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Long v. Long

Supreme Court of Wyoming

March 12, 2018

CLAYTON EUGENE LONG, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
SATIN MARIE LONG, Appellee (Plaintiff).

         Appeal from the District Court of Uinta County The Honorable Joseph B. Bluemel, Judge

          Representing Appellant: Sarah Jacobs Manwarren of Jacobs Polidora, LLC, Laramie, Wyoming.

          Representing Appellee: John A. Thomas of John A. Thomas Law Office, Evanston, Wyoming.

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

          KAUTZ, JUSTICE

         [¶1] The appellee, Satin Marie Long (Wife), filed for divorce from the appellant, Clayton Eugene Long (Husband). Before Wife filed for divorce, the parties executed a Stipulated Judgment and Decree of Divorce (stipulated decree) that established property distribution, child support, child custody and visitation, and alimony. Wife submitted the stipulated decree to the district court, and following a hearing, the court determined the stipulation was enforceable and entered it as the final decree of divorce. Husband appeals the district court decision for various reasons. We affirm in part and remand in part.

         ISSUES

         [¶2] Husband raises five issues for our consideration:

1. Whether the District Court abused its discretion by ordering that the Parties' Stipulated Judgment and Decree of Divorce was supported by consideration, and not unconscionable.
2. Whether the District Court abused its discretion by finding that the appellant did not sign the Parties' Stipulated Judgment and Decree of Divorce while incompetent, or while under duress, coercion, or bad faith.
3. Whether the District Court abused its discretion by finding the Parties' Stipulated Judgment and Decree of Divorce was enforceable when there were no findings supporting the appellee being awarded sole custody.
4. Whether the District Court abused its discretion by finding the Parties' Stipulated Judgment and Decree of Divorce was enforceable despite the lack of findings regarding presumptive child support.
5. Whether the District Court abused its discretion by finding the Parties' Stipulated Judgment and Decree of Divorce was enforceable despite the lack of findings regarding alimony.

         FACTS

         [¶3] Husband and Wife married on August 17, 1993. The couple had four children: JL was born in 1995; BL was born in 1997; KL was born in 2006; and HL was born in 2010. Although Wife became a licensed registered nurse in 2009, she stayed at home to raise the children throughout most of the marriage. Husband worked as a tool fisher, and from 2006 through 2015 his annual earnings ranged from $155, 063 to $230, 260. Husband was laid-off and began collecting unemployment in September 2015, after the couple had separated and filed for divorce.

         [¶4] The couple began experiencing significant marital difficulties in August 2014, and Husband moved out of the home in April 2015. Husband began to see a counselor in an effort to reconcile the marriage, and he believed that Wife was also seeing a counselor. Wife, however, denied seeing a counselor and told Husband that she wanted a divorce. In response to the divorce discussions, Husband would drink more alcohol than was normal. Husband sent Wife text messages informing her that if she wanted a divorce, she should get a lawyer, start the paperwork, and put whatever conditions she wanted in the paperwork, including alimony.

         [¶5] On August 7, 2015, Wife presented Husband with the stipulated decree prepared by her attorney. The stipulated decree awarded Wife sole legal custody of the three minor children, and granted Husband reasonable visitation with the children at Wife's discretion. Husband would pay Wife $3, 025 a month in child support and $3, 000 a month in alimony. In the property distribution, Wife would keep the marital home, 100% of Husband's 401(k), three vehicles, an all-terrain vehicle, several firearms, two bank accounts held with the children, and the Disney Vacation Club accounts. Husband would receive the camper and the contents within it and several firearms. Wife would assume the home mortgage debt and the debt to Herberger's, while Husband would assume the combined loans from Uinta Bank, the loan from Trona Valley FCU, the balance on the Cabela's Club Visa card, the debt to Main One Financial, Wells Fargo Financial, and Bank of the West, the taxes and outstanding balances on the Disney Vacation Club accounts, and all medical and dental debts incurred before the date of the stipulated decree. Additionally, the stipulated decree required that Husband maintain a life insurance policy with a minimum $500, 000 death benefit with Wife named as the primary beneficiary and the minor children as the secondary beneficiaries.

         [¶6] While there is some dispute about the conversation that took place while the couple discussed the stipulated decree, there is no dispute that Husband let Wife explain the content of the document to him instead of reading it for himself. Husband explained he believed the document was prepared by Wife's "counselor" and that if he signed it, he and Wife would reconcile. Wife admitted that she said she would have dinner or lunch with Husband, but denied that she told Husband that this was an attempt to reconcile. Husband and Wife both signed the stipulated decree before a notary public that same day.

         [¶7] For unknown reasons, Wife delayed filing a complaint for divorce until September 23, 2015. Nothing in the record shows that Husband and Wife had temporarily reconciled or otherwise resolved their issues. Husband filed his answer and counterclaim, and Wife responded and submitted the stipulated decree to the district court. Because Husband's answer and counterclaim were contrary to the stipulated decree, the district court informed the parties it would not approve the stipulated decree until its concerns regarding the inconsistencies were resolved. Husband then filed an objection to the entry of the stipulated decree. He argued it should not be enforced because: 1) he was intoxicated at the time he signed the document; 2) he has a history of difficulty with reading comprehension and he did not understand he was signing a divorce decree; 3) he was coerced into signing the document under the belief that he and Wife would reconcile if he signed it; 4) the property distribution in the decree is unconscionable and inequitable; 5) the debt ...


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