This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).

 

STATE OF MINNESOTA

IN COURT OF APPEALS

A04-1437

 

In re the Marriage of:

Deboraha Mattson, petitioner,

Respondent,

 

v.

 

Paul R. Mattson,

Appellant.

 

Filed February 8, 2005

Affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded

Randall, Judge

Becker County District Court

File No. F5-00-911

 

James Shoemaker, 1009 Lake Avenue, P.O. Box 1026, Detroit Lakes, MN 56502 (for respondent)

 

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

 

            Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge; Randall, Judge, and Klaphake, Judge.

 

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

RANDALL, Judge

On appeal in this marital-dissolution dispute, appellant argues that the district court erred in its distribution of the parties’ marital property and that the district court abused its discretion in its assignment of child-support arrears.  We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.

FACTS

Appellant Paul Mattson and Respondent Deboraha Mattson were married on May 6, 1989, and had one child during their marriage.  On July 19, 2000, a petition for dissolution of marriage was filed.  And on November 6, 2000, the district court issued a temporary order requiring that appellant pay respondent $350 per month in child support. 

On June 11, 2002, the district court entered an order finalizing the issues of personal property, asset distribution, and child support.  The court awarded respondent child support in the amount of $900 per month.  The court also divided the parties’ real-estate holdings, awarding respondent a parcel of property located in Lake Park.  The district court found that appellant, along with a nonparty, Robert Gullard, held a joint interest in the Lake Park property.[1]  The Lake Park property was actually titled in Robert Gullard’s name.  According to appellant, Gullard owned an interest in the property worth approximately $30,000.  But the district court found that “no billing statements or itemizations have been produced to substantiate that claim.”  The Lake Park property had previously been valued at $114,000.  In awarding respondent this property, the district court stated:

[appellant] shall fully pay Robert Gullard for his interest in the homestead property, which both parties testified is in the amount of approximately $30,000.  That Robert Gullard shall quit claim any and all interest to the above-described property to [respondent] within 30 days of the entry of the Judgment and Decree herein.  In the event that Robert Gullard does not sign a quitclaim deed to [respondent], [she] shall be granted a lien against all of the real estate awarded to [appellant] in Section 6 in the amount of $114,000. 

 

On August 5, 2002, appellant appealed the district court’s $900 child-support determination and the division of marital assets.  Shortly thereafter, this court issued a decision in Mattson v. Mattson, No. C8-02-1342, 2003 WL 21006308 (Minn. App. May 6, 2003) (hereinafter Mattson I).  In Mattson I,this court remanded the issue of child support for lack of adequate findings.  Id. at *1.  Also, this court reversed and remanded the district court’s allocation of interest in the Lake Park property, concluding that the district court lacked the authority to exercise jurisdiction over the property rights of Robert Gullard, a nonparty.  Id at *1.  This court concluded that the district court should “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.”  Id. at *3.  Appellant subsequently sold the Lake Park property for the amount of $99,000.    

On March 3, 2004, the district court conducted a trial addressing the remanded issues.  The parties stipulated to ongoing child support in the amount of $550 per month, payable beginning in April 2004.  Respondent testified that appellant was current on the $350 child-support payments based on the temporary child-support order.  Respondent requested that retroactive child-support payments be made in the amount of $900 from the June 11, 2002 order.  In a July 6, 2004 order, the district court recognized the parties’ stipulated child-support agreement of $550 per month beginning April 1, 2004.  The court concluded that appellant owed “arrearages” in the amount of $550 per month from July 1, 2002, through March 31, 2002, for a total of $11,550.[2] 

Regarding the Lake Park property, the district court stated,

[T]he Minnesota Court of Appeals did not reverse this [c]ourt’s [f]inding that [respondent] has a $114,000 monetary interest owed to her by [appellant], but rather disagreed with how this [c]ourt attempted to allocate distribution of [respondent’s] interest.

 

[Appellant] testified that he sold the homestead that this [c]ourt found to have a value of $114,000, and was awarded to the [respondent].  Although the Minnesota Court of Appeals found that this [c]ourt did not have the authority to order a third party to sell his $30,000 interest in the home, [respondent] remains to have a $114,000 interest in marital property that has not been given to her.

 

The district court then awarded respondent $104,000 for her interest in the property.[3]  Further, the district court required appellant to pay respondent the amount within 30 days of the date of the order or “relinquish the property where he was currently residing over to [respondent] free and clear of any encumbrances.”[4]

Appellant appeals the 2004 district court order, arguing that the court erred in its distribution of marital assets and assignment of child-support arrearages. 

