Certification from the United States Bankruptcy Court for the
District of Utah The Honorable Judge Kevin R. Anderson Case
Wadsworth, Salt Lake City, for appellant.
Hunt, Michael F. Thomson, Megan K. Baker, Salt Lake City, for
Justice Pearce authored the opinion of the Court in which
Associate Chief Justice Lee, Justice Himonas, Justice
Petersen, and Judge Hagen joined.
recused himself, Chief Justice Durrant did not participate
herein; Court of Appeals Judge Diana Hagen sat.
1 The bankruptcy court certified two questions of Utah law
that lie at the intersection of family and bankruptcy law.
Based upon a compelling certification order, we accepted the
invitation to resolve those questions. After receiving
briefing and conducting oral argument, we are left with dual
concerns-that the parties have not given us the briefing we
need to actually answer the questions and that our opinion
might ultimately be for naught. At oral argument, Kiley's
counsel admitted the deficiencies in the briefing. And the
bankruptcy trustee suggested that the marital property
division at the heart of this case may have violated the
automatic stay that accompanies a bankruptcy petition's
filing. Because of the inadequate briefing and the
problematic procedural posture, we revoke certification.
2 In 2012, Deborah Kiley filed for divorce from Jarod
Marrott. The district court entered temporary orders and
bifurcated the proceeding; that is, the district court
granted the divorce but deferred resolution of other
questions, including the division of marital assets. About a
year later, after Marrott had fallen behind on alimony and
child support payments, Kiley filed a motion to show cause
and a motion to clarify. Kiley sought to enforce the
temporary orders and to recover unpaid child support and
3 The district court granted the motions and entered judgment
for $121, 188.22. Two months later, Kiley and Marrott
participated in mediation and stipulated to a property
settlement. The parties then, according to Kiley, read the
stipulation into the record before the domestic relations
commissioner. As part of that stipulation, and to satisfy the
judgment for unpaid child support and alimony, Kiley received
"all of the value in any and all of her former
spouse's retirement accounts . . . ."
4 The day after mediation, Kiley petitioned for bankruptcy.
About a month after that, the district court entered a
supplemental decree reifying the settlement the parties had
placed on the record. A couple months later, the district
court entered the qualified domestic relations order
(QDRO)-the document that would permit Kiley to access
Marrott's retirement funds.
5 Kiley did not list the retirement plan proceeds on her
initial bankruptcy disclosures. At a meeting with her
creditors-a meeting that took place before the district court
entered the order memorializing the stipulated property
division-Kiley disclosed her interest in the retirement
funds. A few months later, after the QDRO was entered, Kiley
filed an amended schedule that included the retirement funds.
6 But Kiley claimed the retirement funds were exempt from the
bankruptcy estate under Utah Code section
78B-5-505(1)(a)(xiv).The trustee argued that the exemption was
inapplicable because, among other reasons, Kiley was entitled
to the value of the retirement funds, not the funds
themselves. About a month later, Kiley filed another amended
schedule and claimed that the retirement funds were exempt
under Utah Code section 78B-5-505(1)(a)(xv). The trustee
asserted that this exemption was not available to Kiley
7 Against this backdrop, the bankruptcy court certified two
questions to us:
1. What is the nature and scope of a party's interest in
marital property as of the filing of a divorce
complaint-contrasted with the nature and scope of such
interest upon the entry of a divorce decree allocating such
marital property? Stated differently, upon the filing for
divorce, is a spouse's interest in marital property
merely contingent, unliquidated, and inchoate until the entry
of a ...