Monday, July 14, 2014

Crisis Averted

O’Connor v. O’Connor, 2013 VT 110 (mem.)

By Andrew Delaney

This is not a complicated case.  All it takes is a letter . . .  

Parents were divorced in 2011. They shared parental rights and responsibilities for their two boys pursuant to an agreement, and the boys lived primarily with mom. Dad got to claim the older boy as a dependent on his taxes, while mom got to claim the younger. Once the older boy turned 18, the parties agreed to alternate claiming the younger.

Just over a year later, the boys switched to living with dad, and the trial court entered an order modifying physical rights and responsibilities. The court issued an order modifying child support and spousal maintenance, but did not address dad’s request that he be allowed to claim both boys on his taxes.

  So a week and change later, the Office of Child Support (OCS) filed a motion for relief from judgment—to correct past-due amounts and amounts owing—and a motion to address the tax-treatment issue. The family division fixed the past-due amounts, but ordered that “the tax exemptions for the children are part of the final order of divorce and non-modifiable. No change is made to that divorce provision.”

Mom filed a motion in response to OCS’s motion where basically she agreed with the court’s order as described above. OCS then filed a motion for reconsideration arguing that the tax-treatment provision was modifiable, which the magistrate denied, ruling that “[t]his issue has been before the magistrate in another case and was appealed to the family court judge who ruled it was non-modifiable if in the divorce.” OCS appealed.

Mom didn’t file an appellate brief, but sent the SCOV a letter saying that she allowed dad to claim both children because the custody order has changed.

So the SCOV dismisses the case, dropping a we’re-not-going-to-address-the-whole-direct-appeal-from-a-magistrate-thing footnote.

It’s so much easier when the parties agree.

1 comment:

  1. So much work just to break down into the agreement they should have reached in the first place.