This opinion will be unpublished and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:

Wayne Bradley Harbitz, petitioner,



Janet Marie Harbitz,


Filed April 27, 1999


Harten, Judge

Watonwan County District Court

File No. F8-97-423

James B. O'Leary, O'Leary & Moritz, Chartered, P.O. Box 76, Springfield, MN 56087 (for respondent)

Daniel R. Kaster, Lamar Piper, Piper Law Firm, 615 Second Avenue South, P.O. Box 109, St. James, MN 56081 (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Harten, Judge.



In this marriage dissolution case, appellant seeks reversal and remand on the issue of property division, claiming that respondent failed to disclose his assets and that the parties' marital termination agreement was invalid for that and other reasons. Notwithstanding the fact that basic evidentiary requirements for determining the validity of the marital termination agreement were not raised in the district court, because the evidence supports the district court's findings of fact regarding the marital termination agreement and the parties' assets, and the findings support the conclusions of law, we affirm.


Appellant Janet Marie Harbitz and respondent Wayne Bradley Harbitz were married in 1989 after executing an antenuptial agreement. In 1997, respondent sought dissolution of the marriage. On June 13, 1998, the parties met at respondent's house and signed a marital termination agreement. Their respective attorneys were not present.

On August 19, 1998, the dissolution was tried to the district court. Appellant testified that respondent coerced her into signing the agreement, citing her unstable medical and mental state and the fact that she was frightened. She also testified that respondent abused her and threatened her with bad check criminal charges if she did not sign.

Respondent testified that he did not force appellant to sign the agreement; he denied ever abusing respondent or threatening her with criminal charges. Appellant's attorney cross-examined respondent about his assets. Both parties had disclosed their assets in discovery.

The district court approved the marital termination agreement, dissolved the marriage, and divided the parties' property according to the marital termination agreement, which was incorporated in the judgment. Appellant made no post-trial motions. This appeal from the judgment followed.


1. Standard of Review

The standard of review for an appeal from a judgment when there has been no motion for a new trial or amended findings is whether the evidence supports the district court's findings and whether the findings support its conclusions of law. Comostock & Davis v. G.D.S. & Assoc., 481 N.W.2d 82, 84 (Minn. App. 1992). Having carefully examined the record, we conclude that the evidence adequately supports the district court's findings and the findings support the conclusions of law. The critical question in this appeal, however, is whether appellant preserved her objections to the marital termination agreement.

2. Marital Termination Agreement

Appellant asserts that the marital termination agreement is invalid and the district court clearly erred by admitting it into evidence.

Courts * * * favor stipulations, particularly in marriage dissolution cases, as a means of simplifying and expediting litigation. On appeal, a trial court's determination whether or not to vacate a stipulation will not be disturbed in absence of an abuse of discretion. Similarly, a trial court has broad discretion in evaluating and dividing property in a marriage dissolution and will not be overturned except for abuse of discretion.

Maranda v. Maranda, 449 N.W.2d 158, 164 (Minn. 1989) (citations omitted). But a court may overturn a stipulation or agreement where there is fraud, duress, or mistake. Kroeplin v. Haugen, 390 N.W.2d 872, 875 (Minn. App. 1986), review denied (Minn. Sept. 25, 1986). A four-factor test is used to determine whether the parties properly entered into a stipulation:

(1) whether the party was represented by competent counsel;
(2) whether extensive and detailed negotiations occurred;
(3) whether the party agreed to the stipulation in open court; and
(4) whether when questioned by the judge the party acknowledged understanding the terms and considering them fair and equitable.

Id. On appeal, we consider whether the district court substantially complied with each factor. Glorvigen v. Glorvigen, 438 N.W.2d 692, 696 (Minn. App. 1989). The district court's findings of fact will not be set aside unless clearly erroneous. Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01.[1]

Whether the marital termination agreement was valid is an evidentiary ruling. "[E]videntiary rulings * * * are subject to appellate review only if there has been a motion for a new trial in which such matters have been assigned as error." Sauter v. Wasemiller, 389 N.W.2d 200, 201 (Minn. 1986). If she believed that the district court erred in admitting or considering the marital termination agreement, appellant was obliged to focus the district court's attention on Kroeplin by moving for a new trial under Minn. R. Civ. P. 59.01. The district court would then have had the opportunity to consider the alleged error without the necessity of an appeal. Id. Because appellant made no post-trial motion to the district court, we do not address this issue for the first time on appeal. Id.

Appellant did raise the issue of duress in district court, but the district court specifically found that there was no duress or coercion. Once again, because appellant made no post-trial motion on duress, that issue is not subject to appellate review beyond whether the evidence supports the findings and the findings support the conclusions. We therefore do not address it further.[2] See Sauter, 389 N.W.2d at 201.

3. Property Division

The district court found that the marital termination agreement was an "accurate and complete disclosure of all income, assets, debts and liabilities" and incorporated it into the judgment. But appellant argues that respondent did not fully disclose his assets.

The "general rule is that parties * * * have a duty to make a full and accurate disclosure of all assets * * *. * * * A breach of that duty constitutes fraud sufficient to set aside the judgment." Ronnkvist v. Ronnkvist, 331 N.W.2d 764, 765-66 (Minn. 1983). The trial was brief; a 73-page transcript covers it. After the parties rested, counsel waived final argument and submitted the case on the record. There is no evidence that discovery between the parties was inadequate. Moreover, cross-examination of respondent as to his property failed to reveal any property not listed in the agreement. We conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion by finding that there had been a full and accurate disclosure of all assets.


[1] Here, appellant neither raised nor advanced the Kroeplin requirements at trial or in a post-trial motion and the district court did not expressly use the Kroeplin test to determine the validity of the marital termination agreement.

[2] We note that while appellant may no longer challenge the marital termination agreement itself, nothing in this opinion forecloses a challenge under Minn. Stat. § 518.145 (1998). When a judgment is based upon a stipulation, as it was here, the supreme court held:

that the stipulation is merged into the judgment and decree and the stipulation cannot thereafter be the target of attack by a party seeking relief from the judgment and decree. The sole relief from the judgment and decree lies in meeting the requirements of Minn. Stat. § 518.145, subd. 2.

Shirk v. Shirk, 561 N.W.2d 519, 522 (Minn. 1997). We express no opinion, however, on the probable success of any such challenge to the judgment.