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Jana v. Brian S. Moffett

April 27, 2011

JANA S.A. MOFFETT, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
BRIAN S. MOFFETT, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



Appeal from the District Court of the Second Judicial District, State of Idaho, Idaho County. Hon. John H. Bradbury, District Judge; Hon. Michael J. Griffin, Magistrate.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lansing, Judge

2011 Opinion No. 23

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

District court's appellate decision affirming magistrate court's divorce judgment, affirmed in part, reversed in part, and case remanded.

In this divorce case, Jana Moffett appeals from the district court's appellate decision affirming the magistrate court's rulings regarding spousal maintenance, child support, community property division, and attorney fees. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand to the magistrate court for further proceedings.

I. BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURE

Brian and Jana Moffett were married in 1990, and three children were born of the marriage. In July of 2003, Jana filed for divorce. By her amended complaint she sought division of the community property, primary physical custody of the children, an award of child support, and an award of spousal maintenance. Pursuant to the parties' pretrial stipulation, and pending adjudication on the merits, the magistrate ordered Brian to pay $1,200 monthly temporary child support.

On July 26-27, 2004, trial was held. On July 28, 2004, the magistrate court entered a written decree of divorce stating that "all other (trial) issues" were reserved. On August 11, 2004, the magistrate filed an order which contained the court's findings of fact and conclusions of law. Therein, the magistrate granted Jana primary physical custody of the children, directed an equal division of the community property with each party receiving a total equity award of approximately $98,000, denied Jana's request for maintenance, and ordered Brian to pay $1,925 per month in child support. The magistrate's child support award was inclusive of $165 per week in child care costs that were, at the time of trial, being incurred by Jana. Because this order resolved all of the remaining trial issues, it was effectively a final judgment or decree.

Both parties filed post-judgment motions requesting changes in the judgment. Jana's motion sought equal division of an omitted asset, Brian's 401(k) retirement account. The magistrate, however, effectively denied Jana's motion by awarding the 401(k) account solely to Brian. Brian's motion requested a recalculation of the child support amount. Specifically, he sought to eliminate the child care costs as a component of child support and to replace this provision with one ordering a pro rata sharing of these costs, whatever they may be, in proportion to guideline income. Before this request was heard on the merits, Jana filed a motion for contempt against Brian for failure to pay child support. Following a hearing, the court granted Brian's motion.

Jana appealed to the district court, which affirmed the magistrate's rulings. Jana now appeals to this Court.

II.ANALYSIS

Jana contends that the magistrate erred by: denying her request for spousal maintenance; modifying the child support amount while Brian was in contempt or, alternatively, improperly receiving post-trial evidence that resulted in the reduction of the monthly child support award; awarding the 401(k) account solely to Brian; and denying her request for attorney fees.

On review of a decision of the district court, rendered in its appellate capacity, we review the decision of the district court directly. Losser v. Bradstreet, 145 Idaho 670, 672, 183 P.3d 758, 760 (2008). We examine the magistrate record to determine whether there is substantial and competent evidence to support the magistrate's findings of fact and whether the magistrate's conclusions of law follow from those findings. Id. An abuse of discretion will be found if themagistrate's findings of fact are not supported by substantial evidence or if the magistrate does not correctly apply the law. Nicholls v. Blaser, 102 Idaho 559, 561-62, 633 P.2d 1137, 1139-40 (1981).

A. Idaho Code § 32-705 Spousal Maintenance

We address first Jana's assertion that the magistrate erred by denying her request for spousal maintenance. Such requests are governed by Idaho Code § 32-705(1), which provides:

1. Where a divorce is decreed, the court may grant a maintenance order if it finds that the spouse seeking maintenance:

(a) Lacks sufficient property to provide for his or her reasonable needs; and

(b) Is unable to support himself or herself through employment.

2. The maintenance order shall be in such amounts and for such periods of time that the court deems just, after considering all ...


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