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Schmalz v. Schmalz

Supreme Court of Wyoming

August 3, 2018

DONALD CHRISTIAN SCHMALZ, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
PATRICIA JO ANN SCHMALZ, Appellee (Plaintiff).

          Appeal from the District Court of Park County The Honorable Robert E. Skar, Judge

          Representing Appellant: Timothy J. Blatt, Blatt Law Firm, Cody, Wyoming.

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

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

          BOOMGAARDEN, JUSTICE.

         [¶1] Appellant, Donald Christian Schmalz (Husband), appeals the district court's decree entered in divorce proceedings involving Husband and appellee, Patricia Jo Ann Schmalz (Wife). Husband challenges provisions in the decree and an incorporated decision letter that allegedly conflict with the district court's statements during trial. We affirm.

         ISSUES

         We re-phrase the parties' issues as follows:

1. Was the district court prohibited from entering a written decision and a divorce decree that varied from the court's oral statements at trial about whether Husband was in contempt of court and how the court would divide the parties' property?
2. Should this Court grant leave for the district court to hear and decide a motion under W.R.C.P. 60 pending this appeal?

         FACTS

         [¶2] Wife filed a divorce complaint on July 16, 2016. During the proceedings, the district court ordered Husband to deposit $175, 000 with the clerk of district court. The court entered its order on December 5, 2016, and gave Husband ten days within which to deposit the funds. On December 22, 2016, Husband deposited $135, 000. The district court held Husband in contempt of court for failing to deposit the full required amount. As a sanction for the contempt, the district court ordered Husband to pay Wife's attorney's fees incurred from seeking Husband's compliance with the December 5, 2016, court order. The court ordered Wife's counsel to submit an attorney's fee affidavit prior to trial and stated, "the Court will consider the attorney fee request as part of the final equitable distribution of property and debt in this divorce." Wife timely filed an affidavit for attorney's fees, without objection from Husband. The court did not act on the affidavit before trial, which began about two weeks later.

         [¶3] After the parties' closing arguments at trial, Wife's counsel reminded the district court about the affidavit and asked the court to consider it when dividing the property. In its oral pronouncements a short time later, the district court stated:

I do not find, based on the circumstances of this case, I am not going to find Mr. Schmalz in contempt of court, based on hearing all of the evidence in the case, and I'll try to explain that when I get into the decision letter itself. The facts are different than I ...

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