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Wright v. Wright

Supreme Court of Wyoming

March 9, 2015

SHANNAN KRIETEMEIER WRIGHT, Appellant (Plaintiff),
v.
SHAWN BRICE WRIGHT, Appellee (Defendant)

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

Representing Appellant: Kenneth S. Cohen of Cohen Law Office, P.C., Jackson, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee: Elizabeth Greenwood, Inga L. Parsons of Greenwood Law, LLC, Pinedale, Wyoming.

Guardian Ad Litem: Anne B. Ashley, Jackson, Wyoming. No appearance.

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

OPINION

Page 268

KITE, Justice.

[¶1] Shannan Krietemeier Wright (Mother) appeals from a divorce decree awarding Shawn Brice Wright (Father) primary residential custody of the parties' two year old daughter in accordance with the parties' settlement agreement. Mother also claims she qualifies for joint support and should not be required to both reimburse Father for visitation travel costs and pay retroactive child support. We affirm the decree in all respects except for the provision ordering Mother to pay retroactive child support; we reverse the latter provision.

ISSUES

[¶2] The issues for our determination are:

1. Whether Father is estopped from claiming the settlement agreement is binding

Page 269

because he previously took the position it was not.

2. Whether the district court erred in enforcing the settlement agreement because the evidence did not show it was in the child's best interest.

3. Whether Mother's child support obligation should be calculated under the joint presumptive support provision of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 20-2-304(c) (LexisNexis 2013).

4. Whether the district court erred in ordering Mother to both reimburse Father for travel costs and pay retroactive child support.[1]

FACTS

[¶3] The parties were married in August 2011 in Jackson, Wyoming. Their daughter was born three weeks later. Mother filed a complaint for divorce in February 2012. Father filed an answer and counterclaim asserting he was the aggrieved party and seeking a divorce. The parties informally shared custody of the child after Mother filed for divorce.

[¶4] In April 2012, Mother's employment was terminated and she attempted suicide. She was involuntarily committed to the hospital. Father filed a motion for an ex parte emergency order awarding him temporary custody of the child. The parties stipulated to the appointment of a guardian ad litem and the district court entered an order pursuant to the stipulation. The parties subsequently stipulated to a temporary custody order pursuant to which they would have joint legal custody of the child, Father would have primary residential custody and Mother would have liberal visitation. The district court entered the stipulated order in May 2012.

[¶5] In November 2012, the district court entered an order pursuant to Father's motion requiring the parties to mediate and make a good faith effort to settle the divorce proceedings. The district court imposed a February 4, 2013, deadline. The parties met with a mediator in January 2013 in an effort to reach a settlement agreement. They signed a document entitled Terms of Settlement on February 15, 2013. The document provided: " These terms will be incorporated into a final binding settlement agreement and a Decree of Divorce." As it relates to the issues on appeal, the document also provided:

4. Transportation. [Mother] shall bear the costs for transportation for L's visitation until such time as she begins to pay guideline child support. Thereafter, the parties shall share the responsibility and costs for transportation of L equally .

( Emphasis added.)

[¶6] Shortly after agreeing on the terms of settlement, Mother filed notice of her intent to relocate to Texas. Mother also filed a status report in April 2013 advising the district court that the parties had reached a settlement in February 2013, she had forwarded a copy to Father and Father had failed to respond. On July 2, 2013, the parties filed a joint status report stating that they were close to reaching a settlement, asking for two more weeks to complete the settlement and, in the event a settlement was not reached by July 17, 2013, asking the district court to set a scheduling conference.

[¶7] On July 18, 2013, Father filed a motion for scheduling conference stating the parties had been unable to reach a settlement on all issues. Two months later, Father filed a motion requesting the district court to enforce the " parties' February 15, 2013, settlement agreement." Father asserted in this motion that the parties had reached an agreement and signed a document entitled " Terms of Settlement" on February 15, 2013. The document provided that the parties agreed to the essential terms of divorce, child custody and visitation and those terms would be incorporated into a final binding settlement agreement. ...


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