Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division, Department D
In re the Matter of: SHERI NICOLE KASDAN, Petitioner/Appellant,
EBAN SAMUEL KASDAN, Respondent/Appellee.
Not for Publication -Rule 28, Arizona Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure
Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County Cause No. FC2001-007744 The Honorable Daniel J. Kiley, Judge
Harry P. Friedlander Attorney at Law And Chism Brown Law By Christy C. Brown Attorneys for Petitioner/Appellant
Franks, Sheldon & Houser, PC By Todd Franks Steven D. Sheldon Robert C. Houser, Jr. Attorneys for Respondent/Appellee
PATRICIA A. OROZCO, Judge
¶1 Sheri Nicole Kasdan (Mother) appeals from a judgment requiring her to compensate Eban Samuel Kasdan (Father) for $142, 500 in attorney fees and costs. Because we assume below that the family court's fee award in part constituted a contempt adjudication, we treat Mother's appeal as a petition for special action. Finding no abuse of discretion or legal error, we accept jurisdiction and deny Mother's request for relief.
¶2 Mother and Father divorced in 2002. The decree awarded the parties joint legal custody of their daughter, S., who was born in 1997. It also designated Mother as the primary residential parent.
¶3 In December 2009, Mother obtained an order of protection against Father on behalf of herself and then twelve-year-old S. Father has not seen S. since that time.
¶4 Shortly thereafter, Mother petitioned to modify Father's parenting time and to determine whether it was in S.'s best interest to spend any time with Father. Father responded with a motion for contempt and petition for modification of custody.
¶5 The family court conducted an evidentiary hearing on the petitions and motion. It then entered a twenty-seven page "under advisement ruling" in which it found that Mother had "actively undermined" Father's relationship with S. by unceasingly contacting S. during Father's parenting time and disregarding the family court's express order on Father's parenting time schedule during S.'s winter break. In sum, Mother had engaged in "bad faith efforts to sabotage Father's parenting time." Importantly, the family court found that Mother manufactured text messages attributed to S. and falsely stated to Child Protective Services that Father (1) was bipolar, (2) physically abused Mother during the marriage, (3) used illegal drugs, and (4) was not granted any visitation. Additionally, it found that Mother made false allegations to the court that Father had engaged in sexually inappropriate conduct with S.
¶6 Ultimately, the family court denied Mother's petition, ordered reunification therapy for Father and S., quashed the order of protection, found Mother in contempt of the parenting time order, and ruled that Father was entitled to attorney fees and costs under Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) section 25-324.A (Supp. 2012). In the under advisement ruling, the family court also found "an award of attorneys' fees to be an appropriate sanction for Mother's contempt." In the judgment, however, the family court awarded Father fees and costs pursuant to A.R.S. § 25-324.A without mentioning contempt. This appeal followed.