Kovacs v. Kovacs, s. WD

Decision Date25 January 1994
Docket NumberNos. WD,s. WD
Citation869 S.W.2d 789
PartiesCharmaine C. KOVACS, Respondent/Appellant, v. Michael KOVACS, Appellant/Respondent, and John D. Harding, Guardian Ad Litem. Charmaine C. KOVACS, Appellant, v. Michael R. KOVACS, Respondent, and John D. Harding, Guardian Ad Litem. 47191, WD 47231.
CourtMissouri Court of Appeals

R. Brian Hall, Gladstone, for respondent/appellant.

Deborah A. Tooley, Kansas City, for appellant/respondent.

Before HANNA P.J., and FENNER and LOWENSTEIN, JJ.

LOWENSTEIN, Judge.

This is an appeal from a dissolution of marriage action, wherein the fifteen year marriage between Charmaine Kovacs (Mother) and Michael Kovacs (Father) was terminated. Mother was awarded custody of the five children, visitation was denied, total child support of $1750 a month was awarded, Mother's request for both maintenance ($400 a month) and attorney fees ($6710) were denied. The evidence is viewed in a light favorable to the judgement. Wilson v. Wilson, 822 S.W.2d 917, 920 (Mo.App.1991).

There are five children ages 5 to 14. The evidence indicated there were problems between the Kovacs since early in their marriage, including instances of both spousal and child abuse. Father has a history of alcohol and drug use. Additionally, the record shows Father: hit all but the youngest child with a rubber hose (Mother also hit them with the hose but not as frequently or as severely); dislocated an arm of each of two of the children when they were younger, by jerking their arms too hard; and, had slapped the children with an open hand. Furthermore, Father spent little time at home doing things with the family. Their fourteen year old daughter, T., testified, in camera, she was afraid of her father.

At the time of filing for dissolution, Mother was employed as a department manager at a discount store making $885 every two weeks. Shortly after filing, she resigned because of problems "in my personal life with regards to" the dissolution. She has held a variety of jobs and has some education. At the time of trial, she had no job and no income. Father works for Ford Motor Company and earns approximately $40,000 per year. His average monthly income was $3,393.15. The court denied Mother's request for maintenance noting she "has the appropriate age, health, and education as well as work experience to be gainfully employed to support herself."

Mother testified her average monthly expenses were approximately $488 for herself, and $2420 for the children. She initially requested child support of $2420.28, but her final request to the court was for $1,644. Under the child support guidelines, the presumed amount was $1,167. The court awarded Mother $1750 per month in child support, finding the presumed amount calculated in Form 14 unjust to meet the children's reasonable needs, noting it would be unfair to take any more of Father's monthly income, and assumed Mother would soon be employed and, therefore, could contribute to their support.

Visitation was ultimately denied. Mother originally requested supervised visitation, and later changed it to a request for no visitation. The guardian ad litem requested no visitation be awarded to Father. No specific visitation request was made by Father. The court denied visitation on the grounds it found Father's behavior towards the children "sadistic."

I.
A. DEPARTURE FROM CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES WITHOUT SHOWING FIGURES USED

Father asserts it was erroneous for the court to depart from the Child Support Guideline Figures used on Form 14 without the court entering written findings including the actual figures used in calculating the non-Form 14 support amount. Rule 88.01(e) provides for the procedure when a court or administrative agency, after taking into account all the relevant factors of determining support, decides to vary from the Form 14 presumed amount. The rule states the presumption is rebutted and the amount awarded in a case is correct if there is entered, as applicable here, a written finding the Form 14 amount, after consideration of all the Rule's factors, is unjust or inappropriate.

This court in Harding v. Harding, 826 S.W.2d 404, 407 (Mo.App.1992) held "... the court must enter a written finding, whether requested or not which includes the actual numbers used in calculating the non-Form 14 child support, as well as the factors which made the Form 14 amount inappropriate." See also Clare v. Clare, 853 S.W.2d 414, 415 (Mo.App.1993). "How a trial court can determine the amount of child support calculated pursuant to Form 14 is 'unjust or inappropriate' without first determining the correct figures to be used on Form 14 is difficult to explain." Michel v. Michel, 834 S.W.2d 773, 779 (Mo.App.1992) (citing Harding v. Harding, 826 S.W.2d 404 (Mo.App.1992)).

