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Berg v. Berg

Supreme Court of North Dakota

March 22, 2018

Darcy R. Berg, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
Ricky B. Berg, Defendant and Appellant

          Appeal from the District Court of Grand Forks County, Northeast Central Judicial District, the Honorable Lolita G. Hartl Romanick, Judge.

          Ward K. Johnson III (argued), Grand Forks, ND, and Jonathan F. Christensen (appeared), Sarasota, FL, for plaintiff and appellee.

          Sarah W. Gereszek (argued), Grand Forks, ND, for defendant and appellant.

          OPINION

          Jensen, Justice.

         [¶ 1] Ricky Berg appeals from a district court judgment dividing his and Darcy Berg's marital estate and awarding Darcy Berg spousal support. We affirm the district court's judgment.

         I

         [¶ 2] Ricky and Darcy Berg married in 1984 and separated in January 2016. The district court held a trial in June 2017 to determine the distribution of marital property and spousal support. At trial, both parties testified about their marital property, marital debts, income, and expenses. Ricky Berg was represented by counsel, and Darcy Berg represented herself at trial.

         [¶ 3] Ricky Berg was 54 years old and Darcy Berg was 52 years old at the time of the trial. The parties were married for 32 years. In considering the Ruff-Fischer factors, the district court concluded Ricky Berg had a higher earning ability than Darcy Berg, who said she was unable to work because of anxiety, depression, alcoholism, and chronic pain issues. The district court concluded Darcy Berg was capable of gainful employment, but would continue to earn significantly less than Ricky Berg. Before the divorce, Ricky Berg was laid off from a job he held for 27 years, but he recently obtained his real estate license. Ricky Berg testified he would be able to make an income from selling real estate. The district court made extensive findings about the conduct of the parties during the marriage, including Darcy Berg's alcoholism, both parties' infidelity, and Darcy Berg's economic waste. The district court concluded the couple accumulated large amounts of debt, but they also acquired significant assets due to Ricky Berg's real estate knowledge. The district court determined Darcy Berg's alcoholism and spending supported a "somewhat greater distribution of their net worth to Ricky."

         [¶ 4] The district court divided the marital property and awarded marital assets in the amount of $507, 336 to Ricky Berg and $327, 794 to Darcy Berg. The district court allocated a majority of the marital debts in the amount of $187, 704 to Ricky Berg and a minority of the debts in the amount of $43, 185 were allocated to Darcy Berg. In total, Ricky Berg was awarded $319, 632 and Darcy Berg was awarded $284, 609. Relating to the asset division, the district court awarded the marital home in Grand Forks, the lake home, and two rental properties in Florida to Ricky Berg. Darcy Berg was awarded one rental property in Grand Forks and two rental properties in Florida. The district court also awarded Darcy Berg spousal support of $1, 000 per month for 16 years.

         II

         [¶ 5] On appeal, Ricky Berg argues the district court erred in the distribution of the marital property and the award of spousal support. Ricky Berg argues the district court determined he was entitled to a somewhat greater distribution of the parties' net worth, but the property division did not reflect that finding. He also argues the district court erred in the amount of the spousal support award to Darcy Berg. Ricky Berg argues that in combination with the spousal support award, the property division is inequitable.

         [¶ 6] This Court will not reverse the district court's decision related to both property distribution and spousal support unless the findings are clearly erroneous. Thompson v. Thompson, 2018 ND 21, ¶ 29, 905 N.W.2d 772; Ulsaker v. White, 2009 ND 18, ¶ 8, 760 N.W.2d 82.

A finding of fact is clearly erroneous only if it is induced by an erroneous view of the law, if there is no evidence to support a finding, or if, although there is some evidence to support it, on the entire evidence, we are ...

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