Justia Wyoming Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court modifying custody, support and visitation awarding primary physical custody of the minor child to Father, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying a continuance of trial. After Mother's attorney was suspended from the practice of law the district court denied three separate pro se motions for continuance of trial. Following a trial, the district court found a material change of circumstances and awarded Father primary physical custody of the child, subject to visitation by Mother. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in denying Mother's motion for continuance. View "Bacus v. Coon" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court terminating Mother's parental rights, holding that even if the district court erred in admitting Mother's physician's testimony and a related 2011 medical record, Mother was not prejudiced and the error was harmless. The jury found clear and convincing evidence for termination on grounds on two separate statutory grounds. Mother appealed, arguing that the district court abused its discretion when it admitted privileged evidence through her physician's testimony and an associated medical record. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was ample evidence without the physician testimony and associated medical record to show that Mother was unfit to have custody and control of the child as required by Wyo. Stat. Ann. 14-2-309(a)(v); and (2) even assuming the testimony and medical record were privileged and the district court erred in admitting them, the error was harmless. View "Mets v. State, Department of Family Services" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court terminating the parental rights of Mother to her three minor daughters, holding that the district court erred in allocating peremptory challenges, but the improper allocation was not reversible error, and the court did not abuse its discretion in admitting evidence of the children's sexual abuse allegations. Specifically, the Court held that the district court (1) erred when it failed to equalize peremptory challenges by either giving Mother additional challenges or requiring the Department of Family Services and guardian ad litem to share challenges, but the error was not reversible; and (2) did not abuse its discretion when it admitted evidence of the children's sexual abuse allegations and by excluding evidence of whether the allegations had been substantiated or were under investigation. View "Ellis v. State, Department of Family Services" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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In this dissolution proceeding, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgment, holding that the court did not improperly deny Appellant's motion for a continuance of the divorce trial and did not improperly punish Appellant for fault in dividing the marital property. In bifurcated proceedings, the district court entered a divorce decree and then ordered the division of the marital property, each party essentially receiving his and her premarital assets. Appellant appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied Appellant's second motion for continuance of the trial; and (2) the property division did not improperly punish Appellant for her fault. View "Conzelman v. Conzelman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court dismissed this case arising from an ongoing juvenile court action involving three minor children and their mother, holding that the juvenile court lost jurisdiction over one of the children, BG, when BG turned eighteen years old because the requirements of Wyo. Stat. Ann. 14-3-431(b) were not met. When BG was fifteen, the juvenile court placed Mother's three children in the custody of the Department of Family Services and adjudicated Mother neglectful. While the Department began pursuing a permanency plan of adoption/guardianship for the three children, BG turned eighteen. The juvenile court, however, continued to issue orders as though the Department retained custody over BG. Mother argued that, under section 14-3-431(b), a review hearing should have taken place six months before BG's eighteenth birthday for the court to retain jurisdiction over her, and because a review hearing did not take place the court lacked jurisdiction over BG. The juvenile court held that its jurisdiction over BG had not terminated. The Supreme Court disagreed and dismissed this action, holding that the juvenile court's jurisdiction over BG terminated when she reached eighteen years of age because the court did not fulfill the requirements of section 14-3-431(b). View "RH v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the judgment of the district court ordering Mother to reimburse funds she removed from the college account she managed for one of the parties' two children and awarding post-judgment interest, holding that the district court erred as a matter of law when it ordered payment of statutory post-judgment interest. In accordance with the divorce decree of Father and Mother, Father agreed to establish college accounts in the amount of $50,000 for each of the parties' two children. Mother managed one account, and Father managed the other account. The district court later ordered Mother to reimburse funds she removed from the account she managed. Mother appealed, arguing that the court abused its discretion in awarding damages in the amount of $50,000 and in awarded post-judgment interest. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the district court did not err when it found damages in the amount of $50,000; and (2) the district court erred as a matter of law when it awarded ten percent post-judgment interest from September 2007. The court then remanded the matter for further proceedings on interest. View "Lew v. Lew" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court terminating Mother's parental rights to three of her minor children pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. 14-2-309(a)(iii) and (v), holding that the evidence was sufficient to support the court's determination. While the district court found clear and convincing evidence supported termination of Mother's parental rights under both section 14-2-309(a)(iii) and (v) the Supreme Court needed determine only whether clear and convincing evidence supported one of the bases for termination. The Court affirmed the district court's finding of clear and convincing evidence to support termination under section 14-2-309(a)(v), holding that the district court's decision finding Mother unfit was supported by clear and convincing evidence. View "Dunlap v. State, Department of Family Services" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court dismissing Appellant's divorce action against Appellee on the grounds of improper venue and/or forum non conveniens, holding that the district court erred by dismissing the action for improper venue and did not apply the correct test when it dismissed for forum non conveniens. The parties married in North Carolina in 1989. In 2018, Appellant filed a complaint for divorce in the district court in Fremont County, Wyoming, where he lived. Appellee filed a motion to dismiss the Wyoming action pursuant to Wyo. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(3), claiming that Wyoming was an improper venue for the divorce and/or forum non conveniens. The district court granted Appellee's motion. In doing so, the court followed the Supreme Court's decision in West Texas Utilities Co. v. Exxon Coal USA, Inc. 807 P.2d 932 (Wyo. 1991). The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court's analysis was inadequate. Consequently, the Court adopted the two-stage test for forum non conveniens from Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501 (1947), and directed the district court to apply that test on remand. View "Saunders v. Saunders" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court granting Tanya Knell's application for issuance of a writ of continuing garnishment of Bruce Knell's wages and enforcing the writ, holding that the garnishment exceeded the limits on creditor garnishments. Tanya applied for a writ of garnishment against Bruce's earnings for amounts owing under a property division ordered by the district court. The district court ruled that the garnishment was enforceable. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a support order must be treated as a garnishment, and therefore creditor judgment garnishments may be imposed only to the extent support garnishments do not exceed the general twenty-five percent limit; and (2) because Bruce's support garnishment was approximately forty-two percent of his disposable earnings the district court erred in enforcing additional garnishment for the property settlement debt to Tanya. View "Knell v. Knell" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court granting Father's petition to modify custody and awarding Father primary physical custody of the parties' four-year-old son, holding that the district court abused its discretion when it ignored certain material factors in determining that modification of the original order was warranted. After a trial, the district court found that Mother's move from Buffalo, Wyoming to Plains, Montana constituted a material change in circumstances and that it was in the child's best interests to grant Father primary physical custody. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion determining that a material change in circumstances justified reopening its prior custody order; but (2) the district court abused its discretion when it determined that transferring custody to Father was in the child's best interests. View "Ianelli v. Camino" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law