This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).






In re:


Deboraha Mattson, petitioner,





Paul R. Mattson,



Filed May 6, 2003

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded

Gordon W. Shumaker, Judge


Becker County District Court

File No. F500911




Deboraha Mattson, P.O. Box 53, Audubon, MN 56511 (pro se respondent)


Leslie Johnson Aldrich, 1018 First Avenue North, Fargo, North Dakota 58102 (for appellant)




            Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Wright, Judge.


U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            On appeal in this marriage dissolution, appellant-father challenges his child support obligation, the adoption of respondent-mother’s proposed judgment, the valuation of certain property, and aspects of the property division.  We affirm the district court as to all issues except the child support obligation and the valuation and the division of certain property.  As to those matters, we remand the support question, the valuation of father’s tools, and the division of property.  We reverse and remand the district court’s treatment of the house in which father is currently living.


            The proceedings to dissolve the marriage of appellant-father Paul Mattson and respondent-mother Deboraha Mattson produced a stipulated judgment dissolving the marriage but reserving other issues, a subsequent trial and judgment on custody-related issues, and an even later trial and judgment on property issues.  Without having sought a new trial, father appeals.  He argues that the district court: (1) failed to make adequate findings to sustain his child support obligation; (2) abused its discretion by adopting mother’s proposed judgment; (3) misvalued various items of property; (4) should not have asserted jurisdiction over property interests beyond the marital estate; and (5) abused its discretion in dividing the parties’ property.  Mother did not file a brief, and this court ordered that the appeal proceed under Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 142.03. 


            On appeal from a judgment where there has been no motion for new trial, the only questions for review are whether the evidence supports the findings of fact and whether the findings of fact support the conclusions of law and the judgment.  Fitzgerald v. Fitzgerald, 629 N.W.2d 115, 117 (Minn. App. 2001).  We will not alter a district court’s findings of fact unless they are “clearly erroneous.”  Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01. 

A finding is “clearly erroneous” if the reviewing court is “ ‘left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made.’ ”  When determining whether findings are clearly erroneous, the appellate court views the record in the light most favorable to the trial court’s findings.  Also, appellate courts defer to trial court credibility determinations.


Vangsness v. Vangsness, 607 N.W.2d 468, 472 (Minn. App. 2000) (quotation and citations omitted).  “That the record might support findings other than those made by the trial court does not show that the court’s findings are defective.”  Id. at 474.


            A presumptively correct support obligation is calculated by applying the child support guidelines to the obligor’s net monthly income.  See Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(b), (i) (2002).  If, as here, the obligor is self-employed, his income is “gross receipts minus ordinary and necessary expenses.”  Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5b(f) (2002).  The district court did not find father’s gross receipts, his ordinary and necessary expenses, or his net monthly income.  A lack of adequate findings precludes meaningful review of the support award.  See Rosenfeld v. Rosenfeld, 311 Minn. 76, 82, 249 N.W.2d 168, 171 (1976) (stating particularized findings promote the use of statutory standards, explain the district court’s decision to parties, and facilitate meaningful appellate review).  It also can unnecessarily complicate the modification process.  Cf. Hecker v. Hecker, 568 N.W.2d 705, 709 (Minn. 1997) (noting, in maintenance context, a stipulated judgment sets baseline circumstances against which claims of changed circumstances are evaluated).  We remand the support issue.  See Erickson v. Erickson, 385 N.W.2d 301, 303 (Minn. 1986) (remanding a support modification for findings where existing findings were inadequate).  On remand, the district court shall set support and make the findings necessary to explain that support obligation.  If necessary, the district court shall obtain from father any information not already in the record that is necessary to address support. 


            Father challenges the district court’s adoption of mother’s proposed findings.  Adopting a party’s proposed findings “is not reversible error per se[,]” but it “raises the question of whether the trial court independently evaluated each party’s testimony and evidence.”  Bliss v. Bliss, 493 N.W.2d 583, 590 (Minn. App. 1992), review denied (Minn. Feb. 12, 1993).  Appellate courts cannot assume district-court error.  Loth v. Loth, 227 Minn. 387, 392, 35 N.W.2d 542, 546 (1949); see Luthen v. Luthen, 596 N.W.2d 278, 283 (Minn. App. 1999) (applying Loth).  Therefore, we cannot assume that a district court failed to independently evaluate the testimony and evidence presented.  Also, verbatim adoption of proposed findings is not fatal to the adopted findings if the findings are not clearly erroneous.  Sigurdson v. Isanti County, 408 N.W.2d 654, 657 (Minn. App. 1987), review denied (Minn. Aug. 19, 1987).  Here, father argues that mother’s testimony was not logical and did not support her proposed findings[1] and conclusions.  A challenge to the “logic” of testimony is a challenge to the district court’s determination that the testimony was credible.  Appellate courts defer to district court credibility determinations.  Sefkow v. Sefkow, 427 N.W.2d 203, 210 (Minn. 1988).[2]


Father challenges the valuations of various assets.  Asset valuations are findings of fact and will not be set aside on appeal unless clearly erroneous.  Hertz v. Hertz, 304 Minn. 144, 145, 229 N.W.2d 42, 44 (1975).  The district court valued father’s tools, inventory, and equipment at $20,000.  The record shows that (a) mother gave an appraiser a list of tools she believed father had; (b) the appraiser went to father’s shop and valued the items found there at $7,000 in their used condition; (c) the appraiser did not value the tools on mother’s list that were not found at father’s shop and did not value father’s inventory; (d) the district court noted that mother alleged that many tools were not included in the valuation and that the valuation omitted inventory; and (e) the district court found that the appraiser’s valuation was incomplete and that father’s inventory, tools, and equipment were worth $20,000.  While mother testified to a value of $25,000 for these items, how the district court arrived at the $20,000 figure, and what aspects of the record support that figure, are unclear.  Therefore, we remand the valuation of father’s tools. 

