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Greer v. Greer

Supreme Court of Wyoming

March 30, 2017

LANDON GREGORY GREER, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
ALBA ROSY GREER, Appellee (Plaintiff).

         Appeal from the District Court of Park County The Honorable John A. Fenn, Judge

          Representing Appellant: Christopher J. King of Greear Clark King, P.C., Worland, Wyoming

          Representing Appellee: Alex H. Sitz, III of Meinecke & Sitz, LLC, Cody, Wyoming

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

          DAVIS, Justice

         [¶1] Landon Gregory Greer (Father) and Alba Rosy Greer (Mother) were divorced in October of 2014, while both lived in Cody, Wyoming. Mother received custody of the children, and Father was awarded liberal visitation tailored to his seasonal work schedule. When Mother was unable to find suitable employment in Cody, she found a job in Arizona, and moved there with the children after giving Father notice of the move. Mother filed for a change in Father's visitation, and Father cross-filed for a change in custody and to have Mother held in contempt. The district court declined to change custody or to hold Mother in contempt. Father appealed, contending that both decisions were an abuse of discretion. We affirm.

         ISSUES

         [¶2] We restate the issues presented as follows:

1. Did the district court abuse its discretion when it did not change custody from Mother to Father after Mother relocated from Cody, Wyoming to Chandler, Arizona?
2. Did the district court abuse its discretion in failing to hold Mother in contempt after Father was unable to exercise visitation ordered in the decree due to her move to Arizona?

         FACTS

         [¶3] Mother was born in the Dominican Republic, and she and Father met when he was on a church mission there. After his mission was complete and he had returned to the United States, Father went back to the Dominican Republic and asked Mother to marry him. She agreed and immigrated to Cody, Wyoming, where Father resided. They were married a few months later.

         [¶4] Mother was able to learn English, obtain citizenship, and complete an online bachelor's degree in criminal justice from the University of Wyoming. During the marriage, Father worked in the family paving business, and Mother was a stay-at-home mom. Father also served on the Cody City Council. The couple had two children, DBG (male, born 2006) and MRG (female, born 2008).

         [¶5] The relationship began to unravel, and Mother filed for divorce early in 2014. Custody and financial issues were hotly contested in a two-day divorce trial held in September 2014. The district court entered a comprehensive divorce decree memorializing the above facts on October 21, 2014. The court declined to award joint physical custody as requested by Father, and instead awarded Mother primary physical custody.

         [¶6] However, the court awarded Father liberal visitation, including six consecutive weeks during January through March when he was not so busy in the paving business. Mother was awarded the marital home.

         [¶7] Mother was unable to obtain suitable employment in Cody after the divorce. She later testified that she applied for approximately thirty jobs, including at a fast-food restaurant and Walmart. She was able to work part-time cleaning houses and teaching Zumba classes. Her employment prospects were probably not enhanced by criminal charges involving an altercation with Father involving a firearm. She was charged with domestic battery and reckless endangerment. She was ultimately allowed to plead guilty to only one of the charges and received a deferred sentence under Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-13-301.[1] She later testified that she was placed on probation for a year, which had almost elapsed without a violation at the time of the custody hearing involved in this appeal. The guilty plea was accepted but not entered by the court, and if Mother successfully completes her probationary period, she will not have a criminal record on this charge, as it will be dismissed.

         [¶8] Mother was not able to keep up with her financial commitments, and so she made an arrangement with a friend to transfer her an interest in the marital home she had received in the divorce in exchange for a line of credit of up to $100, 000. By February of 2016, she had borrowed around $70, 000 against the home.

         [¶9] After taking a trip to Phoenix, Mother eventually decided that she would look into employment in that area. Her preliminary inquiries generated interest from prospective employers - her ability to speak both Spanish and English made her more employable in an area with a larger Hispanic population. She was eventually offered a job as a receptionist at the Maricopa County Public Defender's office in the Phoenix area. It paid around $10.00 per hour and included benefits.

         [¶10] Mother notified Father of her intention to move with the children on June 3, 2015, and filed a notice of address change as required by the parties' divorce decree on June 12. She also filed a motion for change of Father's visitation to adjust to the planned move on June 19. Father responded with a petition to modify custody, support, and visitation, asking the court to award him primary custody and to otherwise modify the decree to adjust to this change. He also asked the court to hold Mother in contempt because (we infer) he was not able to exercise his regular visitation due to the move.[2]

         [¶11] Meanwhile, Mother encountered complications with her plan to go to work for the Maricopa County Public Defender's office. Arizona requires a person who works for governmental entities or in child or elder care to have an IVP[3] card. We gather from the record that when one applies for such a card, she is fingerprinted and her criminal record is checked. Mother was notified that she did not qualify for a card because of the Cody charges or deferral.

         [¶12] However, an exception can be made for good cause. Mother was able to obtain support from members of the Cody community, including the judge who sat on her criminal case, and she eventually received the required card under the good-cause exception. Father points out that she moved to Arizona without a job, because she could not be employed at the public defender's office without the card. She was unemployed from June until September, waiting for the card.

         [¶13] In the meantime, Mother found a different job as a substitute teacher at a charter school, working for a private company that supplies substitutes to schools. That job paid $22.00 per hour, with no benefits, on a contract basis. Mother worked 25 to 30 hours per week, which allowed her to get her children ready for school and meet them at the end of the school day. At the time of the custody hearing, she had been offered a permanent position with the charter school at which she had been a substitute. This position will provide benefits. She was not sure of the salary or hourly rate of her new job at the time of the hearing.

         [¶14] The children attend a school which has a number of two-week breaks throughout the year, rather than a traditional long summer break. Father is unable to exercise the six continuous weeks of visitation during the slow season for paving that he received ...


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