299 N.W.2d 798 (S.D. 1980), 12884, Cooper v. Cooper

Docket Nº:12884.
Citation:299 N.W.2d 798
Opinion Judge:The opinion of the court was delivered by: Fosheim
Party Name:Wanda J. COOPER, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. William M. COOPER, Defendant and Appellant.
Attorney:Kenneth F. Vavra, Tappe and Vavra, P.C., Platte, South Dakota. Attorney for plaintiff and appellee.
Case Date:December 17, 1980
Court:Supreme Court of South Dakota
 
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Page 798

299 N.W.2d 798 (S.D. 1980)

Wanda J. COOPER, Plaintiff and Appellee,

v.

William M. COOPER, Defendant and Appellant.

No. 12884.

Supreme Court of South Dakota.

December 17, 1980

Considered on Briefs on Oct. 17, 1980.

Kenneth F. Vavra, Tappe & Vavra, P. C., Platte, for plaintiff and appellee.

John E. Burke, Sioux Falls, for defendant and appellant.

Page 799

FOSHEIM, Justice.

Plaintiff commenced this action for divorce on the grounds of extreme mental and physical cruelty. Defendant's answer contained a general denial and a counterclaim for divorce. The trial court granted a divorce to the plaintiff. The defendant appeals from the property provisions of the judgment. We affirm.

At the time of trial, plaintiff was aged 50 and the defendant was 53 years of age. The parties, married on November 17, 1972, each had grown children by previous marriages. At the time of the marriage, the defendant was employed as a heavy equipment operator for a construction company. He owned a home in Canistota, South Dakota, subject to a mortgage for $2,500.00. Plaintiff owned an 800 acre farm in Charles Mix County that she and her previous husband had operated until his death in 1968. She also had over one hundred head of cattle, farm machinery, some shares of Broken Arrow Ranch stock, and approximately $18,000.00 in her checking account. That account became a joint checking account after the marriage. To this account, plaintiff deposited $5,000.00 from the proceeds of an insurance policy on the life of her former husband and, in 1977, she deposited an additional $20,250.00 from the sale of Broken Arrow Ranch stock. She did considerable work on the farm, operating machinery and helping with the livestock. The evidence indicates that she was a better farm manager and operator than was the defendant.

During the marriage, the parties spent between $7,000.00 and $9,000.00 for repairs, improvements and payments on the Canistota house. At the time of the divorce, the unpaid balance on the mortgage was about $300.00.

At the time of trial, there were 60 cows, four bulls, four horses, 1,500 bushels of oats, 350 bushels of corn, machinery, and a savings and farm checking account. Between the time of the parties' separation and the date of trial, the plaintiff sold corn and cattle for approximately $68,000.00. From that amount, $37,000.00 was applied towards expenses and payment of a note at the bank, leaving a balance of $31,000.00, which is in bank accounts. Plaintiff also paid off a bank loan of $20,000.00 plus interest, which was obtained by the parties in 1973. During the period of the marriage, plaintiff made land payments each year of $1,500.00; three from the joint account and the balance from her own funds.

In 1974, the plaintiff deeded a quarter of her land in Brule County to the defendant and herself in joint tenancy. At the time of trial, there was a mortgage against that and another quarter in the unpaid amount of $23,000.00. The home of the defendant in Canistota was then worth between $18,000.00 and $20,000.00.

The basic issue on appeal is whether the trial court properly considered all of the necessary factors in making the property division, including the land transferred in joint tenancy.

The judgment provided that plaintiff pay the defendant the sum of $12,000.00. The defendant was granted ownership of the Canistota home, as improved, and all his personal effects. The defendant was directed, however, to deed to the plaintiff all of his interest in the Brule County quarter of land held in joint tenancy, subject to the encumbrances thereon which plaintiff was to assume. The plaintiff was granted sole ownership of all the farm land, machinery, equipment, livestock and other remaining property of the parties. The parties were directed to pay their own attorneys' fees.

In reviewing the distribution of the...

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