Appeal from the District Court of Grand Forks County, Northeast Central Judicial District, the Honorable Joel D. Medd, Judge.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Maring, Justice.
N.D. Supreme CourtSateren v. Sateren, 2013 ND 12
This opinion is subject to petition for rehearing. [Go to Documents]
[Download as WordPerfect] Dissent filed.
Opinion of the Court by Maring, Justice.
[¶1] Marilyn Sateren appeals from an order denying reallocation of marital property in a stipulated divorce case, and Lorne Sateren moves to dismiss the appeal. We deny Lorne Sateren's motion to dismiss because Marilyn Sateren has not waived her right to appeal by unconditionally, voluntarily and consciously accepting a substantial benefit under the divorce judgment. We reverse the order denying reallocation of marital property and remand for the district court to adequately explain the evidentiary and theoretical basis for its decision to deny reallocation.
[¶2] The parties were married in 1984 and had one child, a son who is now emancipated. In June 2010, Lorne Sateren commenced a divorce action against Marilyn Sateren. The summons contained the restraining provisions of N.D.R.Ct. 8.4(1), prohibiting either spouse from disposing of, selling, encumbering, or otherwise dissipating "any of the parties' assets." On November 18, 2010, the day scheduled for the divorce trial, the parties reached an agreement resolving the issues involved in the divorce.
[¶3] No written stipulation was executed, but the attorneys for the parties explained the agreement to the district court. As read into the record, the agreement provided that Marilyn Sateren would receive the remainder interest in her mother's home in Grand Forks, the car in her possession, various items of personal property, financial accounts in her name, and a $50,000 cash property distribution payable in three installments. Marilyn Sateren also agreed to waive spousal support and to divest the court of jurisdiction to further entertain spousal support issues. Lorne Sateren was awarded the parties' farmstead and farmland located in Nelson County, two automobiles, a camper, a boat, financial accounts in his name and a savings bond, articles of personal property, and all of the marital debt. After questioning the parties about their understandings of the agreement, the court found the agreement to be fair and reasonable and approved it.
[¶4] The largest marital asset was the farmland, which Marilyn Sateren had valued in her N.D.R.Ct. 8.3 statement at $194,000 based on a 2009 appraisal. The parties contemplated that Lorne Sateren would obtain a loan on the farmland to satisfy the $50,000 cash property distribution. Lorne Sateren had paid Marilyn Sateren $2,000, but the agreement required that he pay $20,000 within 30 days of entry of judgment and the remaining $28,000 on or before January 1, 2012. The district court's findings of fact recited:
[Lorne Sateren] shall be awarded all right, title and interest in and to the above-described homestead and farmstead, subject to any existing liens and/or mortgages. [Marilyn Sateren] shall execute a Quit Claim Deed transferring her interest in said property to [Lorne Sateren] as part of the loan process to obtain the $20,000 cash property settlement as outlined in section 3(D). A judgment incorporating the parties' agreement was not entered until January 26, 2011.
[¶5] On December 22, 2010, before the divorce judgment was entered, Lorne Sateren executed a contract to sell the farmland for $248,262. He did not inform the district court or Marilyn Sateren. After the sale of the farmland was closed in March 2011, Marilyn Sateren learned that the farmland had been sold and filed a motion for relief from the divorce judgment under N.D.R.Civ.P. 60. In an affidavit supporting the motion, Marilyn Sateren claimed:
4. Our largest asset was 301.14 acres of farmland in Nelson County which had been in Lorne's family for some time. The land is the largest asset we owned. 5. That during the course of litigation, there was much discussion regarding the land value. We had the property appraised in 2009 and the value was deemed to be $109,000 on the home, and $194,000 on the 301.14 acres. 6. I believed the land was worth more than the $194,000 but Lorne kept telling me that the land was worth less and the appraisal was extraordinarily high. Lorne argued that the land belonged to his father and it was important for him to keep it in the family. . . . . 14. If I would have known that Lorne intended on selling the land which had been in his family, I would have not agreed to the terms of divorce as they are written. 15. If I would have known that Lorne was going to sell the land: a. I would have asked for at least 50% of the net proceeds after legitimate marital debt was paid; or b. I would have made sure that my equity payment was immediately due and owing. 16. That knowing the land was going to be sold would have made a difference ...