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Tarver v. Tarver

Supreme Court of North Dakota

July 11, 2019

Daniel Tarver, Plaintiff, Appellee and Cross-Appellant
v.
Sarah Tarver, Defendant, Appellant and Cross-Appellee

          Appeal from the District Court of Burleigh County, South Central Judicial District, the Honorable Thomas J. Schneider, Judge.

          Amanda J. Welder, Bismarck, ND, for plaintiff, appellee and cross-appellant.

          Thomas M. Jackson, Bismarck, ND, for defendant, appellant and cross-appellee.

          OPINION

          VANDEWALLE, CHIEF JUSTICE

         [¶1] Sarah Tarver appealed from a district court judgment dividing her and Daniel Tarver's marital estate and establishing spousal and child support. We conclude the district court erred in its determination of spousal support. We reverse and remand on the issue of spousal support.

         I

         [¶2] Sarah and Daniel Tarver were married in January 2000 and Daniel Tarver filed for divorce in June 2017. On July 10, 2018, the parties appeared for trial but requested, and were given, an opportunity to agree on settlement terms. When they returned, the parties stated "they may have reached an agreement" and "put on the record what they believed to be their mutual understanding of their settlement agreement." However, there were multiple issues the parties did not reach an agreement on or decided to "fight . . . out down the road."

         [¶3] Concerned the agreement may not be finalized, Sarah Tarver's attorney requested the court "maintain a trial date." When asked if they wanted two days for trial if "things fall apart," Sarah Tarver's attorney stated "I think we've got an agreement on most of the issues . . . Except the ones that would fall apart" and that the parties were "going to try to get [the agreement] done tomorrow during the time we have set for this trial." The court ended the July hearing by stating:

So it's on the record, but when you get to the details, hopefully it's satisfactory. . . . if you can work things out among yourselves fairly, it's probably better for you in the long run . . . Well, best of luck, and hopefully everything works out for the parties.

         The parties were unable to reach a finalized settlement agreement. After the parties' settlement discussions failed, Sarah Tarver moved the court to make findings of fact and conclusions of law based on the stipulations read into the July 10 record. The court denied the motion, stating that "final details needed to be worked out between the parties and it was the mutual understanding of all involved that if the details were not resolved a trial would be held."

         [¶4] Trial on all issues occurred October 18, 2018. In its memorandum opinion, the court noted Sarah Tarver requested the court enforce the July 10 stipulations while Daniel Tarver opposed the request. The court found that while both parties were hopeful a final settlement would be reached they also requested another trial date in the near future in case they could not reach a final agreement.

         [¶5] In its judgment, the court awarded Sarah Tarver $8, 800 per month in permanent spousal support and ordered Daniel Tarver pay $5, 000 per month in child support. Although it was included in Sarah Tarver's proposed settlement, the court did not require Daniel Tarver to maintain insurance to secure his support obligations. Additionally, the court accepted Daniel Tarver's valuation of the parties' vehicles, personal property, and debts, including Sarah Tarver's pension.

         [¶6] On appeal, Sarah Tarver argues the court erred by not enforcing the July 10 stipulations; in its property distribution; in valuing her pension; by not requiring Daniel Tarver to insure his support obligations; and in determining ...


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