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Pelayo v. Pelayo

Supreme Court of Idaho

June 21, 2013

PEDRO A. PELAYO, Plaintiff-Appellant,
BERTHA ALICIA PELAYO, Defendant-Respondent.

2013 Opinion No. 76

Appeal from the District Court of the Seventh Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Bingham County. Hon. Darren B. Simpson, District Judge.

The decision of the district court is affirmed.

Jonathan W. Harris, Blackfoot, for appellant.

David N. Parmenter, Blackfoot, for respondent.

J. JONES, Justice.

Pedro Pelayo appealed certain rulings of the magistrate court in his divorce action, including the award of spousal maintenance to his wife, Bertha. The district court upheld the challenged rulings and Pedro appealed to this Court.



Pedro and Bertha were married in Mexico on May 7, 1984. During the course of their marriage they had three children. However, at the time of their divorce proceedings, only one of their children, A.P., born in 1992, was a minor. While married, Pedro and Bertha acquired three pieces of real property: (1) a home in Blackfoot, located on Airport Road (the Airport Road Property); (2) land on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation (the Fort Hall Property); and, (3) property purchased in Mexico. Their primary residence before the divorce was the Airport Road Property.

On June 18, 2009, Pedro filed a complaint for divorce, alleging that irreconcilable differences prevented continuation of the marriage. Bertha filed a counterclaim along with her answer, seeking divorce on grounds of adultery.

Prior to trial, the parties entered into a stipulation. The stipulation provided in relevant part: (1) Bertha would have actual physical custody of A.P.; (2) Pedro would take the Fort Hall Property with an assigned value of $125, 000; (3) the Airport Road Property would be listed and sold as soon as possible, but that in the meantime Bertha could continue to reside there; (4) Pedro would continue to make payments on the Airport Road Property until it sold; and (5) after the sale of the Airport Road Property, Pedro would pay Bertha $62, 500, representing her one-half interest in the Fort Hall Property.

The magistrate court accepted the parties' stipulation and the matter proceeded to a court trial. On May 18, 2010, the magistrate court issued its Memorandum Decision and Judgment Regarding Divorce, Custody and Child Support. The Memorandum Decision provides that: (1) irreconcilable differences warranted granting the divorce; (2) Bertha is entitled to the Mexico Property without an offset; (3) Pedro's average gross income is $49, 000[1] and his monthly child support payment is $558; (4) Pedro must pay Bertha $800 per month in spousal maintenance for seven years and $400 per month thereafter until Bertha is age sixty-two (six additional years); and (5) Pedro must pay a portion of Bertha's attorney fees, not to exceed $2, 500.

The Memorandum Decision noted that evidence was provided by Bertha that "gave the court high suspicion of adulterous behavior on the part of Pedro, " and that "neither party had been particularly kind to one another for a significant period." Ultimately, the magistrate court found that "the marriage [was] irretrievably broken and the differences between the parties appear as the primary 'cause'" for the divorce. Accordingly, on September 1, 2010, the magistrate court issued a Decree of Divorce, citing irreconcilable differences as the grounds for divorce.

Pedro appealed the magistrate's decision to district court. In his appeal brief, Pedro argued that the magistrate court erred by: (1) awarding the Mexico Property to Bertha without an offset or credit in his favor; (2) considering his alleged adultery in making a spousal maintenance award; (3) awarding Bertha spousal maintenance that was punitive and amounted to permanent support; (4) setting his annual income for the purposes of child support at $49, 000; and (5) awarding Bertha attorney fees.

The district court held oral argument on November 28, 2011, and issued its Decision and Order on Appeal on January 23, 2012. The district court affirmed the magistrate court on all counts except its disposition of the Mexico Property, which is not at issue in this appeal. Following the decision of the district court, Pedro timely filed a notice of appeal to this Court.



I. Did the district court abuse its discretion by affirming the magistrate's award of spousal maintenance to Bertha?
II. Did the district court err in affirming the magistrate court's finding that Pedro's annual income was $49, 000 for the purposes of calculating his child support payments?
III. Did the district court abuse its discretion by affirming the magistrate court's award of attorney fees to Bertha under I.C. § 32-704(3)?
IV. Is either party entitled to attorney fees on appeal?



A. Standard of Review.

When this Court reviews the decision of a district court sitting in its capacity as an appellate court, the standard of review is as follows:

The Supreme Court reviews the trial court (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. If those findings are so supported and the conclusions follow therefrom and if the district court affirmed the magistrate's decision, we affirm the district court's decision as a matter of procedure.

Bailey v. Bailey, 153 Idaho 526, 529, 284 P.3d 970, 973 (2012) (quoting Losser v. Bradstreet, 145 Idaho 670, 672, 183 P.3d 758, 760 (2008)). Thus, this Court does not review the decision of the magistrate court. Id. "Rather, we are 'procedurally bound to affirm or reverse the decisions of the district court.'" Id. ...

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