Gronland v. Gronland, 940193

Decision Date08 February 1995
Docket NumberNo. 940193,940193
Citation527 N.W.2d 250
PartiesLinda A. GRONLAND, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. Larry D. GRONLAND, Defendant and Appellant. Civ.
CourtNorth Dakota Supreme Court

Erik R. Johnson, of Solberg, Stewart, Miller & Johnson, Fargo, for plaintiff and appellee.

Joe A. Johnson, of Wegner, Fraase, Nordeng, Johnson & Ramstad, Fargo, for defendant and appellant.

MESCHKE, Justice.

Larry Gronland appeals from a divorce decree dividing the marital property and awarding Linda Gronland both rehabilitative and permanent spousal support. We affirm.

Larry and Linda were married in 1971. They have two children, Jason, born May 4, 1975, and Kimberly, born April 4, 1977. Early in the marriage, Larry joined the Air Force and reached the rank of major. While serving, he worked as a nurse anesthetist and upon leaving the military obtained the equivalent of a master's degree in that field. During the past five years, Larry has traveled widely as an independent surgical anesthetist. During that time, he has earned between $100,000 and $120,000 each year.

The parties mutually agreed Linda would not work outside the home while the children were young. Linda has a certificate as a licensed practical nurse and did some nursing work while Larry attended school to earn his master's degree. Linda also dabbled in the real estate business, but concluded that she would not be able to earn a living wage in that field. She decided she needed additional education to get a good job, and she is currently working on a master's degree in family therapy.

The marriage irretrievably broke down, and the spouses separated when Larry began traveling in 1987. Linda filed for divorce in 1993. At the time of the divorce proceedings, Jason was an adult, and the spouses agreed Linda should have physical custody of Kimberly with reasonable visitation rights for Larry. They also stipulated Larry would pay Linda $1,023 per month for child support until Kimberly reached age 18 or completed high school, but not beyond Kimberly's 19th birthday. The trial court divided the marital property, awarded Linda rehabilitative spousal support of $2,900 per month through December 1996 to enable her to obtain a degree in family therapy, and awarded her permanent spousal support of $1,000 per month until her death, her remarriage, or Larry began drawing social security payments. Larry appealed.

Larry claims the division of property is not equitable. Larry summarized his disagreement with the property division thus:

The parties were in agreement as to the distribution of all the property except the Dalkon Shield lawsuit settlement of $17,000.00, Larry's individual retirement account of $46,000.00, and Larry's military retirement. The trial court awarded Linda all the $17,000.00 from the Dalkon lawsuit settlement, all of Larry's IRA account of $46,000.00, and one-half of Larry's military retirement accumulated during the marriage.

* * * * * *

Larry testified that he felt that he was entitled to part of the settlement from the Dalkon Shield lawsuit ... and his military pension....

Under NDCC 14-05-24, the court, in granting a divorce, is required to make an equitable distribution of the marital property as may seem just and proper and may also make such suitable allowances to the other spouse for support during life or for a shorter period as to the court may seem just. As we explained in Steckler v. Steckler, 519 N.W.2d 23, 24-25 (N.D.1994), a trial court's findings on valuation and the division of marital property cannot be set aside on appeal unless they are clearly erroneous under NDRCivP 52(a), or they are induced by an erroneous view of the law.

During the marriage, Linda received $17,000 in settlement for personal injuries she incurred prior to the marriage while using a Dalkon Shield intrauterine device. The trial court correctly recognized that these monies were part of the marital estate but questionably concluded Linda should receive the entire settlement as "personal to her" for the injury, pain, and suffering she had endured. However, we see in the court's findings other significant factors, particularly that Linda is seriously disadvantaged by the divorce and that both spouses must experience some sacrifice "with what is going to be available in terms of income and property." Linda has the much greater need for income producing assets together with the permanent spousal support awarded. Therefore, we conclude the court's award to Linda of the entire Dalkon Shield settlement was not clearly erroneous.

