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Shields v. Epanty

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, First Division

November 8, 2016

WOLFGANG SHIELDS, Respondent,
v.
MILDRED EPANTY (PREVIOUSLY SHIELDS), Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri The Honorable Patrick William Campbell, Judge

          Before: Anthony Rex Gabbert, P.J., Thomas H. Newton, and Alok Ahuja, JJ.

          ANTHONY REX GABBERT, JUDGE.

         Mildred Epanty (previously Shields) appeals the trial court's judgment of modification for a failure to properly apply the law and abusing its discretion in its judgment of modification. Epanty raises five issues on appeal. In her first point on appeal, Epanty asserts that the trial court erred in its modification because the parenting plan failed to include any holiday or vacation schedule for the minor children as required by statute. Next, Epanty argues that the modification failed to properly calculate child support because the court failed to take into account different and disparate overnight schedules, thereby failing to award appellant overnight credits. Next, Epanty contends that the judgment further failed to take into consideration the father's voluntary reduction in income when calculating monthly child support obligations of the parties. Epanty further argues that the trial court erred in its child support award calculation by failing to take into account the fact that appellant pays the minor children's medical insurance in the Form 14 calculation. Lastly, Epanty asserts that the trial court erred in limiting her parenting time and separating the minor children as it was not in the best interests of the children and this modification was made against the weight of the evidence. We affirm in part and reverse in part.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         The parties were divorced on July 26, 2006. Two children were born of the marriage and are the subject of the order at issue, Malaika and Keenon Shields, ages fourteen and eleven respectively. Previous judgments entered by the divorce court provided for joint legal and physical custody as well as an alternating parenting time schedule. On May 22, 2014, Shields filed a motion to modify the parenting plan of the previous judgment of dissolution citing a substantial and continuing change in circumstances so as the make the terms of the previous judgment unreasonable.

         The parties have a history of being unable to successfully co-parent and an unwillingness to share parenting time as set out by the parenting plans in previous judgments. For example, Shields admitted on the record at trial that he has, on more than one occasion picked up the children from school, even on days when appellant was scheduled to have the children.

         Since the previous judgment was entered, Shields has experienced a dramatic decrease in income. Prior to the circuit court's modification, Shields was paying child support to Epanty. Shields asserted that he is no longer able to provide child support because his income from his business is now zero and he was subsequently forced to file for bankruptcy. Shields has been sued by the government for failing to pay wage related taxes withheld from his employees. Shields asked that the court reduce the monthly child support payments to $436.08 per month.

         At the conclusion of the trial, the circuit court judge found a substantial and continuing change in circumstance warranting a modification. On December 22, 2015, the court issued its judgment. The court ordered that joint legal custody be continued. The final judgment of modification included a new parenting schedule in which the daughter would spend more one-on-one time with Epanty and Epanty would have both children on the first weekend of the month. The judgment of modification entered by the trial court contained a completely revised parenting plan without reference to any prior parenting plans or custody judgments. Further, the parenting plan did not include a holiday or vacation schedule for the minor children. The trial court adopted Shields' proposed Form 14 child support calculation and child support payments were set at $872.00 to be paid by Epanty to Shields monthly. The record shows that Epanty did not provide the trial court with a proposed Form 14. The trial court imputed $4, 305.00 as monthly income of Shields. Epanty was ordered to continue providing medical insurance for the minor children. Epanty appeals.

         Legal Discussion

         Our standard of review is set forth in Murphy v. Carron, 536 S.W.2d 30, 32 (Mo. banc 1976). Schollmeyer v. Schollmeyer, 393 S.W.3d 120, 122 (Mo. App. 2013). We will affirm the circuit court's judgment unless it is unsupported by substantial evidence, it is against the weight of the evidence, or it erroneously declares or applies the law. Id. at 122-123. We view the evidence and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the court's judgment. Id. at 123. The party challenging the judgment has the burden of proving error. Beckham v. Beckham, 41 S.W.3d 908, 911 (Mo. App. 2001).

         Point I

         In Epanty's first point on appeal, she contends that the circuit court erred in issuing the judgment of modification because the parenting plan did not include a holiday or vacation schedule as required by Section 452.375.9 RSMo.

         Section 452. 375.9 RSMo. provides: "[a]ny judgment providing for custody shall include a specific written parenting plan setting forth the terms of such parenting plan arrangements specific in subsection 8 of section 452.310." Simon-Harris v. Harris, 138 S.W.3d 170 (Mo. App. 2004). To prevent repeated custody and visitation disputes, the trial court must adopt a complete and comprehensive parenting plan. Id. A parenting plain is not fully compliant with Section 452.375.9 if it does not contain all of the required arrangements as set out in Section 452.310.8 RSMo. Id. A proposed parenting plan shall include major holidays stating which holidays a party has each year, school holidays for school-age children, the child's birthday, Mother's Day, Father's Day, and vacations from school. Section ...


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