Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division
IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF: GEORGE A. KOCH, Petitioner/Respondent-Appellant,
CHRISTINE M. KOCH, Respondent/Movant-Respondent.
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF CAMDEN COUNTY Honorable Steven B.
Jackson, Special Judge
JEFFREY W. BATES, J.
Koch (Father) appeals from a judgment of modification
ordering him to pay child support for his minor daughter
(Child). Father argued he was exempt from paying child
support because Child "was seeking to emancipate
herself" pursuant to § 452.340 by "lying about
her allegations that [Father] had raped her thereby
destroying the parent/child
relationship[.]" In support of this argument, Father sought
to take depositions of both Child and a detective "for
the purpose of refuting the allegations[,]" but the
trial court prohibited Father from taking the depositions and
determined Child was not emancipated. The court further found
that Father was capable of providing support, imputed income
to him and ordered that he pay monthly child support.
appeal, Father presents three points. He contends the trial
court erred by: (1) denying Father "the right to take
depositions" of Child and the detective as "such
depositions would have [led] to the discovery of admissible
evidence that [Child] was seeking to emancipate
herself"; (2) finding Father capable of obtaining
employment to pay child support; and (3) imputing an hourly
wage for full-time work. Because Father failed to meet his
burden of demonstrating reversible error, we affirm.
review in this court-tried case is governed by Rule 84.13(d)
and Murphy v. Carron, 536 S.W.2d 30, 32 (Mo. banc
1976), which requires this Court to affirm the trial
court's judgment unless it is not supported by
substantial evidence, is against the weight of the evidence,
or erroneously declares or applies the law. Id.;
In re Marriage of Adams, 414 S.W.3d 29, 32 (Mo. App.
2013). All evidence and reasonable inferences therefrom are
viewed in the light most favorable to the trial court's
judgment, and all evidence and inferences to the contrary are
disregarded. Landewee v. Landewee, 515 S.W.3d 691,
694 (Mo. banc 2017). We defer to the trial court regarding
credibility determinations and assigning weight to witness
testimony. Metzger v. Franklin, 496 S.W.3d 547, 549
(Mo. App. 2016). The trial court is free to believe all,
none, or part of the testimony of any witness. Archdekin
v. Archdekin, 562 S.W.3d 298, 310 (Mo. banc 2018). The
party challenging the judgment bears the burden of proving
error. Id. at 304. The following facts have been
prepared in accordance with these principles.
was born in December 2001 when Father was married to
Christine Koch (Mother). Their marriage was dissolved in
March 2005, and the dissolution decree was later modified in
September 2013. At that time, the modification judgment
granted the parties joint legal and physical custody of Child
and designated Father's address as Child's address
for mailing and educational purposes. Neither party was
ordered to pay child support.
2017, Child disclosed that she had been sexually assaulted by
Father. Soon after, a felony complaint was filed against
Father. He was charged with rape, sodomy and incest. After
Father's arrest, he posted bond with the condition he
have no contact with Child or any children under the age of
17 years old. Father, a doctor, lost his medical license
privileges and employment due to the pending charges.
December 2017, Mother filed her motion to modify the
judgment. Citing a substantial and continuing change of
circumstances, Mother requested that she be granted sole
legal and physical custody of Child, and that Father have no
visitation or contact with Child. Mother also requested that
Father be ordered to pay child support. In response, Father
filed a counter-motion to modify the judgment. In that
motion, Father stipulated to Mother's request for sole
custody and no contact with Child. As to child support,
however, he alleged that he should be ordered to pay zero
dollars ($0.00) per month because any presumed amount was
"unfair and unconscionable."
January 2018, Father sought to depose Child and a detective
investigating the criminal case against Father. In February
2018, the trial court issued a protective order prohibiting
Father from taking both depositions and determined that Child
was not emancipated.
April 2018, a trial was held on the parties' motions to
modify. The court refused Father's request to reconsider
its ruling on emancipation and limited evidence to the child
support issue only. Father was the only witness to testify.
Each party submitted a Form 14. Several other exhibits were
admitted in evidence concerning the parties' income and
expenses, including Child's extensive medical expenses.
At the time of trial, Child was staying at a long-term
residential treatment facility.
2018, the trial court entered its judgment of modification.
The court found a substantial and continuing change of
circumstances sufficient to grant modification of the
judgment, and awarded Mother sole legal and physical custody
of Child. With respect to child support, the court found that
Child "is in need of support from [Father] and [he] is
able-bodied and capable of providing the same for
[Child]." Pursuant to Rule 88.01 and the court's own
Form 14, the court calculated that Father's child support
obligation was $568 per month, and ordered Father to pay that
appeal followed. Additional facts will be included below as
we address Father's three points on appeal. Because
Points 2 and 3 challenge the child support award, we discuss
both of those points together.
first point challenges the trial court's decision to
prohibit Father from taking depositions of Child and the
detective. Our review of the court's ruling to quash the
depositions is for an abuse of discretion. See Jones v.
City of Kansas City, 569 S.W.3d 42, 60-61 (Mo. App.
2019). The following facts are relevant to this point.
January 2018, a month after the parties filed their motions
to modify, Father issued to Mother a notice to take a
videotaped deposition of Child. Father also sought to depose
the investigating detective.
February 2018, Mother filed separate motions for a protective
order requesting the trial court to prohibit Father from
taking either deposition. Mother's motions argued that
neither deposition was "reasonably calculated to lead to
the discovery of admissible evidence regarding [Father's]
child support obligation, the only contested issue in this
case." With respect to Child, Mother further argued that
her deposition is: (1) a "fishing expedition" in
order to produce statements under oath of an alleged victim
in a criminal case without the prosecuting attorney present
to defend the deposition; and (2) would also allow Father to
inquire into the sexual history of Child as "the Rape
Shield Law is inapplicable to the minor child's testimony
in a civil deposition[.]" With respect to the detective,
Mother argued that his deposition "would cause an
unnecessary expense to [Mother] as her counsel will be
attending a deposition and purchasing a transcript that will
have no use in the present litigation."
trial court conducted a hearing on Mother's motions via
telephone. Father's counsel argued that evidence of the
truthfulness of the allegations against him was relevant to
Father's responsibility to pay child support and the
court's determination whether to impute income.
March 2018, the trial court disagreed with Father and granted
Mother's motions for a protective order prohibiting
Father from taking both depositions. The court gave "no
credence to the assertion of obtaining emancipation and
permanent removal of [Father's] obligation to [provide]
support based on truthfulness of the allegations[.]" The
court determined that Child was not
Point 1, Father contends the "trial court erred in
denying Father the right to take the depositions" of
Child and the detective because "such depositions would
have [led] to the discovery of admissible evidence that
[Child] was seeking to emancipate herself[.]"
Father's allegation of error is based entirely on the
premise that the trial court "misapplied section
452.340" in determining that Child had not emancipated
herself. According to Father, "Child was purposefully
and knowingly lying about her allegations that [he] had raped
her thereby destroying the parent/child relationship, which
is effectively seeking to emancipate herself from [him]"
as a matter of law. We disagree.
termination of child support payments is governed by §
452.340.3. This subsection of the statute states:
Unless the circumstances of the child manifestly dictate
otherwise and the court specifically so provides, the
obligation of a parent to make child support ...