Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Third Division
THE FAMILY SUPPORT DIVISION - CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT, Respondent, JOEI NORTH, Respondent,
ANDREW HOWARD NORTH, Appellant
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Clay County, Missouri. The Honorable K. Elizabeth Davis, Judge.
Shelly L. Hinson, Independence, MO, for respondent Family Support Division.
William J. Hudnall, Kansas City, MO, for appellant.
Before Division Three: Gary D. Witt, Presiding Judge, Joseph M. Ellis, Judge and Thomas H. Newton, Judge. All concur.
Gary D. Witt, Judge
Andrew Howard North (" Father" ) challenges a judgment modifying his child support obligations on three grounds. In his first two points, Father argues that the trial court erred in classifying him as the " movant" for purposes of line 2c of the Form 14. In his third point, Father argues that the judgment grants relief that was not requested by the pleading of Respondent Joei North (" Mother" ). Neither Mother nor Respondent Missouri Division of Family Services - Child Support Enforcement (" DFS" ) filed briefs in this court
or appeared at argument. The judgment is reversed in part and affirmed in part.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On August 15, 2005, the judgment dissolving the marriage between Mother and Father was entered in the Circuit Court of Clay County. In that judgment, Mother and Father were awarded joint legal custody of their two minor children, with Mother receiving sole physical custody. Father was ordered to pay Mother $966 per month in child support.
On or about June 5, 2008, the circuit court modified that judgment and reduced Father's support obligation to $569 per month. On February 2, 2012, the circuit court again modified the judgment, ordering Father to make certain monthly payments toward his child support arrearage to the Bankruptcy Trustee in addition to his monthly ordered payments.
On October 18, 2012, DFS filed a motion to modify on behalf of Father, requesting a decrease in Father's child support payments. In that motion, DFS alleged that there were " continuing and substantial changes and conditions" with regard to child support in the following two respects: (1) that upon application of Rule 88, Form 14, Father's child support obligation would decrease by twenty percent or more, and (2) the parties have had substantial changes in their earning capacities.
Mother answered the petition through counsel. She also filed a " counter-motion for contempt" in which she alleged that Father disobeyed earlier judgments pertaining to, inter alia, support, attorney fees, and insurance. In that motion, Mother asked " for an Order of this Court directing that Respondent appear and show cause why he should not be held in contempt, that he be held in contempt for his failure to abide by the terms and condition of the Judgment and for such other and further relief as this court deems just and proper." Through private counsel, Father filed an answer to the " counter-motion for contempt."
On March 1, 2013 a hearing was held and the docket sheet entry for that day indicates that Father was " granted leave to file Amended pleadings without objection" and that DFS " was granted leave to withdraw without objection" as Father was now represented by private counsel. Father's child support was reduced temporarily to $300 a month until further order of the court.
A trial was held. Prior to evidence, the following exchange was held on the record:
THE COURT: . . . This is North and North. Let's just make sure everyone is on the same page with regard to the status of the pleadings. It was actually initiated by a motion for modification filed by the State of Missouri through the Child Support Division, but once both parties were represented by counsel, the State was allowed to withdraw. We're just going to proceed on the parties' private pleadings starting with in December of 2012 a counter-motion, which at that time was in counter to the State's motion to modify, a motion for contempt filed by [Mother].
FATHER'S COUNSEL: Your Honor, that's the only two pleadings --
THE COURT: ...