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Cule v. Cule

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Fourth Division

January 27, 2015

GEORGE C. CULE, Respondent,
v.
ODETA C. CULE, Appellant

Page 859

Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Louis County. Honorable Thomas J. Frawley.

For Appellant: James C. Ochs, Clayton, MO.

For Respondent: Kristin K. Zurek, St. Louis, MO.

Patricia L. Cohen, Presiding Judge. Roy L. Richter, J., and Robert M. Clayton III, J., concur.

OPINION

Patricia L. Cohen, Presiding Judge.

Page 860

Introduction

Odeta Cule (Wife) appeals the judgment and decree of dissolution of marriage to George Cule (Husband) entered by the Circuit Court of St. Louis County. Wife claims that the trial court erred in: (1) awarding joint legal and physical custody of their children without making specific findings as required upon a finding of domestic violence; (2) including in the judgment an abatement provision regarding Husband's support obligation; (3) awarding Husband the rental property as separate property; and (4) denying maintenance to Wife. We affirm in part and reverse in part.

Factual and Procedural Background

Husband and Wife married in September 1994. During their marriage, Wife gave birth to the parties' son, M.C., in 1996 and their son, E.C., in 2001.

At the time Husband and Wife married, they resided in a four-family flat with Husband's aunt, who owned the building (the Jamieson property). In March 1997, Husband's aunt transferred title to the Jamieson property by quit claim deed to Husband. Husband's aunt died in 1998. In September 2002, Husband was a resident alien of the U.S. and Wife was a U.S. citizen. On September 17, 2002, Husband transferred title to the Jamieson property into the joint names of Husband and Wife. Three days later, Husband received his green card.

In 2004, Husband and Wife purchased a house (the marital residence), and the family moved out of the Jamieson property and into the marital residence. Husband continued to use the Jamieson property as a residential rental property.

Husband and Wife separated in March 2010. On March 22, 2010, the trial court

Page 861

issued Wife a full order of protection. The order awarded Husband visitation with the children on alternate weekends.

On August 2, 2010, Husband filed his petition for dissolution of marriage. In his petition, Husband requested sole legal and physical custody of M.C. and E.C. Husband also filed a statement of property in which he claimed the Jamieson property as inherited, separate property. Wife filed her counter-petition, requesting, among other things, that the trial court award: (1) sole legal and physical custody of the children to Wife " due to [Husband's] physical and emotional abuse" ; and (2) maintenance to Wife because she was " without sufficient income, funds, and resources to provide for her reasonable needs." Wife also filed a statement of property showing the Jamieson property as marital property.

On November 1, 2010, the trial court entered an order pendente lite and interim custody order. The order pendente lite ordered Husband to pay Wife $613 per month for support of their children. In the interim custody order, the court awarded Husband custody of the children on Wednesdays from 6:30 to 8:30 pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm. The order further instructed Husband to pick up and drop off the children at the marital residence.

On April 20, 2011, the court entered an order (referral order) requiring Husband and Wife to exchange custody of M.C. and E.C. at the St. Louis County Exchange Center (Exchange Center). The order also modified Husband's visitation times to Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., Saturdays at 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., and Sundays at 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.

Starting in May 2011, Wife " frequently" asked Sandra Ford, an Exchange Center employee, to advise Husband to pick up and drop off the children at the marital residence because she was unable to transport the children to and from the Exchange Center. Wife's notice regarding pick up location was often untimely, causing Husband to travel to the Exchange Center and then travel to the marital residence to exercise his visitation rights. On September 10, 2011, Ms. Ford informed Wife that the Exchange Center would no longer be responsible for directing Husband to pick up the children at the marital residence instead of the Exchange Center.

On November 9, 2011, M.C. told Ms. Ford he wished to discontinue visitation with Husband, and he has not participated in visitations with Husband since that date. On March 1, 2012, Husband filed a motion for contempt, alleging, among other things, that ...


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