District Court, West Jordan Department The Honorable William
K. Kendall No. 104400246
Theodore R. Weckel Jr., Attorney for Appellant
M. Hunnicutt and Julie J. Sagers, Attorneys for Appellee
Jill M. Pohlman authored this Opinion, in which Judges Kate
A. Toomey and Ryan M. Harris concurred.
Wesley Robinson Shuman and Catherine Jane Shuman obtained a
bifurcated decree of divorce in 2011. Several years later, in
2015, all outstanding issues related to their divorce were
submitted to the trial court for resolution. Following a
two-day trial, the court granted primary physical and sole
legal custody of the parties' three minor children to
Catherine. The court also resolved the parties'
disagreements regarding marital assets and debts, child
support, medical and childcare expenses, and other matters.
Wesley appeals the trial court's rulings with respect to
custody, marital assets and debts, medical and childcare
expenses, and child support, challenging both the adequacy of
the trial court's factual findings and the sufficiency of
the evidence underlying those findings. In addition, he
claims the trial court's order regarding parent-time
fails to conform to the court's factual findings. We
affirm in part and reverse in part.
"We review the legal adequacy of findings of fact for
correctness as a question of law." Jacobsen v.
Jacobsen, 2011 UT App 161, ¶ 15, 257 P.3d 478
(citation and internal quotation marks omitted). "We
review this issue only if it was presented to the trial court
in such a way that the trial court had an opportunity to
correct any deficiencies in the adequacy of the detail of the
findings of fact." Interstate Income Props., Inc. v.
La Jolla Loans, Inc., 2011 UT App 188, ¶ 12, 257
P.3d 1073 (citing 438 Main St. v. Easy Heat, Inc.,
2004 UT 72, ¶ 51, 99 P.3d 801).
When reviewing a challenge to the sufficiency of the
evidence, we will not set aside a trial court's factual
findings "unless clearly erroneous, " giving
"due regard to the trial court's opportunity to
judge the credibility of the witnesses." Utah R. Civ. P.
52(a)(4). Challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence may
be raised on appeal "whether or not the party requested
findings, objected to them, moved to amend them, or moved for
partial findings" in the trial court. Id. R.
52(a)(3); see also In re K.F., 2009 UT 4,
¶¶ 60-64, 201 P.3d 985 (explaining that, to
preserve the issue for appeal, parties must object in the
trial court "to the adequacy of the detail of" the
court's factual findings, but no similar preservation
requirement applies to challenges to the sufficiency of the
evidence). A party challenging the sufficiency of the
evidence "will almost certainly fail to carry its burden
of persuasion on appeal if it fails to marshal" the
evidence in support of the challenged finding. State v.
Nielsen, 2014 UT 10, ¶ 42, 326 P.3d 645.
Wesley asserts the trial court's factual findings with
respect to custody were inadequate in detail and were not
supported by sufficient evidence. He first contends the trial
court's "findings regarding legal custody were
grossly defective, " in that they "omitted
consideration of material evidence" he presented at
trial. He also contends the trial court's findings
"failed to consider many material factors relating to
physical custody, " and he asserts "primary custody
[should be awarded] to [him] outright." Catherine
responds that the trial court's findings "present
substantial factual grounds supporting [its] ultimate
conclusion that Catherine should continue having custody of
the minor children."
A trial court's factual findings "must be
sufficiently detailed and include enough subsidiary facts to
clearly show the evidence upon which they are grounded."
In re S.T., 928 P.2d 393, 398 (Utah Ct. App. 1996);
see also Fish v. Fish, 2016 UT App 125, ¶ 22,
379 P.3d 882 ("Findings are adequate when they contain
sufficient detail to permit appellate review to ensure that
the district court's discretionary determination was
rationally based."); Rayner v. Rayner, 2013 UT
App 269, ¶ 11, 316 P.3d 455 ("Findings are adequate
only if they are sufficiently detailed and include enough
subsidiary facts to disclose the steps by which the ultimate
conclusion on each factual issue was reached." (citation
and internal quotation marks omitted)). This obligation
facilitates meaningful appellate review and ensures the
parties are informed of the trial court's reasoning.
See In re S.T., 928 P.2d at 399.
But trial courts are not required to render a global
accounting of all evidence presented or to discuss all
aspects of a case that might support a contrary ruling.
Cf. id. at 398 ("A trial court is not required
to recite each indicia of reasoning that leads to its
conclusions, nor is it required to marshal the evidence in
support of them." (brackets, citation, and internal
quotation marks omitted)). Indeed, so long as the "steps
by which the ultimate conclusion on each factual issue was
reached" are apparent, see Rayner, 2013 UT App
269, ¶ 11 (citation and internal quotation marks
omitted), a trial court may make findings, credibility
determinations, or other assessments without detailing its
justification for finding particular evidence more credible
or persuasive than other evidence supporting a different
outcome, see In re S.T., 928 P.2d at 398-99
("[A] trial court is also not required to explain why it
found certain witnesses less credible or why some testimony
was given less weight or considered irrelevant.").
Here, the trial court's findings with respect to custody
span approximately six pages and detail the "subsidiary
facts, " credibility determinations, and analytical
"steps by which the [court's] ultimate
conclusion" on the issue of custody was reached. See
Rayner, 2013 UT App 269, ¶ 11 (citation and
internal quotation marks omitted). Without addressing the
vast majority of the court's findings,  Wesley
selectively highlights evidence from the trial record,
asserts the evidence supported a different outcome, and
claims the court's findings were inadequate because they
did not specifically address his highlighted evidence. As set
forth above, however, Wesley misunderstands the nature of the
trial court's obligation, see In re S.T., 928
P.2d at 398-99, and Wesley has not demonstrated how the
court's findings are insufficient to support its
conclusion, see, e.g., Dahl v. Dahl, 2015
UT 79, ¶ 123 (rejecting a claim of inadequate factual
findings, concluding that "the findings were based on
the evidence presented to the district court and were
sufficiently detailed to disclose the steps by which it
reached the ultimate distribution").
In addition, to successfully challenge the sufficiency of the
evidence underlying a trial court's factual finding,
"the appellant must overcome the healthy dose of
deference owed to factual findings by identifying and dealing
with the supportive evidence and demonstrating the legal
problem in that evidence, generally through marshaling the
evidence." Taft v. Taft, 2016 UT App 135,
¶ 19, 379 P.3d 890 (brackets, citation, and internal
quotation marks omitted). Parties challenging factual
findings cannot persuasively carry their burden in this
respect "by simply listing or rehashing the evidence and
arguments [they] presented during trial" or "by
merely pointing to evidence that might have supported
findings more favorable to [them]; rather, [they] must
identify flaws in the evidence relied on by the trial court
that rendered the trial court's reliance on it, and the
findings resulting from it, clearly erroneous."
Id. ¶ 43. Indeed, as noted above, a party
challenging the sufficiency of the evidence in ...