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Bullock v. Bullock

Supreme Court of Wyoming

October 23, 2014

TED A. BULLOCK, Appellant (Plaintiff),
v.
TERESA M. BULLOCK, Appellee (Defendant). TED A. BULLOCK, Appellant (Plaintiff),
v.
TERESA M. BULLOCK, Appellee (Defendant).

Appeal from the District Court of Park County The Honorable Steven R. Cranfill, Judge

Representing Appellant: Mary Elizabeth Galvan, Galvan & Fritzen, Laramie, WY.

Representing Appellee: Thomas Patrick Keegan, Keegan & Winslow, Cody, WY.

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

HILL, Justice.

[¶1] Ted Bullock (Father) and Teresa Bullock (Mother) were divorced in February 2013. In mid-summer 2013, Mother filed a contempt motion alleging Father had violated the divorce decree by failing to obtain health insurance coverage for the parties' daughter, failing to exercise summer visitation with the parties' son, and interfering with Mother's use of outbuildings associated with the residence in which she and the children were entitled to reside under the decree. The district court entered orders: (1) holding Father in contempt for failing to provide insurance and/or proof of insurance for the parties' daughter; (2) sanctioning Father for failing to exercise summer visitation with the parties' son; (3) ordering that Mother would have use of the outbuildings in dispute; and (4) requiring Father to pay Mother's attorney fees associated with the contempt motion. Father appeals the order relating to the health insurance and visitation and the order requiring that he pay Mother's attorney fees. We affirm in part and reverse in part.

ISSUES

[¶2] Father separately appealed the contempt and attorney fees orders, and those filings have been consolidated on appeal. With respect to Father's appeal of the contempt order, Father presents four issues. The first two issues relate to the health insurance findings, and the last two issues relate to the visitation findings. Father states those four issues as follows:

A. Whether the district court committed a clear and grave abuse of discretion, committed a serious procedural error, or violated a principle of law in holding [Father] in contempt of court for failing to comply with the medical support provisions of the divorce decree in the absence of a clear and unambiguous order requiring him to file proof of insurance or addressing the sufficiency of medical insurance.
B. Whether the district court abused its discretion by modifying the medical support provisions of the Decree of Divorce in the absence of a proper pleading for modification by conditioning the sufficiency of the insurance provided by [Father] on [Mother's] approval.
C. Whether the district court had subject matter jurisdiction to impose a monetary sanction against [Father] for failing to exercise visitation with an adult child to enforce an agreement which was outside the scope of the Decree of Divorce.
D. Whether the district court committed a grave procedural error and abused its discretion by penalizing [Father] in the form of a money judgment in favor of [Mother] in the absence of procedural due process in a criminal contempt proceeding.

[¶3] In his appeal of the attorney fees order, Father presents a single issue and states that issue as follows:

Whether the district court's award of attorney's fees and costs to the [Mother] in a contempt action should be vacated if the district court erred, as a matter of law, in finding [Father] in contempt of court for violating the medical support provisions of the Decree of Divorce.

FACTS

[¶4] Father and Mother were married on April 13, 2006. At the time of their marriage, Mother had two children, CCB, born in 1994, and KEB, born in 1996. CCB is severely disabled and requires full time care, and KEB has suffered a traumatic brain injury that interferes with her ability to learn and will likely prevent her from obtaining a high school diploma. Father adopted the children in 2007.

[¶5] On February 23, 2012, Father filed a complaint for divorce, and on February 19, 2013, the district court entered a divorce decree. The divorce decree incorporated the parties' stipulated Property Settlement, Child Custody and Child Support Agreement (Agreement). Pursuant to the Agreement, Mother was awarded primary physical custody of the children. Father agreed to pay lifetime support for CCB and support for KEB until she graduates from high school or reaches the age of twenty-one, whichever occurs first. The parties agreed that when KEB reaches the age of twenty-one, they would have KEB evaluated to determine whether lifetime support would be necessary. The Agreement further specified that Father would provide health insurance for KEB:

Father] will arrange for health insurance for KEB. CCB is currently receiving Medicaid. Each party will be responsible for one-half of all medical, dental, counseling, optical and/or orthodontic bills for the children not covered by medical insurance. Each party will also be responsible for one half of all travel expenses associated with the children's health care.

[ΒΆ6] Regarding visitation, the Agreement entitled Father to weekend and holiday visitation. Relevant to this appeal, the Agreement provided ...


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