This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).







In Re the Marriage of:

Mardel A. Schroeder, petitioner,





Glenn D. Schroeder,




Filed November 14, 2000


Amundson, Judge


Olmsted County District Court

File No. F19988


Thomas W. Healy, Healy Law Offices, P.A., 119 Sixth Street Southwest, Rochester, MN 55902 (for respondent)


Peter D. Plunkett, Warren F. Plunkett & Associates, 107 West Oakland Avenue, P.O. Box 463, Austin, MN 55912 (for appellant)



            Considered and decided by Schumacher, Presiding Judge, Amundson, Judge, and Halbrooks, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Appellant Glen Schroeder alleges that the district court should have awarded him interest in respondent Mardel Schroeder’s home and her pension because he contributed to the increased value of those assets accruing during the marriage.  We affirm.


            Throughout most of their marriage, the parties owned and lived in separate homes in separate cities.  A number of improvements were made to respondent’s home.  In 1997, appellant moved in with respondent, but the parties separated in 1998 and dissolved their marriage in a court action.  That trial determined the division of the increase during the marriage in the values of respondent’s home and pension.  The district court awarded respondent all of the equity in her home and her entire pension.  Appellant, who did not make a posttrial motion, appeals. 



            Respondent alleges that this court should not consider a document in the appendix to appellant’s brief because it is not in evidence.  See Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 110.01 (defining record on appeal as items presented to district court).  Because the document is in the district court file, we do not strike it, but recognize that it was not received as substantive evidence.  Respondent also alleges that we should not consider other documents because appellant submitted them to the district court after the record closed.  The judgment itself states the district court did not consider these documents and accordingly, we do not consider them as substantive evidence.  Nor do we consider the issues allegedly raised by the documents.  See Thiele v. Stich, 425 N.W.2d 580, 582 (Minn. 1988) (stating, generally, that appellate courts consider only questions presented to and considered by the district court). 


            The district court has broad discretion when dividing marital property and will be affirmed if its division “has an acceptable basis in fact and principle” even if we might have resolved the question otherwise.  Rohling v. Rohling, 379 N.W.2d 519, 522 (Minn. 1986).  Because appellant did not make a posttrial motion, review is limited to whether the evidence supports the findings of fact and whether the findings support the conclusions of law and the judgment.  Gruenhagen v. Larson, 310 Minn. 454, 458, 246 N.W.2d 565, 569 (1976); Erickson v. Erickson, 434 N.W.2d 284, 286 (Minn. App. 1989). 

            Property acquired during a marriage is presumed to be marital.  Olsen v. Olsen, 562 N.W.2d 797, 800 (Minn. 1997); Minn. Stat. § 518.54, subd. 5 (1998) (defining “marital property”).  Deciding whether property is marital or non-marital is a legal question but appellate courts defer to the district court’s underlying findings of fact unless they are clearly erroneous.  Olsen, 562 N.W.2d at 800.  A party alleging property is non-marital must show it to be so by a preponderance of the evidence.  Id. 

            Respondent’s premarital home is her non-marital property.  Minn. Stat. § 518.54, subd. 5(b).  The increase in the value of non-marital property is marital if “attributable to the efforts of one or both spouses during their marriage” but non-marital if “attributable to inflation or to market forces or conditions.”  Nardini v. Nardini, 414 N.W.2d 184, 192 (Minn. 1987).  Appellant did not move the district court to use Schmitz v. Schmitz, 309 N.W.2d 748 (Minn. 1981) to value respondent’s non-marital interest in her home.  Therefore, we do not address whether that should have been done.  Thiele, 425 N.W.2d at 582.

            The district court found most of the increased value of respondent’s home was due to respondent spending her inheritance on the home.  Appellant alleges respondent failed to trace her inheritances to her home.  To trace a non-marital asset, a party need only do so by a preponderance of the evidence; strict tracing is not required.  Doering v. Doering, 385 N.W.2d 387, 390 (Minn. App. 1986). 