D E C I S I O N

I.  Marital property distribution

 

We begin our analysis with appellant’s argument that the district court erred in its distribution of marital property.  Under Minnesota law, the district court must make a “just and equitable division of the marital property.”  Minn. Stat. § 518.58, subd. 1 (2002).  District courts have broad discretion over the division of marital property, and appellate courts will not alter a district court’s property division absent a clear abuse of discretion or an erroneous application of the law.  Chamberlain v. Chamberlain, 615 N.W.2d 405, 412 (Minn. App. 2000) (clear abuse of discretion), review denied (Minn. Oct. 25, 2000); Ebnet v. Ebnet, 347 N.W.2d 840, 842 (Minn. App. 1984) (misapplication of the law).  A district court abuses its discretion if its findings of fact are against logic and the facts on the record.  Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984).  A reviewing court will affirm the district court’s property division if it has “an acceptable basis in fact and principle even though  [the reviewing court] might have taken a different approach.”  Antone v. Antone, 645 N.W.2d 96, 100 (Minn. 2002).  The record must be reviewed in the light most favorable to the district court’s findings. Lossing v. Lossing, 403 N.W.2d 688, 690 (Minn. App. 1987).

A.  Lake Park property distribution

Appellant first argues that the district court erred in not re-addressing the valuation of the Lake Park property.  We disagree.  In Mattson I, this court affirmed the district court’s finding that the $114,000 valuation of the Lake Park property was credible.  Mattson, 2003 WL 21006308 at *3.  Because the district court’s valuation of the house was affirmed by this court in Mattson I, that valuation became the law of the case.  See Mattson v. Underwriters at Lloyds of London, 414 N.W.2d 717, 719-20. (Minn. 1987) (stating that law-of-the-case doctrine ordinarily applies, precluding reconsideration of an issue, where an appellate court has ruled on the issue and has remanded the case to the lower court for further proceedings).  We conclude that the district court did not err in not revisiting the valuation of the Lake Park property. 

Appellant next argues that the entire marital estate must be reduced, at least, by the amount of Robert Gullard’s $30,000 interest in the Lake Park property.  We agree.  In its June 2002 order, the district court concluded that appellant should pay Gullard that amount for his interest in the property, “which both parties testified is in the amount of approximately $30,000.”  In Mattson I, this court remanded the district court’s determination regarding Gullard’s interest in the Lake Park property because the district court lacked authority to affect the property rights of a nonparty.  Mattson, at *3.  This court, then, ordered that, “[o]n 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.”  Mattson, at *3.  On remand, the district court did not readdress the division of the parties’ interest in the Lake Park property and did not make the necessary reduction to appellant’s share of the real estate, even though it had previously recognized that Gullard had a $30,000 interest in the property. 

Based on our calculations, the most respondent is entitled to after the reduction for Gullard’s interest is $74,000.[5]  We conclude that the district court erred in failing to properly allocate the parties’ interests in the Lake Park property, and we remand for the district court to make the necessary adjustments required after reduction for Gullard’s $30,000 interest. 

B.  Marital property

Appellant argues next that the district court’s determination that the Lake Park home was marital property, subject to division, was an abuse of discretion.  In Mattson I, this court decided the marital property issue when it concluded, “[t]o 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.” Mattson, at *3.  Thus, this court previously ruled that there was marital interest in the home, and the doctrine of law of the case precludes reconsideration of this issue. See Mattson v. Underwriters at Lloyds of London, 414 N.W.2d at 719-20.  

C.  Current residence

Next, appellant argues that the district court abused its discretion when it assigned respondent an interest in appellant’s current residence, which was acquired after the dissolution.  The district court has broad discretion in dividing marital property.  Bogen v. Bogen, 261 N.W.2d 606, 609 (Minn. 1977).  But, while a spouse generally has ownership rights in property acquired during the marriage, a spouse ordinarily has no right to property acquired by the other spouse after the dissolution.  Sweere v. Gilbert-Sweere, 534 N.W.2d 294, 297 (Minn. App. 1995) (addressing marital/nonmarital property in context of noncompete clause).

In its July 2004 order, the district court ordered that,

within 30 days of the date of this [o]rder that [appellant] shall pay to [respondent] $104,000 for her interest in the marital property or relinquish the property where he is currently residing over to the [respondent] free and clear of any encumbrance.

