Elizabeth A. Gomez, now known as Elizabeth A. Tonniges, APPELLANT,
PATRICK W. GOMEZ, APPELLEE.
Divorce: Judgments: Appeal and Error. The
meaning of a divorce decree presents a question of law, in
connection with which an appellate court reaches a conclusion
independent of the determination reached by the court below.
Contracts: Evidence. Contracts found to be
ambiguous present a question of fact and permit the
consideration of extrinsic evidence to determine the meaning
of the contract.
Divorce: Property Settlement Agreements: Final
Orders. A decree is a judgment, and once a decree
for dissolution becomes final, its meaning, including the
settlement agreement incorporated therein, is determined as a
matter of law from the four corners of the decree itself.
Evidence: Records: Appeal and Error. A bill
of exceptions is the only vehicle for bringing evidence
before an appellate court; evidence which is not made a part
of the bill of exceptions may not be considered.
Visitation. A party seeking to modify
visitation has the burden to show a material change in
circumstances affecting the best interests of the child.
from the District Court for Douglas County: Peter C.
F. Smeall and Jacob A. Acers, of Smith, Slusky, Pohren &
Rogers, L.L.P., for appellant.
R. Little, of Ballew Hazen, PC, L.L.O., for appellee.
Heavican, C.J., Miller-Lerman, Cassel, Stacy, Funke, Papik,
and Freudenberg, JJ.
Neb. 540] Papik, J.
course of their divorce proceedings, Patrick W. Gomez and
Elizabeth A. Gomez, now known as Elizabeth A. Tonniges,
agreed to a stipulated parenting plan. That plan, which was
later incorporated in the decree dissolving their marriage,
gave Patrick and Elizabeth joint legal and physical custody
of their two children and set forth a schedule in which the
parents would exercise parenting time. The parenting plan
also included a provision that the children "will be
enrolled and be participants in the Catholic religion"
and set forth several specific Catholic religious activities
in which the children would participate. Attendance at
Catholic Mass. was not mentioned.
later, Patrick filed a motion alleging that Elizabeth was not
complying with the language in the parenting plan regarding
the children's religious participation. In response to
Patrick's motion, the district court entered an order
requiring Elizabeth either to bring the children to Catholic
Mass. every weekend in which she was exercising parenting
time or to allow Patrick to take the children during her
parenting time. It also required the children to attend
Catholic Mass. on Catholic "Holy Days of
Obligation" and required Patrick and Elizabeth to
coordinate to ensure their attendance on those days. We find
that the parenting plan did not require the Mass. attendance
ordered by the district court. Accordingly, we vacate that
portion of the district court's order requiring Mass.
attendance. Because there are other parts of the order not
challenged by Elizabeth, we otherwise affirm.
Decree and Parenting Plan.
and Elizabeth were married in April 2010. During their
marriage, the parties had two children, one born in 2011 and
the other born in 2013.
Neb. 541] Approximately 5 years after their marriage,
Elizabeth filed an action for dissolution. In that action,
the parties agreed to a stipulated parenting plan that was
later approved by the district court and incorporated in a
decree dissolving the ...