This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).




In Re the Marriage of:

Kenneth L. Larson, petitioner,



J. JoAnne Larson,


Filed December 31, 1996


Amundson, Judge

Polk County District Court

File No. FX951719

Henry G. Tweten, 208 Third Avenue Northwest, East Grand Forks, MN 56721 (for respondent)

Karl Lindquist, Lindquist & Jeffrey, 306 American Federal Building, 124 Demers Avenue Northwest, East Grand Forks, MN 56721 (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Amundson, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Schumacher, Judge.



Appellant Joanne Larson challenges the judgment interpreting the parties' antenuptial agreement as part of their dissolution action. We affirm.


Appellant Joanne Larson and respondent Kenneth Larson were married on December 19, 1988. This was a second marriage for both parties. Each had been married and widowed and each had adult children. Both parties owned substantial property, including farmland. At the time they were married, appellant's assets were valued at $85,261. Respondent's assets were valued at $209,800. At the time of dissolution, appellant's assets were valued at $132,430. Respondent's were valued at $234,629. During the marriage, respondent received $90,308 from farm rental income and appellant received $31,200 from farm rental income. The parties executed an antenuptial agreement on December 14, 1988, five days before they married. The agreement was prepared by respondent's attorney. The parties separated in July 1992.

The parties' marriage was dissolved by a judgment entered April 30, 1996. Joanne Larson moved for amended findings and the trial court denied her motion. This appeal followed.


I. Construction of Antenuptial Agreement

Appellant does not challenge the trial court's factual findings, but instead challenges the court's construction of the antenuptial agreement. She argues that the trial court erred as a matter of law by misinterpreting the language of the agreement and by misapplying the law of marital property. Questions of law are reviewed de novo on appeal. McCarthy & Assocs. v. Jackpot Junction Bingo Hall, 490 N.W.2d 156, 157-58 (Minn. App. 1992), review denied (Minn. Nov. 17, 1992).

The trial court interpreted the parties' agreement to mean:

(1) Any real or personal property owned individually by a party before the marriage shall be retained by that individual party, including the ownership of increases in all investments;

* * *

(3) Any real or personal property acquired individually after the marriage shall be retained by that individual party;

(4) Any real or personal property acquired jointly after the marriage is owned jointly by the parties and shall be divided equally between the parties.

Appellant argues that the agreement was unambiguous and excluded the disposition of rental income. As a result, appellant contends, rental income is marital income and any property purchased with rental income is also marital income and subject to equitable division. We disagree.

Appellant's reading of the antenuptial agreement is too narrow and amounts to interpreting phrases of the agreement in isolation. See Metro Office Parks Co. v. Control Data Corp., 295 Minn. 348, 352, 205 N.W.2d 121, 124 (1973). The agreement treats rental income as income. The section of the agreement titled Retirement Income lists rental income and land rents. The agreement also requires the parties to open a joint account to pay "their common living expenses * * * proportionately based upon their net income from all sources." However, the agreement also provides that "[t]he joint account will not be used for the purpose of paying real estate taxes or insurance on the parties' individual assets." Instead, individual expenses were to be paid from each party's "respective separate account." Significantly, the agreement only requires proportionate contributions to cover joint expenses.

Appellant incorrectly states that the agreement is silent on the disposition of income and attempts to isolate the disposition of income from the agreement as a whole. The income and expense sections are consistent with the parties' intent to continue to keep their property separate. While they agreed to contribute to joint expenses, they could retain income to acquire property, either jointly or separately.

Appellant treats as dispositive the issue of whether rental income is income or an increase of an investment. However, the court's construction of the agreement as a whole allows each party to use income from the investments to acquire separately owned property. Accordingly, the issue of whether investment income was income or an increase is irrelevant to the agreement's construction.

II. Attorney Fees

Appellant argues that in spite of an enforceable antenuptial agreement prohibiting a claim of attorney fees, she was entitled to fees based on respondent's conduct at trial. Respondent produced a document to verify that he had only a single IRA account after the close of trial. Appellant argues that this "inadvertence" was the reason she went to trial and, therefore, respondent's conduct unreasonably contributed to the expense of the proceedings. We apply an abuse-of-discretion standard to the trial court's attorney fees ruling. See Katz v. Katz, 408 N.W.2d 835, 840 (Minn. 1987).

Appellant relies on Hill v. Hill, 356 N.W.2d 49 (Minn. App. 1984), review denied (Minn. Feb. 19, 1985). In Hill, we affirmed an award of attorney fees in spite of a waiver of attorney fees in the antenuptial agreement because the award was "necessary to ensure substantial justice." Id. at 58. We noted that if the trial court had not awarded the attorney fees for appeal, the wife would not have been able to appeal the trial court's decision regarding the validity and coverage of the agreement. Id. Here, appellant sought attorney fees for respondent's failure to produce a single document during trial, which was superfluous to the trial court's finding. In addition, appellant's argument that the trial court erred by failing to make specific findings to support its denial of attorney fees is beyond our scope of review because appellant failed to provide a transcript. See Fritz v. Fritz, 390 N.W.2d 924, 925 (Minn. App. 1986) (appellate court cannot review fact findings where appellant fails to provide transcript). Thus, the trial court's denial of attorney fees was not an abuse of discretion.