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Witowski v. Roosevelt

January 22, 2009

THOMAS WITOWSKI, APPELLANT (DEFENDANT),
v.
GAYLE (WITOWSKI) ROOSEVELT, APPELLEE (PLAINTIFF).



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

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kite, Justice.

Before VOIGT, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, KITE, and BURKE, JJ.

[¶1] The district court entered a series of orders enforcing a Virginia divorce decree by holding Thomas Witowski (Father) responsible to Gayle (Witowski) 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. We affirm.

ISSUES

[¶2] The issues on appeal are:

1. Whether the district court erred by giving full faith and credit to the Virginia divorce decree.

2. Whether the district court abused its discretion by denying Father's motion to modify the child support provision of the divorce decree.

3. Whether the district court abused its discretion by allowing Mother to introduce, at the December 12, 2005, hearing, evidence of some of Child's medical and education expenses that she did not timely provide to Father in discovery.

4. Whether the district court abused its discretion by admitting Mother's evidence at the October 8, 2007, hearing and awarding her reimbursement for additional education expenses.

FACTS

[¶3] The parties married in 1973, and Child was born in 1984. A Virginia court granted the parties a divorce on August 24, 1992. The divorce decree incorporated the parties' separation agreement which stated, in relevant part:

3. Child Support:

Husband shall pay to Wife the sum of Six Hundred Dollars ($600.00) per month, for the support and maintenance of the minor child, . . . payable on the first day of each month, commencing the first day of June 1992, . . . and continuing in a like sum until the minor child reaches the age of 18 years or completes high school, whichever event shall last occur, and/or while the child is a full-time college student until age 23 years.

5. College Education of Child:

Husband and Wife shall each pay one-half of the expenses of said child's college education which shall include costs of books, tuition, lodging, meals, and related fees, provided that the limit of each party's liability for each academic year involved shall be one-half of the charge or suggested costs for that same academic year as set out in the then published catalogue of the University of Virginia.

8. Medical, Dental, Hospitalization Expenses:

Husband shall provide military/Champus health, hospitalization and dental coverage for Wife, until such time as a final Decree of Divorce is entered and for the child until his obligation to support and educate the child has terminated. Husband will obtain and maintain a Champus supplement insurance (health) policy for said child during the same period of time and each party will pay half of all future and necessary medical and dental expenses for treatment, examination and/or care of child not covered by Champus or provided by military facilities and/or insurance.

[¶4] After the divorce, Mother and Child relocated to Teton County, Wyoming, and Father moved to Colorado. Father complied with his obligations under the decree until June of 2002, after Child graduated from high school. Child then attended the University of Wyoming as a full-time student.

[¶5] Mother filed a complaint on October 27, 2004, seeking unpaid child support and attorney fees and costs. She subsequently amended her complaint to include a claim for reimbursement of one-half of Child's medical and education costs.

[¶6] The district court granted Mother a partial summary judgment on October 24, 2005. The district court concluded the Virginia decree was entitled to full faith and credit and clearly obligated Father to fulfill his monetary duties until Child attained her 23rd birthday, so long as she remained a full-time college student. The district court ruled that the precise amount Father owed for child support, medical and education costs, and Mother's attorney fees would be determined at a later date.

[¶7] Father subsequently filed a Petition to Modify Child Support, asking the district court to terminate his child support obligation. He claimed there had been a substantial change in circumstances to justify modification because Child was in college, no longer lived at home with Mother and her college expenses were otherwise provided for under the decree.

[¶8] The district court held a trial on December 12, 2005, to consider the outstanding issues and subsequently issued an ―Order Granting [Mother] Further Partial Summary Judgment.‖ In that order, the district court denied Father's petition to modify his child support obligation and entered judgment against him for the child support arrearage. The district court also ordered Father to pay $7,990.51 to cover his share of Child's education and medical costs. The district court ordered the parties to submit written arguments on some issues surrounding other reimbursable costs.

[¶9] Before the district court could consider the outstanding issues, Father appealed. This Court dismissed his appeal because the district court's orders did not fully dispose of the action and, consequently, did not comprise final appealable orders. Witowski v. Roosevelt, 2007 WY 70, ¶ 12, 156 P.3d 1001, 1004 (Wyo. 2007) (Witowski I).

[¶10] Back in the district court, Mother filed a list of further medical and education expenditures for Child, together with associated credit card statements and cancelled checks. The district court held another evidentiary hearing and entered a ―Final Summary Judgment‖ in favor of Mother. Father, once again, appealed.*fn1

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶11] The district court titled all of its orders ―summary judgments.‖ It appears its first order, where it ruled as a matter of law that the Virginia decree was entitled to full faith and credit and clearly required father to pay child support and other expenses until Child reached 23 years old so long as she was a full-time college student, was a true summary judgment. The district court's ...


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