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Bautista v. Picone

Supreme Court of Nevada

May 31, 2018

RENELYN BAUTISTA, Appellant,
v.
JAMES PICONE, Respondent.

          Appeal from district court orders denying appellant's motion to modify custody and appointing a special master/parenting coordinator. Eighth Judicial District Court, Clark County; Mathew Harter, Judge.

          Black & LoBello and John D. Jones, Las Vegas, for Appellant.

          Benjamin B. Childs, Las Vegas, for Respondent.

         BEFORE THE COURT EN BANC. [1]

          OPINION

          DOUGLAS, C.J.

         Appellant Renelyn Bautista and respondent James Picone agreed to share joint physical custody of their minor child. In the months following the parents' agreement, Bautista filed three motions with the district court to modify the parents' custody arrangement, which were denied. The district court appointed a parenting coordinator to help mediate and resolve any disputes concerning the minor child and permitted the parenting coordinator to make substantive changes to the parents' custody arrangement. Bautista then filed another motion with the district court seeking to modify custody based on allegations that Picone was dating a minor. Without conducting an evidentiary hearing, the district court denied Bautista's request. In this opinion, we conclude that granting the parenting coordinator authority to make substantive changes to the parents' custody arrangement is an improper delegation of the district court's judicial authority. We further hold that the district court abused its discretion by denying Bautista's latest motion to change physical custody without conducting an evidentiary hearing after she established adequate cause.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Bautista and Picone share joint physical custody of their minor child pursuant to a stipulated order. Three months after the district court entered the stipulated order, Bautista filed a motion to modify physical custody. The court denied Bautista's motion and stated that given the history of the case, if Bautista filed a similar motion within the next six months, the court would appoint a parenting coordinator.

         Subsequently, Bautista reported to the Special Victims Unit at the Henderson Police Department that Picone sexually abused their minor child. As a result, the parties filed competing motions regarding child custody. The district court conducted a hearing regarding the sexual abuse allegation and interviewed the investigating officer. At the conclusion of the hearing, the district court stated that based on the preponderance of the evidence and the history of the case, the parties' custody schedule would continue.

         Two months after the hearing, Bautista filed another motion to modify child custody by one hour so that the minor child could attend Sunday school. The district court denied Bautista's request and appointed a parenting coordinator. Bautista filed a motion requesting a different and specific parenting coordinator, which the district court granted.

         Bautista then filed a motion seeking to change custody based on allegations that Picone was dating a 15-year-old girl. The district court denied Bautista's request without conducting an evidentiary hearing. The district court also entered an order appointing a different parenting coordinator because the previous coordinator withdrew from the case. The district court granted the parenting coordinator the authority to make temporary decisions resolving minor disputes between the parents, including substantive and nonsubstantive changes to the parents' custody plan, until the court entered an order modifying the coordinator's decision. Bautista now appeals the latest order denying custody modification and the latest order appointing a parenting coordinator.

         DISCUSSION

         Standard of review

         Decisions regarding child custody rest in the district court's sound discretion, and this court will not disturb the decision absent a clear abuse of that discretion. Sims v. Sims,109 Nev. 1146, 1148, 865 P.2d 328, 330 (1993). An abuse of discretion occurs when a district court's decision is not supported by substantial evidence or is clearly erroneous. Ogawa v,Ogawa, 125 Nev. 660, 668, 221 P.3d 699, 704 (2009) ...


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