This opinion will be unpublished and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:

Rodney V. Cornell, petitioner,



Joan Cornell,


Filed July 29, 1997


Parker, Judge

Concurring specially,

Huspeni, Judge

St. Louis County District Court

File No. 8963242

Larry M. Nord, 1301 Miller Trunk Highway, Suite 400, Duluth, MN 55811 (for appellant)

Rodney G. Brodin, Larson, Huseby & Brodin, Ltd., 306 West Superior Street, 900 Alworth Building, Duluth, MN 55802 (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Parker, Presiding Judge, Huspeni, Judge, and Davies, Judge.



Appellant Rodney Cornell challenges the district court's November 22, 1996, order, arguing that it improperly modified the parties' decree of dissolution and improperly ignored his purchase of respondent Joan Cornell's interest in the parties' homestead from her bankruptcy estate. We affirm.


As part of their decree of dissolution, the parties stipulated that their homestead

shall be placed on the market for sale and that [appellant] shall have the first option to purchase the homestead.

Respondent had contributed $11,000 of her nonmarital funds to purchase the homestead, and the decree required that she be reimbursed out of the sale proceeds after payment of selling expenses and unpaid mortgages. In addition, the decree required appellant to purchase for $33,916 respondent's interest in an insurance business they operated. Appellant was also ordered to pay $950 to respondent's attorney and $912.86 directly to respondent.

After their decree of dissolution was filed, the homestead was damaged by fire. In March 1993, the court ordered the insurance proceeds distributed:

(A) To pay the outstanding mortgage balances and delinquent property tax,

(B) To reimburse respondent her $11,000 nonmarital downpayment, the balance to be applied as follows:

(1) To pay appellant's child support arrearages,

(2) To pay the arrearages appellant owed respondent for payment of the business,

(3) To pay the $950 owed to respondent's attorney,

(4) To pay the $912 owed to respondent.

The district court further ordered:

The real estate owned by the parties * * * shall be sold in its "as is" condition and proceeds from the sale shall be divided pursuant to the Judgment and Decree * * *. If the [appellant's] portion of the insurance proceeds do not cover the arrearages in child support and payments for the insurance business, as well as the bills which he was directed to pay, these items shall be paid and deducted from his portion of the sale proceeds.

The parties were again before the court in June 1993, and respondent moved to enforce the property provisions of the parties' decree. In a September 22, 1993, order, the court reserved the property issues raised by respondent in June pending resolution of her bankruptcy proceeding. The bankruptcy trustee sold respondent's interest in the parties' homestead to appellant for $15,000. Respondent bought back her interest in the parties' insurance business for $4,500.

In April 1996, respondent again moved the court for relief as requested in her June 1993 motion. In its November 22, 1996, order, the district court ordered appellant to pay to respondent

within thirty (30) days of this Court's Order the sum of $30,000 representing the value of the real estate which he purchased through the Bankruptcy Court.

The order went on to apply the $30,000 to appellant's outstanding obligations under the decree. If appellant did not pay the $30,000 within 30 days, "the home * * * shall be listed * * * and sold."

This appeal is from the court's November 22, 1996, order as corrected by the December 17, 1996, amended order.


We hold that the district court's November 22, 1996, order was a proper enforcement of the decree. When determining whether court action is a modification or an enforcement, "[t]he paramount concern is whether the parties' substantive rights are changed." Potter v. Potter, 471 N.W.2d 113, 114 (Minn. App. 1991). Nothing in the court's order affects the parties' substantive rights under the terms of their decree.

The $30,000 that the district court ordered appellant to pay represented the estimated "as-is" value of the real estate. The estimate was based on appellant's payment to the bankruptcy estate of $15,000 for respondent's half-interest in the property. The district court simply recognized this value as a resource from which appellant could obtain at least $30,000 to make payment on the business and other debts that he still owed respondent under the decree.

The items appellant was ordered to pay were the same items appellant was responsible to pay under the decree, with the addition of $500 in attorney fees that was within the district court's discretion to order. Appellant was required to sell the homestead and use those proceeds to pay what he owed under the decree only if he could not otherwise provide the $30,000. The order to sell is a proper method of enforcing the decree. See Guetzkow v. Guetzkow, 379 N.W.2d 704, 708 (Minn. App. 1986) (order directing proceeds from sale of property acquired by obligor under dissolution decree be used as payment of unpaid debts owed under decree was proper method of enforcement).

An accounting of the debts remaining between the parties subsequent to this enforcement order is within the province of the district court, and the district court retains jurisdiction for further proceedings as may be necessary. The parties stipulated before this court to certain facts relating to the distribution of insurance proceeds, and they shall provide this stipulation to the district court to assist in any such accounting.


HUSPENI, Judge (concurring specially)

I concur specially to emphasize the necessity of the accounting described in the final paragraph of the majority opinion. The trial court swept exceedingly broadly in ordering appellant to pay the sum of $30,000. Indeed, he presently may owe that sum and more pursuant to several provisions of the June 1991 decree as "revised" in the apparently unappealed order of December 1993. It is not at all clear from the record before us, however, that the order now on appeal adequately addresses the disbursement of the approximately $57,000 in insurance proceeds resulting from the homestead fire; nor is it clear how that disbursement affects balances remaining on respondent's nonmarital homestead equity, her interest in the insurance business, child support arrearages, and attorney fees. Moreover, the order now on appeal does not adequately account for the consequences of respondent's bankruptcy proceedings (which were technically voluntary, but according to the trial court were caused at least in part by appellant's nonpayment of the obligations placed upon him under the decree).

A remand for more specific findings would not be inappropriate here, but would almost certainly cause these parties to incur yet more financial and emotional costs. The accounting established by the majority should minimize those costs and should be conducted without delay. Hopefully the parties can reach agreement on the basis of that accounting and put an end to this litigation. In the unfortunate event that agreement cannot be reached, the trial court should engage in the painstaking process of documenting by appropriate mathematical calculations that the decree provisions were, indeed, only enforced and not modified by the order we now review.