Monday, November 14, 2011

Petition to Modify Two-Part Test Must Be Analytically Bifurcated; and Child Support Can be Modified Even if Not Included in Petition to Modify

Doyle v. Doyle, 2011 UT 42 (Utah Supreme Court July 22, 2011).

Mother and Father were divorced and Husband was awarded custody. In the Decree, the Court ordered that if Mother returned to SLC area, the parties would have joint-custody. Mother moved back to SLC area, but Father moved for and obtained a setting aside of that portion of the Decree as a perspective change in custody. Mother then filed a Petition to Modify based on her relocation to SLC and Father’s maltreatment of the minor child. Father moved to bifurcate the trial and have best interests and change of circumstances heard separately. The Trial court denied the motion and the Court of Appeals affirmed. Father petition for writ of cert, which was granted. The Supreme Court found that while the trial court must keep the analysis of changed circumstances and bests interests analytically separate, it need not hold separate trials or limit a witnesses testimony to one or the other. The Court further found that child support is an inherent issue if a change of custody is requested and can be addressed by the court even if not completely pleaded in a complaint.

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