Family Law

John W. Dennis, Jr., Esquire

The doctrine of the law of the case precludes relitigation of matters on appeal already disposed of on a prior appeal. Jenkins v. Jenkins, No. 75800 (Mo. App. W.D., August 27, 2013), Mitchell, J.

This appeal is only noteworthy in circumstances in which a trial court judgment is appealed on multiple grounds, remanded on one issue, then appealed again. After the initial dissolution judgment was entered, the Wife appealed. The case was remanded only upon her assertion of error regarding the designation of her $4,000 wedding rings as marital property because they were clearly her non-marital property. She had also complained of the disproportionate distribution of the marital estate, but she had failed to properly preserve the claim of error so that contention was denied.

The trial court made quick work on remand by designating her rings as non-marital property and ordered the Husband to pay Wife $4,000. Now the Wife appeals on the grounds that, among other things, the disproportionate distribution of marital property was error.

Held: Affirmed.
The Wife had challenged the distribution of marital property in her first appeal, and for the aforementioned reasons, her claim of error was denied. The doctrine of the law of the case applies here. “‘The doctrine of the law of the case provides that a previous holding in a case constitutes the law of the case and precludes relitigation of the issue on remand and subsequent appeal.’Walton v. City of Berkeley, 223 S.W.3d 126, 128-29 (Mo. banc 2007) (quoting State ex rel. Alma. Tel. Co. v. Pub. Serv. Comm’n, 40 S.W. 3d 381, 388 (Mo. App. W.D.).” This applies to issues that could have been raised in a previous appeal as well. It also includes the preclusion of relitigating a claim that was raised on appeal but not reached in the first appeal because of the failure to properly preserve the claim of error.

The court may not delegate its authority to alter parenting time to a parenting coordinator. E.A.P. ex rel. V.C.I. et al v. J.A.I., Nos. 31844 and 31852 (Mo. App. S.D., August 14, 2013), Sheffield, J.

The parties had two children. In 2008, the Mother filed for a determination of paternity and child custody. The custody provisions included the designation of a parenting coordinator although the parenting plan called for the parties each to have “alternate week-long periods of parenting time.” As a result of continuing disputes between the parties, the parenting coordinator progressively reduced Mother’s parenting time to the point that it was no more than Sundays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Competing motions to modify were filed. The Mother also sought the removal of the parenting coordinator. The Father was awarded sole legal and physical custody and the parenting coordinator was given authority to order counseling, including counseling for the children, enforce the parenting plan and even amend the parenting schedule as he/she deemed to be in the best interests of the children. The Mother appealed.

Held: Reversed. 
It is well-settled that the trial court cannot delegate its authority to address child custody arrangements to third parties. “There is currently no statute in Missouri specifically authorizing the appointment of a parenting coordinator.”

“We do not mean to suggest by this conclusion that we disapprove of consensual agreements to use a parenting coordinator.” The opinion notes that Section 452.310.8 (2)(f), requires the designation of dispute resolution procedures in parenting plan disputes. However, those provisions do not authorize the delegation of the court’s authority over child custody issues to a parenting coordinator.