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Mother reunited with child after Montana Supreme Court finds 'gross injustice'

Shanna ManyWounds and her little boy were recently reunited and have arrived home in Montana
Montana Supreme Court
Posted at 9:59 AM, Jan 14, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-14 12:00:27-05

Shanna ManyWounds and her little boy were reunited in Oregon last week and arrived home in Montana, according to her lawyers.

“I can’t remember the last time I felt so good about the outcome of a case, primarily for Shanna and (the child), but also for the justice system in the State of Montana,” said Spencer MacDonald, one of her lawyers, in an email.

The lawyers, from Missoula, had described the child custody case, which unexpectedly placed the child in the care of his father, as one of the most blatant miscarriages of justice they had ever seen, the Daily Montanan reports.

In an order last week, the Montana Supreme Court found in favor of ManyWounds, who had largely raised the child.

The reunion took place after the justices unanimously agreed to undo a Lake County District Court order that the child, 5, be removed on the spot from ManyWounds, of Elmo, and placed with his father, of Oregon.

The immediate removal took place at a child custody hearing in September with Judge Deborah Kim Christopher.

Neither parent had proposed the plan the judge imposed or accused the other of significant lapses in parenting.

The parents were negotiating minor disputes in a general plan that continued to keep the child mostly with his mother, his primary caretaker all his life.

The Supreme Court found the lower court’s decisions met the threshold of a “gross injustice,”and the justices voided the parenting plan, remanded the case, and assigned a different judge.

The father’s lawyer, David Diacon of Lolo, did not respond to an email; he earlier said he does not comment on active cases.

Lawyer Lance Jasper, who also represents ManyWounds, praised the reunion. Both lawyers agreed to take the case largely pro bono after reading a transcript of the hearing.

“Never so happy for a client,” Jasper said in an email. “To see her child’s face when reunited with his mom will be a memory I will forever cherish.”

However, he also said the job is only partially done.

“It is my responsibility to see that no other person has to endure what Shanna and her son went through. It is time to address the misconduct which occurred and expose those responsible and hold them accountable,” Jasper wrote.

The order means the parents revert to the plan they already had in place, with the child mostly in ManyWounds’ care. They will re-resolve remaining disputes before Lake County District Judge Molly Owen.

In their order, the justices also said they hoped the parents, who had an amicable relationship and had mostly worked out parenting on their own, could repair any damage from the lower court’s order.