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In re Marriage of Hunt

Court of Appeals of Arizona, Second Division, Department A

September 11, 2013

In re the Marriage of: CHRISTOPHER STEVEN HUNT, Petitioner/Appellant, and ISABELLA LIOBA HUNT, Respondent/Appellee.

Not for Publication Rule 28, Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure

APPEAL FROM THE SUPERIOR COURT OF COCHISE COUNTY Cause No. S0200DO201100847 Honorable John F. Kelliher Jr., Judge

Christopher Steven Hunt Sierra Vista In Propria Persona

Isabella L. Hunt Sierra Vista In Propria Persona

MEMORANDUM DECISION

GARYE L. VÁSQUEZ, Presiding Judge

¶1Christopher Hunt appeals from the trial court's order modifying child custody and enforcing his child support and spousal maintenance obligations to appellee Isabella Hunt. Christopher argues the court erred by failing to make the required statutory findings before modifying child custody and by failing to address "the completeness or veracity" of Isabella's financial affidavits. For the reasons stated below, we affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand with instructions.

Factual Background and Procedural History

¶2 We view the facts in the light most favorable to upholding the trial court's order. In re Marriage of Yuro, 192 Ariz. 568, ¶ 3, 968 P.2d 1053, 1055 (App. 1998). The parties' marriage was dissolved in January 2012. Pursuant to a consent decree, the parties were awarded joint legal custody of their four minor children. Christopher was awarded physical custody of the two older children, and Isabella was awarded physical custody of the two younger children. The decree ordered Christopher to pay Isabella "child support pursuant to the Arizona Child Support Guidelines" according to the calculations filed with the decree. It also ordered Christopher to pay Isabella spousal maintenance in the amount of $832 per month until the marital residence was sold. It further provided: "When [Christopher] is no longer making the house payment the temporary increase in spousal maintenance shall be one-half of the difference in the current payment of $2500.00 per month for the residence and the new monthly housing cost for [Christopher]."

¶3 In October 2012, Isabella filed a "Petition to Modify/Enforce Decree of Dissolution." She asked the trial court "to modify the parenting plan to award her sole legal custody of the three younger children." She also alleged Christopher was not paying spousal maintenance or child support as ordered by the decree. At a November 2012 hearing on the petition, Isabella sought physical custody of A., the second oldest child, in addition to the two youngest children already in her custody. The court allowed Christopher the opportunity to cross-examine Isabella, but he declined, and he also "stated he did not wish to testify and . . . did not have witnesses to call."[1] At the conclusion of the hearing, the court granted Isabella's request "to change the physical custody" of A., ordered Christopher to pay Isabella $1, 700 per month in spousal maintenance effective that month contingent upon proof of Christopher's monthly residence rental expense, and directed counsel to prepare a revised child support calculation.

¶4 Christopher filed a combined motion for reconsideration and petition for modification of child custody and spousal maintenance, accompanied by an affidavit of A. He argued the trial court "was under an obligation to ascertain [A.'s] wishes" before modifying custody but failed to do so. Christopher also asserted that "spousal maintenance should be terminated or substantially reduced in light of [Isabella's] other sources of income, and her failure to report the same." The trial court denied the motion for reconsideration, explaining that Christopher had been "afforded ample opportunity at the hearing . . . to present evidence/testimony and [he] repeatedly declined said offers." The court also implicitly denied Christopher's petition for modification, directing him to "A.R.S. § 25-411 and the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure with respect to his Petition." In January 2013, the court entered a final signed order awarding Isabella "sole legal and physical custody" of the three youngest children and modifying Christopher's spousal maintenance and child support obligations. This appeal followed.[2] We have jurisdiction pursuant to A.R.S. §§ 12-120.21 and 12-2101(A).

Discussion

Custody Findings

¶5 Christopher argues the trial court erred by modifying custody of A. without making the required statutory findings. In response, Isabella contends the court did consider all of the factors in A.R.S. § 25-403(A), particularly seven of the enumerated factors she asserts were raised at the November 2012 hearing. We review a trial court's decision regarding child custody for an abuse of discretion. In re Marriage of Diezsi, 201 Ariz. 524, ¶ 3, 38 P.3d 1189, 1191 (App. 2002).

¶6 Pursuant to § 25-403(A), [3] when determining custody, either originally or through a petition for modification, the trial court must consider all factors relevant to the child's best interests, including those specifically enumerated therein. And, "[i]n a contested custody case, the court shall make specific findings on the record about all relevant factors and the reasons for which the decision is in the best interests of the child." A.R.S. § 25-403(B); see also Hart v. Hart, 220 Ariz. 183, ¶ 13, 204 P.3d 441, 444-45 (App. 2009) (in weighing statutory factors, court "statutorily required to document" its findings). The requirement of specific findings ...


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