This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. ß 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In re the Marriage of:
Carolyn Beth Steger, petitioner,
Daniel Stephen Steger,
Dakota County District Court
File No. F99915196
John M. Mulligan, Patricia A. Docherty, Mulligan & Bjornnes PLLP, 401 Groveland Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55403-3292 (for respondent)
Richard K. Hocking, Richard K. Hocking, P.A. 7570 West 147th Street, Apple Valley, MN 55124 (for appellant)
††††††††††† Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Hanson, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D†† O P I N I O N
Appellant Daniel Stephen Steger contends the district court erred when it found that appellant failed to draft a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) as required by the partiesí dissolution judgment.† Appellant also argues that the district court abused its discretion by improperly modifying a dissolution judgment when it (1) determined respondent is entitled to $40,000 in assets from appellantís retirement plan, and (2) ordered appellant to select the assets to transfer to respondent.† We affirm.
D E C I S I O N
††††††††††† Appellant contends the district court erred by holding him responsible for failing to draft a QDRO as agreed in the partiesí stipulation and judgment.† We disagree.
††††††††††† An appellate court may not reverse a district court over mere disagreement with its findings.† Fletcher v. St. Paul Pioneer Press, 589 N.W.2d 96, 102 (Minn. 1999).† Rather, we will reverse a district courtís findings only when those findings are clearly erroneous.† Id.† Findings of fact are clearly erroneous when they are not reasonably supported by the evidence.† Id.†
††††††††††† Appellant argues that respondent caused his failure to draft the QDRO because he could not draft the QDRO without respondentís asset selection.† We disagree.† Paragraph 15 of the judgment states ď[t]he QDRO shall be drafted by counsel for [appellant] * * * .Ē† The judgment further states:
The [respondent] shall have the right to select from the various fund components of the [plan] the elements that comprise her $40,000 share.† The [respondent] shall give notice of her selection by the time of entry of the Judgment and Decree.†
††††††††††† A reasonable reading of this provision suggests that respondent had the right to select the assets she wished transferred only until the entry of the judgment.† Since reasonable evidence supports the district courtís finding that appellant did not need respondentís asset selection to draft the QDRO but could have drafted the QDRO at any time after the entry of the judgment, we conclude that the district court did not err in finding appellant failed to draft the QDRO as agreed.
††††††††††† Appellant also contends that because there was no motion to amend the property division, the district court lacked the authority to find that appellant failed to draft the QDRO.† We disagree.† The courtís finding of fact that appellant failed to draft the QDRO does not amend the judgment.† Moreover, on January 10, 2001, respondent filed a motion to compel appellant to complete the QDRO.† Thus, the court had a motion in front of it allowing it to determine whether appellant failed to complete the QDRO.† Because reasonable evidence supports the district courtís finding, that finding was not clearly erroneous, and the district court did not err.
We will not reverse a district courtís interpretation of a dissolution decree absent a clear abuse of discretion.† Potter v. Potter, 471 N.W.2d 113, 114 (Minn. App. 1991).† Stipulated dissolution judgments are deemed binding contracts.† Tomscak v. Tomscak, 352 N.W.2d 464, 466 (Minn. App. 1984).† Whether a judgment is ambiguous is a legal question.† Anderson v. Archer, 510 N.W.2d 1, 3 (Minn. App. 1993); Halverson v. Halverson, 381 N.W.2d 69, 71 (Minn. App. 1986).† If a judgment is ambiguous, a district court may construe or clarify it.† Stieler v. Stieler, 244 Minn. 312, 318-19, 70 N.W.2d 127, 131 (1955).† Absent ambiguity, however, it is improper for a court to interpret a stipulated judgment.† Starr v. Starr, 312 Minn. 561, 562-63, 251 N.W.2d 341, 342 (1977).†
The meaning of an ambiguous judgment provision is a fact question reviewed on a clearly erroneous basis.† See Landwehr v. Landwehr, 380 N.W. 136, 140 (Minn. App. 1985).† While a district court may not modify a final property division, it may issue orders to implement, enforce, or clarify the provisions of a decree as long as it does not change the partiesí substantive rights.† Redmond v. Redmond, 594 N.W.2d 272, 275 (Minn. App. 1999) (citing Potter v. Potter, 471 N.W.2d 113, 114 (Minn. App. 1991)).
Appellant claims the district court abused its discretion by ordering appellant to transfer $40,000 worth of assets to respondent arguing that this order had the effect of amending the judgment without an appropriate motion.† We disagree.
When a judgment is doubtful or open to diverse interpretation, the tribunal that ordered the judgment can clarify it.† Stieler, 244 Minn. at 319, 70 N.W.2d at 131.† Because the parties interpreted the language regarding the transfer of $40,000 worth of assets differently, the judgment was open to different interpretation and therefore the district court had authority to clarify it.† Moreover, while respondent did not make a motion specifically requesting a clarification, respondentís motion did request ď[s]uch other relief as the Court deems just.Ē† And appellant made a motion to have the court divide appellantís retirement plan on a percentage basis.† In order for the court to address appellantís and respondentís motions, the court had to clarify the language in the judgment.† Because we will not reverse a district courtís order interpreting a dissolution decree absent a clear abuse of discretion, and the court did not clearly err in interpreting the judgment, we conclude the district court did not abuse its discretion.
Appellant also contends the district court lacked authority to order appellant to select the assets from his retirement plan to transfer to respondent and that the order improperly modifies the dissolution judgment.† We disagree.† The district court did not amend the judgment.† By ordering appellant to select the assets to be transferred, the court simply implemented the judgment, which was within its province.† See Redmond, 594 N.W.2d at 275.† Because the court only clarified and implemented the judgment, we conclude the district court did not abuse its discretion.