Thursday, November 12, 2009

Custody, Petition to Modify: No Bifurcated Trial for Petitions to Modify

Doyle v. Doyle, 2009 UT App. 306, (Utah Court of Appeals, October 29, 2009).
Husband and wife’s stipulation included an automatic change to custody if mother were to move back to Salt Lake City. When mother moved back, father filed and the court granted, a motion amending the decree invalidating the automatic change because it denied him notice and opportunity for a hearing before changing custody. Wife filed a petition to modify. The trial court denied Husband’s motion for a bifurcated trial on the issues of substantial change and best interests. At trial the trial court found a substantial change because mother had moved back to SLC, and that the custody order was uncertain. The trial court also found that it was in the son’s best interests to have mother as his custodian. Father appealed.
The Appellate Court affirmed the trial court and found that bifurcated trials would violate the preference for judicial and fiscal economy. Additionally, as is often the case, separate trials would have been duplicative requiring the parties to present the same evidence on two occasions. Additionally, the Court affirmed the trial court’s ultimate findings as to the best interests of the child because father failed to marshal the evidence.
Father also argued that Mother was not entitled to child support because she did not request it. The Court disagreed, and affirmed the decision of the trial court finding that child support follows the child, and that based on a trial court’s ability to enforce equity it can make awards even where none is requested.
Note: The trial court incorrectly used the new CS table when calculating CS. Because there was a CS order prior to December 31, 2007, the old table should have been used. Remanded as to this issue.

Common Law Marriage: Ongoing Cohabitation Not a Requirement of Common Law Marriage

Richards v. Brown, 2009 UT App. 315, (Utah Court of Appeals, October 29, 2009).

Common Law Marriage. The trial court summarily denied Richard’s petition to recognize a common law marriage because more than one year had passed since the parties cohabitated. Richards appealed. The Court found cohabitation is not an ongoing requirement. If the parties continued to assume rights, duties, and obligation, of the marriage, and continued to hold themselves out as married, the relationship continues. A party may file to have the relationship recognized anytime during the relationship, or within one year. The Court reversed and remanded this claim and instructed the trial court to hear evidence as to the termination date of the relationship.

Unjust enrichment. Richards must show that Brown benefited from payments, which he made to her, and that failure to compensate him is inequitable. The record showed that the payments were commensurate with rents, thus no damages to him and no unjust benefit to him Affirmed.

Promissory Estoppel. Richards must show that he acted prudently and that Brown knew of his reliance on the promise to share the equity. Brown refinanced the home twice without adding him to the title; this notified him that she had no plans share the equity. Richards still had a place to live at a reasonable price. Affirmed.

Protective Order. Richards argued that a Discovery Protective Order prevented him from obtaining needed evidence. However, Richards filed a Certificate of Readiness in which he acknowledged that discovery was complete. Based on that admission, there was no reason for further discovery. Affirmed.

Full Decision available


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