from the District Court of Grand Forks County, Northeast
Central Judicial District, the Honorable Lolita G. Hartl
J. Jensen, East Grand Forks, MN, for plaintiff and appellant;
submitted on brief
J. Schultz, Fargo, ND, for defendant and appellee; submitted
Bruce Wayne Lee appeals from a final judgment and decree of
divorce entered on August 17, 2018 dissolving his marriage to
Kimberly Mane Lee. On appeal, Bruce argues the district court
erred in its valuation of marital assets and the allocation
of the marital estate. Bruce also contends he was prejudiced
by the district court's six-month delay in issuing a
final judgment. We affirm.
Bruce Wayne Lee and Kimberly Mane Lee began cohabitating in
October 2001. The couple cohabitated until they were married
on September 3, 2005. The parties had resided together for
approximately 17 years at the time of divorce.
The parties had an ownership interest in real estate
comprised of farmland and a marital home. Bruce purchased the
farmland from his mother under the terms of a contract for
deed in September 1995. The contract for deed was paid off in
June 2018. During the parties' marriage, Bruce and
Kimberly made payments on the contract for deed to
Bruce's mother. The couple also made payments during the
four years prior to their marriage. The parties took out a
mortgage on the farmland to finance building their marital
home during their marriage.
Bruce and Kimberly eventually sold their farmland and home to
Bruce's children via a contract for deed. Bruce and
Kimberly retain a life estate in the farmland allowing them
to receive rent and live in the home for the rest of their
lives. Under the contract for deed, Bruce's three
children were to pay Bruce and Kimberly $600 per month for
240 months. Bruce's children have not made all of the
payments required under the contract for deed. Bruce
acknowledged his children had missed several payments, but
testified he forgave some of the debt to each of his
children. Kimberly testified in her opinion the children
still owed the couple money.
Bruce testified the home had a value of $60, 000 and asserted
the land had a value of $ 100, 000 considering the life
estate interest owned by the parties. Kimberly testified the
value of the home was $77, 926, and the land should be valued
at $190, 304. Kimberly also claimed the $91, 800 remaining on
the contract for deed should be included as part of the
marital estate. The district court valued the life estate
interest in the home at $61, 521 and the value of the life
estate in the land at $ 193, 586, for a total value of $255,
107. The court also assigned a value of $68, 902 to the
payments remaining on the contract for deed. Bruce argues the
district court erred in its valuation and distribution of the
real estate when it included the life estate in the home and
land, as well as the payments remaining on the contract for
deed. Bruce also argues the court erred in its valuation of a
Bobcat Skid-Steer and by including a receivable of $21, 600
owed by Bruce's children in the marital estate. Finally,
Bruce contends he was prejudiced by the court's six-month
delay in issuing a final judgment.
Bruce argues the district court erred in its valuation of the
real estate when it included the payments remaining under the
contract for deed in the value of the real property. This
Court will not reverse a district court's findings on
valuation of marital property unless they are clearly
erroneous. Corbett v. Corbett, 2001 ND 113, ¶
12, 628 N.W, 2d 312. "A finding of fact is clearly
erroneous if it is induced by an erroneous view of the law,
there is no evidence to support it, or if, although there is
some evidence to support it, on the entire evidence the
reviewing court is left with a definite and firm conviction a
mistake has been made." Kautzman v. Kautzman,
1998 ND 192, ¶ 8, 585 N.W.2d 561. "A choice between
two permissible views of the evidence is not clearly
erroneous if the [district] court's findings are based
either on physical or documentary evidence, or inferences
from other facts, or on credibility determinations."
Hoverson v. Hoverson, 2001 ND 124, ¶ 13, 629
N.W.2d 573. The value a district court places on marital
property depends on the evidence presented by the parties.
Fox v. Fox, 2001 ND 88, ¶ 22, 626 N.W.2d 660.
This Court presumes a district court's property
valuations are correct. Hoverson, at ¶ 13.
Here, the district court used financing statements signed by
Bruce to determine the value of the home and the land. The
court then applied the life estate fractional multiplier
codified in N.D. Admin. Code § 75-02-02.1-32 in coming
to its valuation of the home and land. The court went on to
value the contract for deed based on the remaining amount
left to be paid by Bruce's children and added this amount
to the marital estate. Bruce contends the addition of the
amount remaining on the contract for deed results in a
property valuation in excess of any evidence received by the
This Court has not previously discussed the valuation of a
life estate as a marital asset in a divorce proceeding.
Section 75-02-02.1-32, N.D. Admin. Code, concerns Medicaid
and gives guidance on how to value a life estate for the
purpose of Medicaid eligibility. Section 75-02-02.1-32, N.D.
Admin. Code, contains a table which provides a multiplier
based on the party's age and type of property interest.
Here, the district court selected the appropriate age in the
table and multiplied the corresponding life estate
"decimal fraction" by its valuation of the
property. The court's valuation of the life estate was
not induced by an erroneous view of the law, was within the
range of evidence ...