This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Dennis H. Schmid, petitioner,
Ellen M. Schmid,
Filed August 9, 2005
Gordon W. Shumaker, Judge
Hennepin County District Court
File No. DC 153888
John P. Worrell, Hoene & Krause, 1800 U.S. Bank Center, 101 East Fifth Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge; Klaphake, Judge; and Shumaker, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
GORDON W. SHUMAKER, Judge
On appeal from the district court’s order awarding respondent a $17,726 credit for reducing the mortgage principal on the parties’ homestead, appellant claims that the district court erred by denying her claim for equitable relief because respondent had already been given credit for reducing the mortgage principal by having his child-support obligation reduced. We affirm.
The facts pertinent to the issue on appeal are undisputed. In 1990, the parties dissolved their marriage. They stipulated to the disposition of their homestead. That stipulation, which the district court adopted and incorporated into the judgment and decree of dissolution, provided that the property would be awarded to Ellen Schmid, subject to a floating lien in favor of Dennis Schmid. Ellen Schmid was to make the mortgage payments.
Dennis Schmid’s lien was for 50% of the marital equity in the homestead’s value at the date of the maturity of the lien. Among the events that would mature the lien was Ellen Schmid’s cohabitation with an adult male in the homestead for 30 consecutive days. That occurred.
According to the parties’ stipulation, Dennis Schmid’s lien was to be calculated by deducting from the property’s fair market value certain credits. One of those credits was to be for “principal reduction to the party actually making principal payments . . . .”
Despite Ellen Schmid’s obligation in the decree to make mortgage payments, Dennis Schmid paid $17,726.69 toward principal on the mortgage loan. In 1997, he moved to reduce his child-support obligation on the ground that he was making the mortgage payments. The parties then stipulated that his monthly child support would be reduced from $675 to $510.
When Dennis Schmid’s floating lien matured, he claimed entitlement to the sum of his mortgage payments. Ellen Schmid opposed any credit for those payments on the ground that Dennis Schmid had already received the benefit of the reduction in child support and thus should not be awarded an additional credit for the mortgage payments.
A family court referee determined that there “is no language in the Judgment and Decree providing for an adjustment of the lien based on child support payments” and awarded to Dennis Schmid full credit for the mortgage payments he made. The district court adopted the referee’s findings and conclusions and ordered that Dennis Schmid be awarded that credit. Ellen Schmid appealed.
D E C I S I O N
Whether language in a stipulated judgment
is ambiguous is a legal question, which we review de novo. Halverson
v. Halverson, 381 N.W.2d 69, 71 (
Ellen Schmid repeatedly asserts that the only dispute on appeal “is the amount of credit respondent should be awarded for principal reduction on the mortgage payments.” She requests equitable relief, claiming that “it is simply not fair and not equitable that [Dennis Schmid] should be awarded further credit for principal reduction on mortgage payments . . . subsequent to 1997 . . . [because] he was already given credit for these amounts paid, due to a substantially reduced child support order.”
The district court, “pursuant to the Order of the Court filed on the 25th day of June, 2004,” entered judgment “in favor of [Dennis Schmid] and against [Ellen Schmid] for the sum of . . . $17,726.” Ellen Schmid argues that Dennis Schmid’s reduction of the mortgage principal should apply only to those payments that he made up to the 1997 child-support modification, totaling $5,224.
Ellen Schmid claims that the district court “ignored [her] equitable and fair argument.” But the district court explicitly considered her claim, concluding that it was without merit because (a) claims regarding child-support modifications “are independent and distinct” from claims regarding divisions of property in dissolution proceedings, which are “ordinarily final”; (b) child-support benefits are for “the benefit of the children”; and (c) the child-support magistrate “did not have jurisdiction to determine the future value of the ‘floating lien’ in modifying a child support order.”
Ellen Schmid does not cite in her brief any legal authority
in support of her claim for equitable relief.
See Ganguli v.
“The interpretation of a stipulation is a legal rather
than equitable matter.” Jensen v. Jensen, 440 N.W.2d 152, 154 (
The relevant provision of the amended decree at issue here
is not ambiguous, and there is no evidence of mistake or fraud. As the district court noted, “[t]here is no
language in the judgment and decree providing for an adjustment of the lien
based on child support payments.” And
when “a dissolution decree is silent . . . the trial court is without
jurisdiction to ‘interpret’ or ‘implement’ that decree.”
Ellen Schmid also claims that a “second issue left to be decided is a loan that is alleged that [Dennis Schmid] made to [her] in the amount of approximately $8,715.59,” while simultaneously claiming that “this court [does not] have jurisdiction to decide that issue.” In any event, the substance of her claim is that there “is nothing in the divorce decree that discusses this loan” and that if Dennis Schmid “believes that [she] owes this money and she refuses to pay, then he can pursue this matter through district court or conciliation court.”
Again, Ellen Schmid cites no authority in support of her claim. See Ganguli, 512 N.W.2d at 919 n.1. And the district court, in fact, denied Dennis Schmid’s “motion for judgment in the amount of $8,715.59” because “there was no writing executed by the parties in advance.” The district court denied the motion without prejudice for the express reason that Dennis Schmid might “seek relief in another court of law.” This is almost a direct answer to Ellen Schmid’s claim regarding this “second issue.”
Moreover, even if the district court had granted Dennis Schmid’s motion, paragraph 15 of the amended decree, which the district court noted in its order, provides that Dennis Schmid’s floating lien “shall be calculated as the fair market value of the homestead . . . less credit to the party for contributions for capital improvements, over $250.00, which both parties have agreed upon in writing in advance of the capital contribution.” (Emphasis added.) Thus, contrary to Ellen Schmid’s claim that there “is nothing in the divorce decree that discusses the loan,” the decree clearly contemplates the kind of loan at issue here, as well as its relation to respondent’s lien on the property.
Because the district court was without authority to modify the amended judgment and decree, we conclude that Dennis Schmid is entitled to the $17,726 award as credit for reducing the mortgage principal on the parties’ homestead.