This opinion will be unpublished and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
In re the Marriage of:
Kerri Ann Baker, petitioner,
Jeffrey Daniel Baker,
Filed June 13, 2006
Dakota County District Court
File No. F7-03-12710
Wayne A. Jagow, Jagow, Groves & Meinerts,
Peter H. Watson, Peter H. Watson & Associates, P.A., 2124 Dupont Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55405, and
Leland S. Watson, 836
Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge; Hudson, Judge; and Worke, 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 appellant’s motion to reopen the dissolution judgment, appellant argues that the district court erred by (1) failing to address respondent’s receipt of escrow funds that he obtained when the mortgage on their marital homestead was satisfied and (2) ordering appellant to pay a share of the children’s counseling fees. Because the district court erred in determining that a disability payment received by respondent was not marital property, we reverse in part and remand.
D E C I S I O N
April 2005, appellant Kerri Ann Baker moved to reopen the January 4, 2005
dissolution judgment and modify its terms based on respondent Jeffrey Daniel Baker’s
failure to disclose disability benefits that he received. After the time to appeal has expired, property
divisions in dissolution actions are final and can be modified only if the
standards that justify reopening a judgment exist. Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 2(e) (2004);
court may reopen a decree for “fraud, whether denominated intrinsic or
extrinsic, misrepresentation, or other misconduct of an adverse party[.]” Minn. Stat. § 518.145, subd. 2(3) (2004). The district court should treat a motion to
reopen a dissolution judgment as it would a complaint in a separate action alleging
fraud, and may not summarily dispose of such motion unless there is no genuine
issue of material fact in dispute. Doering v. Doering, 629 N.W.2d 124, 130
(Minn. App. 2001), review denied (
argues that although respondent claimed that he would not receive compensation
for his disability that occurred during the marriage, he had or would receive
benefits. The district court found that respondent
received a $163,716.67 settlement for a disability that occurred during the
marriage. The district court also found
that respondent told appellant that he would use any money he received to
reduce the debt incurred as a result of his disability. Despite finding that respondent received
disability benefits for a disability sustained during the marriage, the
district court characterized all of the funds as a nonmarital asset. Not all disability funds are marital. See
Gerlich v. Gerlich, 379 N.W.2d 689,
Any marital interest in respondent’s disability benefits was omitted from the dissolution judgment. Omitted property may be apportioned after a dissolution judgment has been finalized. See Neubauer v. Neubauer, 433 N.W.2d 456, 461 n.1 (Minn. App. 1988) (stating that a pension omitted from an initial property division could be divided as “omitted property”), review denied (Minn. Mar. 17, 1989). Regardless of whether respondent intended to use the disability benefits to pay debts that he assumed under the marital-termination agreement, such benefits would have had implications for the parties, including the apportionment of marital debt and asset division. We, therefore, reverse the district court’s denial of appellant’s motion to reopen the dissolution judgment and remand for proceedings to ascertain the extent, if any, of the marital interest in respondent’s disability benefits and the division of any marital interest as marital property. We leave to the district court’s discretion whether an evidentiary hearing is required.
Mortgage Escrow Funds
Appellant next argues that the district court erred by failing to require respondent to remit $1,650 from a mortgage escrow fund that he received when appellant refinanced the marital homestead. Appellant maintains that the escrow proceeds should have been provided to her per the dissolution decree. The district court ordered respondent to “immediately execute and deliver a quitclaim deed conveying his interest in the parties’ homestead to [appellant].”
A district court “may issue orders
to implement, enforce, or clarify the provisions of a decree, so long as it
does not change the parties’ substantive rights.”
The dissolution decree gives no direction for the distribution of escrow proceeds from the prior mortgage. Because such funds are generally used to pay property taxes and insurance and respondent’s obligation to pay had expired in August 2004, it is difficult to determine how much of this overage was contributed by respondent. But given that the escrow funds were remitted to respondent at the time the mortgage was satisfied, the district court’s decision to allow respondent to keep those funds was an appropriate exercise of the district court’s discretion.
Appellant also argues that the district court erred by ordering her to pay part of an overdue bill for their children’s counseling services. The district court found that respondent paid $2,280 of the bill and ordered appellant to pay $1,605. Under the dissolution decree, each party is obligated to pay one-half of medical expenses which, like the counseling expenses, are not covered by insurance. The bill was $3,885—less $2,280 paid by respondent, leaves $1,605, the amount the district court allocated to appellant. An equal division would require each party to contribute $1,942.50; thus, although the district court may have erred in its allocation of this expense, it did so to appellant’s benefit.
Appellant argues, however, that the district court’s action amounted to a modification of the property division mandated by the dissolution decree because respondent was allocated a $450 counseling debt. We disagree because the decree does not address future amounts owed for counseling and the record is silent as to whether the previous debt was included in the $3,885. In light of our deference to a district court’s interpretation of its own decrees, we affirm the district court’s order with respect to the allocation of the counselor’s fees.
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.