Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Fourth Division
from the Circuit Court of St. Louis County Honorable Sandra
S. ODENWALD, PRESIDING JUDGE.
Lynn (Tate) Librach ("Mother") appeals from the
trial court's 2018 judgment (the "2018 Final
Judgment") awarding joint physical and legal custody of
youngest child ("A.L.") to Mother and Stanley L.
Librach ("Father"), emancipating and eliminating
child support for oldest child ("J.L."), awarding
Father make-up visitation for A.L., and denying Mother's
request for attorneys' fees. On appeal, Mother raises
three points. In Point One, Mother alleges that the trial
court erred in sua sponte statutorily emancipating J.L. and
reducing child support to only one child. In Point Two,
Mother asserts that the parenting plan is against the weight
of the evidence because the trial court did not give proper
weight to the recommendations of the guardian ad litem (the
"GAL"), and the trial court plainly erred by not
allowing the children to testify. In Point Three, Mother
claims that the trial court abused its discretion when it
denied her motion for attorneys' fees.
record before us lacks sufficient evidence regarding
J.L.'s education to support the trial court's finding
of emancipation. However, the record demonstrates that the
parenting plan entered by the trial court was not against the
weight of the evidence, and that the trial court did not
abuse its discretion in denying Mother's request for
attorneys' fees. Accordingly, we affirm in part and
reverse and remand in part for the trial court to modify
Father's obligation for child support consistent with
and Procedural History
and Father married and had two children; J.L. and A.L. Mother
and Father divorced in 2008. The judgment and dissolution
decree awarded Mother and Father joint legal and physical
custody of J.L and A.L. The original judgment was modified in
2011 (the "2011 Modification") to implement a new
parenting plan. The 2011 Modification awarded Father Tuesday
overnights and every other weekend from Friday evening until
Monday morning during the school year. During the summer
months, Father was awarded five weeks of custody. Pursuant to
the 2011 Modification, Father was ordered to pay maintenance
and $1011.00 per month in child support for the two children.
Father was also required to maintain health insurance
covering the children and to pay seventy-five percent of the
children's uninsured expenses.
filed a motion seeking family access in December 2015 in
which he alleged Mother intentionally failed to comply with
the 2011 Modification by denying him visitation over the last
two years. In February 2016, Father additionally filed a
motion for contempt and to abate child support. In that
motion, Father asserted that Mother failed to comply with the
2011 Modification concerning Father's visitation rights
and failed to communicate with Father despite the fact that
Mother and Father shared joint legal and physical custody.
2016, Mother moved to modify custody, visitation, support,
and maintenance as well as to determine amounts due and
owing. Mother alleged that Father failed to exercise
visitation under the 2011 Modification, the minor children no
longer wished to visit with Father due to the deterioration
of their relationship, and Father alienated himself from the
children. Mother also claimed severe financial hardship due
to Father's failure to pay expenses as ordered, an
increase in costs associated with the care of A.L., and a
decrease in her income. Mother further asserted that Father
received a substantial increase in income. Father responded
with a series of motions including a counter-motion to modify
custody, visitation, support, and maintenance.
matter was heard during May 2017. At the time of trial, J.L.
was seventeen years old and A.L. was fourteen years old.
Neither child testified at trial. Father testified that J.L.
was completing her junior year in high school, and that J.L.
was very smart and did "fairly well" in school,
even though, in his opinion, J.L. was not living up to her
potential. Father also testified that Mother denied him
visitation with both children; however, Father only sought
make-up visitation with A.L. because of J.L.'s age and
his deteriorated relationship with J.L. Father proposed an
even-split schedule with A.L., which included overnight
visitations. Mother countered that Father should not be
allowed overnight make-up credit because the children refused
to spend overnights with Father.
trial, Mother, Father, and the GAL each submitted proposed
parenting plans. The GAL recommended that the best interest
of A.L. would be served by awarding joint legal and physical
custody and by designating Mother as the residential parent.
The GAL advised that A.L. not be allowed to decide custody on
her own, but that the parents should enforce the parenting
plan. The GAL expressed no safety concerns with Father and
proposed awarding Father custody that included every other
weekend and one night per week. Father, A.L., and A.L.'s
counselor would determine the overnights.
December 2017, the trial court entered judgment (the
"2017 Judgment"), granting Father's
counter-motion to modify the 2011 Modification. The trial
court determined that several substantial changes in
circumstances had occurred, namely: (1) Father only received
twelve overnight visits with A.L. from April 2014 through
June 2015, (2) A.L. had not participated in visitation with
Father from July 2015 to time of the trial, (3) Mother
refused to facilitate a relationship with Father, and (4)
Mother alienated A.L. from Father. The trial court found that
Father's monthly income was $14, 192.00 and Mother's
monthly income was $3, 732.00. The trial court decreased
Father's child support and obligated Father to pay child
support of $523.00 for only one child. The trial court
awarded Father make-up visitation with A.L. and modified the
2011 Modification agreement in order to reflect the make-up
visitation time with A.L. The trial court denied Father's
motion for contempt. The trial court denied both Mother's
and Father's requests for attorneys' fees, finding
that both parties had the ability to pay their own fees and
response to the 2017 Judgment, Mother filed a motion for new
trial and a motion to amend the 2017 Judgment on multiple
grounds, including that the trial court failed to rely on the
GAL's recommendation, did not allow the children to
testify at trial, and did not order child support for J.L. In
March 2018, the trial court entered the 2018 Final Judgment
in which it denied both motions and sua sponte found that
J.L. was statutorily emancipated because she turned eighteen
years old after trial and before the 2017 Judgment was
issued. Thus, the trial court clarified its reason for
reducing Father's child support obligations to only A.L.
in the amount of $523.00. The trial court upheld all other
provisions of the 2017 Judgment. Mother now appeals.
raises three points on appeal. In Point One, Mother alleges
that the emancipation of J.L. was not supported by the record
because J.L. was in high school and only seventeen years old
at the time of trial, and consequently, the trial court did
not properly calculate child support. In Point Two, Mother
argues two sub-points: first, Mother avers that the parenting
plan was against the weight of the evidence because the trial
court did not give weight to the GAL's proposed parenting
plan; second, she contends that the trial court plainly erred
in refusing to allow the minor children to testify. In Point
Three, Mother posits that the trial court abused its
discretion by not awarding her attorneys' fees because it
failed to take into account the income disparity between
Mother and Father.
Rule 84.04 Deficiencies in Mother's Points Relied
significant deficiencies of Mother's brief require us to
first determine whether we should review the substance of
Mother's claims. See Rule 84.04(d). Mother's
(A) Identify the trial court ruling or action that the
(B) State concisely the legal reasons for the appellant's
claim of reversible error; and
(C) Explain in summary fashion why, in the context of the
case, those legal reasons support the claim of ...