Kuebler v. Kuebler

Decision Date18 November 2021
Docket Number356709,355934,354327,356641
CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
PartiesMEGHAN MARIE KUEBLER, also known as MEGHAN MARIE O'NEIL, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. PAUL ANDREW KUEBLER, Defendant-Appellee.

MEGHAN MARIE KUEBLER, also known as MEGHAN MARIE O'NEIL, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
PAUL ANDREW KUEBLER, Defendant-Appellee.

Nos. 354327, 355934, 356641, 356709

Court of Appeals of Michigan

November 18, 2021


UNPUBLISHED

Washtenaw Circuit Court LC No. 15-002753-DM

Before: Rick, P.J., and O'Brien and Cameron, JJ.

PER CURIAM.

The present divorce case involves postjudgment disputes concerning parenting time, child support, and attorney fees. There are currently four appeals before this Court, all of them brought by plaintiff, Meghan Kuebler (also known as Meghan O'Neil). First, in Docket No. 356641, plaintiff appeals by delayed leave granted[1] an order denying plaintiff's motion to modify parenting time. Second, in Docket No. 356709, plaintiff appeals by delayed leave granted[2] an order that increased plaintiff's child support obligation payable to defendant, Paul Kuebler. Third, in Docket No. 354327, plaintiff appeals as of right the order denying plaintiff's motion for sanctions and attorney fees. Finally, in Docket No. 355934, plaintiff appeals as of right an order which granted defendant's request for attorney fees in the amount of $37, 830. The four appeals were consolidated by this Court.[3] For the reasons explained in this opinion, we affirm the trial court's orders denying

1

plaintiffs motion to modify parenting time and denying plaintiffs motions for sanctions and attorney fees. However, we vacate the award of sanctions and attorney fees to defendant. Finally, with regard to child support, we vacate the order retroactively modifying plaintiffs child support obligation to the extent that the award was made retroactive to January 2018 when, instead, it should be retroactive only to January 2020.

I. BACKGROUND

The present case involves a highly contentious, postjudgment divorce dispute with a voluminous record and a long procedural history, both in the trial court and in this Court.[4]

Plaintiff and defendant married in 2010. Early in their marriage, the parties lived in Connecticut, and they both worked on Wall Street in New York City. Defendant was an investment banker, and plaintiff worked as a statistician. At some point, defendant, who had both a law degree and an MBA, lost his investment job, and he changed careers, switching to law. Plaintiff also changed careers, deciding to pursue a doctorate degree in sociology. The parties moved to Michigan-despite plaintiffs reluctance-in 2014 when defendant accepted a position in the federal prosecutor's office. Defendant currently works as an assistant United States attorney. Following the parties' divorce, plaintiff finished her doctorate degree at the State University of New York Albany, and she now works at the University of Michigan as a research investigator and research scholar.

The parties have two children together: BK and SK. Plaintiff filed for divorce in November 2015. Eventually, pursuant to a consent judgment of divorce entered on April 21, 2017, defendant received sole physical and legal custody of the children, and plaintiff received supervised parenting time at Catholic Social Services. The reasons for the supervised parenting time were plaintiffs mental-health problems involving manipulation and alienating behavior, such as fabricated ideas of child abuse. The divorce judgment provides that plaintiff "has a serious personality disorder, and serious problems with manipulation that will require much psychotherapeutic effort." The treatment directives in the divorce judgment specified that the long-term goal was for plaintiff to "be able to present believable evidence that her mental health is being properly treated and that she is not endangering the children by the kind of alienating behavior that Defendant reasonably fears. Fabricated ideas of child abuse are dangerous not only to Defendant, but to the minor children's burgeoning self-concept."

The divorce judgment was agreed to after both parties were evaluated by Dr. Pamela Ludolph, Ph.D., a court-appointed psychologist, and Dr. Elissa P. Benedek, M.D., a psychiatrist. Notable to plaintiffs arguments on appeal, Dr. Ludolph diagnosed plaintiff with borderline personality disorder. Dr. Benedek, though not definitively diagnosing borderline personality disorder, also concluded that plaintiff exhibited borderline personality "traits." Undisputedly, plaintiff has a long history of mental-health problems, and she has also been diagnosed with major depressive disorder related to events in late 2014 and early 2015. By the time of the parties' divorce, plaintiffs depression was in remission, but, according to Dr. Ludolph and Dr. Benedek, likely to reoccur. Dr. Ludolph recommended treatment for plaintiff. The divorce judgment

2

expressly incorporated Dr. Ludolph's mental-health determinations and treatment recommendations, including requirements that plaintiff treat with a psychologist, a psychiatrist, and take any medication as prescribed.

