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Montana Supreme Court rejects plea from Glasgow couple regarding child custody case

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Montana Supreme Court rejects plea from Glasgow couple regarding child custody case

Feb 06, 2024 | 7:42 pm ET
By Darrell Ehrlick
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Montana Supreme Court rejects plea from Glasgow couple regarding child custody case
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The entrance to the Montana Supreme Court (Photo by Eric Seidle/ For the Daily Montanan).

In a short, but quick response the Montana Supreme Court has ruled that it will not overturn a district court judge’s gag-order against a Glasgow couple fighting with the state over custody of their child.

On Tuesday, the day after Todd Kolstad and his wife, Krista Cummins-Kolstad, filed an emergency petition with the state’s highest court, a five-justice panel, led by Chief Justice Mike McGrath, said that the couple had presented no evidence that Valley County District Court Judge Yvonne Laird had made mistakes while handling the child custody case. Furthermore, the Supreme Court order said the motivation for the emergency appeal was likely because the couple could face jail time for violating Laird’s gag-order, but the judge had not issued any findings of contempt.

The justices said that because the process is still playing out, the Kolstads would have all legal defenses available to them to justify why they shouldn’t be held in contempt. Also, the judge has yet to make findings that an appellate court could review.

The ruling sets up a confrontation in which the Kolstads will appear before Laird on Feb. 21 in Glasgow at a hearing in which they will have to testify why they decided to violate a gag-order in place regarding the custody of their child. They had also asked the state’s Supreme Court to take “supervisory control” of the case, but the court declined to do that as well.

“First (the Kolstads) provide nothing of record in support of their petition regarding the proceeding or the orders entered by the district court,” the Supreme Court order released Tuesday said. “No mistake of law or emergency factors have been demonstrated. After the hearing, the parties may pursue any post-contempt remedy they consider necessary.”

The issue stems from a dispute between the parents and the state’s Child Protective Services division of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. The case has drawn national and international attention, including the comments of Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte, a Republican, who defended the department.

In August 2023, the Kolstad’s child was removed from the home because of suicidal thoughts and actions. The state had located an in-patient psychiatric bed in Wyoming to help stabilize the 14-year-old. The Kolstad’s child identifies as a male, but the Kolstads said their religious beliefs reject that and consider transitioning a sin. They have stated they do not agree with their child’s identity.

Originally, the Kolstads rejected a placement in Wyoming, fearing that medical officials there would encourage or even begin allowing their child to transition. In court records, they told the Supreme Court they were motivated because they believed Montana had protected families who were not supportive of their children transitioning, and feared sending the child to a state that didn’t have the protections.

The protection they understood was the controversial Senate Bill 99, which prohibited families and youth from receiving gender-affirming care in the state by licensed medical providers. However, that law was challenged and enjoined, never in effect.

The Kolstads were placed under a gag-order after they began posting information to social media. They have appeared on national conservative news outlets, and their story went viral on the Canadian social media site, Reduxx.

The state has been awarded temporary custody of the child, who is currently in a group home in Billings, according to court records.

OP 24-0071 Final Disposition_ Deny -- Order