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Widdison v. Kirkham

Court of Appeals of Utah

November 1, 2018

Jamie Widdison, Appellee,
v.
Janae A. Kirkham, Appellant.

          Third District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable Paige Petersen No. 034903241

          Larry A. Kirkham, Attorney for Appellant

          Suzanne Marelius, Attorney for Appellee.

          Judge Gregory K. Orme authored this Opinion, in which Judges Michele M. Christiansen Forster and Kate A. Toomey concurred.

          OPINION

          ORME, JUDGE.

         ¶1 Appellant Janae A. Kirkham (Wife) again appeals the trial court's findings and modification order as well as the award of attorney fees to Appellee Jamie Widdison (Husband).[1] We largely affirm but remand for recalculation of the attorney fee award.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 Wife and Husband divorced in 2003. The divorce decree awarded the parties joint legal and physical custody of their three children. In 2011, Husband filed a petition to modify child support, requesting that he be allowed to claim the tax exemption for their youngest child (Child), that the health insurance options for Child be reevaluated, and that Wife's interference with his parent time be addressed. The trial court granted Husband's petition (the 2012 Order), awarding him the tax exemption for Child for the tax years 2009 through 2012, with the option to purchase Wife's 2013 exemption; requiring the parties to disclose all available health and dental benefits for Child; and enforcing the parent-time and transportation provisions of the divorce decree. Because Husband substantially prevailed on all claims, the trial court awarded him attorney fees.

         ¶3 Wife appealed the 2012 Order. See Widdison v. Widdison, 2014 UT App 233, 336 P.3d 1106. On appeal, we concluded that the trial court's findings regarding the tax consequences of Wife losing the 2009, 2010, and 2011 tax exemptions, and Husband's removal of Child from his health insurance, were insufficient. Id. ¶¶ 7, 10, 14-15. We also determined that "Wife's continued opposition" to the tax-exemption issue was not unreasonable, and we therefore vacated the trial court's award of attorney fees to Husband. Id. ¶¶ 19-20 (quotation simplified). We remanded with instructions that the trial court enter additional findings on these issues. Id. ¶ 21.

         ¶4 On remand, the trial court determined that the tax-exemption issue had been resolved prior to the trial scheduled on remand. It also found that although Husband had removed Child from his health insurance for one year, Wife owed Husband for his costs of carrying health insurance for Child from 2009 to 2014. But it concluded that Husband could not recover these costs because he had waited too long to demand payment. The trial court also reinstated Husband's attorney fee award. And it held Wife in contempt for failing to comply with the 2012 Order and directed her to pay the attorney fees Husband incurred as a result of her contempt.

         ¶5 In response, Wife filed motions for a new trial and to amend or alter judgment on various grounds, including that child support should be retroactively increased, that the court's finding of contempt was not factually supported, and that she should have been awarded the value of the 2012 tax exemption. The trial court denied the motions. Wife appeals the trial court's orders entered on remand.

         ISSUES AND STANDARDS OF REVIEW

         ¶6 Wife contends that the trial court erred in shifting the tax exemptions for Child to Husband for the tax years 2009 through 2012. We review findings of fact for clear error, and "a trial court's factual finding is deemed clearly erroneous only if it is against the clear weight of the evidence." Wilson Supply, Inc. v. Fradan Mfg. Corp., 2002 UT 94, ¶ 12, 54 P.3d 1177 (quotation simplified). Wife next contends that she should not have been held in contempt for failing to comply with the trial court's orders. "We review a trial court's decision to hold a party in contempt and impose sanctions for a clear abuse of discretion." Summer v. Summer, 2012 UT App 159, ¶ 8, 280 P.3d 451 (quotation simplified). And finally, Wife contends that the trial court erroneously awarded ...


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