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DeCesare v. Delfarno

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

April 9, 2015

Shayna DeCesare
George W. Delfarno

Kent County Family Court. (K 01-481M). Associate Justice Pamela M. Macktaz, Associate Justice Kathleen A. Voccola, Associate Justice Stephen J. Capineri, Associate Justice Debra E. DiSegna.

For Plaintiff: Stephen A. Robinson, Esq.

For Defendant: Karen Auclair Oliveira, Esq., Frank J. DiBiase, Esq.

Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.


Before the Court are the consolidated appeals of the plaintiff, Shayna DeCesare (DeCesare or plaintiff), from two Family Court orders involving George W. Delfarno (Delfarno or defendant), the father of the parties' minor child (S.D. or minor child).[1] Pursuant to an order directing the parties to appear and show cause why the

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issues raised in these appeals should not be summarily decided, this Court heard oral arguments on March 4, 2015. After hearing the arguments of counsel and reviewing the memoranda submitted on behalf of the parties, we are satisfied that cause has not been shown. Accordingly, we shall decide the appeal at this time without further briefing or argument. For the reasons set forth herein, we deny and dismiss the plaintiff's appeals.

These matters stem from a miscellaneous petition plaintiff filed in May 2001, seeking to establish custody, visitation, and child support for the minor child of the parties, S.D., who was born on November 15, 2000. On September 25, 2001, a justice of the Family Court ordered defendant to pay $109 per week directly to plaintiff as child support for S.D. Over the next three years, plaintiff filed many more motions, either to adjudge defendant in willful contempt or to suspend visitation. On March 9, 2005, plaintiff filed yet another motion to adjudge defendant in willful contempt on the ground that his support payments were sporadic and insufficient pursuant to prior Family Court orders. On June 15, 2005, a Family Court justice recalculated defendant's child support obligation to $154.08 per week and ordered the parties to " continue to share equally the cost of any uninsured medical, dental orthodontia, eye care, counseling, or any related medical or dental expenses for the minor child * * *." Although a contempt motion precipitated the order, defendant was never adjudged in contempt.

On March 11, 2013, after nearly eight more years of motions filed by plaintiff and a failed attempt at court-ordered mediation, a special master was appointed pursuant to Rule 53 of the Family Court Rules of Procedure for Domestic Relations.[2] The special master was appointed to investigate each party's compliance with the June 15, 2005 order, as well as to:

" [D]etermine the dollar amount of uninsured health care costs incurred by each party and the dollar amount of all reimbursements made by each party to the other party for their daughter's uninsured health care costs, as provided in the Court Order; to determine the balance, if any, owed by either party to the other for reimbursement of their daughter's uninsured health care costs; and to provide a report of his findings to the Court."

The special master presented his findings on June 26, 2013. The report acknowledged that the intention of the parties was to divide equally the uninsured, out-of-pocket medical expenses incurred for the minor child. Having sorted through a decade of documentation concerning the child's medical expenses, the special master determined that plaintiff had produced a total of $9,247.70 in reimbursable out-of-pocket medical expenses since 2003, with defendant owing half, or $4,623.85, of that total. The special master noted that plaintiff sought reimbursement for co-payments, deductibles, diagnostic testing and lab work, prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, hospital bills, dentist visits, an orthodontist evaluation, and orthodontics. Finally, the special master explained that over-the-counter products like moisturizers were not to be included as out-of-pocket medical expenses.

On September 25, 2013, a Family Court justice (the hearing justice) entered an order indicating that the special master's

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report and findings were " accepted as presented and found to be conclusive upon the parties." In rejecting plaintiff's claims for reimbursement of over-the-counter medications and attorney's fees, the hearing justice ordered that defendant pay plaintiff the $4,623.85 total for his one-half share of the out-of-pocket medical expenses incurred on behalf of S.D. There were no objections to this order. On October 15, 2013, in response to plaintiff's contention that, among other things, she should be entitled to reimbursement for over-the-counter medical expenses, the hearing justice entered an order reaffirming approval of the special master's report, reiterating that such medications were not ...

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