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Gronland v. Gronland

Supreme Court of North Dakota

October 13, 2015

Linda A. Gronland n/k/a Linda A. Coleman, Plaintiff and Appellant
v.
Larry D. Gronland, Defendant and Appellee

Appeal from the District Court of Cass County, East Central Judicial District, the Honorable Steven L. Marquart, Judge.

Linda A. Coleman, Fargo, ND, plaintiff and appellant, represented by counsel at the time of oral argument.

Rachel Gehrig, Fargo, ND, for defendant and appellee.

Gerald W. VandeWalle, C.J., Dale V. Sandstrom, Daniel J. Crothers, Lisa Fair McEvers. Opinion of the Court by VandeWalle, Chief Justice. Kapsner, Justice, concurring.

OPINION

Page 218

Gerald W. VandeWalle, Chief Justice.

[¶1] Linda Gronland appealed from a district court order dismissing her motion to modify spousal support because the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. We affirm and impose sanctions against Linda Gronland's attorney, Jesse Matson, for violating the Rules of Appellate Procedure.

I

[¶2] Larry Gronland and Linda Gronland, now known as Linda Coleman, married in 1971 and divorced in 1994. The district court originally awarded Linda Gronland spousal support in the amount of $1,000 per month until her death, remarriage, or when Larry Gronland began drawing Social Security, whichever occurred first. On appeal, this Court affirmed the award. Gronland v. Gronland, 527 N.W.2d 250, 254 (N.D. 1995). In 1998, the parties stipulated to an amended judgment awarding Linda Gronland $2,000 per month in spousal support, which, like the original award, was to continue until her death, remarriage, or when Larry Gronland began drawing Social Security, whichever occurred first.

[¶3] In March 2014, Linda Gronland made a motion to modify the amended judgment under N.D.C.C. § 14-05-24.1. After resolving procedural issues not pertinent to this appeal, Larry Gronland moved to dismiss the motion. He contended the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to modify the support award because a court's jurisdiction to modify a support award is limited to ongoing support awards. Larry Gronland argued no support award was ongoing at the time of the motion because the support award terminated as of January 1, 2014, the date on which he started drawing Social Security. The judicial referee disagreed, finding the court retained jurisdiction to modify the support award after Larry Gronland began drawing Social Security.

[¶4] Larry Gronland sought review by the district court, contending the judicial referee erred in concluding the court retained jurisdiction to modify the support award. The district court agreed. The district court found that Larry Gronland began drawing Social Security on January 1, 2014. The district court concluded that, under N.D.C.C. § 14-05-24.1, courts have jurisdiction to modify a spousal support award only if such award is ongoing. According to the district court, because the support award terminated upon Larry

Page 219

Gronland drawing Social Security on January 1, 2014, it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the March 2014 motion. The court dismissed the motion ...


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