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Kantor v. Kantor

Supreme Court of Idaho

September 13, 2016

ROBERT ARON KANTOR, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
SONDRA LOUISE KANTOR, Defendant-Respondent.

         2016 Opinion No. 100

         Appeal from the District Court of the Fifth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Blaine County. Hon. Robert J. Elgee, District Judge.

         The decision of the district court is reversed and the case is remanded for further proceedings.

          Ludwig Shoufler Miller Johnson, LLP, Boise, for appellant Robert Kantor. Scot M. Ludwig argued.

          Thompson Smith Woolf & Anderson, PLLC, Idaho Falls, for respondent Sondra Kantor. Marty R. Anderson argued.

          HORTON, Justice.

         This is one of two consolidated cases that Robert and Sondra Kantor appealed to this Court; the other is Kantor v. Kantor, Docket No. 41946. The issues in this appeal relate to a Property Settlement Agreement (PSA) and judgment of divorce that were both signed in April of 2012. This dispute was initiated in the magistrate division of the district court in October of 2013, when Sondra filed a motion to incorporate the parties' PSA into the parties' judgment of divorce. Rejecting Robert's argument that it lacked jurisdiction to merge the PSA and judgment of divorce, the magistrate court entered a supplemental decree of divorce that incorporated the terms of the parties' PSA. Sondra then initiated contempt proceedings against Robert. After Robert unsuccessfully moved to dismiss the contempt charges for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the parties reached a stipulated resolution of the contempt proceedings which resulted in a judgment that Robert was in contempt. The stipulation permitted Robert to appeal the denial of his motion to dismiss. Robert appealed and the district court affirmed the judgment of contempt. We reverse the decision of the district court.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Robert and Sondra were married for forty-three years before they divorced in 2012. As a part of their divorce, Robert and Sondra entered into a PSA on April 25, 2012, which divided the parties' considerable interests in property, real estate holdings, and business entities. However, the PSA did not result in an entirely clean break as it left many of Robert and Sondra's joint business ventures intact. Thus, the parties still maintain a number of ties. On April 30, 2012, the magistrate court entered a judgment of divorce. The PSA was not presented to the magistrate court prior to entry of the judgment.

         Although the PSA was not incorporated into the parties' judgment of divorce, the PSA provided:

         AGREEMENT MAY BE SUBMITTED TO COURT:

The parties agree that this agreement shall not initially be submitted to the court but shall be kept private between the two parties. However, if either party believes there is a need to seek court involvement with regard to any provision, that party may submit this agreement to the court and upon request the court shall incorporate this agreement as a supplemental judgment of the court.

         On October 17, 2013, Sondra filed a motion to incorporate the PSA into the parties' original judgment of divorce. Robert initially objected, but he withdrew his objection and joined in Sondra's request that the PSA be merged.

         The parties litigated as to the effective date that the PSA should be deemed merged into the judgment. On December 20, 2013, the magistrate court entered a Supplemental Decree that merged and incorporated the terms of the PSA "nunc pro tunc for October 18, 2013."

         Sondra filed a five count motion for contempt on February 18, 2014. Robert filed a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss the contempt proceedings based upon lack of subject matter jurisdiction, arguing that res judicata prevented the magistrate from reopening its judgment. The magistrate court denied Robert's motion to dismiss, stating that it was not modifying the original judgment of divorce. The parties settled the contempt proceeding with Robert admitting to a single count of contempt and agreeing to make various payments to Sondra. As part of the agreement, Robert reserved the right to appeal from the denial of his motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

         Robert appealed. On January 22, 2015, the district court issued its decision on appeal. The district court affirmed, holding that the parties could elect to enforce the terms of the PSA by way of contempt proceedings rather than an independent action for breach of contract.[1] The district court thereafter awarded Sondra attorney fees and costs. Robert timely appealed to this Court.

         II.STANDARD OF ...


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