from the District Court of Albany County The Honorable
Jeffrey A. Donnell, Judge
Representing Appellant: Rennie Phillips Polidora of
Jacobs·Polidora, LLC, Laramie, Wyoming
Representing Appellee: Erik J. Oblasser of Corthell and King,
P.C., Laramie, Wyoming
BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.
Chrissy Lynn Ransom (Mother) appeals from a divorce decree,
claiming the district court abused its discretion in awarding
Christopher Ryan Ransom (Father) primary physical custody of
their daughter. She also claims the district court abused its
discretion when it denied her motion to bifurcate the trial
to separate the property issues from child custody and
support determinations. We find no abuse of discretion and
Mother states the issues for this Court's consideration
1. Whether the district court abused its discretion by
improperly weighing the best interests of the child factors
pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 20-2-201(a) and awarding
custody to Father.
2. Whether the district court abused its discretion by
denying Mother's Motion to Bifurcate property
distribution proceedings from child custody proceedings
pursuant to W.R.C.P. 42(b).
Father contends the district court did not abuse its
discretion in awarding him custody or denying the motion to
bifurcate. He also asks this Court to certify there was no
reasonable cause for this appeal and award costs and attorney
fees in his favor pursuant to W.R.A.P. 10.05(b).
The parties were married in December of 2005 in Las Vegas,
Nevada. Throughout the marriage, they resided in Laramie,
Wyoming. Their daughter was born in 2009. She suffers from
autism spectrum disorder.
In 2012, the parties purchased Grand Avenue Pizza in Laramie
for $377, 000. Both parties worked at the restaurant, and
during the course of their marriage, paid $100, 000 toward
the loan with money earned from the business.
In January of 2016, Mother began an extra-marital affair.
When Father discovered the affair in March, Mother left the
child with Father and went to Pinedale to be with her new
companion. Before she left, Mother wrote a note to the child
explaining that she did not know when or how she would be
able to return to Laramie. Five days later, however, she returned
to Laramie. By May of 2016, Mother was working and renting a
residence in Laramie.
Meanwhile, in April of 2016, Father had filed a complaint for
divorce in which he sought primary legal and physical custody
of the child. Father also sought an interim order giving him
custody of the child while the divorce was pending, claiming
that Mother intended to take the child and leave Laramie.
Mother answered the complaint and counterclaimed for custody.
The parties subsequently stipulated to a temporary plan
giving the parties joint legal custody of the child, with
Father having primary physical custody, and Mother having
visitation on Tuesday after school until 8:00 p.m. and from
the end of school on Thursday until Saturday at 8:00 p.m.
The district court set the trial for November 18, 2016. On
November 7, Mother filed a motion asking the court to
bifurcate the child custody and visitation matters from the
property issues. She claimed she had relied on Father to
provide a valuation of the restaurant business, and had only
recently received that valuation. She indicated that she
questioned its accuracy and needed additional time to obtain
her own appraisal. The district court denied the motion. The
case proceeded to trial, and after hearing the testimony and
counsels' arguments, the district court issued a decision
letter finding it in the child's best interests to reside
primarily with Father while awarding Mother the visitation in
the parties' stipulated plan. The district court
subsequently issued a decree of divorce consistent with its
decision letter. Mother timely appealed from the district
Custody and visitation are committed to the sound discretion
of the trial court. JCLK v. ZHB, 2015 WY 95, ¶
8, 353 P.3d 720, 721 (Wyo. 2015) (citing Blakely v.
Blakely, 2009 WY 127, ¶ 6, 218 P.3d 253, 254 (Wyo.
This Court has consistently recognized the broad discretion
enjoyed by a district court in child custody matters. We will
not interfere with the district court's custody
determination absent procedural error or a clear abuse of
discretion. In determining whether an abuse of discretion has
occurred, our primary consideration is the reasonableness of
the district court's decision in light of the evidence
presented. We view the evidence in the light most favorable
to the district court's determination, affording every
favorable inference to the prevailing party and omitting from
our consideration the conflicting evidence.
JCLK, ¶ 8, 353 P.3d at 721-21 (quoting
Durfee v. Durfee, 2009 WY 7, ¶ 6, 199 P.3d
1087, 1089 (Wyo. 2009)).
W.R.C.P. 42(b) provides as follows:
(b) Separate trials. - The court, in furtherance of
convenience or to avoid prejudice, or when separate trials
will be conducive to expedition and economy, may order a
separate trial of any claim, cross-claim, counterclaim, or
third-party claim, or of any separate issue or of any number
of claims, cross-claims, counterclaims, third-party claims,
review a decision not to bifurcate a trial for an abuse of
discretion, and reverse only if the district court's
decision was outside the bounds of reason under the
circumstances." In re Kite Ranch, LLC, 2010 WY
83, ¶ 33, 234 P.3d 351, 363 (Wyo. 2010) (citing In
re Conservatorship & ...