Fox Family Lawyers
Cynthia Moseley Fox
Attorney at Law
7751 Carondelet Avenue,
Suite 700
Clayton, Missouri 63105
(St. Louis)
314.727.4880

Details and Divorce Go Together Like, Well, Love and Marriage

Three recent decisions by the Court of Appeals highlight the importance of attention to the details when handling divorce cases, and how missing those details can bite you on the backside.

 

Consider the appeal of John Blevins, who complained that his child support payment was too high because the trial court didn’t “impute” the additional income to his wife that she could earn if she worked full-time instead of part-time. Mr. Blevin’s claim relies on the court’s authority to assume a higher income for either parent than what he/she actually earns, if the court believes that the party is capable of earning that amount.

 

Missouri courts use a “Form 14” to gather income and expense data from each party and, based on that information, set the child support. When Mr. Blevins completed his Form 14, he listed only his wife’s part-time earnings, and then testified that he was not imputing any additional income to her, asking only that the court “be fair”.

 

Yet, on appeal, Mr. Blevins argues, audaciously I would say, that the trial court erred because it did not impute additional income to his wife. As the Court of Appeals noted in rejecting his claim, Mr. Blevins “cannot invite error by filing a Form 14 which had no income imputed to (the other party) and then complain when the trial court did as he requested.”

 

Comes now our second appellant, Robert Hernandez, who is upset because the divorce court decided that the apartment buildings he had purchased prior to the marriage, and which he titled in his own name, were marital property, and subject to division between he and Mrs. Hernandez.

 

At trial, his wife testified that she contributed moneys to the purchase of the buildings even though they were not yet married, while Mr. Hernandez said that the funds came from his account only. Both agreed that marital funds were used to pay the mortgage during the marriage.

 

However, the court based its decision not on whose funds were used or when, but on another piece of evidence. Four years into the marriage, the couple formed R&J Rentals, LLC of which husband and wife were the sole owners, and that the husband then transferred title to the buildings to the LLC. At that precise moment, the apartments became marital property, and the Court of Appeals agreed, denying Mr. Hernandez’s claim.

 

Charles and Gail Dent were divorced in February 2001 and awarded joint custody of their two kids. Both continued to live in St. Louis City after the divorce until 2006, when Mrs. Dent became engaged to a gentleman from Wildwood.

 

In April 2006, Mrs. Dent sent a certified letter to Mr. Dent notifying him of her intention to marry and relocate their children to Wildwood. As required by statute, she provided dad with the address and phone number of the new home, the proposed date of the move and her intentions to enroll the kids in the Rockwood School District.

 

Upon receiving this letter on April 21, 2006, dad had 30 days to file a motion objecting to the move or forfeit his right to oppose the relocation. On May 11th, he sent Mrs. Dent a letter demanding that she return to St. Louis.

 

Three months later, in August, the court granted the wife’s motion to modify their divorce decree, awarding her sole legal custody and revising the parenting plan and custody schedule, all based upon her relocation. It overruled the husband’s motion objecting to the move, saying he had missed the 30-day deadline.

 

How could the husband’s motion fail? Hadn’t he objected almost immediately with his letter back in May 2006? Well, careful readers will note, as did the trial court and the Court of Appeals, that the statute requires that the objection be made in the form of motion filed within the 30-day limit. His letter was not sufficient and the motion he ultimately filed came too late.