This opinion will be unpublished and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:

Leah Jane Poppe,

n/k/a Leah Jane Schmitz, petitioner,





Kent Douglas Poppe,



Filed December 13, 2005


Hudson, Judge


Itasca County District Court

File No. FX-98-2201


John B. Schulte, Begeske Law Offices, 713 Board of Trade Building, 301 West First Street, Duluth, Minnesota 55802 (for respondent)


Kent Douglas Poppe, 510 Northeast Third Avenue, Grand Rapids, Minnesota 55744 (pro se appellant)


            Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge; Shumaker, Judge; and Hudson, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Appellant Kent Douglas Poppe challenges a money judgment in favor of respondent-petitioner Leah Jane Schmitz enforcing the parties’ dissolution judgment.  Because the district court acted properly to enforce the dissolution judgment, and because appellant failed to prove the debts paid were nonmarital, we affirm.


            Appellant-husband and respondent-wife dissolved their marriage in January 1999.  The dissolution judgment did not specifically list the parties’ marital debts.  Finding of Fact No. 9 of the dissolution judgment addressed the issue of marital debt as follows:

The parties hereto have incurred various marital debts in the amount of approximately $5,000.00; that in addition to said marital debts, the [wife] has an outstanding obligation to Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation for college loans in an amount of approximately $16,800.00. 


Conclusion of Law No. 4 of the dissolution judgment divided responsibility for the marital debt as follows:

That the [wife] is responsible for payment of the outstanding obligation to Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation and that [husband] is liable for other marital debts incurred by the parties prior to June, 1998, the date of separation.


After the judgment, wife paid the student loan debt.  Husband failed to pay some of the marital debts.  Wife ultimately paid those debts totaling $2,863.58, settling five separate accounts in full, with husband assisting in settling one of the accounts.  In May 2004, wife moved the district court for a money judgment against husband in the amount of $2,563.58, noting an adjustment in husband’s favor for her receipt of all of a tax refund, half of which was to be paid to husband.  Wife later conceded that two additional adjustments would reduce husband’s liability to $2,186.58.  Also in dispute were telephone charges and the balance on a First Bank of Omaha (Herberger’s) credit card. 

In August 2004, the district court heard the matter and judgment was entered in wife’s favor for $2,186.58.  The district court ordered husband to pay any remaining debt owed to First Bank of Omaha (Herberger’s) and to U.S. West. 

In October 2004, after a motion hearing, the district court vacated the August 2004 order for judgment, but apparently not the judgment itself, and amended the findings of fact.  The district court issued an order amending the findings in the previous judgment and judgment was entered for wife in the amount of $2,186.58, with accruing interest.  The district court also ordered husband and wife to split evenly the cost of the nonmarital portion of the First Bank of Omaha (Herberger’s) bill at $248.82 each, and determined husband was responsible for $158.83 of the debt to U.S. West, with wife responsible for the balance.  This appeal follows. 




Appellant-husband argues that the district court’s award of a money judgment to respondent-wife was an improper re-opening or modification of the dissolution property division, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 518.145, subd. 2 (2004).

Stipulated dissolution judgments are treated as binding contracts.  Shirk v. Shirk, 561 N.W.2d 519, 521 (Minn. 1997); Blonigen v. Blonigen, 621 N.W.2d 276, 281 (Minn. App. 2001), review denied (Minn. Mar. 13, 2001).  The district court has no authority to re-open and change a property division after the decree has been entered and the statutory time for appeal has expired.  Angelos v. Angelos, 367 N.W.2d 518, 520 (Minn. 1985); Mikkelson v. Mikkelsen, 286 Minn. 520, 522, 174 N.W.2d 241, 243 (1970).  But the district court may issue appropriate orders to implement or enforce the provisions of a dissolution decree.  Potter v. Potter, 471 N.W.2d 113, 114 (Minn. App. 1991); see also Kornberg v. Kornberg, 542 N.W.2d 379, 388–89 (Minn. 1996) (district court is allowed, at any time, to issue orders to implement, enforce, or clarify the provisions of a dissolution judgment, providing it does not alter either party’s substantive rights).  The implementation or enforcement of a dissolution decree is reviewed under an abuse-of-discretion standard.  Potter, 471 N.W.2d at 114. 

Husband views the approximation of the marital debt at $5,000 as a fixed valuation that should not be disturbed after one year had passed from the time of the judgment.  Husband argues that once he paid more than the $5,000 fixed amount, he had fully performed his duty under the decree and should not be forced to pay more.  We disagree.

