Bonamarte v. Bonamarte – Case Brief Summary (Montana)

In Bonamarte v. Bonamarte, 263 Mont. 170, 866 P.2d 1132, 1133 (Mont. 1994), a husband appealed a lower court's decision to allow his divorcing wife to testify by telephone. Bonamarte, 866 P.2d at 1133. The wife, a past domestic abuse victim, requested that she testify over the telephone from New Jersey because she feared her husband, she could not afford to travel to Montana, and she could not afford to pay for their son's childcare in her absence. Id. at 1134.

She argued that telephonic testimony was harmless error at most. Id. Although the court understood her reasoning, it nevertheless held that the husband's right to confront and cross-examine the witness had been violated. Id.

The court reasoned that the wife, concerned about her safety and financial situation, could have been deposed or videotaped her testimony as appropriate alternatives to a live court appearance. Id. at 1136. While the court recognized that "special or exigent circumstances" may allow for such testimony, it acknowledged that this means of witnessing was not to be used in general. Id.