This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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

 

STATE OF MINNESOTA

IN COURT OF APPEALS

A03-114

 

 

In re the Marriage of:

 

Robert H. Eidsvold Jr.,

Personal Representative of the

Estate of Robert H. Eidsvold Sr., petitioner,

Appellant,

 

vs.

 

Patricia L. Eidsvold, n/k/a Patricia Lee Smith,

Respondent.

 

Filed September 23, 2003

Affirmed

Lansing, Judge

 

Hennepin County District Court

File No. DW261435

 

 

Peter J. Gleekel, Matthew D. Spohn, Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A., Suite 3500, 225 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN  55402 (for appellant)

 

Marilyn J. Michales, Lisa M. Meier, Honsa & Michales, P.A., Suite 1075, 5500 Wayzata Boulevard, Minneapolis, MN  55416 (for respondent)

 

            Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Toussaint, Chief Judge, and Schumacher, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

LANSING, Judge

            On appeal from the district court’s order to enforce the parties’ stipulated dissolution judgment, Robert H. Eidsvold Jr., acting as personal representative of the estate of petitioner Robert H. Eidsvold Sr.,  argues that the district court improperly reopened the dissolution judgment without satisfying the requirements in Minn. Stat. § 518.145, subd. 2 (2002).  Because we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in acting to implement and enforce the provisions of the judgment, we affirm. 

F A C T S

 

            Robert H. Eidsvold, Sr., and Patricia Smith were married in 1988 and dissolved their marriage in February 2002 by stipulated judgment.  At the time of the dissolution, Eidsvold was eighty-seven years old and Smith was sixty-five.

Eidsvold and Smith signed an antenuptial agreement, which was incorporated by reference into the stipulated judgment.  The district court concluded that, under the antenuptial agreement, Eidsvold was obligated to pay Smith $349,600 in equal quarterly installments over a period of seven years, with the first payment to be made within ninety days after the entry of the judgment.  The district court also concluded that Smith must repay Eidsvold all sums that were not returned or credited to Eidsvold by the Internal Revenue Service as a result of Smith claiming $50,400 of estimated tax payments on her 2000 federal and state tax returns.

The court’s order provided that Smith must make the federal tax repayment within thirty days after Eidsvold notified her of the IRS’s final determination.  The district court expressly “retain[ed] jurisdiction over this 2000 estimated tax payment issue in order to ensure the parties’ agreement on this issue is realized and that [Smith] performs her obligations with respect to the 2000 estimated tax payments.”

            Eidsvold moved to enforce the judgment on December 12, 2002, requesting an order that Smith pay the estimated tax payment as required by its terms.  He stated that the IRS and the State of Minnesota had determined that he was not entitled to a refund for estimated tax payments made in 2000, because the IRS had previously sent a refund to Smith.  The IRS had allocated Eidsvold’s $104,000 payment of estimated taxes in 2000 between Eidsvold and Smith, based on their respective incomes.  As a result, $94,250 of the federal tax liability was allocated to Eidsvold and $9,750 was allocated to Smith.  Eidsvold indicated that rather than demanding payment from Smith, he had offset the $9,750 from the quarterly payment due to her under the judgment.  He also stated that he had offset other amounts from the payments due to Smith for property that Smith had wrongfully withheld from him and expenses he had incurred in attempting to recover that property.  These offsets, including the tax liability, totaled $17,380.

            Smith, in response, moved to find Eidsvold in contempt for failing to pay the scheduled quarterly payments under the judgment, and to order judgment of $17,380 plus interest for Smith.  Smith alleged that she had received none of the $12,485.71 payment due by June 25, 2002, and only $7,591.42 of the payment due in September 2002, and that Eidsvold was proposing to eliminate the December 2002 payment as well. 

            At a hearing on these motions, Eidsvold’s counsel acknowledged that Eidsvold owed $12,485 quarterly under the judgment.  He informed the court that $6,500 of the 2000 tax liability was still in question because the IRS had not notified Eidsvold of its final determination.

            The parties agreed at the hearing that Smith owed $43,900 in tax payments to Eidsvold ($50,400 minus the $6,500 anticipated remaining liability).  To resolve the payment issues, the court first proposed that Eidsvold would pay Smith on a seven-year payment schedule, deducting the tax payments owed him from the amounts due her under the antenuptial agreement.  Eidsvold’s counsel objected, stating that the judgment required that Smith pay the money within thirty days of notification that Eidsvold had not received credit from the IRS and that he would be losing the time value of his money.  The court pointed out that Smith was not receiving interest on the antenuptial payments.

            The court then proposed a three-year payment schedule, starting in March 2002. Eidsvold’s counsel stated:  “Well, yeah, I mean I was going to suggest two years.  If the Court’s going to go back to March 2002, I’ll go back and tell my client we’ve reached a solution.”  The court and the parties calculated that this plan would amount to quarterly payments of  $8,827.38 each.  Eidsvold’s counsel acknowledged that his client had engaged in self-help in making the offsets that he had alleged for other property. 

