This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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






In re Brian Donald Fixsen, petitioner,





Cynthia Marie Fixsen,



Filed April 5, 2005

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded

Gordon W. Shumaker, Judge


Redwood County District Court

File No. F5-02-632



Raymond O. Walz, Walz Law Office, 230 East Third Street, P.O. Box 50, Redwood Falls, MN 56283 (for respondent)


J. Brian O’Leary, O’Leary & Moritz Chartered, 102 North Marshall, P.O. Box 76, Springfield, MN 56087 (for appellant)


            Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge; Shumaker, Judge; and Dietzen; Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


On appeal from the district court’s denial of a motion for a new trial and amended findings, conclusions, and judgment, appellant-wife argues that the district court erroneously included in its property award an asset that the parties had stipulated would be settled separately and abused its discretion in allowing respondent-husband a certain offset against child-support arrearages.  We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.


When the respondent petitioned for dissolution of the parties’ marriage in 2003, they owned, among other assets, the Country Kitchen Restaurant in Redwood Falls.  The parties negotiated a settlement of that asset, under which appellant received all rights in the restaurant for a payment of $180,000 to respondent and an agreement to assume all business debts and to release respondent from all business-related debts.

The parties also agreed to settle “any issues between the parties relating to [appellant’s] withdrawal of $45,000 from the business in June, 2001” and agreed that neither party would make further claims to this asset.

The district court approved these settlements, and the parties tried the remaining issues.  In its judgment and decree, the district court reflected the settled $45,000 as an asset of the parties.  The court also set off against child-support arrearages mortgage and other payments respondent had made for the home in which appellant and the parties’ children lived during the pendency of the dissolution.

Appellant moved for amended findings of fact, conclusions of law, and judgment and decree or, in the alternative, a new trial, contending that the court had erroneously included the settled $45,000 in the property division, had abused its discretion in awarding the setoff against child-support arrearages, and had miscalculated the amount of a withdrawal from a joint bank account.

The court denied the motion for a new trial and amended its findings, conclusions, and judgment but did not alter the inclusion of the $45,000 in the property division and did not vacate the setoff award.  This appeal followed.


            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) (erroneous application of law).  A district court abuses its discretion regarding a property division 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) (citation omitted).

$45,000 Settlement

            The use of stipulations to settle issues in marriage dissolutions has been approved by the courts.  John v. John, 322 N.W.2d 347, 348 (Minn. 1982).  The supreme court has recognized that stipulations are accorded the sanctity of binding contracts.  Shirk v. Shirk, 561 N.W.2d 519, 521 (Minn. 1997).

The parties settled issues relating to the $45,000 withdrawal and thereby intended that that asset no longer be a factor in the property division.  The district court approved the settlement stipulation on the record.

It is not clear why the district court reflected the $45,000 in its final property division.  Although the court might have listed the asset for informational purposes, it appears to have been a factor in the property division.  By including the $45,000 in the property division, the court impliedly withdrew its approval of the settlement.  Because there was no basis for disapproving the settlement or including the settled asset in the division of the parties’ property, the court erred.  See Toughill v. Toughill, 609 N.W.2d 634, 638-39 n.1 (Minn. App. 2000) (noting district court may not “by judicial fiat” strip parties of their ability to litigate an issue by rejecting a proposed stipulation on the issue and then impose its own resolution of the issue without giving parties an opportunity to litigate question).  This issue must be reversed and the matter remanded for redetermination of the appropriate property division without the $45,000 settled amount.

Child-Support Setoff

            Appellant argues that the district court erred when it allowed respondent to offset his past child support with amounts he was paying toward the costs for appellant and the children to occupy their home.  A district court has broad discretion to divide property and provide for the support of the parties’ children.  Putz v. Putz, 645 N.W.2d 343, 347 (Minn. 2002); Rutten, 347 N.W.2d at 50.  There must be a conclusion that is against logic and the facts on record before this court will find that the district court abused its discretion.  Id. at 50.  A district court may consider money expended on homestead property at which children reside as being in the nature of child support and order an offset accordingly.  Martin v. Martin, 364 N.W.2d 475, 478 (Minn. App. 1985).

The district court ordered respondent to pay child support retroactively to the date of the parties’ separation.  The total of this obligation was $17,873.96.  The court determined that respondent was entitled to set off against this obligation $15,891.15, representing amounts he paid for the costs of appellant’s and children’s occupancy of the marital home, medical care for the children, and other household expenses for the appellant and children.  It is undisputed that the children and appellant continue to reside in the homestead and that the payments respondent made were for that property.  The district court also noted that, although appellant denied any agreement relating to payment of the costs of occupancy and certain other expenses in lieu of child support, “the evidence suggests there was at least a tacit agreement in lieu of support.”  Because the district court has broad discretion in child-support determinations, and because the district court’s determinations were not clearly erroneous, we affirm the district court’s decision to offset the child support by amounts paid toward the homestead property in which the children reside.

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.