice

2010 Opinion No. 82

District court order affirming magistrate court judgment ordering payment of parenting coordinator fees, vacated and remanded.

Appellant Frank William Hausladen, Jr., appeals from the district court's appellate decision affirming the magistrate court's order requiring Hausladen to pay parenting coordinator fees billed by John H. Sahlin. The Idaho Court of Appeals reversed the district court's decision after concluding that the magistrate court's order was in error. This Court granted Sahlin's petition for review of the decision of the Court of Appeals. We find that the district court erred in affirming the magistrate court's judgment ordering Hausladen to pay for Sahlin's services, but we remand for a determination of whether Sahlin is entitled to fees in accordance with Idaho Code § 32-717D(3).


Hausladen and Shari Colene Knoche are the parents of a minor child. Their respective custody rights and child support obligations have been the subject of numerous orders and order modifications over a period of years. On February 2, 2005, the magistrate court entered an Order Modifying Custody, appointing Sahlin to act as a parenting coordinator. The order stated:

The Court further determines that it would be in the best interest of [the child] that a parenting coordinator be appointed in this particular matter. Pursuant to Idaho Code 32-717(d) [sic], all expenses associated with the parenting coordinator shall be split equally. Pursuant to agreement, the Court hereby appoints John Sahlin as the parenting coordinator in this particular matter.

The Order was otherwise silent as to the powers and duties of the parenting coordinator.

In his role as a parenting coordinator, Sahlin became involved in attempting to resolve various disagreements of the parents. On June 3, 2005, Sahlin sent a letter to both parties in which he approved a schedule for "summer visitation" and recommended that a check received by Hausladen be applied to the child support obligation before any other obligations. Sahlin also sent a letter to the parties on July 8, 2005, discussing disputed payments between the parties and offering to "issue some proclamation of who owes whom what, which you then can appeal or follow as you choose." On September 29, 2005, Sahlin entered an "Order/Recommendation of Parenting Coordinator," which stated that: (1) a judgment entered September 9, 2004, was deemed paid in full and satisfied; (2) Knoche was entitled to seven weeks of summer visitation but had only received six weeks of summer visitation and thus should be allowed one extra "weekend" to occur from October 12 through October 16, 2005; and, (3) although both parties "alluded" to pronouncements by the court modifying the order granting joint legal custody of the child, Sahlin found no indication of such a modification. On October 21, 2005, Sahlin entered a second order/recommendation rescinding the extra weekend ordered in the previous order/recommendation and canceling the "make-up time" until after the hearing Hausladen scheduled regarding his objection to the September 29 order/recommendation.

Hausladen filed a motion pursuant to I.R.C.P. 16(l)(9)(B) on December 12, 2005, and moved the court to:

[M]ake a specific factual finding of the actions of the court-appointed Parenting Coordinator and legal a ruling [sic] whether John Sahlin, the court-appointed Parenting Coordinator, has: (1) exceeded his mandate; (2) acted in a manner inconsistent with I.R.C.P. 16(l); and (3) demonstrated bias; (4) And, upon finding 1, 2, and 3 above, terminate the Parenting Coordinator's appointment.

On January 11, 2006, the magistrate court entered an order terminating Sahlin's appointment. Hausladen filed a motion for reconsideration on January 24, 2006, on the grounds that the order terminating Sahlin's appointment did not rule upon Hausladen's motion pursuant to I.R.C.P. 16(l)(9)(B) in any way. Hausladen requested that the court reconsider his motion and issue an order on the merits of the motion. The court does not appear to have addressed this motion.

Thereafter, on May 17, 2006, Sahlin filed a Motion for Order to Show Cause and for Entry of Judgment, alleging that Hausladen had failed to pay him for his services and seeking a court order requiring him to do so. Hausladen objected, contending that the order of appointment did not authorize Sahlin to perform any specific duties in his role as parenting coordinator and, therefore, Sahlin was not entitled to payment for his "ultra vires" acts. Following a hearing on June 5, 2006, the magistrate court granted Sahlin's motion. The magistrate court did not directly address Hausladen's legal arguments but simply ruled that Sahlin had performed services and was thus entitled to be paid. Id.Accordingly, the magistrate court entered a judgment requiring Hausladen to pay Sahlin $667.50.

Hausladen appealed to the district court, which affirmed the magistrate court in a brief order without a memorandum opinion. Hausladen then appealed to this Court and the case was assigned to the Idaho Court of Appeals, which reversed the district court's decision after finding that the magistrate court's ...

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