Articles 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

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Appellant Steven Mitchell was held in contempt of court for violating a custody order. The district court ordered confinement until Mitchell purged himself of contempt by relinquishing custody of the minor child. While confined for contempt, Mitchell pled no contest to one count of felony interference with custody, for which he received a sentence of three and one-half years to five years of imprisonment, with no credit for presentence incarceration. The district court also ordered the criminal sentence to commence on termination of Mitchell’s confinement for contempt. Mitchell appeals his criminal sentence contending it was illegal. Finding no reversible error or illegality, the Wyoming Supreme Court affirmed. View "Mitchell v. Wyoming" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction the appeal brought in the name of Mother challenging the district court’s imposition of sanctions against Mother’s attorney, Traci Mears, holding that Mother did not have standing to pursue an appeal on behalf of Mears and that Mears failed to file a timely notice of appeal challenging the order. Mother engaged Mears to initiate adoption proceedings so that Mother’s husband could adopt the child she had with Father. Father and Mother agreed that Father would consent to the adoption and, in return, Mother would waive all child support and related arrearages. Ultimately, the district court found that Father performed his obligations pursuant to the agreement, that Mother failed to perform her obligations, and that Father incurred unnecessary attorney’s fees as a result. The court then entered an order enforcing the settlement agreement and ordered Mears to pay for Father’s attorney’s fees under Wyo. R. Civ. P. 11. Mother appealed on behalf of Mears challenging the imposition of sanctions. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that the Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the appeal because Mears failed to file a timely notice of appeal in her own name. View "In re Order Imposing Sanctions on Traci E. Mears" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court denying Father’s petition to modify the order granting Mother primary custody of the parties' children, holding that the district court abused its discretion by determining that Father had demonstrated a material change in circumstances to justify re-opening the governing custody and visitation order. The district court concluded that Father had not established a material change in circumstances because there was little to no evidence that the children’s welfare was affected by Mother’s alleged instability in her life and poor decision-making. The Supreme Court remanded this case to the district court to determine whether modification of the custody and visitation order was in the best interests of the parties’ two daughters, holding (1) a court need not wait until the children exhibit negative consequences before reconsidering custody and/or visitation; and (2) where there was significant evidence of Mother’s continued instability and poor decision-making and the parties’ inability to make the current custody/visitation arrangement work, there was a material change of circumstances. View "Jacobson v. Kidd" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed Mother’s appeal from the district court’s denial of Mother’s motion for an ex parte order granting her emergency custody of her two children, holding that Mother’s motion was not an appealable order. Father was awarded custody of the parties’ two children following the parties’ divorce. Mother later filed a motion for an ex parte order granting her emergency custody of the children, alleging, among other things, that Father was alienating the children from her. The district court denied the motion, and Mother appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that it lacked jurisdiction because the order resolved only the issue of temporary custody. Further, the Court found that Husband was entitled to his reasonable attorney fees and costs of responding to this appeal. View "Wood v. Wood" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Frank Deede’s motion to reduce the amount he owed Kerry Wallace, his former wife, pursuant to the terms of the parties’ divorce settlement agreement and the district court’s subsequent contempt orders, holding that the district court acted well within its equitable power and sound discretion when it denied Frank’s motion to modify amount due. Frank’s motion to modify amount due was based on Frank’s assertion that some of the underlying debt was forgiven. The district court denied the motion, finding that Frank had failed to prove that the amount due was incorrect or that Frank had established that he should be given credit against Bank of America debt. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Frank’s motion to modify amount due; and (2) Kerry was entitled to an award of fees and costs because Frank failed to present a cogent argument on appeal. View "Deede v. Deede" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s decree entered in divorce proceedings involving Husband and Wife and denied Husband’s request to remand or grant leave for the district court to hear a Wyo. R. Civ. P. 60 motion, holding that the district court did not improperly modify its prior oral ruling distributing the parties’ property. Specifically, the Court held (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion by entering a written decision and a divorce decree that varied from the court’s oral statements at trial because the court had discretion to issue a decree that was inconsistent with the court’s statements at trial; and (2) because the record did not reflect that a Rule 60 motion was ever filed and the parties did not claim to have filed one, Husband’s request regarding the Rule 60 motion was denied. View "Schmalz v. Schmalz" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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In this appeal from the juvenile court’s order on permanency hearing, the Supreme Court held that Father was not prejudiced by the juvenile court’s delay in appointing an attorney until shortly before the permanency hearing, and the juvenile court did not err in denying Father’s request for transport to the hearing. At issue on appeal was whether the juvenile court (1) violated Father’s due process rights when it did not advise him of his right to counsel and did not appoint an attorney until shortly before the permanency hearing, and (2) erred in denying Father’s request for transport to attend the hearing in person. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the juvenile court violated a clear rule of law when it failed to advise Father of his right to counsel at his first appearance in the proceeding and failed to act on Father’s initial request for appointment of counsel, but these errors did not materially prejudice Father; and (2) Father’s due process rights were not violated when the juvenile court denied Father’s request for transport to the permanency hearing. View "FH v. State" on Justia Law