Snyder v. Snyder

Decision Date24 September 2015
Docket NumberNo. 20140084–CA.,20140084–CA.
Citation360 P.3d 796,2015 UT App 245
PartiesAshley SNYDER, Appellee, v. John Wesley SNYDER, Appellant.
CourtUtah Court of Appeals

Marsha M. Lang, Midvale, Attorney for Appellant.

Michael D. Harrington, Midvale, Attorney for Appellee.

Memorandum Decision


¶ 1 John Wesley Snyder (Father) appeals the district court's denial of his petition to modify the divorce decree's orders on custody and parent-time. We vacate the district court's order and remand for further proceedings in accordance with this decision.

¶ 2 Ashley Snyder (Mother) filed a petition for divorce in July 2007, seeking alimony, joint legal custody, and primary physical custody of the parties' two minor children. In his answer, Father opposed Mother's requests regarding custody of the children.

¶ 3 The parties participated in mediation and reached a full settlement in the case. On September 12, 2008, the parties agreed to joint legal custody of the children with sole physical custody awarded to Mother, subject to Father's “reasonable and liberal visitation schedule.” The district court entered a final decree of divorce in October 2008 consistent with the parties' agreement for joint legal custody “with [Mother] being awarded the physical custody of the children.”

¶ 4 Between 2009 and 2012, the parties filed several orders to show cause and petitions to modify the divorce decree regarding child support, parent-time, reimbursement for the children's medical costs, and alimony. On August 17, 2012, Mother filed another petition to modify the divorce decree, requesting an increase in child support. On September 11, 2012, Father filed a counter-petition, seeking modification of the parent-time schedule. The district court scheduled a hearing on the petitions and recommended that the parties attempt to resolve the matter through mediation. Mediation was unsuccessful, and the parties prepared for trial. Mother requested the court hold a pretrial hearing to narrow the issues for trial.

¶ 5 On June 25, 2013, the parties appeared for the pretrial hearing. At that hearing, Father's counsel indicated that she would like to conduct additional discovery and obtain a custody evaluation. In response, Mother's counsel stated that custody was “not at issue before the Court because “there [was] no pending petition regarding custody” and “the only thing that's before the Court is a petition to establish child support.” The district court agreed with Mother's counsel and told Father's counsel that if Father “is wanting to modify custody, then there would have to be a petition to that nature” and the court [did] not want to open any issues that are not before the Court, if that needs to be done, it needs to be done in separate petitions.” The district court also stated its intention of moving forward on Mother's petition to modify child support “because it's been filed forever.” Father's counsel agreed, and the district court set a trial date to resolve the pending child-support petition.

¶ 6 The child-support issue was ultimately resubmitted to mediation. At mediation, the parties came to an agreement regarding child support and filed a signed stipulation (the Stipulation). While the Stipulation purported to “resolve all matters between the parties that are currently before the Court,” the Stipulation only addressed the issue of child support. On August 13, 2013, the district court entered an order increasing Father's monthly child-support payments based on the Stipulation.

¶ 7 On October 10, 2013, Father filed an amended petition to modify the divorce decree, alleging “substantial changes in circumstances since 2010 in parenting that affect the best interests of the Children.” Father's amended petition raised claims of “physical abuse, emotional maltreatment, parent-time discord, and deliberate interference with [Father's] relationship with the Children.” Based on these allegations and his claim of substantial changes in circumstances since entry of the original divorce decree, Father requested a custody evaluation and that he be awarded joint physical custody of the children. Father also moved for additional orders, including the appointment of a custody evaluator, mutual restraining orders, and the adoption of a parenting plan. Mother opposed Father's petition to modify, claiming that Father had failed to state a claim for which relief could be granted because “the Stipulation ... resolved all issues between the parties.”

¶ 8 At a hearing on Father's amended petition to modify, the district court denied Father's petition to modify due to the Stipulation and the court's order modifying the decree that had been entered two months earlier. The district court asked Father's counsel, [I]s it your position that the conditions changed substantially in the matter of less than two months?” Father's counsel stated that the court had directed the parties to file separate petitions to modify if they desired to change the visitation schedule, and that counsel had informed the court at the pretrial hearing that Father intended to amend his modification petition to include the issue of custody. The court responded, “There is an order in place in this matter, [an] order ... modifying the decree. It contains the stipulation of the parties, it's approved as to form as to yourself, and it really clearly states, in paragraph seven, the stipulation shall resolve all matters between the parties that are currently before the Court. That would be all matters that are currently before the Court.” The district court then dismissed Father's petition to modify “because you can't come in less than two months later and try to reopen something that you've gone through a good faith stipulation in, and the parties have stipulated to.” Several weeks later, the district court entered its written order dismissing Father's amended petition to modify the divorce decree with prejudice. Father appeals.

¶ 9 Father challenges the district court's denial of his petition to modify the divorce decree. We “generally review[ ] the determination to modify a divorce decree for an abuse of discretion.” Sill v. Sill,2007 UT App 173, ¶ 8, 164 P.3d 415(citation and internal quotation marks omitted). However, to the extent “that determination is based on a conclusion of law, we review it for correctness.” Id.(citation and...

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3 cases
  • Zavala v. Zavala
    • United States
    • Utah Court of Appeals
    • 14 Enero 2016
    ...the nature and materiality of any changes in those circumstances upon which the earlier award of custody was based. ' " Snyder v. Snyder, 2015 UT App 245, ¶ 10, 360 P.3d 796 (quoting Hogge v. Hogge, 649 P.2d 51, 54 (Utah 1982) ).¶ 29 Furthermore, the controlling statute states, "In determin......
  • Pulham v. Kirsling
    • United States
    • Utah Court of Appeals
    • 12 Abril 2018
    ...abuse of discretion. However, to the extent that determination is based on a conclusion of law, we review it for correctness." Snyder v. Snyder , 2015 UT App 245, ¶ 9, 360 P.3d 796 (quotation simplified). ¶50 The Utah Supreme Court has recognized that the threshold "change in circumstances ......
  • Fish v. Fish
    • United States
    • Utah Court of Appeals
    • 9 Junio 2016
    ...We generally review a district court's determination to modify or not to modify a divorce decree for an abuse of discretion. Snyder v. Snyder , 2015 UT App 245, ¶ 9, 360 P.3d 796. However, we review for correctness any challenges to the legal adequacy of findings of fact or to the legal acc......

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