In re Adoption of TLC
In In re Adoption of TLC, 2002 WY 76, 46 P.3d 863 (Wyo. 2002), the Court reversed a district court's consent determination because it improperly found a willful failure to pay support because the father was incarcerated. Id.
In TLC, the district court found that the willfulness element was met because the conduct giving rise to the father's incarceration was willful. Id.
Specifically, the district court stated that the "Father's failure to pay child support from October 8, 1998, through October 8, 1999, is a consequence of incarceration which was his own making and which was willful." Id.
The Court found this approach to be clearly erroneous.
The Court explained "the act that must be willful is the failure to pay support. Incarceration, standing alone, does not provide the direct intent necessary to constitute willful failure to pay under the pertinent statute." Id.
The Court reasoned that to hold otherwise would allow the granting of an adoption without parental consent to be "based upon a mere desire to compound the sentence for a parent's past crime." Id.
The Court also noted in TLC that incarceration does not provide total justification for nonpayment of child support. Id.
The Court reiterated that "a parent must always pay child support according to his or her financial ability." Id.
The Court instructed that the "courts should look at whether the parent has demonstrated, through whatever financial means available to him, that the parent has not forgotten his statutory obligation to his child." Id.