The district court issued its Order to Enforce Judgment and Decree in January 2003.  The court found that Smith owed Eidsvold $43,900 in connection with the tax liability, that she was to pay this amount quarterly at the rate of $3,658.33 each quarter, starting with the second quarter of 2002, and this amount would be offset against the quarterly payments of $12,485.71 due under the antenuptial agreement.  On this calculation, the court found that Eidsvold owed Smith, after the offset, $8,827.38 each quarter for the last three quarters of 2002, for a total of $26,482.14.  Subtracting the $7,591.42 that Eidsvold had already paid under the antenuptial agreement, the court ordered Eidsvold to pay Smith $18,890.72 by December 31, 2002.  The court then ordered that Eidsvold pay Smith $8,8272.38 each quarter thereafter, until March 2005, and that starting with the second quarter of 2005 (when the tax liability would be fully paid) Eidsvold pay to Smith the originally agreed upon $12,485.71 per quarter.  This appeal followed. 

D E C I S I O N

 

            The district court’s findings of fact are not to be set aside unless clearly erroneous.  Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01.  A decision whether to reopen a dissolution judgment is subject to an abuse-of-discretion standard. Kornberg v. Kornberg, 542 N.W.2d 379, 386 (Minn. 1996).  Similarly, this court reviews the implementation of a dissolution judgment under an abuse-of-discretion standard.  Potter v. Potter, 471 NW.2d 113, 114 (Minn. App. 1991). 

The division of property in a dissolution judgment is final and may be modified or revoked only when the court finds conditions exist that justify reopening a judgment under state law.  Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 2(e) (2002); Minn. Stat. § 518.145, subds. 1, 2 (2002).  Maintenance obligations are also subject to the standards for reopening a judgment.  See Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 4 (2002) (stating that section 518.145, subd. 2, applies to spousal maintenance).  But the district court retains the power to implement or enforce the provisions of a judgment so long as the substantive rights of the parties are not changed.  Kornberg, 542 N.W.2d at 388; Redmond v. Redmond, 594 N.W.2d 272, 275 (Minn. App. 1999); see also In re Application of Jensen, 414 N.W.2d 742, 746 (Minn. App. 1987) (district court may order enforcement of judgment arrears because discretionary power of court continues to enforce judgment), review denied (Minn. Jan. 15, 1988); Linder v. Linder, 391 N.W.2d 5, 8 (Minn. App. 1986) (district court may implement or enforce provisions of judgment related to property to expedite sale of house).  In this analysis, “[t]he paramount concern is whether the parties’ substantive rights are changed.”  Potter, 471 N.W.2d at 114.

On this record, the order directing that Smith pay Eidsvold for part of the estimated tax payments that she received, was in the nature of a property division, and the order that Eidsvold pay Smith the amounts specified in the antenuptial agreement is comparable to maintenance.  Because neither party was adhering to the strict terms of the stipulated agreement, the district court ordered a payment schedule and amounts that would ensure that both parties would receive the total due to them under the original judgment.

We conclude that the court did not improperly modify the judgment, but instead held the parties to their respective obligations under the judgment without changing their substantive rights.  See id. at 114 (recognizing that court’s power to enforce property division did not constitute improper modification of judgment).  By the terms of the district court’s order, Eidsvold was still entitled to the repayment of the tax liability; he was simply not able to offset it, at his discretion, from amounts due under the stipulated judgment.  Smith, for her part, was able to collect the payments due from Eidsvold under the judgment while reimbursing Eidsvold for the tax liability that she owed him. 

Eidsvold argues that the court went beyond simply enforcing the terms of the judgment, and instead altered the terms of the schedule by which Smith was obligated to pay him for the tax liability, extending it out over time so that he did not receive the time value of his money.  But neither did Smith receive the time value of the interest she had forgone by Eidsvold’s failure to make payments due her on the schedule ordered in the original judgment.  Eidsvold’s counsel agreed at the hearing that his client had engaged in self-help, and he did not dispute that payments were owed to Smith under the judgment.  We find Eidsvold’s attempt to seek strict enforcement of the stipulated judgment disingenuous when he attempted to alter, on his own, his acknowledged obligation under the agreement.

The district court did not abuse its discretion in ordering the parties to perform their obligations under the judgment in a manner that distributed the payments due to each over a reasonable time frame.  Smith argues, as a separate, independent basis for affirmance, that the parties stipulated to a modification of the original judgment on the terms of the district court’s order.  The parties, however, were not present in open court and were not questioned by the judge on the terms of the proposed stipulation.  See Cadle v. Cadle, 457 N.W.2d 736, 738 (Minn. App. 1990) (listing, as two of four prerequisites for an enforceable stipulation, the parties’ agreement in open court and court’s questioning).  Our decision that the district court did not abuse its discretion in enforcing the original judgment precludes the need to address the parties’ stipulation as a basis for affirmance.

            Affirmed.