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Catlett v. Catlett

Court of Appeals of Nebraska

August 18, 2015


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Appeal from the District Court for Nemaha County: DANIEL E. BRYAN, JR., Judge.

Matt Catlett for appellant.

Angelo M. Ligouri, of Ligouri Law Office, for appellee.



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[23 Neb.App. 138] Riedmann, Judge.


Jeffrey Paul Catlett appeals from a decree of the district court for Nemaha County, Nebraska, dissolving his marriage to Irene Joan Orquia Catlett and issuing further orders in connection with that dissolution. Jeffrey argues that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the dissolution proceeding and abused its discretion in its determinations regarding property, support, and children. We affirm the decision of the district court on all issues with the exception of its award of child support and health insurance for Jeffrey's ex-stepdaughter, which award we vacate.

[23 Neb.App. 139] BACKGROUND

Jeffrey and Irene met in Kuwait in 2010. Jeffrey is an American citizen and contracts with a company in Kuwait to work overseas. Irene is a Filipino national who moved to Kuwait in 1997. They were married in April 2011. The parties' son, Jeffrey Paul Catlett II (J.P.), was born in December 2011. For a period of time, Jeffrey and Irene resided together in Kuwait. In December 2012, Irene moved to Jeffrey's house in Auburn, Nebraska, with J.P. and her daughter from a prior relationship. In order to facilitate this move to the United States, Jeffrey sponsored the visas for Irene and her daughter, which included contracting with the federal government and promising to maintain them at an income level of at least 125 percent of the poverty threshold. Irene filed a complaint for dissolution of marriage in the district court for Nemaha County on June 13, 2013.

Trial Evidence of Jeffrey's Domicile.

In the dissolution complaint, Irene alleged that Jeffrey had been a resident of Nebraska for more than 1 year prior to the filing and that " [f]or more than one (1) year last past and during that time [he] has had a bona fide intention of making the State of Nebraska his home and place of residence." Jeffrey admitted the above residency statement in his answer and counterclaim and further affirmatively stated that he was " a resident of Auburn, Nemaha County, Nebraska, and has been a resident of the State of Nebraska for more than one year prior to the filing of" the counterclaim. He further identified the Auburn address for both himself and Irene, with a notation that he was currently employed overseas in Kuwait.

At trial, Irene testified that Jeffrey works in Kuwait but is a resident of Nemaha County. Jeffrey did not contest this testimony at trial. Additionally, when his counsel asked, " Okay. And we've heard some testimony that you -- your permanent residence is still Auburn, Nebraska; is that -- ," he answered, " I have two residences: Here and Kuwait."

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[23 Neb.App. 140] Although residency was not a contested issue at trial, evidence offered for other purposes revealed that Jeffrey purchased a house in Auburn in July 2009 which he continues to maintain and plans to maintain in the future. While Jeffrey was in Kuwait, he maintained a bank account in Auburn and his cousin held a financial power of attorney for him so she could take care of certain affairs of his in Auburn through this account. Jeffrey's tax records indicate that he was present in the United States for 36 days in 2012, 21 days in 2011, and 60 days in 2010. He listed on his tax returns that he was a Kuwait resident full year, lived in rental housing in Kuwait, and entered Kuwait with a permanent resident visa. The tax records also reflect that he maintained a home in the United States while living abroad. In the paperwork sponsoring Irene's and her daughter's visas, Jeffrey listed his house in Auburn as his mailing address, did not list a place of residence different from his mailing address, and listed his country of domicile as Kuwait. In Jeffrey's proposed parenting plan in this proceeding, he stated that although he " works overseas he has vacation time from work when he returns to Nebraska." He proposed spending all of his vacation time from arriving at the airport to departing as parenting time with J.P. in Nebraska.


The evidence revealed that Jeffrey has maintained his employment for the entire time of the parties' marriage and that his average monthly income exceeds $13,000. Since Irene moved to the United States to act as a stay-at-home mother to J.P., to her daughter, and to Jeffrey's son from a prior relationship, Irene has not worked, except for a 1-week job through a " temp" agency. During the marriage, the parties purchased a Chevrolet Tahoe. Other property of the parties includes funds in several bank accounts in Jeffrey's name. The parties also have debts of over $150,000, including credit cards and personal loans in Jeffrey's name. During the [23 Neb.App. 141] marriage, Irene had access to only one credit card, with an outstanding balance of under $3,000 at the time of trial.

Posttrial Proceedings.

Following trial, the district court entered a decree and order dissolving the parties' marriage. In the decree, the court specifically found that it had jurisdiction over the subject matter of the action. It awarded the legal and physical custody of J.P. to Irene with parenting time awarded to Jeffrey, ordered Jeffrey to pay child support and health insurance for both J.P. and ...

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