Regarding other valuations challenged by father, we have reviewed the record and conclude that father has not shown those valuations to be clearly erroneous.  See Wilson v. Moline, 234 Minn. 174, 182, 47 N.W.2d 865, 870 (1951) (stating appellate court’s function “does not require [it] to discuss and review in detail the evidence for the purpose of demonstrating that it supports the trial court’s findings” and that its duty “is performed when [it] consider[s] all the evidence * * * and determine[s] that it reasonably supports the findings”); Vangsness, 607 N.W.2d at 474-75 & n.1 (applying Wilson). 


The district court valued the house in which father is currently living at $114,000, noted that it is titled in the name of father’s friend, and stated that mother’s testimony that father is the sole person interested in that house is credible.  The district court then (a) required father to pay his friend $30,000 for the friend’s interest in the house; (b) directed the friend to quitclaim his interest in the house to mother; and (c) stated that if the friend did not sign a quitclaim deed, mother is awarded a $114,000 lien on the real property awarded to father.  Father correctly notes that the district court lacked authority to require his friend to execute a quitclaim deed.  See Sammons v. Sammons, 642 N.W.2d 450, 457 (Minn. App. 2002) (stating “district court may not exercise jurisdiction over a nonparty” and “[lacked] personal jurisdiction to enter a judgment affecting [the property rights of a nonparty]”); see also Fraser v. Fraser, 642 N.W.2d 34, 38 (Minn. App. 2002) (noting that Minn. Stat. § 518.58 (2000) “does not authorize the district court to adjudicate the interests of third parties”)[3].  Therefore, we reverse the portions of the judgment requiring father to pay his friend $30,000 for the friend’s interest in the property, requiring the friend to quitclaim his interest in the house to mother, and the alternative award to mother of a lien on father’s property.  On remand, the district court shall readdress the division of the parties’ interest(s) in the house and make any necessary alteration in the overall property division required by the adjusted division of the house. 


            To the extent father argues that mother should have no interest in the house because she was not involved in its construction, we reject that argument: The house was built during the marriage, father made no attempt to trace a nonmarital interest to the property, other than to assert that the bulk of the house was built after the parties separated.  The amount of time between the parties’ separation and their dissolution, however, was unnecessarily lengthened by father’s failure to cooperate with discovery.  See Minn. Stat. § 518.54, subd. 5 (2002) (stating marital property is presumed to include property acquired during a marriage).  Father also argues that it was inequitable to award the house to mother and award him the debt associated with the house.  But one party may be awarded property while the other party is awarded the debt associated with that property.  Cf. Dahlberg v. Dahlberg, 358 N.W.2d 76, 80 (Minn. App. 1984) (affirming an award of specific homes in overall property division and stating a party with greater assets may be allocated greater debts even if the other party receives the benefit of the property). 

            Father also challenges several other aspects of the district court’s distribution of the parties’ property.  When a marriage is dissolved, the district court “shall” make a “just and equitable” division of the parties’ “marital property.”  Minn. Stat. § 518.58, subd. 1; see Ruzic v. Ruzic, 281 N.W.2d 502, 505 (Minn. 1979) (stating that the district court’s division of marital property need not be mathematically equal, only just and equitable).  Here, because the district court erred in addressing the disposition of the house that is titled in the name of father’s friend, and because the record does not support the district court’s valuation of father’s tools and equipment, on remand the district court shall have discretion to adjust any aspect(s) of the property division necessary to achieve the equitable property division required by Minn. Stat. § 518.58, subd. 1.  Also, on remand, the district court shall have discretion regarding whether to reopen the record. 

            Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

[1] To the extent father may be challenging findings that he did not specifically identify in his brief, he did not adequately brief the question and waived the argument.  State, Dep't of Labor & Indus. v. Wintz Parcel Drivers, Inc., 558 N.W.2d 480, 480 (Minn. 1997). 

[2] Similarly, the only evidence addressing whether a truck was mother’s nonmarital property was the parties’ conflicting testimony.  The district court’s ruling that the truck was mother’s nonmarital property shows that the district court resolved the credibility questions against father and we defer to the district court on this point.  See Doering v. Doering, 385 N.W.2d 387, 391 (Minn. App. 1986) (deferring to the district court’s ability to judge credibility and affirming the finding that nonmarital interest in assets had been traced where evidence of tracing was a party’s testimony).  Our deference to district court credibility determinations also addresses father’s challenges to the district court’s findings regarding the proceeds of the Bijou House and the contents of father’s cash box. 

[3] Because the district court awarded mother the house titled in the name of father’s friend, the equitable property division required by Minn. Stat. § 518.58 (2002) may have required an award to father of other property.  Because the dissolution court cannot compel father’s friend to release his interest in the house, the requirement that father pay his friend $30,000 for that interest is defective, that interest could not be awarded to mother, father would not be entitled to other compensatory property, and the property distribution may need adjustment.  For these reasons, father has sufficient interest in the disposition of his friend’s interest in the house to have standing to challenge the district court’s handling of that interest.  See Rivera v. Ramsey County, 615 N.W.2d 854, 857 (Minn. App. 2000) (stating a party must have standing to raise an issue before the appellate court will address the issue, and addressing requirements for standing).