This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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








In re the Marriage of:

Alicia Bartolaba Thomas, petitioner,





Ronald Eugene Thomas,




Filed May 17, 2005

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded

Robert H. Schumacher, Judge


Stearns County District Court

File No. F2025813



Greg A. Engel, 925 South First Street, Post Office Box 638, St. Cloud, MN 56302 (for respondent)


Gerald W. Von Korff, Rinke-Noonan, Post Office Box 1497, St. Cloud, MN 56302-1497 (for appellant)



Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge; Schumacher, Judge; and Halbrooks, Judge.



Appellant Robert Eugene Thomas challenges the district court's amended dissolution judgment, arguing that the award of a one-quarter interest in the "vendor's interest" of a contract for deed to respondent Alicia Bartolaba Thomas is an improper execution of the district court's stated intention. Bartolaba filed a notice of review, arguing the district court erred 1) in ruling portions of the estate to be Thomas's nonmarital property, 2) in the valuation of certain property, and 3) in not holding Thomas responsible for improperly disposing of marital assets. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.


Thomas and Bartolaba were married in the Philippines in August 1995. This was Thomas's second marriage. In November 2002, Bartolaba petitioned to dissolve the marriage. Thomas and Bartolaba had acquired multiple parcels of real estate at various times, both before and during the marriage, some of which were purchased by Thomas and his first wife and subject to a prior dissolution judgment. Many of the parcels were mortgaged at various times both before and during the marriage, but at the time of the dissolution all the mortgages had been satisfied. Whether portions of this real estate were Thomas's nonmartial property was a central issue at the dissolution hearing.

In determining the extent of Bartolaba and Thomas's marital estate, the district court determined half the land that Thomas had jointly owned with his first wife was his nonmarital property and the other half was marital property because Thomas's first wife's interest was purchased with mortgages, which were satisfied by marital income. The district court also found that half the proceeds under a contract for deed by which Terrace Hills Development LLC had purchased a parcel of land, referred to as "Phase 2," was Thomas's nonmarital property and that a parcel referred to as the "Miller 40" was entirely marital property. Both parties requested amended findings of fact and conclusions of law, or a new trial. The district court amended some of its findings and conclusions but denied the requests for a new trial. Both parties now challenge the amended dissolution judgment.


We first address whether the district court erred in determining that half of the homestead and half of the proceeds from the contract for deed were Thomas's nonmarital assets. "Whether property is marital or nonmarital is a question of law, but a reviewing court must defer to the trial court's underlying findings of fact. However, if we are left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made, we may find the [district] court's decision to be clearly erroneous, notwithstanding the existence of evidence to support such findings." Olsen v. Olsen, 562 N.W.2d 797, 800 (Minn. 1997) (quotation and citations omitted). The party claiming that property is nonmarital has the burden of proving the necessary facts by a preponderance of the evidence. Chamberlain v. Chamberlain, 615 N.W.2d 405, 413 (Minn. App. 2000), review denied (Minn. Oct. 25, 2000).

When a spouse owns real estate before marriage subject to encumbrances that are paid off with marital funds, the percentage of the real estate that is nonmarital is what "the proportion the net equity . . . at the time of [the marriage] bore to the value of the property at the time of [the marriage] multiplied by the value of the property at the time of separation." Antone v. Antone, 645 N.W.2d 96, 102 (Minn. 2002) (quotation omitted). The remainder of equity increase is characterized as marital property. Id. Thomas cites a portion of Antone in his reply brief, although he suggests that he is citing an opinion issued by this court. Even though neither party has referred this court to the portion of the supreme court's Antone opinion quoted above, this court has a responsibility to decide cases in accordance with the law. State v. Hannuksela, 452 N.W.2d 668, 673 n.7 (Minn. 1990).

Here, the record shows that the homestead was substantially encumbered at the time of the marriage, but it is not clear from the record what was owed on the mortgages at that time, and we cannot determine if 50% is the proper proportion of the net equity to the total value of the homestead. We are also unable to determine if the district court properly found that half the proceeds from the contract for deed is Thomas's nonmarital property. There is no evidence as to the value of the property at the time it was mortgaged to purchase Thomas's first wife's interests. In addition, it appears from the record that Phase 2 was comprised in part of the Miller 40, which the district court found was wholly marital property. We reverse the district court's determination that half of the homestead and half of the proceeds from the contract for deed are Thomas's nonmarital property.

The parties have not presented evidence on issues that are necessary to a proper division of property. The district court is free on remand to open the record. Because the characterization of the homestead and the contract for deed proceeds will have an impact on what is a "just and equitable" division of the marital property, the district court is also free to reconsider any part of its amended dissolution judgment required to properly divide the marital assets. See Minn. Stat. 518.58, subd. 1 (2004) (stating district court "shall make a just and equitable division of the marital property of the parties").

Because we are remanding the question of what percentage of the proceeds under the contract for deed should be nonmarital assets, we do not address Thomas's argument regarding the vendor's interest in the contract for deed. But Bartolaba has also raised additional issues that the district court will need to address on remand. We are unable to reconcile the district court's finding of fact characterizing the Xcel Energy stock as Thomas's marital property with its summary of the property distribution characterizing the stock as half nonmarital. We also note there is inconsistent treatment of the Wright County property. Furthermore, it appears there is inconsistent treatment of the boat, motor, and trailer that Thomas testified he purchased during the marriage.

We conclude that the remainder of Bartolaba's arguments are without merit. The district court's findings regarding the loan to Terrace Hills Development LLC; the valuation of the contract for deed, including the district court's reduction in value for taxes due; and the valuation of the property in the Philippines have adequate support in the record. See Wilson v. Moline, 234 Minn. 174, 182, 47 N.W.2d 865, 870 (1951) (stating appellate court need not "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").

Further, Bartolaba has not presented any argument as to how she was prejudiced when the district court agreed with her that Thomas attempted to dispose of marital assets and concluded that she did not lose her marital claims in the real estate. See Bloom v. Hydrotherm, Inc., 499 N.W.2d 842, 845 (Minn. App. 1993) (stating burden is on party alleging error to demonstrate that error caused prejudice), review denied (Minn. June 28, 1993).

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.