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Steve John Grenz v. the State of Wyoming

January 11, 2011

STEVE JOHN GRENZ, APPELLANT (RESPONDENT),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, DEPARTMENT OF FAMILY SERVICES, CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT, APPELLEE (PETITIONER).



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

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

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

NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in Pacific Reporter Third. Readers are requested to notify the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Supreme Court Building, Cheyenne, Wyoming 82002, of any typographical or other formal errors so that correction may be made before final publication in the permanent volume.

[¶1] Appellant, Steve John Grenz, challenges a district court order modifying his child support payments. He contends the district court failed to provide him proper credit against his child support obligations for court-ordered abatements he had received. We find no error and affirm.

ISSUE

[¶2] Mr. Grenz presents a single issue:

Did the district court err when it failed to follow and enforce the mandates of W.S. 20-2-305(f) and the abatement orders entered in this case and thereby commit an abuse of discretion?

The State phrases the issue as follows:

Did the district court properly exercise its discretion when it did not give Appellant credit against his future child support obligations for abatement amounts that he failed to utilize when they were granted?

FACTS

[¶3] Mr. Grenz and Ms. Grenz were married in 1987. Two daughters were born as issue of the marriage. The older daughter was born in 1990 and the younger daughter was born in 1993. The couple divorced in 1997. In the divorce decree, Ms. Grenz was awarded custody of the children subject to Mr. Grenz's visitation rights. Mr. Grenz was ordered to pay child support. In 1999, the district court issued an order modifying child support. The order required Mr. Grenz to pay $867.23 per month in child support for both children. Child support would be reduced to $619.12 per month when the child support obligation ended for the first child. The order also provided that Mr. Grenz's child support obligations would abate during visitation pursuant to the abatement statute. That statute presently states that "child support shall abate by one-half (1/2) of the daily support obligation for each day the non-custodial parent has physical custody of the child for whom support is due, provided that the non-custodial parent has custody of the child for fifteen (15) or more consecutive days." Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 20-2-305(a) (LexisNexis 2009).

[¶4] Between 1998 and 2007, Mr. Grenz filed over twenty claims for abatement of child support. Most of the claims were granted. In all, Mr. Grenz received abatement orders totaling $8,312.54. Although the abatement claims were granted, and Mr. Grenz would have been entitled to reduce his subsequent child support payments, he never did so.

[¶5] In June of 2009, pursuant to the modified decree, Mr. Grenz's child support obligations were automatically reduced to $619.12 per month. On August 6, 2009, the State filed a Petition for Modification of Support seeking to increase child support for the younger daughter. The petition alleged that modification was warranted due to changed financial circumstances of the parties and changes to the guidelines for calculating support payments. In response, Mr. Grenz filed a Motion to Dismiss, a Motion to Remit Overpayment, and a Motion for Stay. In general, he objected to any increase in the support obligation. Pertinent to this appeal, he sought credit for $15,329.84 in overpayments of his support obligations. The claim for credit included the $8,312.54 in abatements at issue in this appeal.

[ΒΆ6] After holding a hearing and receiving supplemental information and argument, the district court granted the petition and increased Mr. Grenz's child support obligation to $962.66 per month. With regard to the unused abatements, the court found that "[t]he overpayments in this case, essentially amounting to the defendant not availing himself of Court-ordered abatements over the years, cannot now be counted legally or equitably against his future child support obligations." The court found that "[t]he history of approximately $8,000 in unused abatements, and the regular and timely payments of child support over ...


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