This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In Re the Marriage of:
Kristi Lynn Kroona,
f/k/a Kristi Lynn Vogt, petitioner,
Larry Gene Vogt,
Filed April 25, 2000
Anoka County District Court
File No. F79713395
John W. Lang, Messerli & Kramer, P.A., 1800 Fifth Street Towers, 150 South Fifth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402-4218 (for respondent)
Douglas J. Nill, Douglas J. Nill Law Office, 1012 Grain Exchange Building, 400 South Fourth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55415 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Crippen, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant Larry Gene Vogt contends that the district court improperly enforced a property division lien by ordering the transfer of title to the lienholder, and abused its discretion in its award of attorney fees to respondent. We affirm.
After a marriage dissolution trial, the district court awarded the parties' homestead to appellant Larry Gene Vogt subject to a 90-day lien of $49,338 in favor of respondent Kristi Lynn Kroona. The judgment required that Vogt maintain the homestead and pay the mortgage installments, real estate taxes, and homeowners' insurance.
One hundred and eighty days after entry of judgment, Vogt had not satisfied Kroona's lien. Nor had he maintained the real estate, paid the mortgage installments, or paid the property taxes. Because of the default, the mortgagee foreclosed its mortgage and scheduled a sheriff's sale of the property.
Kroona then moved for an order transferring title of the homestead to her, or, in the alternative, requiring either a sale of the property or a statutory foreclosure of her lien.
Five days before the sheriff's sale, the district court ordered Vogt to transfer title to Kroona and directed Kroona to sell the property at its fair market value. From the sale proceeds, Kroona was to pay sale costs; satisfy delinquencies in the mortgage, taxes and insurance; satisfy her own lien; and pay any remaining amounts to Vogt. The court also awarded attorney fees to Kroona.
Contending that the district court impermissibly modified a property division and awarded attorney fees without a legal basis, Vogt appeals.
D E C I S I O N
In a marriage dissolution, the imposition of a lien on a homestead is a division of property. Kerr v. Kerr, 309 Minn. 124, 126, 243 N.W.2d 313, 314 (1976). Ordinarily, property divisions are final and can be modified only under limited circumstances. Ulrich v. Ulrich, 400 N.W.2d 213, 218 (Minn. App. 1987). As a court of equity, the trial court has the inherent authority to interpret, implement, and enforce its directives. Hanson v. Hanson, 379 N.W.2d 230, 233 (Minn. App. 1985). But in implementing the property division in a marriage dissolution decree, the court may not change the parties' substantive rights. Ulrich, 400 N.W.2d at 218.
Although Vogt acknowledges that the district court had authority to enter judgment on Kroona's lien, he contends that the court could not properly transfer title as a means of enforcing the lien. Rather, he argues, statutory foreclosure is the means by which the lien may be enforced.
In Potter v. Potter, 471 N.W.2d 113 (Minn. App. 1991), the district court enforced a lien securing a property division by ordering the immediate sale of the encumbered real estate. The appellant there argued that the district court had no authority to enforce the lien in this manner because such sale would strip him of his redemption rights and homestead-related protections from creditors. Rather, he argued, the lienholder would have to follow statutory foreclosure procedures. We held that "foreclosure is not the only means available to the trial court to enforce a lien provision in a dissolution decree." Id. at 114. We also said:
Moreover, such a sale will not affect the value of appellant's interest. The sale proceeds will cover the delinquent monthly installments he is legally obligated to pay pursuant to the original decree's property division. Therefore, appellant's substantive rights have not been changed.
Here, the district court was faced with a party who had disregarded the court's orders and had jeopardized not only his own property interest but Kroona's lien rights as well. Additionally, the court found that Vogt was unable to maintain the real estate or to preserve it by making mortgage, tax and insurance payments. Under these circumstances, the court exercised its equitable powers and selected a remedy that was necessarily swift and definitive. Even then, the court did not alter the parties' substantive rights. The court did not abuse its discretion in transferring title to Kroona and ordering the sale of the property. See Graff v. Graff, 472 N.W.2d 882, 882 (Minn. App. 1991) (holding a post-judgment change in allocation of assets and debts between parties to a dissolution “is not an improper modification of a final property division” if events unforeseen when the judgment was entered “necessitate” change and value of original property division is not altered), review denied (Minn. Sept. 13, 1991).
The district court has discretion to award attorney fees under Minn. Stat. § 518.14 (1998), and the award will not be disturbed on appeal absent a clear abuse of that discretion. Jensen v. Jensen, 409 N.W.2d 60, 63 (Minn. App. 1987). The court in its discretion may award "additional fees, costs, and disbursements" if a party "unreasonably contributes to the length or expense of the proceeding." Minn. Stat. § 518.14, subd. 1 (1998). The court must make findings on the factors on which an award of attorney fees is based. Kronick v. Kronick, 482 N.W.2d 533, 536 (Minn. App. 1992).
The court's findings demonstrate that Vogt disobeyed court orders, and, by doing so, nearly caused the loss of the homestead and Kroona's lien. But for Vogt's failure to pay the lien when due and his default in mortgage payments, it would not have been necessary for Kroona to incur attorney fees in an effort to enforce the dissolution judgment. The court's findings were adequate and the court did not abuse its discretion in awarding attorney fees to Kroona.