from the District Court of Weston County The Honorable Thomas
W. Rumpke, Judge.
Representing Appellant: J. Craig Abraham, Liberty Law
Offices, P.C., Gillette, Wyoming.
Representing Appellee: Christopher R. Ringer, Ringer Law,
P.C., Gillette, Wyoming.
DAVIS, C.J., and FOX, KAUTZ, BOOMGAARDEN, and GRAY, JJ.
Appellant, Rhonda Gallagher, appeals from the district
court's order partitioning a vacant lot that she and
Appellee, Curtis Townsend, own as joint tenants with rights
of survivorship. Ms. Gallagher contends that the district
court improperly partitioned the property. She also contends
that the district court erred in determining the amount of
property taxes Mr. Townsend paid. We reverse and remand.
Ms. Gallagher raises two issues, which we restate as follows:
1. Did the district court err when it partitioned the
2. Did the district court err when it determined Mr. Townsend
paid $4, 241.53 in property taxes?
The parties cohabitated from approximately October 2007 until
March 2009 and share a child together. In 2008, Mr. Townsend
purchased a vacant lot for $25, 014.20 with his own funds.
The warranty deed conveyed the property to the parties as
joint tenants with rights of survivorship. The parties each
paid property taxes through the years-Ms. Gallagher paid $510
in property taxes and Mr. Townsend paid the remaining
property taxes. After Ms. Gallagher moved to Colorado in
July 2013, Mr. Townsend invoiced Ms. Gallagher for
maintenance costs as they arose, but she did not pay the
In August 2017, Ms. Gallagher filed suit seeking partition of
the lot. The district court appointed partition
commissioners, who determined that the property could not be
partitioned in kind without manifest injury to its value and
should be sold. The district court agreed, ordered the sale
of the lot if neither party elected to purchase the other
party's share, and valued the property at $33, 500.
Although the district court determined that each party owned
a one-half interest in the lot, it ordered that Mr. Townsend
be paid the first $25, 017.20-the amount he paid to purchase
the property-from the sale or election proceeds and that any
excess proceeds be divided equally between the parties. The
district court determined that an equitable division of the
proceeds was proper because "Mr. Townsend paid the
entire purchase price, maintained the property, and paid
the majority of the expenses associated with the property
during the parties' short relationship." Ms.
Gallagher timely appealed.
"Following a bench trial, this court reviews a district
court's findings and conclusions using a clearly
erroneous standard for the factual findings and a de
novo standard for the conclusions of law."
Hofstad v. Christie, 2010 WY 134, ¶ 7, 240 P.3d
816, 818 (Wyo. 2010) (citation omitted).
"Requests for equitable relief are matters over which
the district court exercises broad discretion."
Jacoby v. Jacoby, 2004 WY 140, ¶ 7, 100 P.3d
852, 855 (Wyo. 2004) (citation omitted).
In determining whether there has been an abuse of discretion,
we focus on the "reasonableness of the choice made by
the trial court." If the trial court could reasonably
conclude as it did and the ruling is one based on sound
judgment with regard to what is right under the
circumstances, it will not be disturbed absent a showing that
some facet of the ruling is arbitrary or capricious.
Id. (citations omitted). However, "[e]ven when
acting in equity, the district court is not free simply to do
what it thinks is fair." Id. ¶ 10, 100
P.3d at 855. "Equitable discretion may be limited by
statute." McCarthy v. Lippitt, 150 Ohio App.3d
367, 381, 781 N.E.2d 1023, 1033 (Ohio Ct. App. 2002)
Did the district court err when it ...