Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Wyoming Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Father's Wyo. R. Crim. P. 60(b)(4) motion seeking relief from the district court's child custody and support order, holding that Rule 60(b)(4) could not relieve Father from the district court's child support order.As part of the parties' divorce decree, the district court ordered Father to pay the $50 minimum support obligation prescribed by Wyo. Stat. Ann. 20-2304(b) to Mother. Father later brought this action moving from relief from the child custody and support order, arguing that the child support order was void because Wyo. section 20-2304(b) is unconstitutional. The motion was deemed denied. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because the child support order would be voidable, not void, Rule 60(b)(4) could not relieve Father from the child support order. View "Carroll v. Gibson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating Mother's parental rights to Child, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion.The Wyoming Department of Family Services filed a petition to terminate Mother's parental rights to Child, but Mother failed timely to respond. The clerk of the district court proceeded to enter default against Mother. On appeal, Mother argued that the district court violated her due process rights by holding the evidentiary default hearing by video conference and by not giving her a meaningful chance to be heard regarding Child's best interests. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Mother's due process rights were not violated when the district court held the default hearing by video conference or when it limited Mother's participation at the hearing. View "Herden v. State, ex rel. Department of Family Services" on Justia Law

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In this divorce case, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court holding that Appellant's claim for recoupment was barred by res judicata, holding that the district court did not err.Under the parties' stipulated divorce decree, Appellant was awarded the marital home and Appellee was ordered to execute a waiver of homestead. The cash payment provision required that Appellant pay Appellee $23,000. Appellant later filed an action seeking a declaration that the $23,000 judgment no longer operated as a lien against the marital home. The district court dismissed Appellant's complaint for failure to state a claim. Appellee subsequently filed a petition to revive the $23,000 judgment. In response, Appellant asserted a claim for recoupment. The court granted the Appellee's petition and ruled that res judicata barred Appellant's recoupment claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court correctly found that Appellant's claim was barred by res judicata. View "Motylewski v. Motylewski" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in all respects the district court's findings, conclusions, and decree of divorce in the proceedings between Father and Mother, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding Mother physical custody of the parties' two children and in determining the child support award.After trial, the court entered its findings, conclusions, and decree of divorce. The decree awarded Mother physical custody, granting Father standard visitation rights, and ordered to pay Father child support. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding Mother physical custody; and (2) the district court properly exercised its discretion in weighing the Wyo. Code Ann. 20-2-307(b) factors and in determining Father's child support obligation accordingly. View "Bruce v. Bruce" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court holding that BJ lacked standing bring his petition to establish paternity and dismissing the petition, holding that a man claiming to be the biological father of a child has standing to bring a paternity action when the child has a legally presumed father.Mother gave birth to Child while married to CM, Child's presumed father. Another man, BJ, claimed to be Child's father and brought this action seeking to establish paternity. The district court concluded that BJ lacked standing under Wyo. Stat. Ann. 14-2-802 and dismissed his petition. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) BJ was a "man whose paternity of the child is to be adjudicated" under section 14-2-802(a)(iii); and (2) therefore, BJ had standing to bring his petition to establish paternity even where CM was legally presumed to be Child's father. View "BJ v. KM" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Mother's motion to set aside entry of default and vacate default hearing and modifying the parties' decree of divorce to award Father primary custody of the children, holding that the district court did not err.Father petitioned for an order modifying custody and support following Mother's relocation with the parties' minor children. Mother failed to respond, and the clerk of court entered default. Three days later, Mother moved to set aside the entry of default and to vacate the hearing. The court denied the motion and found that Father had met his burden of proving a material change in circumstances that warranted a modification in custody and support. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err when it (1) denied Mother's motion to set aside entry of default and vacate default hearing; (2) precluded Mother from presenting affirmative evidence during the default hearing; and (3) modified custody. View "Rush v. Golkowski" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court modifying Father's child support obligation to Mother, holding that the court did not err by modifying Father's child support obligation without requiring Mother to prove a material change in circumstances in addition to a twenty percent change in the support amount.Father commenced this action in 2019 seeking modification of child custody, visitation, and support. The parties reached an agreement on all matters in Father's petition except child support, which proceeded to trial. Applying the child support guidelines, the district court found Father's presumptive support obligation would change by more than twenty percent from the amount previously ordered in 2016, establishing a change in circumstances to justify a modification under Wyo. Stat. Ann. 20-2-311(a). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the heightened requirement for modification of a child support order was inapplicable and that Mother's showing of a twenty percent change in support justified the district's modification of Father's child support obligation. View "Brown v. Brown" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the juvenile court relieving the State of Wyoming's Department of Family Services (DFS) from its statutory responsibility to make reasonable efforts to reunify Father with Child, holding that the juvenile court violated Father's due process rights by failing to give him reasonable notice and a meaningful opportunity to be heard early in the child protection action.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) there were several due process violations in this case stemming from Father's lack of involvement in the juvenile court action, which colored the court's determination that it was appropriate to release DFS from its obligation to reunite the family, and under the circumstances, Father was materially prejudiced by the due process violations; and (2) the juvenile court abused its discretion when it ruled that the State had proven by clear and convincing evidence that aggravating circumstances existed that would make reunification between Father and Child unlikely. View "RA v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing Petitioners' verified petition for adoption requesting that the court enter an order of adoption recognizing MB's medically established age and directing the issuance of a Wyoming birth certificate with an accurate date of birth, holding that the district court erred.Petitioners adopted a minor, MB, from the Henan Province, Zhengzhou, People's Republic of China. The United States Department of State issued a Hague Adoption Certificate certifying the adoption. Later, MB's pediatrician determined that MB's documented age was incorrect and that MB was actually two years younger than the age listed on the official paperwork. Petitioners then filed the petition at issue. The district court dismissed the petition, concluding that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction and that approval of the adoption was moot because the Hague Convention adoption must be recognized as valid and final. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court (1) had subject matter jurisdiction to approve The Hague Convention adoption; and (2) was statutorily authorized to issue a decree of adoption allowing MB to obtain a Wyoming birth certificate with an accurate date of birth. View "In re Adoption of MAJB" on Justia 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