In the dissolution judgment, the district court divided the marital debt into two parts: the wife’s student loans and the remainder.  It estimated the remainder debt to be about $5,000.  The district court then assigned responsibility for the entire remainder debt to husband.  The district court’s later issuance of a money judgment was in direct correlation with the portion of the remainder debt which had been paid by wife and constituted an enforcement of a provision of the dissolution judgment; it was not a re-opening or modification of the dissolution judgment.  See Hanson v. Hanson, 379 N.W.2d 230, 232–33 (Minn. App. 1985) (recognizing that implementation of dissolution judgment may involve reapportionment of assets).  And the money judgment did not alter the substantive rights of either of the parties; wife’s responsibility for the student loan debt and husband’s responsibility for the remainder debt did not change.

Because wife paid some of this credit card debt—which the dissolution judgment apportioned to husband—wife was entitled to ask the court to enforce the dissolution judgment.  The district court’s action does not affect the division of the debt but only changes the party making the actual payment to the creditor.  Husband was originally required to pay the marital creditors, but because the creditors have been paid by wife, the district court did not abuse its discretion to enforce the dissolution judgment by requiring husband to pay wife instead.


Husband argues that the district court erred in determining, under Minn. Stat. § 518.54, subd. 5 (2004), that the debts paid by wife were marital property.[1]

On the dissolution of a marriage, the district court is required to make a just and equitable distribution of marital property.  Minn. Stat. § 518.58, subd. 1 (2004).  Marital debts are apportioned in the same manner as the division of marital assets.  Korf v. Korf, 553 N.W.2d 706, 712 (Minn. App. 1996).  That distribution was expressed in the dissolution judgment.  In this action to enforce the judgment, the district court was merely clarifying whether the specific debts at issue had been apportioned as marital debt by the dissolution judgment.  This court is reviewing the district court’s clarification of the specific debts as marital property, giving deference to the district court’s findings of fact.  Olsen v. Olsen, 562 N.W.2d 797, 800 (Minn. 1997).  It is not the province of the appellate courts “to reconcile conflicting evidence.  On appeal, a trial court’s findings of fact are given great deference, and shall not be set aside unless clearly erroneous . . . .  If there is reasonable evidence to support the trial court’s findings of fact,” an appellate court will not disturb those findings.  Fletcher v. St. Paul Pioneer Press, 589 N.W.2d 96, 101 (Minn. 1999) (citations omitted).

Minn. Stat. § 518.54, subd. 5 (2004), defines marital property as property “acquired by the parties, or either of them . . . during the existence of the marriage,” and nonmarital property as “property . . . which . . . is acquired before the marriage.”  Subdivision 5 creates a presumption that property acquired by either spouse subsequent to the marriage and before the valuation date is marital property.  Id.  To overcome this presumption, “a party must demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that the property is nonmarital.”  Olsen, 562 N.W.2d at 800.

            Husband and wife dispute whether specific credit card debts she paid were marital debts.  The district court noted that there was not sufficient evidence in the record to separate out individual purchases which may have preceded the August 1996 marriage.  The district court found that even though many of the credit cards were opened prior to the marriage, credit report activity occurred on the cards during the marriage; accordingly, it presumed that some of the debt was marital.  The record reflects that the district court used the “last activity” dates on a credit report to infer that the cards had been used during the marriage.  The district court then concluded that cards used during the marriage period were more likely than not to be marital debt and thus were debts which had been apportioned to appellant in the dissolution judgment.

Husband had the burden to overcome the presumption that the debts paid by wife were marital.  In that effort, he provided a receipt and credit application for the First Bank of Omaha (Herberger’s) account as proof that $497.65 of the charges on that card were made in August 1995, prior to their marriage, and constituted nonmarital debt.  But the district court correctly noted that, although this nonmarital debt was not apportioned in the dissolution judgment, the document proved that husband was a joint applicant on the account.  Because it was a joint account, the district court properly assigned one-half of the responsibility for these nonmarital purchases to each of the parties.  Also, where amounts were shown to have been charged after the parties’ separation date, those amounts were determined to be nonmarital and were credited back to husband, reducing the total amount of the money judgment.

            Based on this record, the district court did not clearly err in clarifying which debts were marital debts apportioned to appellant as a part of the dissolution judgment.


[1] Husband also cites Minn. Stat. § 519.02, but this statute does not apply to property that a husband and wife acquire jointly during the marriage.  Abrahamson v. Abrahamson, 613 N.W.2d 418, 422 (Minn. App. 2000).  Thus it is not applicable where a debt is determined to be marital property.