With regard to defendant, when evaluating the parties, Dr. Ludolph noted that defendant had problems with anger, and under the divorce judgment, defendant was also ordered to seek mental-health treatment. When evaluating the parties, Dr. Ludolph also considered the parties' respective parenting skills and their relationship with each other, and she opined that, given the acrimonious relationship between the parties, coparenting would be "impossible." In view of the parties' respective strengths and weaknesses, and their inability to coparent, Dr. Ludolph recommended that defendant receive sole physical and legal custody.

As noted, the divorce judgment mentions plaintiff's "alienating behavior" and "fabricated ideas" of child abuse, which everyone agreed can be harmful to children. In this regard, over the last several years both before and after entry of the divorce judgment, plaintiff has made various complaints about defendant, including allegations of child abuse, all of which defendant denies and none of which have been substantiated. Plaintiff first accused defendant of physically and sexually abusing BK in 2017 during the divorce proceedings. Plaintiffs claims were investigated by police; BK was forensically interviewed; and the claims were not substantiated. Despite her allegations of child abuse, plaintiff, at other times, admitted that the children were "safe" with defendant, including during her testimony at a recent evidentiary hearing.

Plaintiff has also, at various times, accused defendant of domestic violence against her. Since the divorce, plaintiff has more recently filed for, and then withdrawn, requests for personal protection orders (PPOs), she has accused defendant of breaking into her home to steal her passport (which she later found in her house), she has written to the State Bar Commissioner, she has posted about defendant on Facebook, and during a parenting-time visit, she attempted to photograph SK's genital area in an effort to establish that SK had sexually transmitted genital warts when, in actuality, SK had a common childhood condition called "molluscum contagiosum," which is more commonly referred to as "water warts."

In December 2017, several months after the divorce judgment entered, plaintiff moved to modify parenting time-to include unsupervised parenting time, more parenting time, and overnight visits-on the basis that her court-appointed therapist, Brenda Scotton, a licensed social worker, had concluded that plaintiff did not have borderline personality disorder. Since Scotton provided her opinions, a subsequent evaluation by Dr. Philip Saragoza, a psychiatrist hired by plaintiff to evaluate her, likewise indicated that plaintiff did not have borderline personality disorder. Nevertheless, Dr. Saragoza recognized that there were examples of plaintiff "engaging in deceit/manipulation," and he noted "that she seems to harbor considerable anger towards her ex-husband and lacks empathy for him amidst their years-long highly contentious dispute."

Plaintiffs motion to modify parenting time was initially denied by the trial court without an evidentiary hearing. In connection with her motion, plaintiff twice appealed to this Court, and

3

each time this Court peremptorily reversed or vacated the decision of the trial court and remanded for further proceedings regarding plaintiffs motion to modify parenting time.[5]

After the second remand from this Court, the trial court held a four-day evidentiary hearing on the threshold question whether plaintiff had established a proper cause or change in circumstances. The trial court treated plaintiffs request as seeking a change in custody, and accordingly applied Vodvarka[6] Following the hearing, the trial court concluded that plaintiff failed to make a threshold showing and accordingly denied plaintiffs motion. In so doing, the trial court issued a lengthy opinion and order, which, briefly summarized, concluded that plaintiffs conduct had not shown any improvement since the divorce judgment, but instead had actually gotten worse. The trial court's denial of plaintiffs parenting-time motion is at issue in Docket No. 356641.

Aside from the parenting-time issues, these consolidated appeals involve questions of child support and attorney fees. Regarding child support, the trial court granted defendant's request to increase plaintiffs child support obligation as a result of her increased salary after she obtained employment at the University of Michigan. Relevant to plaintiffs appeal, the trial court made this increase retroactive to when plaintiff began her new position in January 2018. The child support award is at issue in Docket No. 356709.

Finally, regarding attorney fees, both parties have made repeated requests for attorney fees, sanctions, or both. Plaintiffs requests were denied, and defendant's requests were ultimately granted with regard to the costs for "preparing for and conducting" the evidentiary hearing on remand from...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT