This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).




In Re the Marriage of:

Dennis E. Hanson, petitioner,



Odalys C. Hanson,

n/k/a Odalys C. Spilde,


Filed January 26, 1999

Reversed and Remanded

Kalitowski, Judge

Kittson County District Court

File No. F49671

Michael L. Jorgenson, Charlson, Marben & Jorgenson, P.A., 119 West Second Street, P.O. Box 506, Thief River Falls, MN 56701 (for appellant)

Robert M. Albrecht, Brink, Sobolik, Severson, Malm & Albrecht, P.A., P.O. Box 790, Hallock, MN 56728 (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Anderson, Judge.



Appellant Dennis E. Hanson contends the district court erred by applying the wrong standard in vacating part of the judgment and decree in a dissolution proceeding. Respondent Odalys C. Hanson, n/k/a Odalys C. Spilde, by notice of review, argues that even if the court applied the wrong standard, the judgment should be affirmed because the court erred in finding there was no fraud. We reverse and remand.


In 1996, appellant husband and respondent wife entered into negotiations to end their 17-year marriage. Appellant and respondent had two children, and owned various properties in both Minnesota and Florida. Appellant asked Ted Juhl, his cousin, to mediate a property settlement between the parties.

In the settlement agreement, the parties agreed that respondent would get payments totaling $32,500, and that appellant would keep all the real property. Of the $32,500, appellant was to pay $2,500 at the time of judgment and $6,000 on December 1 for the following five years. The property was not valued for purposes of the dissolution. Respondent and Juhl agree that appellant told respondent she did not need an attorney.

Appellant's attorney drafted the marital termination agreement (MTA) after the negotiations. In it, the $32,500 in payments were characterized as "spousal maintenance." Respondent and Juhl agree that during the negotiations, there was no mention of alimony or spousal maintenance, merely of a property settlement. Respondent claims that when she saw the term "spousal maintenance" in the MTA, she did not understand its legal significance, nor did she believe that the MTA said something different than was discussed between the parties. Respondent did not have a lawyer at any time during the MTA proceedings.

On June 21, 1996, both parties indicated to the court that they understood the MTA to be fair and equitable. Judgment was entered on June 24, 1996, based on the stipulated agreement. Appellant paid respondent the initial $2,500 and the first payment of $6,000 the following December. During 1997, respondent remarried. Appellant sent a check for $6,000 on December 1, 1997, as per the agreement, but he stopped payment on the check after being informed by his lawyer that he was not obligated to pay spousal maintenance after respondent remarried. Respondent, contending this was not the agreement they had made, moved to vacate the dissolution decree as it related to the issues of maintenance and property division. On July 7, 1998, the district court granted the motion and ordered a new trial. In its findings of fact, the court found there was no fraud or duress, but that the stipulation was based on a mistake that justified vacating the judgment.


Upon entry of a judgment and decree based on a stipulation, the stipulation is merged into the judgment and decree, and cannot thereafter be the target of attack by a party seeking relief from the judgment and decree. Shirk v. Shirk, 561 N.W.2d 519, 522 (Minn. 1997). However, a marital dissolution judgment may be vacated if it meets the requirements of Minn. Stat. § 518.145, subd. 2. Id. A party may also attack a final judgment in a divorce if the reason for the attack is not a dispute involving the dissolution of the bonds of matrimony, and if the circumstances amount to a fraud on the court and the administration of justice. Schroetke v. Schroetke, 365 N.W.2d 380, 382-83 (Minn. App. 1985) (citing Berg v. Berg, 309 Minn. 281, 283-84, 244 N.W.2d 149, 151 (1976)).


The court here found that at least one of the parties made a mistake as to the legal effect of designating the payments to respondent as spousal maintenance. The court found that because of the mistake, the stipulation did not effectuate the intent of the parties and therefore the judgment should be vacated on the issues of property division and spousal maintenance.

Appellant contends the district court applied the wrong standard in vacating the judgment. We agree. Although the judgment and decree granted in the district court was based on a stipulation, that stipulation merged into the judgment and decree when the judgment was entered. An attack on the stipulation cannot now be the basis for vacating the judgment. See Shirk, 561 N.W.2d at 522. We therefore conclude the district court erred by applying the standard for vacating a stipulation to vacate a final judgment.


Respondent contends the judgment should be vacated, even if the district court erred, because there was fraud on the court. Appellant responds that the district court found there was no fraud, and this finding was not clearly erroneous. See Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01; Kornberg v. Kornberg, 542 N.W.2d 379, 386 (Minn. 1996) (a district court's findings of fact are not to be set aside unless clearly erroneous).

We conclude the district court did not apply the correct standard in determining whether there was fraud. The standard for determining whether there was fraud on the court in dissolution cases is broader than the fraud standard in ordinary civil litigation. Maranda v. Maranda, 449 N.W.2d 158, 165 (Minn. 1989). To find fraud on the court, there must be (1) an intentional course of material misrepresentation or nondisclosure, (2) having the result of misleading the court and opposing counsel, and (3) making the property settlement unfair. Id. at 165. Here, the district court did not make findings addressing whether there was an intentional course of material misrepresentation or nondisclosure having the result of misleading the court and opposing counsel and making the property settlement unfair. Because the district court applied the wrong standard and failed to address the issue of fraud on the court we reverse and remand and direct the district court to address, in such proceedings as the district court deems appropriate, whether there was fraud on the court.

Reversed and remanded.