This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).







In Re the Marriage of:

Russell Glenn Hagen, petitioner,





Jenny Mae Hagen,



Filed April 10, 2002


Willis, Judge


Washington County District Court

File No. F3994567


Russell G. Hagen, 6348 236th Street Circle, Forest Lake, MN  55025 (pro se appellant)


Jenny Mae Hagen, 181 Big Circle Drive, Little Canada, MN  55117 (pro se respondent)


            Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Shumaker, Judge, and Parker, Judge.*

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


Pro se appellant challenges the district court’s denial of his motion to have respondent found in contempt of court, arguing that the court abused its discretion by failing to invoke its contempt powers when respondent failed to comply with the terms of the marital-dissolution order.  Because we find no abuse of the district court’s discretion, we affirm.


             Appellant Russell Glenn Hagen and respondent Jenny Mae Hagen ended their marriage in June 2000.  The stipulated dissolution judgment gives respondent title to the couple’s 1996 Jeep Cherokee, subject to all encumbrances, which she was to assume.  The judgment also provides that any debt incurred after the date of the couple’s separation is the sole obligation of the party incurring the debt and that the parties are to execute and deliver any documents necessary to effectuate the judgment.

            In August 2001, appellant moved to have respondent found in contempt of court, claiming that she “did not take [appellant’s] name off title or loan and checking account concerning 96 Jeep Cherokee and North Star Bank.”  The district court denied appellant’s motion, and this appeal follows.


            Appellant’s pro se brief consists of a list of 20 phrases labeled “findings of fact” and contains no analysis or legal citation.  Generally, this court declines to reach issues in the absence of adequate briefing.  State, Dep’t of Labor & Indus. v. Wintz Parcel Drivers, Inc., 558 N.W.2d 480, 480 (Minn. 1997).  But courts may provide some latitude to pro se litigants.  Liptak v. State ex rel. City of New Hope, 340 N.W.2d 366, 367 (Minn. App. 1983).  Here, we choose to address the issues that appellant appears to raise.

            Appellant argues that the district court abused its discretion by denying his motion to have respondent found in contempt because she failed to (1) remove appellant’s name from the title to the Jeep, (2) remove appellant as a co-signor on the loan for the Jeep, and (3) remove appellant’s name from the parties’ joint checking account.  The district court’s decision whether to invoke its contempt powers is subject to reversal only where there is an abuse of the court’s discretion.  See Mower County Human Servs. v. Swancutt, 551 N.W.2d 219, 222 (Minn. 1996).

1.         Title to Jeep.

            The stipulated judgment provides that respondent “shall have the sole right, title, use and possession” of the Jeep “free and clear of any claims of [appellant] but subject to all encumbrances thereon, which [respondent] shall assume.”  This court gives a stipulated judgment’s language its “plain and ordinary meaning.”  See Brookfield Trade Ctr., Inc. v. County of Ramsey, 584 N.W.2d 390, 394 (Minn. 1998) (citation omitted) (holding that contracts are interpreted to give the language its plain and ordinary meaning); see also Shirk v. Shirk, 561 N.W.2d 519, 521 (Minn. 1997) (stating that stipulated dissolution judgments are given “the sanctity of binding contracts”).  Nothing in the judgment makes respondent the party responsible for removing appellant’s name from the title to the Jeep.

The judgment provides that if a party fails to execute a document necessary to effectuate the judgment, “a certified copy of the Judgment and Decree shall be sufficient to transfer title or otherwise effectuate said terms.”  Therefore, even if respondent were responsible for removing appellant’s name from the Jeep’s title, the judgment provided a mechanism for appellant to do so himself.

2.         Jeep Loan.

            Nothing in the judgment purports to require respondent to ensure that appellant ceases to be a co-signor on the Jeep loan.  While respondent is to assume responsibility for encumbrances on the Jeep, a bank holds the loan, and respondent cannot force the bank to remove appellant’s name from the note.  The district court specifically found that “[r]espondent has made application with a bank to refinance the Jeep but has been denied.”    

3.         Joint Checking Account.

            The judgment provides that “each of the parties shall have the sole title, use and possession of the personal property, including * * * bank accounts * * * in their respective possession,” but it does not specifically address the joint checking account.  Appellant requested that the district court issue a contempt order that would require respondent to reimburse appellant for costs he incurred for overdraft fees as a result of respondent’s failure to remove his name from the joint checking account.  But the judgment does not require that respondent remove appellant’s name from the joint checking account.

The district court did not abuse its discretion in denying appellant’s contempt motion.



                * Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.