 

We conclude the district court erred in making this determination because appellant’s present residence was acquired after the dissolution.  We reverse that part of the district court’s July 2004 order allocating appellant’s current residence to respondent in the case of noncompliance.  In the event of appellant’s noncompliance, there will be legal and equitable remedies available to respondent to get what she has coming.  That issue is not before us at this time.  We merely point out that the courts, at this time, cannot arbitrarily require appellant to turn over real estate he acquired after the dissolution.

II.  Child support

 

Finally, we turn to appellant’s claim that the district court abused its discretion when it assigned child-support arrearages outside of the stipulated agreement between the parties and not in compliance with this court’s directive.  “The reconsideration of a case on remand (and a subsequent appeal) is a continuation of the original proceeding.”  Mattson v. Underwriters at Lloyds of London, 414 N.W.2d at 720.  On remand, a district court must execute a reviewing court’s mandate strictly according to its terms and lacks power to alter, amend, or modify that mandate.  Rooney v. Rooney, 669 N.W.2d 362, 371 (Minn. App. 2003).  The award of judgment was granted and arrearages were calculated within the same order.  This judgment is contrary to established Minnesota law.  See County of Nicollet v. Haakenson, 497 N.W.2d 611, 616 (Minn. App. 1993) (holding that it was in error to order an obligation to pay and at the same time conclude that the obligor is already in arrears on the obligation established in that order).  An arrearage is money overdue and unpaid. Id.  Appellant could not have been in arrears because he was never given an opportunity to pay it.  See Id.  Retroactive child support constitutes an arrearage only if it is not paid when due.  Id.  While the district court correctly made appellant responsible for past-due support it should not have stated that appellant was responsible for child-support “arrearages.”

Appellant argues that the district court erred when it ordered arrears based on the remanded $900 child-support calculation.  We agree.  On June 11, 2002, the district court ordered an award of child support to respondent in the amount of $900 per month.  In Mattson I, this court reversed and remanded the support issue for the district court to set support and “make the findings necessary to explain that support obligation.”  Mattson at *1.  In the resulting March 3, 2004 remand trial, the parties stipulated to ongoing child support in the amount of $550 beginning in April 2004.[6] 

On July 6, 2004, the district court issued its order, and, though the district court recognized the parties’ stipulated agreement for child support, it concluded that appellant owed $11,550 in child-support arrears, using the $900 child-support obligation it set in its 2002 child-support determination.[7]  The problem is, that determination had been previously reversed by us and remanded for insufficient findings.  On remand, the district court did not issue findings to support the previous $900 support calculation, so it was improper to plug that $900 figure into a present calculation of arrearages.  Put another way, the district court used a figure on which it had previously been reversed.  We conclude the district court erred in failing to provide findings to support its $900 child-support determination.  The award to respondent of a judgment for $11,550 in retroactive child-support arrearages is reversed. 

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, remanded.



[1]  According to appellant, this property was purchased after the parties separated and was purchased by him and Gullard as a joint business venture.

[2]  This amount is based on the June 2002 order of $900, minus the $350 payment on the temporary order.  The time period reflects the period between the June 2002 order and the stipulation of the parties agreeing to begin the $550 payments on April 1, 2004. 

[3]  This amount reflects the original $114,000 award minus $10,000 due to the reduction in the valuation of appellant’s tools.

[4]  Respondent had moved the court to award her appellant’s current residence, which he had purchased after the sale of the Lake Park property.

[5]  This amount includes the allowance for the $10,000 reduction in the valuation of appellant’s tools.  ($114,000 minus $10,000 for tool value reduction, minus $30,000 for Gullard’s interest, equals $74,000.)

[6] Appellant argues that because at the time of the stipulated agreement, respondent agreed that appellant was current on child support from the temporary order, she waived any claim to retroactive support on the remanded order.  However, the record clearly reflects that respondent requested a final ruling and retroactive payment on the remanded order.  Thus, respondent contemplated this issue during the formation of the stipulated agreement, and it cannot be said that she acquiesced to nonpayment of retroactive support.  See Yeager v. Yeager, 405 N.W.2d 519, 523 (Minn. App. 1987) (holding that stipulation valid where party signed stipulation and acquiesced in dissolution judgment and decree). 

[7]  This amount is based upon the June 2002 order of $900, minus the $350 payment on the temporary order.  This reflects the time period between the June 2002 order and the stipulated date of April 1, 2004.