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Bacus v. Coon

Supreme Court of Wyoming

January 7, 2020

ROBIN L. BACUS, Appellant (Petitioner),
v.
ADAM B. COON, Appellee (Respondent).

          Appeal from the District Court of Natrona County The Honorable Kerri M. Johnson, Judge

          Representing Appellant: Jeffery T. Van Fleet, Brown & Hiser LLC, Laramie, Wyoming.

          Representing Appellee: Cindi Wood, CWLS, Casper, Wyoming; Jacob Dunn, Law Office of Jon Huss, Casper, Wyoming.

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

          GRAY, Justice.

         [¶1] Robin Bacus (Mother) appeals the district court's Order Modifying Custody, Support and Visitation awarding primary physical custody of the minor child to Adam Coon (Father). After Mother's attorney was suspended from the practice of law, the district court denied three separate pro se motions for continuance of trial. We affirm.

         ISSUE

         [¶2] Did the district court abuse its discretion in denying a continuance of trial?

         FACTS

         [¶3] Mother and Father have one child. In 2010, they negotiated an agreement for custody, visitation and support which was incorporated into an Order for Paternity, Custody, Visitation, and Child Support (Order) dated February 9, 2010. Mother was awarded primary physical custody subject to visitation by Father. Father was ordered to pay child support. This Order controlled until 2018 when Mother petitioned for a modification of support, and Father filed a counter-petition for a modification of custody and visitation. On November 27, 2018, the district court issued a Notice of Setting apprising the parties that trial was set for March 7, 2019. No other pleadings or filings were made until February 5, 2019.

         [¶4] In a separate proceeding, Mother's attorney was suspended from practicing law effective December 14, 2018. Bd. of Prof'l Responsibility, Wyoming State Bar v. Crawford-Fink, 2018 WY 130, 430 P.3d 323 (Wyo. 2018). While it is not clear from the record exactly when Mother was made aware of her attorney's suspension, we take note of an affidavit by Mother's attorney filed with this Court, attesting that notice of the suspension was given to Mother by certified mail on January 15, 2019.[1]

         [¶5] In the matter at hand, Father filed his exhibit and witness list pursuant to W.R.C.P. 26(a)(3) on February 5, 2019. Then, on February 19, Mother filed a pro se motion for continuance-citing as grounds for her motion her attorney's suspension and the unavailability of substitute counsel for the March 7, 2019 trial date. This motion for continuance was set for hearing on March 1, 2019. Mother failed to attend the March 1 hearing. On March 4, she filed a second pro se motion for continuance explaining that she missed the hearing because she had confused the date. By annotation on the face of the second motion, the district court wrote that Mother had failed to appear at the March 1 hearing and that the continuance was denied. Mother made a third motion for continuance at the March 7, 2019 trial, which the district court also denied.

         [¶6] Following trial, the district court found a material change of circumstances and awarded Father primary physical custody ...


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