The trial court has no obligation to issue a statement of decision when the request for the statement does not specify controverted issues, but seeks special findings of the court without drafting and proposing these findings, said the Sixth District Court of Appeal in In re Marriage of Falcone (Feb. 23, 2012, H034104), __ Cal.App.4th __ [2012 DJDAR 2398].
After trial on the issue of distribution of marital property, the court considered the issue of attorney's fees and awarded Husband $833,025. On appeal, Wife complained that the court failed to issue a statement of decision.
The appellate court noted that the trial court is not required to issue a statement of decision for any attorney's fee award, but also concluded that Wife failed to request a statement of decision. Although she asked for "a statement of decision on the matter of attorney fees," and requested that the statement "include a basis for any numeric calculation as well as the underlying evidence used to compute the attorney fees," this language did not properly request a statement of decision because it did not specify any controverted issues. It was uncontroverted that the basis of the calculation was Husband's supporting declarations, and the principal controverted issue at trial was Husband's entitlement to attorney's fees.
Wife's second "request" was "a laundry list of 52 demands including such items as 'The specific behaviors that were deemed sanctionable under Family Code section 271' and 'The mathematical breakdown of the portion of attorney fees and costs associated with the behaviors identified as sanctionable under Family Code section 271.'" Such a request for findings on evidentiary facts cannot be made unless it is accompanied by proposals for such findings, and Wife did not submit any proposal.
The court cited with approval McAdams v. McElroy (1976) 62 Cal.App.3d 985, 993, which similarly condemned the practice of requesting a finding on a subject without proposing the specific factual finding requested. "That practice unfairly burdens the trial judge in that he must not only speculate which questions embrace ultimate as distinguished from evidentiary facts, but also search his recollection of the record without the assistance of a suggestion from counsel," said the court in McAdams. A "general inquisition" without a proposal for the court's consideration does not require the court to render a statement of decision.