Carlson v. Carlson, No. 81460, Order of Reversal and Remand (Unpublished Disposition, Jan. 7, 2022)

This is an appeal from a post-divorce decree order granting a motion for attorney fees and costs.  The parties were divorced by way of a stipulated decree.  After their divorce, Matthew filed a motion requesting, among other things, to change the school the parties’ minor children attended.  Chelsea opposed and requested, among other things, reimbursement for the children’s medical expenses.  Chelsea eventually moved for summary judgment on all of the claims raised by both parties, and Matthew then sought to withdraw several of his requests for relief but opposed summary judgment on the request to change schools and request for reimbursement of medical expenses.  The district court granted summary judgment in Chelsea’s favor as to the requests Matthew was wanting to withdraw, holding that he did not timely withdraw them and that Chelsea should not have had to move for summary judgment.  The school selection and medical expenses issues proceeded to an evidentiary hearing.  The parties reached a settlement on the second day of the evidentiary hearing, putting on the record that the children would remain in the school zone they were currently in and that Matthew would pay Chelsea $700 to resolve the medical expenses issue, leaving attorney’s fees and costs for later resolution by the district court.  When there were significant delays and disagreements in getting the stipulation and order signed, Chelsea moved for the stipulation and order to be entered without Matthew’s signature, and for an award of her attorney fees and costs, which the district court granted under NRS 18.010(2)(a) and (b) and EDCR 7.60(b)(1), (3), and (4).  Matthew appealed.

On appeal, the Court held that the attorney fees award was not proportionate to the conduct specifically identified by the district court as justifying the award under EDCR 7.60(b)(3).  Additionally, the district court made no findings under NRS 18.010(2)(b) or EDCR 7.60(b)(1) as to the relative merit of Matthew’s requests and defenses presented.  As such, the Court couldn’t determine the precise basis for the attorney fees and costs award, and remanded for additional findings.


Gonzalez v. Gonzalez, No. 82011, Order of Affirmance (Unpublished Disposition, Jan 24, 2022)

This is an appeal from a district court order enforcing a divorce decree. The parties divorced in 2007 and their divorce decree incorporated an amended joint petition for divorce.  In the amended joint petition, the parties agreed that Liliana would receive the marital home and would refinance the home within 3 months of entry of the decree, and that they would both receive 50% of the equity in the home.  Miguel was to deliver an executed quitclaim deed to Liliana.  After the decree was entered, they continued to live together in the marital home for another year.

In 2020, Liliana filed a motion to enforce the property division of the marital home as set forth in the decree, requesting the district court order Miguel to sign a quitclaim deed to the home.  Miguel opposed, arguing that the motion was time-barred by the six-year statute of limitations under NRS 11.190(1)(a), that there is no language in the decree that limited Miguel’s interest to the home to only a share of the equity, that Liliana failed to satisfy a condition precedent within the decree because she failed to refinance the home within 3 months of entry of the decree, and that the parol evidence rule bars her from introducing any evidence that contradicts the decree.

Liliana responded that her claim wasn’t time-barred under Kuptz-Blinkinsop v. Blinkinsop because it seeks an enforcement of a real property distribution, that Miguel was awarded a monetary judgment for 50% of the home’s equity under the terms of the decree, and that refinancing cannot be a condition precedent because she cannot refinance the property solely in her name because of Miguel’s refusal to execute the quitclaim deed.

The district court held that, under the terms of the decree, Liliana was entitled to complete ownership of the home and, under Kuptz-Blinkinsop, her right to enforce the decree was not precluded by NRS 11.190(1)(a).  The district court also held that the decree gave Miguel a monetary judgment for 50% of the equity in the home and, because he failed to enforce the decree by asserting a claim for that monetary judgment within the appropriate time-period, his right to do so was time-barred.  Lastly, the district court ordered Miguel to sign a quitclaim deed vesting the property completely in Liliana’s name in order to enforce the property distribution.  Miguel appealed.

On appeal, the Court held that Liliana’s real property interest in the marital home is not subject to the provisions of NRS 11.190, however the statute does preclude Miguel from asserting his rights to equity in the home under the decree.  The district court properly relied on Kuptz-Blinkinsop in its analysis, which states that NRS 11.190 unambiguously excludes actions for recovery of real property.  In contrast, because Miguel received a monetary award of “50% of the remaining equity” in the home, the limitation period of NRS 11.190(1)(a) applies.  The Court also held that, under the plain language of the decree, there is no condition precedent that divests Liliana of complete ownership of the home.  Specifically, the decree states, “to the effect of refinancing under her sole name, husband shall deliver executed quitclaim deed to wife.”  As such, the Court affirmed the district court’s judgment.


