Justia Wyoming Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles 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

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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