The court also awarded Linda the entire $46,000 balance of Larry's individual retirement account (IRA) and a proportionate share of Larry's vested military retirement benefits. The court reasoned Linda should receive the IRA because she, unlike Larry, would not be able to earn enough to accumulate adequate retirement funds. See Wheeler v. Wheeler, 419 N.W.2d 923, 926-27 (N.D.1988) (Obligee's "standard of living and financial needs, such as for retirement funding, must be comparably weighed with [obligor's] standard of living and needs."). The court also divided Larry's military retirement benefits according to a formula that we have often approved for dividing such benefits in divorce actions. Bullock v. Bullock, 354 N.W.2d 904 (N.D.1984). See also Welder v. Welder, 520 N.W.2d 813 (N.D.1994). We conclude the court's distribution of the IRA and the military retirement benefits was not clearly erroneous.

Larry complains the trial court's property division gives Linda a net distribution of about $72,000 but leaves Larry with a negative distribution of nearly $27,000 in debts. Larry's argument misleads. Larry claims Linda was awarded the parties' home that the court valued at $71,000 with a $58,000 mortgage. Linda will be responsible for that large mortgage on her house, and Larry failed to acknowledge in his appellate brief that the court specifically directed Linda, if and when she sells the home, to equally divide the first $13,000 of net proceeds of the sale with Larry.

Larry's explanation about the tax debt assessed against him by the court is inaccurate. Larry lists as part of his debt the 1992 and 1993 federal and state income tax obligations. However, during the trial Larry testified the 1992 federal income taxes, about $24,000, had already been paid. Linda agreed during the trial that, upon receiving assurances Larry had paid the 1992 taxes, she would agree to file an amended joint 1992 return with Larry, rather than a separate return, to obtain a near $6,000 tax savings--enough to pay the remaining 1992 state income tax obligation and to make a payment of about $2,000 on the 1993 taxes. Linda testified that, beginning in 1993, Larry assumed all responsibility for...

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22 cases
  • Pearson v. Pearson
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • August 18, 2009
    ...incapable of any rehabilitation, but may be awarded to a spouse incapable of adequate rehabilitation or self-support." Gronland v. Gronland, 527 N.W.2d 250, 253 (N.D.1995) (emphasis added). Merely "self-sustaining" is not the same as achieving suitable and appropriate self-support. Just bec......
  • Mahoney v. Mahoney
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • July 23, 1997
    ...spouse an opportunity to become adequately self-supporting through additional training, education, or experience. Gronland v. Gronland, 527 N.W.2d 250, 253 (N.D.1995). A spouse's need for rehabilitation is not limited to the prevention of destitution. Beals v. Beals, 517 N.W.2d 413, 416 (N.......
  • Solem v. Solem
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • November 21, 2008 with those matters together, especially when there is a large difference in earning power between the spouses." Gronland v. Gronland, 527 N.W.2d 250, 253 (N.D.1995) (citing Pfliger v. Pfliger, 461 N.W.2d 432, 436 [¶ 12] In the present case, the trial court assigned a greater portion of......
  • Donarski v. Donarski
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • June 30, 1998
    ...created by the separation when it is impossible to maintain two households at the pre-divorce standard of living. Gronland v. Gronland, 527 N.W.2d 250, 253 (N.D.1995). Permanent support is not limited to a spouse who is incapable of any rehabilitation, but may be awarded to a spouse incapab......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • § 8.01 Personal Injury Claims
    • United States
    • Full Court Press Divorce, Separation and the Distribution of Property Title CHAPTER 8 Miscellaneous Property Interests
    • Invalid date
    ...396, 340 N.W.2d 102 (1983). North Dakota: Bladow v. Bladow, 665 N.W.2d 724, 29 Fam. L. Rep. (BNA) 1453 (N.D. 2003); Gronland v. Gronland, 527 N.W.2d 250 (N.D. 1995). Vermont: Bero v. Bero, 134 Vt. 533, 367 A.2d 165 (1976). But see, In re Marriage of Peterman, 94 Ore. App. 190, 764 P.2d 962 ......
  • Distributing Personal Injury Settlements and Workers� Compensation Awards in Divorce
    • United States
    • Colorado Bar Association Colorado Lawyer No. 45-10, October 2016
    • Invalid date
    ...however and whenever acquired and whether the title thereto is in the name of the husband or wife or both.’”). [70] Gronland v. Gronland, 527 N.W.2d 250 (N.D. 1995) (PI); Bladow v. Bladow, 665 N.W.2d 724, (N.D. 2003) (PI). [71] Pittman v. Pittman, 999 P.2d 638 (Wyo. 2000) (PI); WS § 20-2-11......

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