            Appellant alleges respondent cannot claim the increase in the value of her house was non-marital because the funds to effect improvements came out of an account with both parties’ names on it or were only traced to respondent’s home by what he alleges was respondent’s “vague” testimony.  But, if believed, oral testimony is sufficient to trace a non-marital interest.  Id., 385 N.W.2d at 390-91 (deferring to district court’s ability to judge credibility and affirming finding that non-marital interest in assets had been traced where evidence of tracing was party’s testimony).  And further, that the funds were in an account with both parties’ names on it does not necessarily render the funds marital.  Nash v. Nash, 388 N.W.2d 777, 781 (Minn. App. 1986) (stating “[s]imply routing the funds through a joint account ‘does not transform non-marital property into marital property’” (quoting Montgomery v. Montgomery, 358 N.W.2d 169, 172 (Minn. App. 1984)), review denied (Minn. Aug. 20, 1986).  Here, the account in question was originally respondent’s account and appellant “never” put any money in that account. 

            Appellant also alleges that the district court should have credited his “sweat equity” in the improvements in respondent’s home.  The parties, however, offered contradictory testimony on this point.  We defer to the district court’s treatment of appellant’s assertions.  Sefkow v. Sefkow, 427 N.W.2d 203, 210 (Minn. 1988). 

            Appellant also alleges certain arithmetic errors in the district court’s determination of the value of respondent’s non-marital interest in her home.  Respondent’s testimony on some of these points is not entirely clear.  As such, the district court, present at the trial and most able to judge credibility and context, is the appropriate entity for discerning the weight and meaning of her testimony.  But even if appellant’s allegations are correct, we cannot say that the sum of these alleged errors is sufficient to require a remand for a reapportionment of the interests in the home.  SeeWibbens v. Wibbens, 379 N.W.2d 225, 227 (Minn. App. 1985) (refusing to remand for de minimis error); cf. Minn. R. Civ. P. 61 (harmless error to be ignored).


            Marital property generally includes pension benefits acquired during a marriage.  Minn. Stat. § 518.54, subd. 5; see White v. White, 521 N.W.2d 874, 878-79 (Minn. App. 1994) (holding portion of increase in retirement account attributable to parties’ contributions and management of account was marital but portion of increase attributable to appreciation of premarital investment was non-marital).  Here, appellant alleges he should have received half of the marital increase in respondent’s pension.

            The argument that appellant is entitled to half the increase in respondent’s pension simply because the increase is marital is incorrect.  See id. at 878 (stating district court need not equally divide marital property as long as division is equitable).  Division of a pension is within the district court’s discretion.  Dubois v. Dubois, 335 N.W.2d 503, 505 (Minn. 1983).  When dividing property, the district court is to consider each party’s “contribution” to the “acquisition, preservation, depreciation or appreciation in the amount or value of the marital property.”  Minn. Stat. § 518.58, subd. 1.  An equal division of marital property is not required and property divisions are based, partially, on the parties’ respective contributions to the increased value of the pension.  Here, the district court found that appellant’s contribution to the increased value of respondent’s pension was minimal and that was a satisfactory basis on which to award respondent her entire pension.[1] 

            Appellant also argues that the reserved-jurisdiction method of dividing a pension mandates that he receive half the increased value of respondent’s pension.  See DuBois, 335 N.W.2d at 505 (describing methods of dividing pensions, including reserved-jurisdiction method).  But, the pension division methods summarized in DuBois merely addresses how a pension division is actually accomplished, not what amount constitutes an equitable division of a pension.  See id. at 505-06 (stating, under reserved-jurisdiction method, the district court does not divide pension until it is actually received, only then directing that an equitable percentage of pension be paid to pensioner’s former spouse).  Moreover, the reserved-jurisdiction method “should be used” if the determination of a pension’s “present value” is “unacceptably speculative or there are not enough assets to equitably require that benefits due in the future be split presently.”  Taylor v. Taylor, 329 N.W.2d 795, 799 (Minn. 1983).  Here, the district court found neither that the present value of respondent’s pension was speculative nor that the martial estate lacked the assets to allow immediate division of the pension.  Indeed, because respondent started receiving her pension before trial and because her life expectancy could be determined, the present value of her pension is not unduly speculative.  See DuBois, 335 N.W.2d at 506 (defining “present value” as “the sum which a person would take now in return for giving up the right to receive an unknown number of monthly checks in the future”).  The district court was not required to apply the reserved-jurisdiction method of dividing respondent’s pension. 


[1]  Husband challenges the finding that his contribution to the increased value of wife’s pension was minimal.  He alleges that he was “there” for wife “whenever” she needed him, that he took care of her home, lawn, and snow shoveling, and that he made sure she had operating vehicles to get to work.  On this record, and particularly in light of the fact that the parties lived in different cities for most of their marriage, we cannot say that the district court clearly erred in finding husband’s contributions to the increased value of wife’s pension were minimal.