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Knell v. Knell

Supreme Court of Wyoming

July 17, 2019

BRUCE HENRY KNELL, JR., Appellant (Plaintiff),
v.
TANYA LOUISE KNELL, Appellee (Defendant).

          Appeal from the District Court of Fremont County The Honorable Norman E. Young, Judge.

          Representing Appellant: James R. Salisbury, The Salisbury Firm, P.C., Cheyenne, Wyoming

          Representing Appellee: No appearance.

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

          DAVIS, Chief Justice.

         [¶1] Bruce Knell, Jr. and Tanya Knell were divorced in 2015, and in 2018 Ms. Knell applied for a writ of garnishment against Mr. Knell's earnings for amounts owing under the property division ordered by the district court. Over Mr. Knell's objection, the district court ruled the garnishment enforceable, and Mr. Knell appealed. We reverse.

         ISSUE

         [¶2] This appeal presents a single issue: Did the garnishment ordered by the district court exceed the statutory limits on creditor garnishments?

         FACTS

         [¶3] The Knells divorced in 2015. Pursuant to the divorce decree, Mr. Knell was ordered to pay child support for the couple's three children in the amount of $1, 393.00 per month. The decree ordered:

[P]resumptive child support for the three minor children shall be set at $1, 393.00. The first payment shall be due on June 1, 2015. Subsequent payments shall be made on or before the 1stday of each month thereafter until said children reach the age of majority and graduate from high school, or become otherwise emancipated. All child support payments shall be made payable to the Clerk of District Court and sent to the Clerk of District Court, Ninth Judicial District, Fremont County Courthouse, P.O. Box 370, Lander, WY 82520, and shall include the Civil Number of this case. The parties shall comply with W.S. §§ 20-6-201 through 20-6-222 as necessary to provide for the child support as herein set forth.

         [¶4] Mr. Knell was also ordered to pay Ms. Knell the sum of $541, 873.10 for her 49% ownership interest in the couple's business. With regard to that payment, the decree provided:

The plaintiff [Mr. Knell] shall pay the defendant the sum of $541, 873.10 for her 49% ownership (equity) interest, in Knell Transport, LLC, as valued on December 31, 2013 and computed as set forth above. The defendant is granted a judgment against the plaintiff for said amount. The plaintiff shall pay the defendant the amount of $541, 873.10 within 90 (ninety) days of the date of this judgment and decree in cash or certified funds. No interest shall be due provided the full amount is paid within the 90 (ninety) days. Any part of said sum not paid in full within 90 (ninety) days should bear interest at the statutory rate of 10%. A judicial lien is hereby imposed on all of the assets set over to the plaintiff, including all real and personal property, as well as any and all after acquired property both real and personal, as well as the ownership interest in Knell Transportation, LLC, and the same are encumbered by such judicial lien until such time as the $541, 873.10 is paid by the plaintiff to the defendant as set forth above.

         [¶5] On March 23, 2018, Ms. Knell filed an application for issuance of a writ of continuing garnishment of Mr. Knell's wages. The application identified the amount still owing as $499, 826.88, plus interest. On that same date, the clerk of district court issued the requested writ and served it on Mr. Knell's employer, Knell Enterprises. Mr. Knell objected to the writ, arguing that because his child support obligation already resulted in a withholding of more than 25% of his disposable earnings, a creditor garnishment was impermissible. In support of his objection, he submitted an affidavit stating:

5. Before deduction for child support, I receive a gross monthly income of four thousand dollars ($4, 000.00) from my employment with Knell Enterprises, LLC, paid in bi-weekly payroll checks in the amount of two thousand dollars ($2, 000.00) each (a total of two checks).
6. After deductions for FICA, Social Security and Medicare but before deduction for child support, my net biweekly payroll check totals one thousand six hundred seventy-five dollars ($1, 675.00).
7. My net monthly earnings total three thousand three hundred fifty dollars ($3, 350.00) before deduction of child support.
8. Pursuant to the terms and conditions of the Judgment and Decree of Divorce entered herein on May 19, 2015, I am obligated to pay the sum of one thousand three hundred ninety-three dollars ($1, 393.00) per month in child support with said obligation commencing on June 1, 2015, and monthly thereafter.
9. On a monthly basis, approximately forty-two percent (42.00%) of my net monthly income is committed to payment of my monthly child support obligation ($1, 393.00/$3, 350.00). This same percentage applies ...

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