Reichard v. Reichard

Decision Date16 November 2021
Docket NumberC/w WD 84273,WD 84256
Parties Michael James REICHARD, Appellant-Respondent, v. Kari Leigh REICHARD, Respondent-Appellant.
CourtMissouri Court of Appeals

Carla Grace Holste, Jefferson City, MO, for appellant-respondent.

Sara Catherine Michael, Jefferson City, MO, for respondent-appellant.

Before Division Four: Cynthia L. Martin, Chief Judge, Presiding, Anthony Rex Gabbert, Judge and Thomas N. Chapman, Judge

Cynthia L. Martin, Judge

Michael James Reichard ("Husband") and Kari Leigh Reichard ("Wife") each appeal from a judgment dissolving their marriage. Husband argues that the trial court erred in: (1) using restrictive parenting time to punish him; (2) its calculation of child support; (3) awarding the tax dependency exemption for the minor children to Wife; (4) its distribution and division of certain marital property and debts; and (5) ordering a forced sale of the marital home and farmland. Wife argues that: (1) the trial court abused its discretion in denying her request for maintenance; and (2) it was error for the trial court to prospectively grant Husband overnight parenting time with the minor children when the youngest child turns five. The trial court's judgment is affirmed in part and reversed in part, and this matter is remanded for further proceedings as herein instructed.

Factual and Procedural Background1

Husband and Wife were married on October 4, 2008. They have two children, S.R. ("Son") and C.R. ("Daughter") (collectively "Children"). The parties separated in February, 2019. On May 2, 2019, Husband filed for dissolution of the marriage. Son and Daughter were five and two years old, respectively, at the time the parties’ marriage was dissolved in late 2020.

Husband works at the United States Postal Service and has a monthly gross income of $5,580. Wife has a degree in photography and previously worked as a photographer earning $12,000 per year. At the time of trial, Wife had not worked for approximately six years because she stayed home with the Children.

On May 17, 2019, the trial court issued a temporary order, directing that the Children should reside with Wife, and permitting Husband supervised parenting time. In April, 2020, the trial court's temporary order was amended to permit Husband overnight parenting time on Saturdays. During the pendency of the dissolution proceeding, the trial court ordered Husband to pay $1,350 per month in child support.

The trial court appointed a guardian ad litem. The guardian ad litem filed a proposed parenting plan which recommended that Wife be awarded sole legal and physical custody of the Children, with some parenting time afforded to Husband.

The matter was tried to the court on August 13, 2020, September 22, 2020, and October 23, 2020. On November 19, 2020, the trial court entered a docket entry as follows:

Cause considered. Court orders the dissolution of the marriage. As to the minor children, sole legal and physical custody of the minor children is awarded to [Wife]. Court adopts the parenting plan of the guardian ad litem. The plan is altered to allow Saturday night overnight [visits] beginning when the youngest child reaches the age of [five]. Form 14 of [Husband] is adopted. Guardian ad litem fees are ordered. No maintenance is ordered to either party.
As to the personal property, the Court hereby orders all personal property including firearms and farm equipment not specifically included in the 2018 tax forms [("2018 Federal Depreciation Schedule")] [to] be placed in one location. Each party shall alternate picking items of personal property until all property is divided. The first pick will be decided by a coin toss.
As to the farm equipment listed on the [2018 Federal Depreciation Schedule], that property shall be auctioned and the proceeds divided equally. The Court finds that [Husband] has continued to own 50 head of cattle and those should be sold at auction. As to the hay, the Court assesses a value of $5000.00 and that should be divided equally. All tax returns should be divided equally. Each party is to retain their vehicle they drive and the Court finds they are of equal value.
As to the real estate, it shall be sold by a licensed real estate agent and the proceeds divided equally after the debts on the real estate [have] been paid. Each party shall be liable for their debts after separation.
Parties are to prepare formal judgment[.]
So ordered.

Though a formal judgment had not yet been entered, on December 3, 2020, Husband filed a "Motion for New Trial, on in the Alternative, to Amend Judgment" ("Motion for New Trial") wherein he argued, inter alia , that the trial court committed error because: (1) it failed to apply the "statutorily recognized principles of allowing frequent and meaningful parenting times to a parent" and instead "punish[ed] [Husband] without good cause;" (2) it "purports to order the distribution of farm equipment not actually owned by the parties" and is an "impossibility since the parties no longer own 50 head of cattle and did not at the time of trial;" and (3) it "fails to mention how the outstanding debts to ... the Cabela's credit card are to be paid" as well as a promissory note to Husband's parents.

