(1) To achieve and maintain uniformity and consistency in determining contested cases, contested case decisions shall be guided by:
(a) applicable sections of the Montana Code Annotated;
(b) case law decisions of the Montana supreme court;
(c) the administrative rules, procedures and policies set out in this chapter;
(d) precedent created by other ALJ final decisions and orders in contested cases where the facts are essentially the same; and
(e) to determine the nature, extent, amount or duration of a support order issued by a tribunal of another state, the statutory and case law of the issuing state and the federal Full Faith and Credit for Child Support Orders Act (28 USC 1738 B).
(2) When there is no statute, case law or administrative rule directly pertinent to a particular contested issue, or when the law is unsettled, and to the extent the following are of general applicability and do not conflict with the rules for ex parte communication, the ALJ's discretion shall be guided by:
(a) written CSSD policy directives; and
(b) the CSSD policy and procedures manual.
(3) Notwithstanding (2), each ALJ has independent authority to hear and decide contested cases. Under the unique circumstances of a particular case and upon a showing of facts or law sufficient to rebut application of a particular policy, an ALJ may depart from established CSSD policy. Any departure shall be supported by reasoned explanation.
(4) An ALJ presiding over a contested case does not have general powers of equity similar to those of the district courts. Consequently, except in those specific circumstances allowing such equitable relief as is defined by statute or case law, an ALJ may not depart from applicable law and rule to grant equitable relief to a party even when such relief may appear proper under the circumstances.
(5) During the course of a hearing, if a particular policy applicable under (2) will affect a certain matter at issue and if that issue is disputed, the ALJ will give the parties an opportunity to show cause why the policy is not applicable under the circumstances of that case.