Roper v. Roper, 011720 KYCA, 2018-CA-000979-ME

Docket Nº2018-CA-000979-ME
Opinion JudgeJONES, JUDGE
AttorneyBRIEFS FOR APPELLANT: Tasha K. Schaffner Crestview Hills, Kentucky BRIEF FOR APPELLEE: Melissa Thompson Millard Cincinnati, Ohio
Case DateJanuary 17, 2020
CourtCourt of Appeals of Kentucky




No. 2018-CA-000979-ME

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

January 17, 2020


BRIEFS FOR APPELLANT: Tasha K. Schaffner Crestview Hills, Kentucky

BRIEF FOR APPELLEE: Melissa Thompson Millard Cincinnati, Ohio




Craig Roper appeals from the Boone Circuit Court's supplemental findings of fact, conclusions of law, and decree of dissolution dissolving his marriage with the Appellee, Erin Roper. The supplemental decree decided issues of child support, spousal maintenance, and marital property. In addition to contesting the trial court's findings of fact and conclusions in the supplemental decree, Craig contends that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction due to the fact that he, Erin, and their four minor children were all residing in Texas at the time the decree was entered. Following a review of the record and applicable law, we affirm in part, reverse in part, vacate in part, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. Background

Craig and Erin were married on November 20, 1999. Four children resulted from the marriage. On May 25, 2016, Erin filed a petition for dissolution of marriage, in which she sought joint custody of the parties' minor children, child support, and spousal maintenance.

From the start, the divorce proceedings were contentious. In July of 2016, Erin moved the trial court to order Craig to be cooperative with her attempts to enroll the parties' oldest two children in professional counseling. Erin contended that since learning of the divorce proceedings, the two oldest children had been extremely disrespectful to her and that her relationship with them had deteriorated. Erin additionally requested that the trial court order Craig to refrain from making disparaging remarks about her in front of their children and that Craig refrain from undermining Erin's attempts to discipline the children. Craig filed a response to Erin's motion in which he denied that he made disparaging remarks about Erin in front of the children and denied that the parties' oldest two children had any behavioral problems. Craig did agree, however, that Erin's relationship with the oldest two children was very strained and stated that he had enrolled those children in a counseling program. On September 1, 2016, Craig filed a motion with the trial court requesting temporary custody of the parties' children with a set parenting schedule for the parties' youngest two children, sole and exclusive possession of the marital residence, and an order requiring Erin to provide her preliminary verified disclosure statement. As grounds for his motion, Craig stated that Erin had voluntarily moved out of the marital residence in July but had been coming into the home without notice to remove items. Craig additionally alleged that Erin had not seen the parties' oldest two children since she had moved out of the marital residence, and he requested that the children continue to receive counseling until their relationship with Erin was rehabilitated enough for her to exercise parenting time. On November 16, 2016, Erin filed a motion for child support, temporary maintenance, and for an order that Craig cooperate in selling the parties' Cadillac Escalade.

In February of 2017, Craig moved the trial court for an order permitting him to move the children with him to Texas that coming May. Craig informed the court that he was employed by Toyota and that his job was being relocated; he and Erin had both been made aware of the fact that the relocation would happen when they moved to Kentucky two years earlier. Craig stated that their family had no ties to Kentucky and that nothing was keeping Erin from moving to Texas to be closer to the parties' children if she wished to do so. In his motion, Craig additionally requested the court order Erin to cooperate with the sale of the marital residence through the Toyota Relocation Program. Craig again requested that the trial court restrain Erin from entering the marital home and requested an order that Erin return all marital and personal property that she had removed from the home. The parties entered an agreed order appointing a guardian ad litem for their minor children on February 13, 2017. On February 22, 2017, the parties filed an agreed order agreeing to cooperate with the sale of the marital residence and with the Toyota Relocation Program.

On March 9, 2017, the trial court held a hearing on all pending motions except for Erin's motion for temporary maintenance, which was reserved. At the outset of the hearing, Craig and Erin agreed that Craig would have sole and exclusive use of the marital residence, that neither would make disparaging remarks about the other in the presence of the children, that they would not share "adult information" about the divorce with their children, and that they would agree on a different counselor for the oldest two children. Craig testified that he had worked for Toyota for the past nineteen years and that the family had voluntarily relocated to Kentucky for his job. He stated that a month after moving to Kentucky, he found out that Toyota was relocating its headquarters to Dallas, Texas, which would require him to transfer again. While he had tried to be moved into a different division of Toyota so that he could stay in Kentucky, he was unsuccessful. Craig stated that he and Erin had discussed and planned on moving the family to Texas; they had even made trips to Texas together to look at subdivisions and school districts. Since the separation, however, Erin had informed him that she no longer wished to move to Texas. Craig stated that he and Erin share parenting time with the youngest two children, but that he has the oldest two children full time. Craig testified that this arrangement was due to the strained relationship between Erin and the oldest two children. He agreed that it was in the children's best interest that the relationship with Erin be repaired. Craig stated that his average gross income was $90, 000 per year and that he paid all expenses for the children.

Erin testified that after vacating the marital residence, she initially lived in a friend's condominium, but later moved to a rented apartment. She testified that she has a bachelor's degree in Christian care and counseling but had not used that degree in any professional capacity. Until January of 2016, Erin had stayed at home with the children and homeschooled them. Erin testified that she was now working part-time as a secretary at a church where she makes $14 per hour. She stated that she had tried to apply for other jobs but had been unsuccessful. Erin testified that Craig had only provided her with $580 since their separation and that she had been unable to collect any items from the marital residence. She testified that she had inherited a matured IRA from her grandmother from which she was required to take yearly withdrawals. Erin believed that the parties had about $140, 000 in equity in the marital home, which they would divide evenly when it was sold. The parties' oldest child testified about the issues between him and Erin and his desire that he and his siblings move to Texas. The parties stipulated that the second oldest child wished to move to Texas with Craig.

The next day, the trial court entered findings of fact and conclusions of law and a temporary order addressing the move to Texas, custody of the children, and temporary child support. The trial court found that it was in the best interest of the children for the parties to share joint legal custody and for Craig to be named the primary residential parent and move with the children to Texas. Until the move to Texas, the parties were ordered to have equal parenting time with the youngest two children. The trial court found that Craig had a gross monthly income of $7, 660 and, after imputing income to Erin in the amount of $14 per hour for a forty-hour week, found that Erin had a gross monthly income of $2, 427. The trial court concluded that it should deviate from the standard child support guidelines until Craig and the children moved to Texas, as Craig had the oldest two children 100% of the time. Accordingly, Craig was ordered to pay Erin $399.08 per month in child support, effective November 10, 2016. Once Craig moved to Texas, Erin was ordered to pay him $402.32 per month in child support. It was additionally ordered that any documented daycare expenses and uncovered medical, dental, optical, copay, or prescription expenses be split between the parties, with Erin paying 24% of those expenses and Craig paying 76%.

On April 5, 2017, an agreed order was entered concerning the equity in the parties'...

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