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Zuo v. Wang

Supreme Court of North Dakota

August 6, 2019

Yanjun Zuo, Plaintiff and Appellant
v.
Yuanyuan Wang, Defendant and Appellee

          Appeal from the District Court of Grand Forks County, Northeast Central Judicial District, the Honorable M. Jason McCarthy, Judge.

          Kelsey L. Hankey, Grand Forks, ND, for plaintiff and appellant.

          Kristi P. Venhuizen, Grand Forks, ND, for defendant and appellee.

          OPINION

          McEvers, Justice.

         [¶1] Yanjun Zuo appeals a district court judgment and post-judgment orders awarding Yuanyuan Wang marital property, spousal support, and primary residential responsibility of the parties' minor child. Zuo argues the court erred in its evidentiary decisions at trial, and erred in awarding spousal support and primary residential responsibility to Wang. He also argues the court erred in backdating child support. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.

         I

         [¶2] Zuo and Wang were married in Beijing, China in 1994 and have one child. Zuo is a professor and researcher at the University of North Dakota earning approximately $143, 400 annually. Wang had a well-paying job in Hong Kong where she earned approximately $10, 000 per month. However, while living in Grand Forks from 2008 to 2013, and from 2014 to the present, she worked at various positions, earning between $13.50 and $18 per hour.

         [¶3] Zuo sued for divorce in December 2016. The district court entered an interim order in March 2017. The interim order was based on the parties' stipulation and provided that in lieu of child support, Zuo would pay all of the child's daycare expenses. The issue of child support was reserved until trial.

         [¶4] The district court held a four-day bench trial in April and May of 2018. At trial, the court admitted audio recordings of communications between Zuo and Wang. Zuo recorded the communications without Wang's knowledge. Zuo attempted to introduce English translations of the recordings. Wang objected and the court excluded the English translations of the recordings.

         [¶5] In its findings of fact, conclusions of law, and order for judgment issued after trial, the district court found Zuo committed domestic violence against Wang and awarded Wang primary residential responsibility of the child. The court ordered Zuo to pay $1, 335 per month in child support effective as of February 1, 2017. The court distributed the parties' marital property and awarded Wang $1, 750 in monthly spousal support for ten years.

         II

         [¶6] Zuo argues the district court erred when it did not allow for an English translation of the audio recordings he submitted at trial. Zuo contends the recordings show Wang was abusive toward him.

         [¶7] A district court has wide discretion in evidentiary matters, and we will not overturn a court's decision to admit or exclude evidence unless the court abused its discretion. Vandal v. Leno, 2014 ND 45, ¶ 26, 843 N.W.2d 313. A court abuses its discretion when it acts in an arbitrary, unreasonable, or capricious manner, it misinterprets or misapplies the law, or its decision is not the product of a rational mental process leading to a reasoned determination. Zundel v. Zundel, 2017 ND 217, ¶ 27, 901 N.W.2d 731.

         [¶8] The district court found Zuo recorded the interactions between himself and Wang "in an effort to create prejudicial evidence to introduce at trial." The court explained its decision ...


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