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Meiners v. Meiners

Supreme Court of Wyoming

April 12, 2019

COLLEEN M. MEINERS, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
ALEXANDRA MEINERS, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Theodore Meiners, Appellee (Plaintiff).

          Appeal from the District Court of Teton County The Honorable Timothy C. Day, Judge

          Representing Appellant: Robert E. Schroth, Sr., Schroth & Schroth, LLC, Jackson, Wyoming.

          Representing Appellee: Matthew E. Turner, Geittmann Larson Swift LLP, Jackson, Wyoming.

          Before DAVIS, C.J., and FOX, KAUTZ, BOOMGAARDEN, and GRAY, JJ.

          KAUTZ, JUSTICE.

         [¶1] The Appellant, Colleen M. Meiners, appeals the district court's order enforcing the terms of her divorce decree at the request of her late ex-husband, Theodore "Theo" Meiners' estate.[1] Colleen argues the district court should have modified the terms of the divorce settlement agreement and the resulting divorce decree, failed to apply laches, and failed to award her storage fees and mortgage contributions. We affirm.

         ISSUES

         [¶2] Colleen raises the following issues in her appeal:

1. May parties to a Divorce Decree under certain circumstances modify the terms of their settlement agreement which was merged into the Divorce Decree?
2. Did the District Court err when it refused to follow the law as set forth by the Wyoming Supreme Court in Acton v. Acton[, ] 2017 WY 151, 406[] P.3d 1279 (Wyo. 2017)?
3. Can the Doctrine of Laches be asserted as a defense to the enforcement of a provision in the the [sic] property division in a Divorce Decree?
4. Did the District Court err by not giving [Colleen] credit for rental of storage space by Theodore Meiners?
5. Did the District Court err when it denied [Colleen] contribution from the Estate of Theodore Meiners for mortgage payments that were made by Appellant Colleen Meiners, from the date Appellant Colleen Meiners and Theodore Meiners became tenants in common?

         FACTS

         [¶3] This matter is before the Court for a third time. In Meiners v. Meiners, 2016 WY 74, 376 P.3d 493 (Wyo. 2016), we gave a thorough rendition of the facts, relevant portions of which are:

Theodore (Theo) Meiners and Colleen Meiners (collectively "the Meiners") married in 1989. They each had one child from prior relationships, and they had one child together who was born in 1989. In 2001, the Meiners separated, and in 2002 they executed a Child Custody and Property Settlement Agreement (Divorce Agreement). The Divorce Agreement gave Colleen Meiners primary custody of the couple's child and Theo Meiners reasonable visitation. Theo Meiners was to pay child support in the amount of $375.00 per month until the child reached the age of majority in April 2007. The agreement specified that Theo Meiners would be entitled to all his personal property being stored in the garage of the couple's residence and that he would remove that property by January 23, 2002. With respect to the couple's real property, which consisted only of their residence, the Divorce Agreement provided:
The parties['] real property located at 25 Aspen Drive will be sold to Wife under the following terms and conditions:
a. The purchase price shall be one half the fair market value as determined by an independent appraiser agreed to by the parties, which has been determined to be $285, 000.00, less six percent (6%) sales commission, and less all outstanding taxes, mortgages and liens on the property;
b. Wife shall pay to Husband one half the net equity in the property as of August 30, 2001. Payment shall be due and payable when the property is sold or upon the emancipation of the parties' minor son, [AM].
c. There shall be no monthly payments, however the purchase price shall accrue interest at the rate of six percent (6%) simple interest per annum.
d. Wife shall receive as a credit toward the purchase price the sum of $2, 460.00 which represents back child support owed by Husband as of August 30, 2001.
e. Husband shall execute all documents necessary to effect a transfer of title and ownership to Wife, as her sole and separate property, as may be required by any governmental entity, financial institution, or lender; f. Wife shall execute all documents necessary to protect Husband's security interest in the real property located at 25 Aspen Drive.
After executing the Divorce Agreement, the Meiners had second thoughts about divorcing and did not file the Divorce Agreement in district court, though a divorce complaint had already been filed with the court. Between 2001 and 2007, Theo Meiners resided part of the year in Alaska, where he had a heli-skiing business, and part of the year in Jackson with Colleen Meiners. In 2007, the district court notified the Meiners that their divorce complaint would be dismissed for lack of prosecution if no action was taken on the matter, and the Meiners then decided to proceed with their divorce. On July 20, 2007, the Divorce Agreement was filed with the court, and on that same day, the district court entered a Decree of Divorce.[2]
After the divorce decree was entered in 2007, the Meiners continued to have a good relationship and live as they had prior to their divorce, with Theo Meiners residing part of the year in Alaska and part of the year in Jackson with Colleen Meiners. In 2010, the Meiners refinanced the residence at 25 Aspen Drive, executing the necessary documents as husband and wife. Neither Theo Meiners nor Colleen Meiners followed the terms of the Divorce Agreement before or after their divorce.
On September 20, 2012, Theo Meiners died, and on November 7, 2012, his daughter, Alexandra Meiners, was appointed as personal representative of his estate. On October 7, 2013, Alexandra Meiners, on behalf of the estate, filed a complaint against Colleen Meiners alleging claims of breach of contract, unjust enrichment, enforcement of divorce decree, and slander of title. The breach of contract claim sought enforcement of the Divorce Agreement and in particular the agreement's real property division requiring Colleen Meiners to pay Theo Meiners one-half the net equity in the property located at 25 Aspen Drive, plus interest, based on the property's 2001 appraised value.
On November 7, 2013, Colleen Meiners filed an answer and counterclaim. She alleged numerous affirmative defenses, including laches and waiver, and asserted a counterclaim for breach of contract by which she sought damages for Theo Meiners' breach of the Divorce Agreement. Specifically, Colleen Meiners alleged that Theo Meiners breached the Divorce Agreement by: failing to remove his personal items from the property located at 25 Aspen Drive; failing to pay child support; failing to pay any ...

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