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Sinclair v. Sinclair

Supreme Court of Wyoming

September 15, 2015

RHONDA MARIE SINCLAIR, Appellant (Plaintiff),
v.
KEVIN DEAN SINCLAIR, Appellee (Defendant)

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

Representing Appellant: Lisa K. Finkey, Gillette, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee: Rex O. Arney, Law Office of Rex O. Arney, Sheridan, Wyoming.

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

OPINION

Page 1101

KAUTZ, Justice.

[¶1] Rhonda Marie Sinclair (Wife) appeals from a divorce decree, claiming the district court erred when it declined to require Kevin Dean Sinclair (Husband) to pay interest on the amount it ordered him to pay to equalize the division of marital property. We conclude the district court properly exercised its discretion when it suspended payment of interest as long as Husband makes annual payments of at least $15,000 toward the property allocation. We, therefore, affirm.

ISSUE

[¶2] Wife presents the issue for our determination as follows:

Whether the district court erred when it ordered that the statutory interest on the final judgment could be suspended if [Husband] made minimum payments towards satisfaction of the final judgment.

Husband contends the district court properly exercised its discretion when it ordered that statutory interest on the amount owed be suspended as long as he makes the minimum annual payments.

FACTS

[¶3] Husband and Wife were married in September 1993 in South Dakota. They had no children. In September 2013, Wife filed for divorce in Campbell County, Wyoming, where they were living at the time. Husband answered the complaint, and asked the district court to dismiss Wife's complaint and grant him a divorce.

[¶4] At trial, the primary issue in dispute concerned the division of the marital property. The focus of the dispute was property located in South Dakota, which the parties had acquired from Husband's mother during the parties' marriage. The property is held in trust by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Husband's name. This property cannot be sold to the general public, but instead can be transferred only to Husband's family or another tribal member. The parties receive rental income from the property of about $14,000 per year.

[¶5] After hearing all of the testimony and considering all of the marital property including the South Dakota land, the district court allocated the tribal trust property to the Husband, and then concluded Husband should pay Wife $141,360 to accomplish an equitable property division. While leaving Husband the option to make higher payments, the court imposed a minimum payment of $15,000 per year. The district court then stated that as long as Husband paid the $15,000 per year, it would suspend the statutory post judgment interest of ten percent. The court stated:

That is an incentive for you, sir, to make sure that ... revenue flow goes promptly to [Wife]. And in the event that [Husband] falls short of applying at least $15,000 per year, why then, the 10 percent post judgment interest goes into effect, and it retroacts to the date of this judgment.
So that is a big weight of incentive to make sure you arrive at at least [$]15K per year. Now if you present [$]17,000 in one year that doesn't mean that you go down to $13,000 the next year. It has got to be at least $15,000 a year.

[¶6] Consistent with the district court's ruling from the bench, the divorce decree provided:

To create an equitable division of the parties' property and debts, [Husband] shall pay to [Wife] the sum of One Hundred Forty One Thousand Three Hundred Sixty Dollars ($141,360.00) for which [Wife] shall have Judgment against [Husband]. Statutory interest on the judgment shall be ...

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