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Shindell v. Shindell

Supreme Court of Wyoming

April 22, 2014

KIMBERLY SHINDELL, Appellant (Respondent),
v.
ROGER SHINDELL, Appellee (Petitioner)

Page 1271

Appeal from the District Court of Teton County. The Honorable Marvin L. Tyler, Judge.

Representing Appellant: Robert E. Schroth, Sr., Jackson, Wyoming.

Roger Shindell, Appellee, Pro se.

Guardian ad Litem: Jean A. Day, Jackson, Wyoming. No appearance.

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

OPINION

Page 1272

KITE, Chief Justice.

[¶1] Kimberly Shindell (Mother) appeals from the district court's order finding her in civil contempt of court for refusing to comply with the district court's orders regarding Roger Shindell's (Father) rights to visitation and communication with their two daughters. She challenges the district court's finding of contempt and the remedies it imposed. We affirm.

ISSUES

[¶2] Mother presents the following issues on appeal:

1. DID THE DISTRICT COURT ERR IN FINDING APPELLANT/MOTHER IN INDIRECT CIVIL CONTEMPT?
2. DID THE DISTRICT COURT ABUSE ITS DISCRETION, COMMIT PROCEDURAL ERROR, AND VIOLATE A PRINCIPLE OF LAW BY ORDERING APPELLANT/MOTHER TO PAY FOR ALL TRAVEL-RELATED COSTS FOR HER CHILDREN TO VISIT APPELLEE/FATHER?
3. DID THE DISTRICT COURT ABUSE ITS DISCRETION, COMMIT PROCEDURAL ERROR, AND VIOLATE A PRINCIPLE OF LAW BY ORDERING APPELLANT/MOTHER TO POST A $10,000.00 BOND IN THE EVENT SHE INTERFERES WITH HER CHILDREN VISITING APPELLEE/FATHER?
4. DID THE DISTRICT COURT ABUSE ITS DISCRETION, COMMIT PROCEDURAL ERROR, AND VIOLATE A PRINCIPLE OF LAW BY ORDERING APPELLANT/MOTHER TO PAY APPELLEE/FATHER'S ATTORNEY'S FEES AND COSTS?

Father, appearing pro se, claims the district court properly found Mother in contempt of court and its remedies were appropriate. He also asserts that certain aspects of the district court's order were not appealable and he is entitled to sanctions against Mother and her appellate counsel.

FACTS

[¶3] The parties divorced in 2004, and Mother, who lived in Jackson, Wyoming, was granted primary residential custody of their two daughters subject to Father's rights of visitation and communication. In the years since the divorce, Father has filed numerous motions in an effort to enforce his rights and the district court has entered very detailed orders directing Mother to cooperate with Father.

[¶4] In 2012, Father, who lived in Indiana and had recently remarried, attempted to arrange visitation with the girls over spring break. Mother learned that Father was keeping pets in his home and was concerned that their presence would adversely affect the older daughter who was allergic to cats and dogs and suffered from asthma. Mother consulted a doctor who advised that the girl should not be exposed to those living conditions. Accordingly, Mother did not put the girls on the flight to visit Father over

Page 1273

spring break 2012. The girls also did not visit Father during the following summer, although he was entitled to summer visitation.

[¶5] On August 31, 2012, Father filed a verified motion for order to show cause why Mother should not be held in contempt of court for refusing to comply with the communication and visitation provisions of the divorce decree. The district court held a hearing on the matter, and Mother, appearing pro se, conceded she did not put the girls on the plane to visit Father over spring break but explained the health risks to the eldest daughter from exposure to pets were too great. In addition, the evidence showed she violated the court orders by refusing to allow or facilitate communication between Father and the girls, failing to notify and include the Father in decisions regarding the girls' education, medical care, etc., and failing to cooperate with the guardian ad litem.

[¶6] The district court found Mother in contempt of court and sanctioned her by, among other things, expanding Father's visitation, requiring Mother to pay for the girls' plane tickets for winter break 2012-13 and spring break 2013, ordering Mother to allow the girls to have unfettered communication with Father, requiring Mother to post a bond if she did not fulfill the remedial portions of the order regarding visitation, and directing Mother to pay Father's attorney fees and costs and the guardian ad litem fees. Mother retained an attorney and appealed.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶7] This Court does not interfere with an order holding a party in civil contempt of court in a domestic relations case " absent a serious procedural error, a violation of a principle of law, or a clear and grave abuse of discretion." Roberts v. Locke, 2013 WY 73, ¶ 14, 304 P.3d 116, 120 (Wyo. 2013). See also Munoz v. Munoz, 2002 WY 4, ¶ 6, 39 P.3d 390, 392 (Wyo. 2002); Olsen v. Olsen, 2013 WY 115, ¶ 33, 310 P.3d 888, 896 (Wyo. 2013). In reviewing the exercise of a district court's broad discretion under its contempt powers, we must determine whether the court reasonably could have ...


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