Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Summary 2011 WY 30

Summary of Decision February 23, 2011

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

Case Name: Olsen v. Olsen

Citation: 2011 WY 30

Docket Number: S-10-0121


Appeal from the District Court of Laramie County, Honorable Thomas T.C. Campbell, Judge

Representing Appellant (Plaintiff): Carl S. Olsen, pro se.

Representing Appellee (Defendant): Candy M. Olsen, pro se.

Date of Decision: February 23, 2011

Facts: In this divorce action, the district court granted custody of the parties’ children to Appellee divided the parties’ property, ordered their real property be sold to pay a debt to Appellee’s mother and granted a judgment in favor of Appellee’s mother for any deficiency remaining after the proceeds of the sale were applied to the debt.

Issues: Whether the court rushed to conclusions or decisions based upon assumptions of which there are not sufficient facts or evidence to support; whether the judge did not recuse himself for bias. Whether the court allowed an incomplete Financial Affidavit by one party, but complained of the other party’s Financial Affidavit; whether it was contrary to law for a court to assign who will claim minor children as dependants on federal income taxes without a waiver of release; whether it was contrary to the law to dismiss admissions and other documents merely because they were filed pro se; whether the court considered improper testimony: both testimony that was not given under oath and testimony that was hearsay; whether any and all debts incurred by the Appellee, without the explicit consent and/or agreement of the Appellant, are her liability alone and the Appellant should not be held liable for such debts, as per Wyoming Statute; whether the
adequately considered the applicable factors in deciding who should have physical custody of the children.

Holdings: On the questions relating to the propriety of the district court’s factual and evidentiary determinations, the problem with Appellant’s argument is that he did not provide a transcript of the trial or a statement of the evidence in accordance with W.R.A.P. 3.03. Because Appellant of this failure, the Court must accept that the district court’s findings were supported by sufficient evidence and its evidentiary rulings were not erroneous. Consequently, the district court’s rulings on those issues are summarily affirmed.

Federal law does not preempt Wyoming courts from allocating the dependent tax credit in the same manner they allocate other marital assets in divorce proceedings. As such, the district court was within its authority when it ruled that Wife was entitled to the credit. In order to avoid a contempt finding, Appellant is required to execute the forms required by the Internal Revenue Service.
The district court has the authority and responsibility to dispose of the parties’ assets and liabilities. As part of that task, the district court can order sale of the real property to facilitate the division of assets and payment of debt. Because there is an inadequate record on appeal, there is no basis for the Court to review the district court’s rulings that the parties owed a debt to Appellee’s mother, the parties are each responsible for one half of the debt, and the property should be sold to pay the debt.

However, The district court’s ruling that Appellee’s mother was entitled to a judgment against each party for any deficiency remaining after the proceeds of the sale are applied to the debt is another matter. The district court granted a judgment to a nonparty. The authority of the court in a divorce action to divide property is simply ancillary to its authority to dissolve the marriage. The primary subject of a divorce action is the dissolution of the marriage, and the only proper parties to such an action are the spouses seeking to be divorced. Thus, Appellee’s mother was not an appropriate party in the divorce action; consequently, the district court committed an error of law by granting a judgment in her favor. On remand, the district court should revise its order to delete the judgment in favor of Appellee’s mother.

Affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part.

C.J. Kite delivered the opinion for the court.

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