District Court, Provo Department The Honorable Lynn W. Davis
Danielle Marie Hartvigsen, Appellant Pro Se. 
Richard Myers Hartvigsen, Appellee Pro Se.
Michele M. Christiansen Forster authored this Opinion, in
which Judges Jill M. Pohlman and Diana Hagen concurred.
CHRISTIANSEN FORSTER, JUDGE.
This is an appeal from a district court's division of
property and award of alimony in the aftermath of a
contentious divorce between Danielle Marie Hartvigsen and
Richard Myers Hartvigsen. Danielle contends that the court abused
its discretion when it imputed income to her, declined to
accept her claimed expenses at face value, and credited
Richard's unrebutted testimony about his intent to convey
real property to himself and Danielle as joint tenants.
Danielle also contends that she was denied due process. We
Danielle and Richard married in 1995 and separated in 2005.
Danielle filed for divorce in 2006, and in 2007 the district
court entered a bifurcated decree of divorce, granting the
divorce but reserving all other issues for later decision.
After extensive litigation, a trial was held in 2012, and a
supplemental decree of divorce was entered awarding Danielle
a total property award of more than $1 million and alimony of
$1, 000 per month. Danielle filed several post-trial motions,
including a motion for new trial which were denied in
December 2015. Danielle appeals.
AND STANDARDS OF REVIEW
Danielle first argues that the district court's alimony
award was insufficient because the court exceeded its
discretion by imputing income to her and in assessing her
needs. We "review a district court's alimony
determination for an abuse of discretion" and will not
disturb its alimony ruling "as long as the court
exercises its discretion within the bounds and under the
standards [set by Utah appellate courts] and has supported
its decision with adequate findings and conclusions."
Dahl v. Dahl, 2015 UT 79, ¶ 84 (quotation
Danielle next argues that because Richard transferred a home
that he purchased before marriage to the couple as joint
tenants, the district court erred in determining that the
home should be considered Richard's separate property.
"Generally, district courts have considerable discretion
concerning property distribution in a divorce proceeding and
their determinations enjoy a presumption of validity."
Id. ¶ 119 (quotation simplified). Accordingly,
we will reverse only when "a clear and prejudicial abuse
of discretion is demonstrated." Id. (quotation
simplified). In reviewing the district court's decision,
"we will not set aside findings of fact, whether based
on oral or documentary evidence, unless they are clearly
erroneous, and we give due regard to the district court's
superior position from which to judge the credibility of
witnesses." Id. ¶ 121.
Finally, Danielle asserts that the district court erred in
refusing to grant her motion for new trial because
misstatements by Richard in the pretrial phase precluded her
from obtaining funds necessary to hire an attorney and
resulted in a denial of due process. "Generally, we
afford trial judges wide latitude in granting or denying rule
59 motions . . . . Consequently, we generally disturb a trial
court's grant or denial of a rule 59 motion only if it
constitutes an abuse of discretion." Sanpete Am.,
LLC v. Willardsen, 2011 UT 48, ¶ 28, 269 P.3d 118.
Furthermore, we will not reverse a denial of a motion for new
trial unless the appellant can demonstrate a reasonable
likelihood that the outcome would have been different in the
absence of the alleged error. See Pullham v.
Kirsling, 2018 UT App 65, ¶ 38, 427 P.3d 261.
Danielle first asserts that the district court's alimony
award should be reversed because the court abused its
discretion in imputing income to her and in calculating her
needs. However, in light of the supporting
evidence and the district court's articulated findings,
Danielle's various arguments fail to convince us that the
court abused its discretion.
Imputation of Income
Danielle first contends that "imputing income to [her]
as a practicing attorney was an abuse of discretion"
because she "had not worked as an attorney for nearly 19
years" and because "there was no competent evidence
that a person with her experience could obtain employment as
In calculating an alimony award, a court must consider, among
other things, the recipient's ability to produce income.
See Utah Code Ann. § 30-3-5(8)(a)(ii)
(LexisNexis Supp. 2010). When an individual "has no recent
work history or [his or her] occupation is unknown, income
shall be imputed at least at the federal minimum wage for a
40-hour work week." See id. §
78B-12-203(7)(c) (LexisNexis 2012). The court may impute
greater income upon entering "specific findings of fact
as to the evidentiary basis for the imputation."
Id. (governing the imputation of income for child
support purposes). Such imputation "shall be based upon
employment potential and probable earnings as derived from
employment opportunities, work history, occupation
qualifications, and prevailing earnings for persons of
similar backgrounds in the community, or the median earning
for persons in the same occupation in the same geographical
area as found in the statistics maintained by the Bureau of
Labor Statistics." Id. § 78B-12-203(7)(b).
The court heard extensive evidence related to Danielle's
ability to produce income, including her education and the
range of potential salaries for individuals with similar
educational achievements. Danielle earned a juris doctor from
Stanford Law School in 1988 and a master's degree in
wildlife biology from Brigham Young University in 1996. She
received scholarships for both her legal and wildlife biology
education. Danielle was admitted to the Utah State Bar in
1990 and worked at two law firms immediately after that. Her
employment at the later firm was terminated in 1993.
A vocational expert retained by Richard testified that there
were "260 annual openings for attorneys in the state of
Utah metro area" and that the entry-level annual salary for
an attorney in the Provo/Orem area at the time of trial was
between $61, 318.40 and $70, 886.40. The expert did not know
how many applicants there were for the 260 attorney positions
but admitted that the competition was "keen." The
expert also testified that the entry-level annual salary for
a wildlife biologist began at $40, 788.80. Danielle did not
present any contrary expert testimony.
The court ultimately imputed $50, 000 in annual income to
Danielle, identifying this sum as an "average"
based on the vocational evaluator's testimony that
Danielle could earn between $40, 788.80 and $70, 886.40. The
court also made several findings about Danielle's ability
to work as an attorney. For example, it found that
Danielle's "lack of success as a lawyer was due to
her failure to keep up with billable hours" but that
"[t]his does not mean [she] is incapable of employment
in a law job." The court pointed to evidence of
Danielle's demonstrated negotiating and organizational
capabilities, finding that her "testimony about her
inability to be employed is not credible and she is fully
employable." The court also noted the halfhearted
efforts Danielle made to seek assistance from the Utah
Department of Rehabilitation and to pursue mediation training
and employment, ultimately finding that her "efforts to
become self-sufficient have been inadequate."
On appeal, Danielle raises several objections to the district
court's income imputation, namely that the vocational
expert's testimony failed to establish that she could
obtain employment as an attorney, that the court erred in
concluding that her efforts to obtain employment had been
inadequate, and that the court failed to judge her ability to