Although the trial court did not strictly comply with justifying its determination of inadequacy of the Form 14 amount, Harding, and Michel, there is more than sufficient evidence in the record here to satisfy the Rule 88.01(e) requirement the Form 14 amount was unjust and inappropriate. In this case, the Court's decree found the Form amount inadequate to meet the five children's reasonable needs, but did not calculate the amount needed only because of recognition the father could afford no more than the $1,750 amount awarded.

B. FATHER'S INABILITY TO PAY CHILD SUPPORT AMOUNT

Father also asserts it was erroneous for the court to award child support of $1750 stating there was not substantial evidence indicating that he had the ability to pay the amount assessed and that the award took too much of his monthly income. From the evidence submitted, the court could have concluded Father had income of $3,393.15 per month which left him with a sufficient margin to meet his own needs. This point is denied.

C. IN CAMERA INTERVIEW OF T.

Father asserts it was plain error to admit the testimony of T., their fourteen year old daughter, without having the child sworn or taking an affirmation.

First, this court notes the objection that the child was not adequately sworn in was not raised at trial. Where no objection is made when evidence is introduced at trial, error in its admission cannot be assigned on appeal. In Interest of C.K.G., 827 S.W.2d 760, 766 (Mo.App.1992) (citing Wilhoit v. Fite, 341 S.W.2d 806, 817 (Mo.1960)).

Section 492.040, RSMo.1986 provides "Whenever the court by whom any person is about to be sworn shall be satisfied that such person has any peculiar mode of swearing connected with, or in addition to, the usual form of administering an oath, which is to him of more solemn and binding obligation, the court ... shall adopt that mode which shall appear to be most binding on the conscience of the person to be sworn." There is no special litany required in administering an oath. State v. Bowlin, 850 S.W.2d 116, 117 (Mo.App.1993); State v. McClain, 541 S.W.2d 351, 356 (Mo.App.1976). "The important feature, regardless of the form of oath, is its quickening of the conscience of the witness and the liability it creates for the penalty of perjury." Bowlin, 850 S.W.2d at 117. The record indicates it was made clear to T. that her testimony in chambers would have the same effect as if it were in a courtroom. Furthermore, the judge emphasized the importance of telling the truth, which T. said she understood. There is sufficient evidence in the record the witness understood the importance of telling the truth. See State v. Williams, 545 S.W.2d 680 (Mo.App.1976); State v. Patterson, 569 S.W.2d 266 (Mo.App.1978). This point is thereby denied.

D. DENIAL OF VISITATION

Father asserts error in denying visitation with all five of his children on the grounds there was insufficient evidence to support the denial and, furthermore, asserts the court erred in not awarding at least limited or supervised visitation. Father relies on § 452.400 RSMo.Cum.Supp. to support the proposition that he is entitled to visitation:

"A parent not granted custody of the child is entitled to reasonable visitation rights unless the court finds, after a hearing, that visitation would endanger the child's physical health or impair his emotional development."

The court in finding Father's behavior "sadistic," implicitly found visitation would endanger the children's well being. See Hrebec v. Hrebec, 759 S.W.2d 851 (Mo.App.1988) (despite expert's recommendation of limited visitation, the court terminated visitation, noting the son was suffering from emotional abuse by his father). In matters pertaining to visitation rights this court gives deference to the trial court's assessment of what serves the best interest of the child. Judgment should be reversed only if it lacks substantial evidence to support it, if it is against the weight of the evidence, or if it erroneously declares or applies the law. Shoemaker v. Shoemaker, 812 S.W.2d 250, 253 (Mo.App.1991). This court finds there was sufficient evidence to deny Father visitation rights.

The evidence indicated that Father: drank and used drugs; hit the children with a rubber hose and, at times with an open hand; called the children names; had an erratic temper; and spent little time with the family when he had the opportunity to do so. The evidence showed the children were afraid of their Father, and the that family was getting along better without his presence. See Hrebec, 759 S.W.2d at 852 (modification of original decree terminating visitation by father held to be appropriate where children feared and disliked their father). This court finds the denial of visitation was not erroneous and was supported by substantial evidence. The facts indicating visitation would endanger the child's physical or emotional well-being, are deemed to have been found in accordance with the result reached. Irwin v. Irwin, 678 S.W.2d 861, 862 (Mo.App.1984); R. 73.01.

With regard to limited or supervised visitation, § 452.400 does not require that the court award limited or supervised visitation if it...

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