Maurice v. Maurice, No. 83009, Order of Reversal and Remand (Unpublished Disposition, Jan. 24, 2022)

This is an appeal from a district court order denying a motion to modify child custody and awarding attorney’s fees.  The parties were divorced by way of a stipulated decree of divorce in 2015.  They shared joint legal custody and Sarah was awarded primary physical custody with Justin having visitation on alternating weekends.  In 2020, Justin moved to modify custody to joint physical custody, due to a change in his work schedule, a change in Sarah’s work schedule, Justin’s availability as caregiver while Sarah worked, the passage of time since the divorce, the children’s bond with their stepsiblings, and that it was in the children’s best interest.  He also argued that the parties were exercising a different timeshare than the one in the decree, that the children voiced a preference to spend more time with him, and that he was primarily helping with the children’s school during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Sarah opposed the motion and requested attorney’s fees through a countermotion.

The district court summarily denied Justin’s motion to modify custody, finding that a change in work schedule did not constitute a substantial change in circumstances required to modify primary physical custody.  Justin filed a motion for reconsideration and Sarah again requested attorney’s fees for having to defend against the motion for reconsideration.  The district court denied the motion for reconsideration and awarded Sarah attorney’s fees.  Justin appealed, and the Court on appeal considered whether a change in work schedule is considered a substantial change in circumstances sufficient for the purpose of granting a hearing to consider modification of custody and whether an evidentiary hearing should have been conducted to address whether modifying custody was warranted in this case.

The Court held that, to modify primary physical custody, the party seeking modification must demonstrate that there has been a substantial change in circumstances affecting the welfare of the child or children and that modification is in the children’s best interest, citing to Romano v. Romano.  Further, the district court must make specific findings as to the best interests of the children pursuant to NRS 125C.0035(4).  Under Rooney, an evidentiary hearing is required where the moving party has demonstrated “adequate cause” for such a hearing.  Here, the Court found that a change to a parent’s work schedule can be considered a change in circumstance if it affects the welfare of the children.  As such, the district court abused its discretion in denying Justin’s motion to modify custody based primarily on the finding that his change in work schedule wasn’t a substantial change in circumstances without first holding an evidentiary hearing.  Additionally, the district court didn’t describe specific findings as to how Justin failed to demonstrate adequate cause for an evidentiary hearing.  As such, the Court held that the district court abused its discretion in not setting the matter for an evidentiary hearing before deciding on the motion to modify custody.


Strom v. Keller, No. 82851, Order of Affirmance (Unpublished Disposition, Jan. 24, 2022)

This is an appeal from a district court order modifying child custody and holding Carol in contempt.  The parties were never married but share one minor child.  The district court entered a stipulation and order establishing Edward’s paternity and granting Carol primary physical custody until the child turned 6, at which time the parties would share joint physical custody.  The year the child turned 6, but before the child’s actual birthday, Edward filed a motion to modify custody, seeking primary physical custody.  At the evidentiary hearing, the parties jointly submitted a psychological evaluation report of Carol, which concluded that she had paranoid personality traits and recommended that she participate in therapy to resolve these issues.  The district court awarded the parties joint physical custody and ordered Carol to receive at least 6 months of therapy and to distribute half of the child’s SSI benefits to Edward since they would now have joint physical custody.  6 months later, Edward filed a motion to enforce and/or for contempt due to Carol’s failure to attend therapy and distribute the SSI benefits.  Edward again asked the district court for primary physical custody.

After an evidentiary hearing, the district court found that Carol knew she had received SSI benefits on behalf of her child, knew she was required to distribute half of those benefits to Edward, and knew that she had not distributed those benefits.  The district court also found that Carol had not submitted credible proof showing that she completed her therapy requirement.  As such, Carol was ordered to pay Edward his share of the SSI benefits, she was sanctioned for her contempt, and she was ordered to pay a portion of Edward’s attorney’s fees.  The district court also analyzed the best interest custody factors and found that modification was in the child’s best interest.  Carol appealed.

On appeal, the Court found that the district court did not change custody to punish Carol for her failure to comply with court orders.  Although the district court repeatedly referred to Carol’s failure to participate in court-ordered therapy in its best-interest-of-the-child analysis, it was not the only factor considered.  Rather, the district court found that seven of the factors favored Edward, while none favored Carol.  The Court noted that the district court was not prohibited from considering Carol’s noncompliance as that conduct related to the child’s best interest.  Accordingly, the district court did not abuse its discretion in considering her noncompliance because the district court found that the noncompliance directly affected the child’s best interest.  The Court also found that substantial evidence supported the district court’s custody modification order and that the district court did not abuse its discretion in holding Carol in contempt for failing to distribute the child’s SSI benefits.

Marshal S. Willick