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Walter v. Walter

Supreme Court of Wyoming

April 6, 2015

ELLEN WALTER, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
MARK WAYNE WALTER, Appellee (Plaintiff)

Page 962

Appeal from the District Court of Sheridan County. The Honorable John G. Fenn, Judge.

Representing Appellant: Tad T. Daly and Matthew R. Sorenson, Daly, Davidson & Sorenson, LLC, Gillette, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee: Jill D. LaRance, LaRance & Syth, PC, Billings, Montana.

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

OPINION

Page 963

BURKE, Chief Justice.

[¶1] In this appeal from a Decree of Divorce, Ellen Walter (" Mother" ) challenges the district court's decisions on child custody and child support, its rulings relating to the guardian ad litem, and a modification to the original findings of fact and conclusions of law. Finding no reversible error, we will affirm.

ISSUES

[¶2] Mother presents four issues for our review, which we have reordered to facilitate discussion:

1. Did the district court abuse its discretion in awarding primary physical custody to Father?
2. Did the district court abuse its discretion in requiring the parties to split the children's medical costs not covered by health insurance?
3. Did the district court err in permitting the guardian ad litem to withdraw?

Page 964

4. Did the district court abuse its discretion by modifying its original Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law?

FACTS

[¶3] Mother and Father were married in 2004. Three children were born to the couple, JRW in 2004, JMW in 2010, and LCW in 2011. Father filed a complaint for judicial separation on August 21, 2012, and later amended his complaint to seek a divorce.

[¶4] The parties stipulated to an order for temporary arrangements for the children. The district court entered the temporary order giving Mother primary physical custody of the children, with liberal visitation to Father. It ordered Father to pay child support and spousal support. A guardian ad litem was appointed for the children. A few months later, but before the trial, the district court allowed the guardian ad litem to withdraw.

[¶5] Trial began on March 12, 2014. Evidence indicated that Father was employed as a psychiatrist during the marriage. Mother did not work outside the home, and was the primary caregiver for the children. All three children have special needs. JRW is a high-functioning autistic child also diagnosed with high anxiety and ADHD. JMW was developmentally delayed in his motor skills as an infant, though he largely caught up as a toddler. He still has delayed speech development and orthopedic problems, and recently started to exhibit some indications of autism or ADHD. LCW suffers from an undiagnosed developmental disorder, and has significant developmental delays. All three children have participated in various medical, therapy, and counseling programs.

[¶6] Following a three day trial, the district court issued Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. It concluded that the best interests of the children would be served by granting primary custody to Father and liberal visitation to Mother. Mother was ordered to pay child support. Prior to entry of the decree, Mother filed a motion asking the district court to modify its findings and conclusions by reducing the amount of child support she was to pay. Mother asserted that, under the proposed findings, she would have the children for more than 40% of the year so child support should be calculated as set forth in Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 20-2-304(c) (LexisNexis 2013).[1] The district court declined to adopt Mother's proposed change and instead reduced Mother's visitation below the 40% statutory threshold. The Decree of Divorce entered by the district court reflected this modification, but was otherwise consistent with the original findings and conclusions. Mother filed this timely appeal.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶7] Our standard of review in domestic relations matters is well ...


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