Chad W. Schultz, Plaintiff and Appellant
Kelli C. Schultz, Defendant and Appellee
from the District Court of Stutsman County, Southeast
Judicial District, the Honorable Troy J. LeFevre, Judge.
Tressie C. Brazil, Fargo, ND, for plaintiff and appellant.
T. Ottmar, Jamestown, ND, for defendant and appellee.
1] Chad Schultz appeals from a final judgment and decree of
divorce entered on January 17, 2018 dissolving his marriage
to Kelli Schultz. Chad appeals the district court's
valuation of marital assets and the allocation of the marital
estate. We affirm.
2] Chad and Kelli were married in September 2008 following a
one and one-half- year period of cohabitation. In February
2016, after approximately seven and one-half years of
marriage, the parties separated and Chad moved out of the
marital home. The marriage was dissolved on January 17, 2018
by the filing of the final judgment and decree of divorce.
Including the period of cohabitation, the time the parties
were married and living together, and the time they were
married and living apart, the parties were together for
approximately ten and one-half years. The district court
found the marriage to be a "long-term" marriage.
3] In 2001, prior to the parties' marriage, Chad
inherited a fifty percent interest in three separate quarters
of Nelson County farmland. The parties agreed that Chad would
receive the farmland in the property distribution, but
disagreed whether a reciprocal value should be allocated to
Kelli. Chad argued that when considering the length of the
marriage and that he inherited the property prior to
marriage, the property should be allocated to him without a
reciprocal allocation of value to Kelli. Kelli requested an
equal division of the farmland's value through
post-judgment payments to her from Chad. The district
court's property division allocated a reciprocal value to
Kelli and ordered a series of post- judgment equalization
payments from Chad to Kelli. The post-judgment payments
included an interest rate of 4%.
4] The parties also disputed the valuation of the farmland.
Chad and his father, Herbert Schultz, testified to their
opinions on the value of each quarter. Kelli's values for
the farmland came from the 2017 County Rents and Values
survey funded by the North Dakota Department of Trust Lands.
The district court valued the farmland between the amounts
suggested by the parties.
5] In 2010, the parties purchased Face 2 Face Salon
("Salon") as a business to be operated by Kelli.
The parties agreed that Chad paid $35, 000 of the purchase
price, and Kelli paid $5, 000 towards the purchase price. The
parties agreed the Salon would be distributed to Kelli, but
disputed the valuation of the Salon. Kelli argued the Salon
was worth $40, 000, while Chad argued the Salon was worth
$160, 000. The district court found the Salon to have a value
of $40, 000.
6] In June 2016, Chad's father, Herbert Schultz, finished
building a home located in Jamestown, North Dakota. Title to
the property was held jointly by Chad and his father. The
parties disagreed on whether the home should be considered
marital property. Chad argued, and his father also testified,
the property should not be considered marital property
because Chad's name appeared on the title only for the
purpose of estate planning, the home was built at the end of
the parties' marriage, and the funds used to build the
home were from an inheritance received by Herbert Schultz.
Kelli argued the property should be included because the deed
provided that the property was held jointly by Chad and his
father. The district court included one-half of the value of
a one-half interest in the property in the marital estate.
7] During the marriage, Chad was employed by the State of
North Dakota and participated in the NDPERS retirement plan.
All the contributions to the account were made during the
marriage. Chad argued he should be allocated the entire
NDPERS account, and Kelli should be allocated her MFS Roth
IRA account. Kelli argued she should receive a portion of
Chad's NDPERS account under the "Bullock"
formula. The district court allocated the NDPERS account
evenly between the parties and ordered the account to be
split through the use of a Qualified Domestic Relations
8] Prior to the marriage, Kelli owned a home, subject to a
mortgage. The parties used the residence as their marital
home during the majority of the marriage. Chad paid $21, 500
during the marriage to satisfy the mortgage. Chad also
testified that he paid for improvements to the home and
contributed the labor to complete improvements to the home.
Chad argued his contribution to the payment of the mortgage
should be offset against the property allocated to Kelli. The
district court declined to make the requested offset.
9] Chad challenges the district court's overall
allocation of the parties' marital property. He contends
the district court erred by finding the marriage was
"long- term," incorrectly valuing the farmland, not
allocating the farmland to him without a reciprocal
allocation to Kelli, incorrectly valuing the Salon, awarding
Kelli a portion of his NDPERS retirement account, including
his father's home in the marital estate, the inclusion of
a property equalization payment, and applying a 4% interest
rate to the equalization payment.
10] In determining an equitable division of a marital estate,
a district court is required to consider the
Ruff-Fischer guidelines. Lill v. Lill, 520
N.W.2d 855, 857 (N.D. 1994). Along with the other factors
included within the Ruff-Fischer guidelines, the
district court is required to consider the duration of the
marriage and source of the property in determining an
equitable allocation of the parties' marital property.
There is no bright-line rule to distinguish between short and
long-term marriages. Hitz v. Hitz, 2008 ND 58,
¶ 16, 746 N.W.2d 732. Generally, a long-term marriage
supports an equal division of all marital assets. Bladow
v. Bladow, 2003 ND 123, ¶ 8, 665 N.W.2d 724. In a
short-term marriage, the district court may distribute
property unequally and award the parties what each brought
into the marriage. See Buzick v. Buzick, 542 N.W.2d