Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Fourth Division
CARLA K. HINER, Respondent,
JOHN W. HINER, Appellant.
from the Circuit Court of Clay County, Missouri The Honorable
David P. Chamberlain, Judge
Before: Karen King Mitchell, Chief Judge, and Alok Ahuja and
Cynthia L. Martin, Judges
King Mitchell, Chief Judge
Hiner (Father), who appears pro se, appeals from the
trial court's judgment and decree dissolving his marriage
to Carla Hiner (Mother), approving Mother's proposed
custody arrangement and parenting plan for the couple's
two minor children, and awarding child support, maintenance,
and attorneys' fees to Mother. Father raises four points
on appeal. He maintains that the trial court erred in: (1)
awarding custody pursuant to Mother's parenting plan
without considering his plan; (2) calculating child support;
(3) dividing the marital assets and awarding maintenance and
attorneys' fees to Mother; and (4) failing to consider
Father's motion for a new trial. Because of significant
deficiencies in Father's appellate brief, which prevent
us from conducting a meaningful review of his claims, we
dismiss his appeal.
84.04 sets forth the required contents of a
brief on appeal. "Compliance with Rule 84.04 briefing
requirements is mandatory in order to ensure that appellate
courts do not become advocates by speculating on facts and on
arguments that have not been made." Wallace v.
Frazier, 546 S.W.3d 624, 626 (Mo. App. W.D. 2018)
(quoting Summers v. Mo. Dep't of Corr., 459
S.W.3d 922, 923 (Mo. App. W.D. 2015)). "An
appellant's failure to substantially comply with Rule
84.04 'preserves nothing for our review' and
constitutes grounds for dismissal of the appeal."
Id. (quoting Summers, 459 S.W.3d at 923).
This is especially true where, as here, "we cannot
competently rule on the merits of [Father's] argument
without first reconstructing the facts . . . and then
refining and supplementing [his] points and legal
argument." Id. (quoting Kim v. Kim,
431 S.W.3d 524, 525 (Mo. App. W.D. 2014)).
struck Father's initial appellate brief for numerous
violations of Rule 84.04, and we gave Father fifteen days to
file an amended brief correcting those violations. Yet his
amended brief also fails to substantially comply with Rule
Father's statement of facts is deficient. Rule 84.04(c)
requires the statement of facts to be "a fair and
concise statement of the facts relevant to the questions
presented for determination without argument." "The
primary purpose of the statement of facts is to afford an
immediate, accurate, complete and unbiased understanding of
the facts of the case." Id. (quoting Nicol
v. Nicol, 491 S.W.3d 266, 268 (Mo. App. W.D. 2016)).
Additionally, "[a]ll statements of facts shall have
specific page references to the relevant portion of the
record on appeal, i.e., legal file, transcript, or exhibits.
. . . If the portion cited is contained in the appendix, a
page reference to the appendix shall also be included."
Father's factual statements are taken verbatim from the
trial court's judgment and decree in Mother's favor
and, thus, do not present the facts relevant to the issues
Father purportedly attempts to raise on appeal. Moreover,
although Father's amended brief refers to specific pages
of the judgment and decree, to the extent those references
are accurate, they are not to relevant portions of the record
for purposes of the issues Father attempts to raise, leaving
Mother and this court to "first reconstruct the
facts," if any, that would support his claims.
Wallace, 546 S.W.3d at 626 (quoting Kim,
431 S.W.3d at 525). Thus, Father's statement of facts
does not comply with Rule 84.04(c).
Father's points relied on are deficient. Where, as here,
an appellate court is asked to review the decision of a trial
court, "each point shall (A) [i]dentify the trial court
ruling or action that the appellant challenges; (B) [s]tate
concisely the legal reasons for the appellant's claim of
reversible error; and (C) [e]xplain in summary fashion why,
in the context of the case, those legal reasons support the
claim of reversible error." Rule 84.04(d)(1). "The
point shall be in substantially the following form: 'The
trial court erred in [identify the challenged ruling or
action], because [state the legal reasons for the
claim of reversible error], in that [explain why the
legal reasons, in the context of the case, support the claim
of reversible error].'" Id.
points do not conform to Rule 84.04(d). Although each
point identifies the trial court ruling challenged, each
point fails to cite legal reasons supporting Father's
claims of reversible error. In addition, the points are not
substantially in the form required by Rule 84.04(d)(1).
"The purpose of the points relied on is 'to give
notice to the opposing party of the precise matters which
must be contended with and to inform the court of the issues
presented for review.'" Wallace, 546 S.W.3d
at 627 (quoting Treaster v. Betts, 297 S.W.3d 94, 95
(Mo. App. W.D. 2009)). As this court has explained:
Compliance with Rule 84.04 briefing requirements is mandatory
in order to ensure that appellate courts do not become
advocates by speculating on facts and on arguments that have
not been made. Deficient points relied on force the appellate
court to search the argument portion of the brief or the
record itself to determine and clarify the appellant's
assertions, thereby wasting judicial resources, and, worse
yet, creating the danger that the appellate court will
interpret the appellant's contention differently than the
appellant intended or his opponent understood.
Id. at 627-28 (quoting Treaster, 297 S.W.3d
Father did not articulate the legal reasons for the alleged
errors or explain how those legal reasons support his claims,
he failed to give Mother notice of the "precise matters
which must be contended with and to inform the court of the
issues presented for review." Id. (quoting
Treaster, 297 S.W.3d at 95). Thus, to address
Father's alleged errors we would have to search the
argument section of his brief and the record to
"refin[e] and supplement [his] points."
Id. at 626 (quoting Kim, 431 S.W.3d at
525). "It is improper for us 'to speculate as to the
point being raised by the appellant and the supporting legal
justification and circumstances.'" Id. at
628 (quoting Summers, 459 S.W.3d at 923). And doing
so would create "the danger that [we] will interpret