Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Stability Is Key Factor in Deciding Best Interests of Special Needs Children

Grindstaff v. Grindstgaff, 2010 UT App. 261, (Utah Court of Appeals September 23, 2010).

Mother appealed the trial court’s award of custody to Father.  Mother and Father had two children, one with special needs.  The trial court found that the parties had been equally engaged in raising the parties’ minor children.  The trial court found that while stability was important for all the children, it was critically important to the parties’ special needs child. Because Mother had planned to move to Nevada, the trial court awarded custody to Father. Mother’s claim for joint custody was likewise denied because of the critical need for stability.

Wife also appealed the trial court’s refusal to admit testimony her expert.  At trial, Wife’s counsel conceded that the expert was not a custody evaluator; as such, any findings by her expert could not be used to rebut the custody evaluator’s findings. 

Finally, as to Wife’s denied attorney fees that were denied at trial because Father did not have the ability to pay the attorney fees,  the Court of Appeals found that while the trial court has a duty to hold a party in contempt, it also has great discretion in crafting a punishment to ensure compliance.

Affirmed on all issues.

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