The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in In re the Parental Responsibilities of M. B.-M., and Concerning Berndt on January 20, 2011.
In this parental responsibilities case involving two adoptive parents, Marie Berndt appealed from two district court orders on her contempt motion against Rebecca McBlair. The orders were reversed and the case was remanded for further proceedings.
Berndt filed a motion for contempt against McBlair, alleging she had violated a court order to share joint decision making and parenting time for their child, M.B.-M. Specifically, McBlair enrolled M.B.-M. in a new daycare without Berndt’s knowledge or consent, and failed to list Berndt as a parent on the admission form. The court found McBlair in contempt and ordered her to list Berndt as a parent on the daycare admission form (to purge the contempt), as well as to pay Berndt’s attorney fees. This order was not reduced to writing.
At the sentencing hearing on July 7, the magistrate found that McBlair had purged the contempt and issued a minute order reducing the attorney fees award to judgment. On July 13, the magistrate issued another written order, ruling that Berndt had not met her burden to prove contempt, and vacated the attorney fees award.
On appeal, Berndt contended that the district court erred in adopting the magistrate’s order, which overturned its previous order finding McBlair in contempt. The magistrate’s July 7 written and signed minute order stands as a written contempt order. Where a magistrate considers a motion for contempt under C.R.C.P. 107, consent of the parties to hear the matter is not required. A magistrate may not entertain a motion for reconsideration under C.R.C.P. 59 or for relief from a judgment under C.R.C.P. 60. Once a magistrate has entered a written and signed order on a matter without consent, the magistrate may not alter or amend the written order, except to correct clerical errors, whether on application of a party or sua sponte. Thus, the magistrate’s July 13 order, which purported to amend the July 7 order by concluding that McBlair was not in contempt and vacating the award of attorney fees to Berndt, was void. The district court’s orders were reversed and the case was remanded for further proceedings.