Thursday, January 22, 2009

Summary 2009 WY 5

Summary of Decision issued January 22, 2009

Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court.

Case Name: Witowski v. Roosevelt

Citation: 2009 WY 5

Docket Number: S-08-0074

Appeal from the District Court of Teton County, the Honorable Nancy J. Guthrie, Judge.

Representing Appellant Witowski: Robert E. Schroth of Schroth & Schroth, LLC, Jackson, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee Roosevelt: David G. Lewis, Jackson, Wyoming.

Facts/Discussion: The district court entered a series of orders enforcing a Virginia divorce decree by holding Witowski (Father) responsible to Roosevelt (Mother) for child support and one-half of their daughter’s (Child) education and medical expenses. On appeal, Father maintains that the district court should not have given full faith and credit to the Virginia decree, should have modified the decree to terminate his child support obligation once Child reached the age of majority, and abused its discretion by considering Mother’s evidence of Child’s medical and education expenses and granting judgment in her favor based upon that evidence.

Full Faith and Credit: The district court ruled that the parties’ Virginia divorce decree was entitled to full faith and credit. The parties’ focused on the FFCCSOA as the paradigm for enforcing the child support order. Father argued the district court erred by enforcing the child support provisions because it was a modifiable order and not a final judgment. The Virginia statute is similar to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 20-2-311. Virginia and Wyoming law allow for modification of future child support, but generally, retroactive modification is not allowed. With respect to past due child support and medical and college expenses, Father’s obligation was not subject to modification under Virginia law. Father also argued that the Virginia child support order was inconsistent with Wyoming law which provides that a child support order terminates once the child reaches the age of majority. The cases cited by Father did not pertain to the FFCCSOA or child support orders. Therefore, the Court did not find the cases persuasive. The Court also stated it was not accurate to say that Wyoming would never impose or recognize a child support order which continues after the child reaches the age of majority. The Court took care to make note they were not expressing an opinion on the question of whether § 20-2-313 prevents divorcing parents from contracting to provide support for children past the age of majority. In the instant case, the decree and the agreement both required Father to pay support until Child reached the age of 23 as long as she was in college which is comparable to Kidd where the Court upheld the post-minority child support obligation under the terms of the parties’ agreement and decree. The child support provision does not violate Wyoming law.

Modification of Child Support: The district court denied Father’s petition to modify the Virginia child support order. Pursuant to §1738B of the FFCCSOA, the district court had authority to modify the child support order because the parents and Child no longer resided in Virginia. Father argued he was entitled to termination of his child support obligation because a substantial chance of circumstances had occurred. He argued the facts that Child was in college, her expenses were otherwise paid under the decree, and she did not reside with Mother established a substantial change. The Court agreed with the district court that the parties contemplated at the time of the decree that Child might live away from mother while in school as they agreed to share equally in the costs of her college education including the costs of books, tuition, lodging, meals and related fees. Father was not entitled to termination of his child support obligation because he did not prove a substantial change in circumstances which the parties had not anticipated at the time of entry of the Virginia decree.

Admission of Child’s Medical and Education Expenses: Father claimed that the exhibits and testimony should have been excluded because Mother did not supplement her responses to his discovery requests in accordance with W.R.C.P. 26 and 37. Even if Mother did not comply with the discovery rules, Father did not show that he was prejudiced.

Admission of Evidence About and Award of Reimbursement for Child’s Education Expenses: Father claimed the district court abused its discretion by admitting Mother’s evidence of Child’s education costs and granting judgment in her favor for one-half of those costs. Father did not provide a transcript of the hearing or a statement of the evidence. Thus the Court accepted the district court’s findings as being based upon sufficient evidence. The district court was free to consider the evidence before it including Mother’s testimony and the documentary evidence in the form of the summary, credit card statements and cancelled checks.

Conclusion: The district court concluded the evidence was sufficient to show that Mother’s expenditures fell within the list of expenses for which Father was responsible under the decree. Without a transcript of the hearing to review, the Court must accept the district court’s analysis and weighing of the evidence. The Court concluded therefore that the district court did not abuse its discretion by considering Mother’s evidence about, or granting judgment in her favor for, Child’s education and expenses.


J. Kite delivered the decision.

Link: .

[SPECIAL NOTE: This opinion uses the "Universal Citation." It was given an "official" citation when it was issued. You should use this citation whenever you cite the opinion, with a P.3d parallel citation. Please note when you look at the opinion that all of the paragraphs are numbered. When you pinpoint cite to a quote, you should cite to this paragraph number rather than to any page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library.]

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