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Trusts in Divorce -- Smith v. Smith

A new opinion discussing divorce and allocating a family trust has been released by the Utah Court of Appeals. The case involved a family trust created by husband and wife during their marriage. The trust purported to claim that any account, asset, or other item opened, obtained, or created during the marriage was to be marital property. However, there was a provision that wife had certain property as her own.

Prior to the divorce, wife received an inheritance, and placed the funds in a separate account. The divorce followed and the trial court awarded the separate account to wife. Husband appealed, claiming that under the general terms of the family trust, the account was marital property and he should have been awarded a portion of it.

The key turned out to be the specific provision of the family trust that specified that all interests in wife's family holdings was wife's separate property. The lesson to take away from this is that when one is attempting to generally define rights in a trust to ensure that all of the specific provisions are consistent. This case also reinforces the fact that any such questions will be determined under contract principles.

The case is Smith v. Smith

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I am David R. Hartwig, Esq., a Salt Lake City attorney with extensive experience helping parents resolve simple or high-conflict custody issues reaching arrangements that work for children and parents. Child custody involves parent-time and visitation schedules, and can affect support. I help in all of these areas, providing comprehensive service clients need to achieve their custody goals.

Factors In Child Custody Decisions

As an experienced Utah child custody lawyer, I understand that custody cases may become a contentious issue even years after an order is finalized. The trend in Utah toward joint custody often creates messy, unworkable situations, which ultimately lead to enforcement issues when parents do not abide by their custody orders.

The best interests of the child must be considered, including:

• Whether joint legal or physical custody will benefit the child's physical, psychological and emotional needs, or the child's development

• The parents' ability to give first priority to the child's welfare, and reach shared decisions in the child's best interest

• Whether each parent is capable of encouraging and accepting a positive relationship between the child and the other parent

• Whether both parents participated in raising the child before the divorce

• The distance between the parents' homes

• The parents' maturity and their willingness and ability to protect the child from conflict that may arise between the parents

• The parents' ability to cooperate with each other and make decisions jointly

• Any history of, or potential for, child abuse, spouse abuse, or kidnapping

• Any other factors the court finds relevant

Despite the complicated and sensitive nature of custody matters, I have helped many clients successfully establish custody orders.

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If you have a child custody issue, please contact me, David R. Hartwig, Esq. I am an experienced Salt Lake City custody lawyer dedicated to helping clients resolve complex custody issues and implement necessary custody orders. For high-conflict cases, I am also one of the few Utah child custody modification attorneys trained as a Special Master for ongoing dispute resolution.


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