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Bagley v. Bagley

Supreme Court of Wyoming

October 11, 2013

Angela S. BAGLEY, Appellant (Plaintiff),
Cameron Kdell BAGLEY, Appellee (Defendant). Cameron Kdell Bagley, Appellant (Defendant),
Angela S. Bagley, Appellee (Plaintiff).

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Representing Appellant in Case No. S-12-0276: Jack D. Edwards of Edwards Law Office, P.C., Etna, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee in Case No. S-12-0276: Bret F. King of King & King, LLC, Jackson, Wyoming.

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

KITE, Chief Justice.

[¶ 1] The district court granted Angela S. Bagley (Wife) a divorce, divided the parties' property, determined child custody, and ordered Cameron Kdell Bagley (Husband) to pay child support. Both parties appealed. Wife claims the district court erred by refusing to award her child support for their adult disabled daughter because Wife was already receiving Social Security benefits for her. She also argues the district court erred in determining Husband's net income for the purposes of calculating child support for the parties' two minor children. Husband, on the other hand, contests the district court's division of the parties' property.

[¶ 2] We affirm in part and reverse and remand in part.


[¶ 3] Wife presents the following issues on appeal:

I. Did the district court err[ ] in concluding that [Husband] had no obligation to personally provide support for his adult daughter who suffers from mental and physical disabilities?
II. Did the district court err[ ] in calculating [Husband's] net monthly income for purposes of calculating child support?

Husband asserts those aspects of the district court's rulings were correct, but queries:

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I. Did the district court err and abuse its discretion in its division of marital property by awarding [Wife] a money judgment of $149,500?
II. Did the district court err and abuse its discretion by determining the value of the horseshoeing business to be $40,000?
III. Did the district court err when it failed to provide an appropriate schedule of payments on the money judgment award?

Wife contends the district court's division of the marital property was correct.


[¶ 4] The parties have been married twice and this appeal results from the second divorce action. Over the course of their relationship, four children were born. At the time of the divorce trial, the two older children were adults; however, the parties' adult daughter was disabled. In a separate action, Wife was appointed the daughter's guardian and conservator, and she received $674 per month in Social Security benefits on behalf of the daughter. The other two children were sixteen and nine years old, respectively. The teenager had been splitting his time between his parents, and they agreed that arrangement should continue. Wife sought primary residential custody of the youngest child, while Husband sought a shared custody arrangement. There was also considerable disagreement between the parties as to the amount of Husband's net income for purposes of calculating child support and the value and proper distribution of marital property.

[¶ 5] After a trial, the district court ruled that no child support was necessary for the adult daughter because she received Social Security benefits; the parties' arrangement regarding the teenager should continue; Wife should have primary custody of the youngest child; Wife was entitled to a few items of property and $149,500 as payment for her share of the remainder of the marital property and Husband's child support obligation was $751.50 per month based upon a finding that Husband's monthly net income was $5,333. Both parties appealed. We will provide additional facts in the discussion of the various issues below.


[¶ 6] In general, determinations concerning child support are left to the district court's sound discretion. Verheydt v. Verheydt, 2013 WY 25, ¶ 19, 295 P.3d 1245, 1250 (Wyo.2013); Witowski v. Roosevelt, 2009 WY 5, ¶ 13, 199 P.3d 1072, 1076 (Wyo.2009). Consequently, we will not disturb the district court's decision unless it abused its discretion. " In determining whether an abuse of discretion occurred, our core inquiry is the reasonableness of the district court's decision." Verheydt, ¶ 19, 295 P.3d at 1250; Hanson v. Belveal, 2012 WY 98, ¶ 14, 280 P.3d 1186, 1192 (Wyo.2012).

[¶ 7] " We will not disturb a property division in a divorce case, except on clear grounds, as the trial court is usually in a better position than the appellate court to judge the parties' needs and the merits of their positions." Metz v. Metz, 2003 WY 3, ¶ 6, 61 P.3d 383, 385 (Wyo.2003), citing Paul v. Paul, 616 P.2d 707, 712 (Wyo.1980); Warren v. Warren, 361 P.2d 525, 526 (Wyo.1961). If our review requires an evaluation of the sufficiency of the evidence to support the district court's decision, " we afford to the prevailing party every favorable inference while omitting any consideration of evidence presented by the unsuccessful party." Reavis v. Reavis, 955 P.2d 428, 431 (Wyo.1998) (citations omitted). When interpretation of statutory language is required to resolve an issue, our standard of review is de novo. Egan v. Egan, 2010 WY 164, ¶ 7, 244 P.3d 1045, 1048 (Wyo.2010); Dorr v. Smith, Keller & Assoc., 2010 WY 120, ¶ 11, 238 P.3d 549, 552 (Wyo.2010).


A. Support for Disabled Adult Child Who Receives Social Security Benefits

[¶ 8] The parties' daughter was nineteen years old at the time of the trial. She suffers from autism with mild mental retardation and is, therefore, incapable of

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caring for herself. The daughter lived with Wife and was still in high school under an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Wife is her legal guardian and conservator and receives monthly Social Security benefits of $674. Wife requested child support for the daughter because the Social Security benefits did not cover all of her expenses, but Husband asserted she was provided for adequately. The district court ruled that the cost of the adult daughter's " care is provided through Social Security and will not be the subject of this Order."

[¶ 9] Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-1-101(a) (LexisNexis 2013) states: " Upon becoming eighteen (18) years of age, an individual reaches the age of majority and as an adult acquires all rights and responsibilities granted or imposed by statute or common law, except as otherwise provided by law." Pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 20-2-313(a)(iv) (LexisNexis 2013), a parent's child support obligation terminates when the child reaches the age of majority. However, we have applied Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-2-204 (LexisNexis 2013) to order child support to continue after the age of majority in certain circumstances. Section 14-2-204 states in relevant part:

(a) [A] parent's legal obligation for the support of his or her children, whether natural or adopted, continues past the age of ...

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