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State ex rel. Cullen v. Harrell

Supreme Court of Missouri, En Banc

February 26, 2019

STATE OF MISSOURI ex rel. JERRY CULLEN, Relator,
v.
THE HONORABLE KEVIN D. HARRELL, Respondent.

          ORIGINAL PROCEEDING IN PROHIBITION

          PATRICIA BRECKENRIDGE, JUDGE

         Jerry Cullen ("Husband") seeks a writ to prohibit the circuit court from enforcing its order compelling him to turn over all correspondence pertaining to his military retirement benefits and to sign an authorization releasing his military records related to the reservist points he earned during his marriage to Janice Scroggins ("Wife"). Husband characterizes the circuit court's order as a modification of its prior dissolution judgment and claims the circuit court exceeded its authority by entering an order sustaining Wife's motion to compel because the order was entered beyond the one-year time limitation for filing a Rule 74.06 motion for relief from a judgment due to mistake. Husband also asserts Wife's motion to compel was barred by collateral estoppel and res judicata. Husband further claims his due process rights and privacy rights under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act ("HIPAA") were violated when the circuit court entered an overly broad order sustaining Wife's motion without a hearing.

         This Court holds Husband failed to establish the circuit court acted in excess of its authority when it sustained Wife's motion to compel. Contrary to Husband's claims, the circuit court's order did not modify or otherwise grant Wife any relief from the division of property in the parties' dissolution judgment. Rather, in ordering Husband to turn over and authorize release of any documents relating to his military retirement benefits, the circuit court was exercising its inherent authority to make proper orders such as are necessary to effectuate its dissolution judgment awarding Wife of half of the marital portion of Husband's military retirement benefits. Accordingly, the circuit court's order was not governed by the one-year time limitation in Rule 74.06(c) and was not barred under the doctrines of collateral estoppel or res judicata.

         Furthermore, the circuit court's order did not violate Husband's due process rights or privacy rights under HIPAA. Despite Husband's assertions, he had an opportunity to respond to Wife's motion to compel and the authorization he was required to sign was not overly broad. Rather, the authorization restricts the documents to be released to those related to or arising out of the total number of reservist points Husband earned during the parties' marriage. Husband, therefore, fails to prove the circuit court acted in excess of its authority. The preliminary writ is quashed.

         Factual and Procedural History

         In 1985, Husband and Wife were married. During the marriage, Husband served in the United Stated Air Force Reserves. In 2007, Wife filed for divorce.

         Husband and Wife subsequently entered into the Marital Settlement Agreement. As part of the Marital Settlement Agreement, Wife was to receive half of Husband's military retirement benefits from the date of the parties' marriage through and including the date of the dissolution judgment. The agreement provided the following formula for calculating Wife's share of Husband's military retirement benefits:

Wife's share of benefits = ½ X Husband's monthly benefits as and when received X # of years of Husband's credited service during the marriage/ # of years of Husband's credited service at retirement

         The agreement further required the parties to deliver and "execute any and all documents necessary to carry out the provisions of this Agreement."

         On April 28, 2009, the circuit court entered its judgment for dissolution of marriage. In its judgment, the circuit court approved the Marital Settlement Agreement and ordered the parties "to perform and abide by the terms of said Agreement, as the provisions of that Agreement represent the Judgment of the Court."[1] The judgment further required the parties to "execute all deeds, titles, endorsements, assignments, or such other documents as may [be] deem[ed] necessary to effectuate the division and transfer of the property and debt as agreed to and affirmed by this Judgment."

         In 2013, Wife filed a motion to amend, set aside, vacate, or grant other relief from the dissolution judgment pursuant to Rule 74.06(a). In her motion, Wife alleged she submitted an application to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service ("DFAS") to receive half of Husband's military retirement benefits but was advised the parties utilized the wrong formula in the Marital Settlement Agreement. She was further informed the formula utilized in the Marital Settlement Agreement was for persons retiring from active military duty, as opposed to reserve or guard members. DFAS further informed Wife the correct formula for reservist retirement includes the total points earned by the reservist. Wife asked for the circuit court to modify the formula set out in the Marital Settlement Agreement to enable her to receive her share of Husband's retirement benefits.

         On August 6, 2014, the circuit court entered its Judgment and Order Clarifying Marital Settlement Agreement. The circuit court found Wife's percentage of Husband's retirement benefits should be calculated pursuant to the following formula:

Wife's share of benefits = ½ X Husband's monthly benefits as and when received X # reservist points earned by Husband during the marriage/# of total reservist points earned by Husband

         The Judgment and Order Clarifying Marital Settlement Agreement further stated Husband earned 2, 134 retirement points during the parties' marriage.

         On December 7, 2017, Wife filed a motion to compel Husband to provide her with any and all correspondence sent to him related to or arising out of the total number of reservist points he earned during the parties' marriage and to sign authorizations releasing his military records pertaining to the reservist points he earned during their marriage. In her suggestions in support of the motion, Wife detailed the steps she allegedly took to receive her percentage of Husband's military retirement benefits and, how, in the process, she had come to believe the 2, 134 figure in the Judgment and Order Clarifying Marital Settlement Agreement incorrectly reflects the number of reservist points Husband earned during their marriage. Wife further alleged she attempted to obtain the information from Husband, who would not comply with her requests. She also asserted she was entitled to the information under the Marital Settlement Agreement because it requires the parties to deliver and execute all documents necessary to carry out the agreement.

         Husband filed a motion to dismiss Wife's motion for failure to state a cause of action for which relief can be granted. In his motion, Husband asserted Wife's motion was barred because it was not filed within the one-year time period set out in Rule 74.06(c) for relief from a judgment.

         On January 10, 2018, the circuit court overruled Husband's motion to dismiss and sustained Wife's motion to compel. In its order, the circuit court found that, pursuant to its 2009 dissolution judgment and the Marital Settlement Agreement, Husband was required to execute any and all documents necessary to carry out the provisions of the Marital Settlement Agreement. The circuit court then detailed the steps Wife had taken in attempting to receive her half of Husband's military retirement benefits earned during the marriage. It then ordered Husband to deliver to Wife all correspondence sent to him related to his military retirement pay and required Husband to execute an authorization releasing his military records to Wife's counsel. The authorization requires Husband to release all files in the possession of the United States Air Force relating to or arising out of the number of reservist points Husband earned during the parties' marriage.

         Husband subsequently filed a motion to set aside the order, asserting the order was beyond the circuit court's jurisdiction. Husband further contended the order violated his right to privacy and is void under HIPAA. The circuit court overruled Husband's motion.

         Husband then sought a writ of prohibition from this Court prohibiting the circuit court from enforcing its order compelling him to turn over all correspondence related to the number of reservist point he earned during the parties' marriage. This ...


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