Thursday, November 4, 2010

Appellate Brief Must Provide Basis for Appeal

Morford v. DCFS, 2010 UT App. 285, (Utah Court of Appeals October 15, 2010).

The trial court entered summary judgment for DCFS on the Mofords’ negligence and breach of contract claim based on DCFS’s failure to provide reunification services between the Morfords and their foster son prior to the relinquishment of parental rights and DCFS’s alleged misinformed report that the foster son no longer wanted to live with the Morfords.  The Morfords appealed.

The Court of Appeals refused to evaluate the merits of the Morfords’ claims because of severe failings in their appellate brief.  The brief’s table of authorities did not correspond to the brief.  It was as if the submitted table was for a different brief.  The brief failed to supply the text of the statute on which the Morfords were relying.  It failed to cite the preservation of the issues in the trial court record.  It failed to provide an adequate record to even address the Morfords’ claims.  The argument section cites authority, but does not apply the authority to the facts of the Morfords’ claims.  Because of the failure of the brief, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s entry of summary judgment.

Alimony Must be Based on Sufficient Findings and Alimony Cannot Exceed Needs

Fish v. Fish, 2010 UT App. 292, (Utah Court of Appeals October 21, 2010).

Wife was awarded $800 per month in alimony.  Husband appealed.  He argued that the trial court had insufficient evidence to make findings as to the parties’ ability to earn and their needs.  The Court of Appeals found that testimony alone is sufficient evidence for imputation of income, and that Husband’s enrollment in a Technical College did not preclude imputation of income.  If a party already has basic job skills, he cannot rely on the schooling to avoid the imputation of income.  However, the findings of the trial court did not support the level of income imputed to husband as required by U.C.A. 78B-12-203(7)(b) (2008).  Without such findings, the trial court cannot impute income.  Additionally, the trial court made no findings as to Husband’s ability to pay and therefore the alimony award was an abuse of discretion and reversed.  The Court also found ability to earn cannot be based on monthly income alone, but must be based on the U.C.A. 78B-12-203(7)(b) factors, reversing the trial court’s finding that wife’s ability to earn directly correlates with her current income. 

Lastly, simply because the parties combined needs exceed their combined incomes does not prove that the parties’ standard of living is not commensurate with the standard of living at the time of the marriage, it simply proves that the cost to sustain two households is greater than the cost to sustain one.

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