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Breen v. Black

Supreme Court of Wyoming

July 24, 2015

THERESIA RENEE BREEN f/k/a THERESIA RENEE BLACK, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
JAMIE LEE BLACK, Appellee (Plaintiff)

Appeal from the District Court of Campbell County. The Honorable Michael N. Deegan, Judge.

For Appellant: Letitia Abromats of Philip E. Abromats, P.C., Greybull, Wyoming.

For Appellee: No appearance.

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

OPINION

Page 726

DAVIS, Justice.

[¶1] Theresia Renee Breen appeals from a district court order holding her in contempt for failure to reimburse her ex-husband Jamie Black for her share of medical expenses

Page 727

he incurred for their four minor daughters. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

ISSUES

[¶2] Breen raises four issues that we restate as follows:

I. Did the district court err by awarding medical expenses incurred by Black prior to an August 8, 2012 hearing, but which he did not assert as a compulsory counterclaim in the action brought by Breen that led to that hearing?

II. Did clear and convincing evidence support the district court's finding that Breen's failure to pay her share of the medical expenses was willful?

III. Did the district court's alleged over-calculation of the amount Breen owed Black transform the civil contempt order into a punitive criminal contempt order?

IV. Did the district court err in holding Breen in contempt for failing to communicate and cooperate with Black?

FACTS

[¶3] Breen and Black divorced in late 2008. Breen received primary custody of the couple's four daughters, subject to Black's liberal visitation rights. He was to pay support and provide medical insurance for the girls, and he was also to pay any deductibles required by the insurance policy. The decree required Breen and Black to split any medical costs remaining after deductibles were paid and the insurer satisfied its obligations under the policy equally. To implement that requirement, the decree required each of them to provide the other any documents showing charges by the girls' medical services providers, documents indicating that those charges had been submitted to the insurer, and proof of the amounts paid on those charges by both the insurer and the other party.

[¶4] On March 2, 2012, Breen filed a " Motion for Judgment for Unpaid Child Support, Medical Expenses and Other Financial Obligations" and several attached exhibits. She claimed that between January 12, 2010 and February 26, 2012, she paid for medical services for her daughters in addition to what their insurance company had paid, and that Black had not reimbursed her for his $4,608.45 share of those expenses. Breen's Exhibits D and E contained bills, statements, insurance documents, and a summary spreadsheet supporting that claim.

[¶5] Black denied those allegations in his March 27 response to Breen's motion, then pled the following as an affirmative defense:

Defendant pleads the affirmative defense that Defendant owes Plaintiff more in medical expenses of the minor children of the parties than is claimed in Paragraph 6 of the Motion for Unpaid Child Support, Medical ...

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