Articles Posted in Family Law

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In this dispute over custody of a child, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting Mother's motion to strike Father's motion for an order relinquishing permanent child custody jurisdiction to the tribal court, holding that the district court properly concluded that it retained exclusive continuing jurisdiction to make permanent custody determinations regarding the child. The district court granted Mother primary custody of the parties' child. Father, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, kept the child on the South Dakota reservation and refused to relinquish custody to Mother. Father sought orders from the district court and the trial court transferring jurisdiction over the custody matter to the tribal court. The tribal court dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction because the custody action was pending in the district court and Mother was not a tribal matter. In the district court, Father argued that the tribal court acquired jurisdiction over the custody matter by issuing emergency child custody and/or protection orders. The district court granted Mother's motion to strike Father's motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court properly concluded that it retained exclusive continuing jurisdiction to make permanent custody determinations regarding the child. View "Mitchell v. Preston" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court enforcing the terms of Appellant's divorce decree at the request of her late ex-husband's estate, holding that there was no error in the district court's decision. On appeal, Appellant argued that the district court erred by not modifying the terms of the divorce settlement agreement and the divorce decree, erred in failing to apply laches, and erred in concluding that Appellant was not entitled to storage fees or mortgage contributions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court correctly determined that a divorce agreement that has merged into a divorce decree cannot be modified by oral agreement of the parties, and Acton v. Acton, 406 P.3d 1279 (Wyo. 2017) is overruled because it states otherwise; (2) Appellant failed to demonstrate that she was entitled to relief from the decree under Wyo. R. Civ. P. 60(b); (3) Appellant could not use the doctrine of laches to prevent enforcement of the judgment; and (4) the district court properly held that Appellant was not entitled to storage fees or mortgage contributions. View "Meiners v. Meiners" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Mother’s rights to her three children, holding that the evidence clearly and convincingly established that Mother’s parental rights should be terminated. The district court found that the State presented clear and convincing evidence proving the statutory grounds for termination of Mother’s parental rights under both Wyo. Stat. Ann. 14-2-309(a)(iii) and (v). On appeal, Mother challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to establish the statutory requirements for termination of her parental rights. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the record supported the district court’s finding that each of the requirements for termination was proven by clear and convincing evidence. View "Swenson v. State, Department of Family Services" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order terminating Mother’s parental rights to her two children, holding that there was clear and convincing evidence to support the jury’s finding that Mother’s parental rights should be terminated. During the termination proceedings, Mother admitted that her children were in foster care for more than fifteen of the most recent twenty-two months. The Supreme Court held (1) the State presented clear and convincing evidence that, at the time of the trial in this case, Mother was not able to meet her children’s physical, mental, or emotional needs; and (2) the State met its burden of proving that Mother was unfit to have custody or control of the children. View "Gillen v. State, Department of Family Services" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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In this family matter, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order awarding Father primary physical custody and Mother visitation of the parties’ child, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it refused to allow an undesignated witness to testify at trial. On appeal, Mother challenged the district court’s decision to preclude the witness’s testimony at trial as a sanction for Mother’s failure to designate that witness as an expert witness as required by the court’s scheduling order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in deciding to exclude the witness’s testimony, and the sanction was not an abuse of discretion in this circumstance. View "McBride-Kramer v. Kramer" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s modification of Father’s visitation schedule, holding that there was no support for a finding that the modification to Father’s visitation schedule was in the children’s best interests. When Father and Mother were divorced the district court ordered that Father would exercise his visitation with the parties’ two children at their former marital residence in Oakley, Utah. The parties later requested a modification to the visitation schedule so that Father, who lived in Rock Springs, Wyoming, was no longer required to exercise his visitation in Oakley. The court granted the request and changed the visitation location but, in addition, modified the visitation schedule to provide that the children would spend extended periods of time with Father in Rock Springs. The Supreme Court held (1) the district court did not violate Mother’s due process rights when it modified the visitation schedule; (2) there was a material change in circumstances sufficient to reopen the court’s original order; but (3) the record did not support a finding that the modification of Father’s visitation schedule was in the children’s best interests. View "Booth v. Booth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Appellants’ petition to adopt L-MHB on the grounds that the petition did not comply with the adoption statutes, holding that the district court’s decision to dismiss the petition was correct. Appellants were the former foster parents of L-MHB. Almost one year after L-MHB had been removed from their home, Appellants filed a petition in district court to adopt her. The district court dismissed the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that where Appellants filed the petition without the consents and relinquishments required by statute and the child did not reside in Appellants’ home at the time they filed the petition, Appellants failed to state a claim for adoption. View "TC v. State, Department of Family Services" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants, three professionals, on Plaintiff’s claims of malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty, and conversion arising out of conservatorship and divorce proceedings, holding that the district court did not err. Defendants were Plaintiff’s conservator and counsel during the divorce proceedings. After the divorce concluded, Defendant filed this lawsuit alleging conversion, professional malpractice, and breach of fiduciary duty. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) collateral estopped precluded Plaintiff from prevailing on his conversion claim; and (2) the district court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants on the malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty claims. View "Tozzi v. Moffett" on Justia Law

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In this custody dispute, the Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court imposing a visitation schedule that required extensive travel between Mother’s residence in Wyoming and Father’s residence in Arizona and requiring Father to pay child support below the presumptive statutory amount, holding that the district court abused its discretion in failing adequately to consider the best interests of the child in setting forth the visitation schedule and abused its discretion in fixing Father’s child support obligation. The district court awarded primary physical custody of the child to Mother and established a visitation schedule requiring the child to travel between Wyoming and Arizona until the child reaches school-age, at which time the parties must agree on a new visitation schedule or seek modification. The court also deviated downward from statutory child support guidelines without stating the presumptive child support amount. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court (1) abused its discretion in failing adequately to consider the best interests of the child when it imposed a graduated visitation plan requiring extensive travel that did not specify how visitation would work when the child started kindergarten; and (2) must obtain and consider additional evidence to support any deviation in child support in order to comply with Wyo. Stat. Ann. 20-2-307(b). View "Martin v. Hart" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the juvenile court’s order changing the permanency plan for the Child from family reunification to adoption, holding that Father’s challenges on appeal were unavailing. Specifically, the Court held (1) the district court did not violate Father’s right to due process when it held the permanency hearing without securing his attendance or testimony, took judicial notice of the juvenile case file, and allowed the State to present information about the case by offer of proof rather than sworn witness testimony; and (2) the juvenile court did not abuse its discretion when it determined that the Department of Family Services made sufficient efforts to reunify the Child with Father and that it was in the Child’s best interest to change the permanency plan from reunification to adoption. View "GS v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law