Kirsteen D. Blocker, Appellee,
Michael P. Blocker, Appellant.
District Court, Provo Department The Honorable James R.
Taylor No. 024402553
Michael P. Blocker, Appellant Pro Se.
W.P. Morrison, Attorney for Appellee.
Kate A. Toomey authored this Memorandum Decision, in which
Judges Michele M. Christiansen and David N. Mortensen
Michael P. Blocker (Father) appeals the district court's
order granting Kirsteen D. Blocker (Mother) unsupervised
parent time with their minor son. We remand to the district
court to enter findings of fact.
Father and Mother have one son (Child), who was not yet four
months old when these proceedings began. Pursuant to their
stipulation at the time the divorce decree was entered in
2004, the district court awarded the parties joint legal
custody and shared parent time, with Child's primary care
and residence being with Mother.
Eventually, Father petitioned the district court for a
custody modification. The matter went to trial in August
2009, and the court granted Father sole legal and physical
custody of Child (the Custody Award). The court noted that
numerous professionals had been involved in the case, and
that, notwithstanding their efforts, Mother "ha[d] a
history of not working with, not paying, or not establishing
appropriate professional relationships" with them. It
expressed its "concern about this history and the
impact on the parties' minor child." Mother had
"declined" to coparent and "interfered"
with Child's relationship with Father. The court found
that "no joint physical or legal custody of [Child]
[was] possible" and that it was in Child's best
interest to award sole custody to Father.
Child's therapist and the court-appointed custody
evaluator recommended that Mother's parent time be
supervised until Mother "has changed her mind set with
regard to her own parenting abilities and [Father's]
relationship with the child, " but the court was
concerned that this would not be practical for financial
reasons. It therefore decided to permit Mother unsupervised
parent time, provided that she retain a Special Master and
verify her participation in individual therapy and joint
therapy with Child. The court "recognize[d] that
awarding [Mother] statutory parent-time is an experiment as
she ha[d] been unable to cooperate with at least twelve (12)
past professionals, " but found that it was in
Child's "best interest to give her one more
chance." Thus, until she verified her compliance with
the court's terms, Mother's parent time was to be
The next relevant development in litigation came in late 2013
when Mother filed a Motion to Clarify or Modify the Custody
Order. At a scheduling conference, the district court
instructed Mother to "submit an order to show
cause." Mother then filed an order to show cause
requesting that the court order Father to "afford
[Mother] minimum statutory visitation." Curiously,
however, at the order to show cause hearing in March 2014,
the court noted that "there is no petition to modify.
This is an action to enforce the existing order. A motion to
clarify [the] existing order is not appropriate." In any
event, at an evidentiary hearing in April 2014, the court sua
sponte deemed Mother's order to show cause a petition to
modify. At the conclusion of that hearing, the court ordered
"an evaluation of [Mother] and her circumstances in
relation to visitation." The court set what it referred
to as a "status conference" for August 2014, but
also made clear that it would be "a hearing at which
time the results of the home study shall be reviewed, the
need for supervised exchanges or supervised visitation
examined, and, a final custody order entered." In the
meantime, all visits were to be supervised.
Mother, represented by counsel, appeared for the status
conference in August 2014 and brought with her the home study
report and the person who prepared it. Father, representing
himself, objected that because he believed the proceeding was
a status conference and not an evidentiary hearing, he did
not have the opportunity to call witnesses on his own behalf
and was not prepared to cross-examine Mother's witness.
The court continued the hearing to provide Father an
opportunity to prepare for cross-examination and to arrange
for his own witnesses. In the interim, based on the home
study report and "the status of the case, " the
court granted Mother unsupervised parent time.
The next hearing was not conducted until nearly one year
later in June 2015. Aside from the written home study report,
the court received no other evidence or
testimony. The court expressed disappointment in the
report, calling it "[not] particularly helpful" and
its conclusions "very limited." It also called the
case a "procedural mess" and proceeded in an
"informal way" to "get to the heart of this
matter." It decided to make the August 2014 temporary
order, which granted Mother unsupervised parent time,
permanent. Father objected, citing Hogge v. Hogge,
649 P.2d 51 (Utah 1982), and asked the court how it could
modify a custody award without first finding there had been a
material change in circumstances. The court told Father it
had "wide discretion in these matters" and that
there was "satisfactory evidence in [the] file to
demonstrate that [this ...