On December 30, 2020, the trial court entered a formal "Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage" ("Judgment"). The Judgment generally comported with the trial court's docket entry, though it was more specific and addressed several matters not covered by in the docket entry. The Judgment awarded sole legal and physical custody of the Children to Wife, and ordered Husband to pay Wife child support in the amount of $1,357 per month. The Judgment awarded parenting time to Husband consistent with the guardian ad litem's recommendations, except the trial court prospectively expanded Husband's parenting time to include overnight visits when Daughter turned five years old. No maintenance was awarded either party. Marital property was itemized in the Judgment or by reference to documents admitted into evidence at trial, and was either ordered divided, or sold with proceeds divided. Marital debts were itemized in the Judgment with each party's responsibility assigned. Husband was ordered to pay Wife an equalization payment. No post-trial motions were filed by either party after the formal Judgment was entered.

Husband appeals.2 Wife cross appeals. We address additional facts as necessary to analyze the parties’ several points on appeal.

Standard of Review

The trial court's judgment in a court-tried dissolution proceeding will be affirmed "unless it is not supported by substantial evidence, it is against the weight of the evidence, or it erroneously declares or applies the law." Torres v. Torres , 606 S.W.3d 168, 173-74 (Mo. App. W.D. 2020) (quoting Selby v. Selby , 149 S.W.3d 472, 482 (Mo. App. W.D. 2004) ). "We defer to the trial court's superior ability to view the witnesses and determine credibility; the court is free to believe or disbelieve all, part or none of the testimony given by any of the witnesses." Id. at 174 (quoting Klockow v. Klockow , 979 S.W.2d 482, 487 (Mo. App. W.D. 1998) ). "Consequently, we accept the evidence and inferences favorable to the trial court's ruling and disregard contrary evidence." Id. (quoting Klockow , 979 S.W.2d at 487 ).

We address Husband's seven points on appeal and Wife's two points on cross appeal in turn.3

Husband's Appeal
Point One: The Trial Court did not Restrict Husband's Parenting Time as Punishment

In his first point on appeal, Husband argues that the trial court abused its discretion by severely restricting his parenting time with the Children to punish Husband.4 In its Judgment, the trial court considered the appropriate custody arrangement pursuant to section 452.375.2,5 as well as the relevant factors related to the best interests of the Children. The trial court found:

[I]t would be in the best interests of said minor Children that Wife is awarded sole legal and physical custody of the minor Children and that the custody, visitation and child support of said Children be as set out in specificity in the Court Ordered Parenting Plan, attached hereto marked Exhibit "A" and incorporated herein by reference, which hereby adopts the Guardian Ad Litem's Proposed Parenting Plan with the exception of granting Husband overnight visitation on the Saturdays of his regular weekends when the youngest child reaches the age of five (5) years.

"Missouri statutes are clear that in deciding the custody arrangement that would serve the best interest of a child, the trial court shall consider all relevant factors and enter findings of fact and conclusions of law, including specifically" the factors listed in section 452.375.2.6 Meseberg v. Meseberg , 580 S.W.3d 59, 67 (Mo. App. W.D. 2019). After considering the factors listed in section 452.375.2, "the trial court has broad discretion to determine what arrangement is in the best interests of the children under the particular facts of each case." Davis v. Davis , 582 S.W.3d 100, 107 n.3 (Mo. App. W.D. 2019) (citation omitted). However, "[i]t is a well-settled principle regarding custody matters that custody is not to be used as a reward or punishment of either parent, but rather it must be based upon the best interests of the child." Keel v. Keel , 439 S.W.3d 866, 879 (Mo. App. E.D. 2014) (citation omitted).

"[W]e presume that the trial court reviewed all the evidence and awarded custody in the manner it believed would be in the best interests of the children." Meseberg , 580 S.W.3d at 67 (quoting Lalumondiere v. Lalumondiere , 293 S.W.3d 110, 116 (Mo. App. E.D. 2009) ). Further, there is a presumption that "a custody decision was not a punitive measure unless there is something in the record to indicate animus by the [trial court] against the non-custodial parent." Miers v. Miers , 53 S.W.3d 592, 597 (Mo. App. W.D. 2001) (citation omitted). These presumptions arise from the trial court's "affirmative duty...

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