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Allmon v. Allmon

Supreme Court of North Dakota

May 16, 2017

Angela R. Allmon, Plaintiff and Appellant
v.
Aaron D. Allmon, Defendant and Appellee

         Appeal from the District Court of Ward County, North Central Judicial District, the Honorable Stacy J. Louser, Judge.

          Robert S. Rau, Minot, ND, for plaintiff and appellant.

          Aaron D. Allmon, self-represented, Canyon Lake, TX, defendant and appellee.

          OPINION

          Kapsner, Justice.

         [¶ 1] Angela Allmon appeals from a judgment granting her a divorce from Aaron Allmon, granting her primary residential responsibility for their child, ordering him to pay child support, and distributing their marital property. We affirm in part, but reverse the child support award and remand for the district court to correctly apply the Child Support Guidelines.

         I

         [¶ 2] In May 2013, the parties were married in Arizona and a child was born to the couple later that year. Both parties were employed by the military, but Angela Allmon left military service after a 16-year career to accompany Aaron Allmon when he was relocated to Minot. The parties' relationship soon soured. Aaron Allmon committed domestic violence during the marriage, and he was convicted of sexual misconduct and served 30 days in a military jail. Despite the conviction, Aaron Allmon would be allowed to retire and retain his pension and other military benefits.

         [¶ 3] Angela Allmon commenced this divorce action in November 2014. In February 2015, the parties and their attorneys appeared at an interim hearing where agreements were reached on several issues including Angela Allmon's request to relocate with the child outside of North Dakota. After the interim hearing, Aaron Allmon did not cooperate or take part in any of the proceedings, his attorneys were allowed to withdraw from representing him, and in March 2016, he was ordered to pay $1, 500 in attorney fees for failing to comply with discovery requests.

         [¶ 4] The divorce trial was held in July 2016. Failing to keep the district court apprised of his current residential or mailing address, Aaron Allmon did not receive notice or appear at the trial. Angela Allmon appeared through the Interactive Video Network system from her residence in Germany. Following the trial, the court awarded Angela Allmon primary residential responsibility for the parties' child and ordered Aaron Allmon to pay child support in the same amount specified in the February 2015 interim order. The court awarded each party the property in their possession along with any associated debts and ordered Aaron Allmon to pay Angela Allmon $25, 000 as part of the property distribution. The court refused to grant Angela Allmon's requests for spousal support and attorney fees.

         II

         [¶ 5] Angela Allmon challenges the district court's decisions on property distribution, spousal support, child support, and attorney fees.

         A

         [¶ 6] Angela Allmon argues the property distribution is inequitable because the district court failed to divide Aaron Allmon's military pension between the parties.

         [¶ 7] Under N.D.C.C. § 14-05-24(1), the district court is required to make an equitable distribution of the marital estate, including all of the parties' assets and debts, whether held jointly or individually, and the court must determine the value of the entire marital estate before making an equitable distribution. See Gabaldon-Cochran v. Cochran, 2015 ND 214, ¶ 6, 868 N.W.2d 501; Lorenz v. Lorenz, 2007 ND 49, ¶ 6, 729 N.W.2d 692. Equitable division of the marital estate is governed by the Ruff-Fischer guidelines, which requires consideration of the following factors:

[T]he respective ages of the parties, their earning ability, the duration of the marriage and conduct of the parties during the marriage, their station in life, the circumstances and necessities of each, their health and physical condition, their financial circumstances as shown by the property owned at the time, its value at the time, its income-producing capacity, if any, whether accumulated before or after the marriage, and such other matters as may be material. The trial court is not required to make specific findings, but it must specify a rationale for its determination.

Rebel v. Rebel, 2013 ND 116, ¶ 7, 833 N.W.2d 442 (quoting Kosobud v. Kosobud, 2012 ND 122, ¶ 6, 817 N.W.2d 384); see Ruff v. Ruff, 78 N.D. 775, 52 N.W.2d 107 (1952); Fischer v. Fischer, 139 N.W.2d 845 (N.D. 1966).

         [¶ 8] In Gabaldon-Cochran, 2015 ND 214, ¶ 7, 868 N.W.2d 501, we explained:

A property division does not need to be equal to be equitable, but a substantial disparity must be explained. Feist [ v. Feist ], 2015 ND 98, ¶ 6, 862 N.W.2d 817. "We have often said that while a long-term marriage generally supports an equal division of property, a court may unequally divide property in a short-term marriage and award the parties what each brought into the marriage." Fugere [ v. Fugere ], 2015 ND 174, ¶ 8, 865 N.W.2d 407 (quoting Dieterle v. Dieterle, 2013 ND 71, ΒΆ 25, 830 N.W.2d 571). Economic fault and a party's dissipation of assets also may be relevant factors for the court to ...

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