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 the child support Father paid to Mother for the benefit of the parties' three minor children, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion by not holding an evidentiary hearing before calculating child support; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion when it calculated Father's income, when it did not allow a downward deviation from Father's presumptive child support, and when it did not use a shared responsibility calculation; and (3) Mother was not entitled to costs and reasonable attorney fees. View "Marquis v. Marquis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court granting Mother's Wyo. R. Civ. P. 59 motion to alter or amend the judgment requiring that the parties' child name not be changed after the court previously granted Father's motion to change the child's name, holding that the district court abused its discretion.Siobham Jerding (Mother) was married to someone else when she entered into a relationship with Terrance Brown (Father). Mother later gave birth to MFJ. The birth certificate listed Mother's husband as the child's father. Father filed a petition to establish paternity, custody, and visitation and to change MFJ's surname to Brown. The district court granted Father's motion to change MFJ's name to Brown. Thereafter, Mother filed her Rule 59 motion, arguing that the district court did not make a finding of good cause. The district court granted Motion's motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that none of the grounds for granting a Rule 59 motion were present in this case. View "Brown v. Jerding" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court terminating Appellant's parental rights, holding that the district court violated Appellant's due process rights when it determined the best interests of the child without first conducting an evidentiary hearing.The district court found that the Department of Family Services established statutory grounds for termination by clear and convincing evidence. On appeal, Appellant argued that he was not given an opportunity to be heard on the question of whether termination was in the child's best interests. The Supreme Court held (1) neither the termination statutes nor Wyoming case law require a separate hearing to determine the best interests of the child; but (2) Appellant's due process rights were violated when he was deprived of the opportunity to be heard on the question of best interests. View "Niland v. State, ex rel. Department of Family Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part the judgment of the district court finding Bradley Jenkins in contempt for failing to follow the terms of its stipulated divorce decree and remanded for the district court to clarify its order as it pertained to refinancing the marital home, holding that it was unclear whether the court intended to impose the refinancing obligation on Bradley.The divorce decree awarded the marital home to Jonnie Jenkins and required her to refinance it and pay Bradley his share of the equity. Jonnie was unable to obtain refinancing because of numerous liens attached to the home. Jonnie asked the district court to hold Bradley in contempt for failing to comply with the divorce decree. The district court held both parties in contempt and ordered Bradley to release all judgment liens on the title to the marital home and assume the second mortgage. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding (1) the district court did not err by requiring Bradley to make reasonable and consistent efforts to release the liens on the marital home; and (2) it was unclear which party was obligated to obtain refinancing for the marital home. View "Jenkins v. Jenkins" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court denying TE's petition to establish paternity of AE on the grounds that TE had not timely filed his petition and remanded for an order adjudicating TE as AE's father, holding that while the district court has discretion to determine the timeliness of a paternity petition before ordering testing, the statutes do not afford the district court discretion on the timeliness of a petition after ordering genetic testing.The Department of Family Services later took protective custody of AE and sought to terminate the rights of AE's parents. Mother and the presumed father voluntarily relinquished their parental rights to AE. TE, who was listed on the termination petition as the alleged father, filed a petition to establish paternity. Genetic testing was conducted and disclosed a 99.99 percent probability of paternity. After a trial, the district court found that TE's petition was not timely filed and denied the petition. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Department lacked standing to contest TE's petition to establish paternity; and (2) the district court lacked the discretion to adjudicate parentage after it was presented with court-ordered genetic testing results that complied with the statutes and indicated that TE was AE's biological father. View "TE v. State, Department of Family Services" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court denying Clint Webb's motion to modify a child support order, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion.Pursuant to a divorce decree, the district court ordered Clint to pay Julia Webb $50 a month in child support. Clint did not appeal. After the Wyoming Legislature repealed Wyo. Stat. Ann. 20-2-304(b) Clint filed a pro se "Motion to Modify and Correct Unconstitutional Child Support Order." In his motion, Clint argued that the district court's order requiring him to pay child support pursuant to section 20-2-304(b) was unconstitutional because it was rendered pursuant to the now-repealed section 20-2-304(b), which conflicted with federal law. The district court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion. View "Webb v. State, ex rel. Department of Family Services, Child Support Enforcement Division" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting Wife a divorce after she defaulted on Husband's counterclaim that he was the aggrieved party, holding that, under the circumstances, the court did not abuse its discretion.After Wife filed a complaint for divorce Husband answered the complaint and counterclaimed that he was the aggrieved party entitled to divorce. After Wife failed to timely answer Husband applied for entry of default on his counterclaim. The district court entered default on the same day it entered its decree granting Wife's complaint for divorce. Husband appealed, claiming that he was the aggrieved party entitled to divorce. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, viewing the record in the light most favorable to Wife, the court did not abuse its discretion in determining that she was the aggrieved party entitled to divorce. View "Goswick v. Goswick" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part the district court's order finding Mother in contempt, holding that the district court abused its discretion in holding Mother in contempt for violations that had been remedied before the case was filed and in finding Mother in contempt when Father failed to meet his burden of proof.The district court held Mother in contempt for mishandling accounts held for the parties' children and for failing to pay her share of the children's medical expenses. The court then awarded attorney's fees to Father and denied Mother's motion for sanctions. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the district court abused its discretion by finding Mother in contempt for mishandling one child's brokerage account and for failing to prove quarterly statements for four college accounts held for the children because the violations were remedied before the case was filed; (2) the record did not contain clear and convincing evidence that Mother violated the order requiring her to pay her share of uncovered medical bills; (3) there was no basis for an award of attorney's fees; and (4) the district court correctly denied Mother's motion for sanctions. View "Breen v. Black" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the district court's order denying Cheryl Tarter's motions to amend or set aside the default divorce decree entered against her, holding that the default decree was void for failure of service by publication.A process server unsuccessfully attempted to serve Cheryl with the divorce complaint filed by Charles Tarter. Charles subsequently filed an affidavit in support of service by publication and published legal notice in the local newspaper. Cheryl did not answer, and the district court clerk entered default. The court subsequently entered the default decree dividing the couple's property and debt. Later, Cheryl filed a motion to amend or set aside the default decree, claiming that good cause existed to set the default decree aside. Cheryl then filed an amended motion asserting the default decree was void because Charles had failed to comply with the service by publication requirements in Wyo. R. Civ. P. 4. The district court denied the motions. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Charles failed to comply with Rule 4 in several respects, and these failings, individually and collectively, deprived the court of personal jurisdiction over Cheryl, rendering the default decree void. View "Tarter v. Tarter" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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In this custody dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court declining jurisdiction over the issue of child custody and ceding jurisdiction to a California court, the state where Mother and the child resided, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion.After the parties divorced, Father filed a petition to modify custody of the parties' child, alleging that Mother's act of alienating him from the child was a material and substantial change in circumstances. The district court entered an order ceding jurisdiction over the petition to the applicable California court. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was no abuse of discretion in the district court's child support calculation; (2) the district court acted within its authority in ordering Father to pay Mother's attorney fees for Father's contempt; (3) the district court did not err in granting Mother's motion to transfer jurisdiction over Father's petition to modify custody to a court in California; and (4) Mother was entitled to attorney fees and costs on appeal pursuant to Wyo. R. App. P. 10.05(b). View "Fleet v. Guyette" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law