IN THE MATTER OF THE PATERNITY OF HLG, minor child: JN, Appellant (Respondent),
RFSG, Appellee (Petitioner)
from the District Court of Natrona County. The Honorable
Catherine E. Wilking, Judge.
Appellant: Guy P. Cleveland of Cleveland Law, Cheyenne,
Appellee: Jason E. Ochs of Ochs Law Firm, P.C., Casper,
BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.
[¶1] JN (Mother) appeals from the district
court's order granting RFSG (Father) custody of their
son, HLG (the child). She
claims the district court abused its discretion by refusing
to allow the child's therapist to give opinion testimony
at the custody hearing. We conclude the district court
properly applied the rules of civil procedure and, therefore,
[¶2] The issue in this case is:
the district court abused its discretion by refusing to allow
the child's therapist to give opinion testimony because
Mother did not comply with her discovery obligations.
[¶3] The child was born to Mother and Father
in 2008. The parents were not married, but the family lived
together until January 2010. After the parties'
separation, the child lived with Mother and, although there
was no order on visitation or custody, Father regularly
visited the child for a time. The State filed a petition to
establish support for the child, and the district court
entered an order requiring Father to pay child support in
January 2011. He consistently paid child support but did not
visit the child after Christmas 2010.
[¶4] In February 2013, Mother, who had since
married, filed a petition for adoption of the child by her
husband. Father contested the petition, and the district
court denied the adoption. Father filed a petition to
establish paternity and visitation in March 2013. While the
matter was pending, the district court granted Father
temporary visitation with the child. For several months,
Mother did not comply with the temporary visitation order.
Father filed two motions for order to show cause, and the
district court found Mother in contempt of court. Eventually,
regular visitation between Father and the child was
[¶5] In December 2013, Father amended his
petition to seek custody of the child. The district court
held a trial on Father's petition in April 2015. Mother
called the child's counselor, Cindy Parrish, to testify
at trial. The counselor testified about her observations
during therapy sessions with the child. However, when
Mother's attorney asked the counselor about her opinion
on a drawing the child made during counseling, Father
objected. The district court sustained the objection, ruling
that Mother had not disclosed the counselor's opinion
prior to trial as required by the Wyoming Rules of Civil
[¶6] After the trial, the district court
granted custody of the child to Father, subject to
Mother's visitation rights. Mother appealed.
[¶7] We review the district court's
interpretation of the rules of civil procedure de
novo. Dishman v. First Interstate Bank, 2015 WY
154, ¶ 13, 362 P.3d 360, 365 (Wyo. 2015); Windham v.
Windham, 2015 WY 61, ¶ 12, 348 P.3d 836, 840 (Wyo.
2015). The district court's decision on the admissibility
of evidence is reviewed under the abuse of discretion
standard. CL v. ML, 2015 WY 80, ¶ 15, 351 P.3d
272, 277 (Wyo. 2015).
A trial court's rulings on the admissibility of evidence
are entitled to considerable deference, and, as long as there
exists a legitimate basis for the trial court's ruling,
that ruling will not be disturbed on appeal. The appellant
bears the burden of showing an abuse of discretion.
Wise v. Ludlow, 2015 WY 43, ¶ 42, 346 P.3d 1,
12 (Wyo. 2015), quoting Glenn v. Union Pacific R.R.
Co., 2011 WY 126, ¶ 12, 262 P.3d 177, 182 (Wyo.
2011). See also CL, ¶ 15, 351 P.3d at
277. Likewise, the district court has discretion in selecting
an appropriate sanction for discovery violations, and we
interfere with its decision only when the district court
abused its discretion. Roemmich v. Roemmich, 2010 WY
115, ¶ 22, 238 P.3d 89, 95 (Wyo. 2010); Ruwart v.
Wagner, 880 P.2d 586, 592 (Wyo. 1994).
[¶8] In her W.R.C.P. 26 pretrial disclosure,
Mother listed Cindy Parrish as a " will call"
witness but did not designate her as an expert. Mother