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Janson v. Janson

Court of Appeals of Utah

June 20, 2019

Deidre Sue Janson, Appellant,
v.
Jeffrey Alan Janson, Appellee.

          Third District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable Andrew H. Stone No. 164906327

          Jamie Carpenter, Attorney for Appellant

          Kara L. Barton and Ashley Wood, Attorneys for Appellee

          Judge Michele M. Christiansen Forster authored this Opinion, in which Judges Gregory K. Orme and Diana Hagen concurred.

          OPINION

          CHRISTIANSEN FORSTER, JUDGE.

         ¶1 Deidre Sue Janson appeals the district court's order denying her motion to set aside a written stipulation (the Stipulation) entered in her divorce action against Jeffrey Alan Janson. We affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 The parties entered into the Stipulation following mediation on November 14, 2016, to resolve the issues in their divorce. As part of the Stipulation, Deidre[1] agreed to pay Jeffrey alimony of $2, 500 per month for eighteen months and $1, 500 per month for an additional eighteen months.

         ¶3 The Stipulation awarded the marital home to Jeffrey. Deidre was awarded half of the equity in the home, less $45, 000 that constituted Jeffrey's inherited funds. The Stipulation also divided the equity in the parties' vehicles, requiring Deidre to pay Jeffrey $13, 178 from her share of the parties' bank accounts to equalize the vehicle equity disparity.

         ¶4 The parties had a number of retirement funds and accounts. Regarding the retirement, the parties agreed as follows:

12. [Deidre] has the following retirement accounts: Utah Retirement in the amount of approximately $72, 440; General Electric in the approximate amount of $100, 435; Roth IRA in the approximate amount of $18, 252; FDIC in the approximate amount of $16, 719 and $17, 431; and Utah Pension in the amount of $15, 281.
13. [Jeffrey] has the following retirement accounts: Fidelity in the approximate amount of $22, 012; Bernstein in the approximate amount of $18, 305.
14. The above retirement accounts will be divided equally between the parties. In addition [Deidre] has a premarital IRA in the approximate amount of $17, 682 which is her separate property.
15. [Jeffrey's] Alliant Technical Systems Pension plan which will be divided pursuant to the Woodward formula.
16. The parties will share equally the cost of any qualified domestic relation order.

         ¶5 On January 12, 2017, Deidre moved to set aside the Stipulation on the ground that there was not a meeting of the minds regarding various provisions in the agreement. She asserted that she "did not receive [Jeffrey's] financial disclosures until the morning of mediation and was not able to consult with her attorney prior to mediation." She asserted that because her Utah pension was listed with its approximate value alongside the other retirement accounts, her understanding was that Jeffrey was to receive only half of the listed $15, 281 partial lump sum value of that pension rather than half of the entire monthly payment amount as determined by a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO). According to Deidre, the total value of Jeffrey's half of the pension if the monthly payment option were utilized would amount to approximately $80, 000. Deidre claimed that had she understood that Jeffrey would be entitled to half of the entire Utah pension, she would not have agreed to provisions granting Jeffrey premarital equity in the home. She pointed to the lack of specific dates for the accounts to be divided and the impracticality of preparing a QDRO for every retirement account as support for her assertion that the Stipulation should be interpreted as granting Jeffrey only half of the stated partial lump sum value of her Utah pension account.[2]

         ¶6 Jeffrey opposed the motion to set aside the Stipulation, pointing out that his financial declaration was provided to Deidre well in advance of mediation and that she was represented by counsel at the mediation. He also explained the discrepancy between how the Stipulation described the division of his pension account and how it described the division of Deidre's-his account had been partially accrued prior to the marriage, whereas Deidre's had been accrued entirely during the period of the marriage. He asserted that Deidre was aware that an equal division of her pension could result in him receiving half of the monthly payments rather than half of the partial lump sum payout value because her own financial declaration included a summary of the various payout options. Jeffrey also asserted that only three QDROs, at maximum, were necessary to divide the retirement accounts.

         ¶7 In responding to Jeffrey's memorandum in opposition to her motion, Deidre raised additional issues impacting the Stipulation's alimony award-she indicated that after filing the motion to set aside, she was involuntarily terminated from her job without notice, that the loss of her job precluded her from continuing to pay alimony, and that Jeffrey had become eligible to draw on his social security and retirement ...


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