The Appellate Group

Rothwell v. Rothwell

Rothwell v. Rothwell, 2023 UT App 50 (Christiansen Forster, J.)


The district court overseeing Jenea and Shaun Rothwell’s divorce largely adopted Jenea’s proposed findings of facts when it divided the couple’s sizable estate. Shaun appealed alleging, among other things, that the court had abused its discretion by substantially adopting Jenea’s proposed findings of fact, by valuing the marital estate based on valuations at the time of trial and not the couple’s initial separation, by not “tax-affecting” the valuation of the businesses at issue, and by making numerous findings relating to Jenea’s needs that were not supported by the evidence. The Utah Court of Appeals reversed in part and affirmed in part, holding:

  • The district court exceeded its discretion by including adult child expenses in Jenea’s alimony, because there was no evidence that Jeana needed the additional $300 per month to pay them.
  • The district court did not abuse its discretion when it relied heavily on Jenea’s findings of fact. Courts have the discretion to rely on a party’s findings of fact as long as they are not clearly contrary to the evidence.
  • Judicial Tip: Even though district courts have discretion to adopt one party’s findings over another, district courts should be weary of doing so “mechanically.”
  • The district court’s valuation of assets was sufficiently detailed to uphold on appeal. Generally, courts evaluate the value of assets at the time of trial. A court may choose a different valuation date so long as it supports “its decision with sufficiently detailed findings of fact explaining its deviation from the rule.” But there is no rule requiring a court to explain why it did not deviate from the norm.
  • Practice Tip: Many of appellant’s contentions were inadequately briefed. An appellant must provide the appellate court with enough necessary information to rule in appellant’s favor. As for evidentiary issues, the appellant must argue that the outcome would have been different absent the missing evidence. Absent the necessary briefing required of appellants, an appellate court cannot rule in appellant’s favor.

Read the full court opinion