from the District Court of Cass County, East Central Judicial
District, the Honorable Thomas R. Olson, Judge.
Jennifer E. Albaugh, Fargo, N.D., for plaintiff and appellee.
Kristin A. Overboe, Fargo, N.D., for defendant and appellant.
Adam Lizakowski appeals a district court judgment and
post-judgment orders awarding Tonia Lizakowski marital
property, primary residential responsibility of the
parties' minor children, and attorney's fees. We
conclude the court erroneously excluded property from the
marital estate. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and
remand for further proceedings.
Adam Lizakowski and Tonia Lizakowski began dating in 2002 and
started living together in 2003. They were married in 2008
and have two children. Tonia Lizakowski sued for divorce in
2017. After a three-day bench trial in March 2018, the
district court awarded Tonia Lizakowski primary residential
responsibility of the children and ordered Adam Lizakowski to
pay $1, 586 per month in child support.
The district court found the parties had a short-term
marriage and awarded Tonia Lizakowski $270, 688 in property
and Adam Lizakowski $221, 073 in property. The court excluded
from the marital estate $45, 236 resulting from the sale of a
home awarded to Tonia Lizakowski in an earlier divorce. The
court found the sale proceeds were a premarital asset of
Tonia Lizakowski's. The court also awarded Tonia
Lizakowski $2, 500 in attorney's fees.
After trial, Adam Lizakowski filed a motion requesting the
district court to amend its findings and judgment. The court
denied the motion, concluding he presented no new evidence
and was requesting the court to reweigh the evidence. The
court awarded Tonia Lizakowski $8, 050 in attorney's fees
for having to respond to the motion. Adam Lizakowski then
moved for an amended order appointing a parenting
investigator. The court denied this motion and awarded Tonia
Lizakowski $2, 000 in attorney's fees as a sanction
against Adam Lizakowski and his attorney.
Adam Lizakowski argues the district court erred in its
distribution of marital property.
A district court's distribution of the marital estate is
a finding of fact that will not be overturned unless clearly
erroneous. Lewis v. Smart, 2017 ND 214, ¶ 10,
900 N.W.2d 812. A factual finding is clearly erroneous if it
is induced by an erroneous view of the law, if there is no
evidence supporting it, or if, although there is some
evidence to support it, on the entire record, we are left
with a definite and firm conviction a mistake has been made.
Under N.D.C.C. § 14-05-24(1), a district court must
equitably distribute the parties' marital property and
debts. A court "must start with a presumption that all
property held by either party whether held jointly or
individually is to be considered marital property."
Berg v. Berg, 2018 ND 79, ¶ 7, 908 N.W.2d 705.
After including all of the marital assets and debts, the
district court must divide the property after applying the
Ruff-Fischer guidelines. Lewis, 2017 ND
214, ¶ 10, 900 N.W.2d 812. The Ruff-Fischer
guidelines require the court to consider the following
[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 ...