Helbling v. Helbling, 20180095

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
Citation921 N.W.2d 652
Docket NumberNo. 20180095,20180095
Parties Janet L. HELBLING, Plaintiff and Appellee v. Wayne T. HELBLING, Defendant and Appellant
Decision Date15 January 2019

921 N.W.2d 652

Janet L. HELBLING, Plaintiff and Appellee
Wayne T. HELBLING, Defendant and Appellant

No. 20180095

Supreme Court of North Dakota.

Filed January 15, 2019

Charles L. Chapman, Bismarck, ND, for plaintiff and appellee.

Theresa L. Kellington, Bismarck, ND, for defendant and appellant.

McEvers, Justice.

¶1] Wayne Helbling appeals from an amended judgment providing payment terms and security for his remaining obligations to Janet Helbling under their original divorce judgment. We conclude the district court did not err in concluding the parties had not modified the divorce settlement agreement and had not entered into an oral agreement to amend the judgment. We further conclude the court did not err by failing to find Janet Helbling was estopped from demanding payment of the remaining balance and did not err in entering the amended judgment containing an amortization schedule to pay his remaining obligations over a ten-year period with interest. We affirm.


[¶2] In 2000, Janet Helbling and Wayne Helbling were married. In 2013, Janet Helbling sued for divorce asserting grounds of irreconcilable differences. Before trial, the parties executed a divorce settlement agreement that distributed the parties’ marital property and debts. In September 2014, a divorce judgment was entered on the basis of the parties’ agreement. Relevant to this appeal are paragraphs 15, 21, and 33 of the judgment, which state:

[¶15] REAL PROPERTY. The parties own two residences together; to wit: one located at ... Morton County, North Dakota known as "the farmstead;" and the other located at ... Mandan, ND. Subject to payment as set forth in Paragraph 21 below, the parties agree that Wayne shall have full ownership of and responsibility for the farmstead. As such, subject to payment as set forth in Paragraph 21 below Wayne shall have all right, title, interest, and equity, free and clear of any claim of the farmstead on the part of Janet. Upon payment to her of the sums of money out lined [sic] in paragraph 21, Janet will issue a Quit Claim Deed, passing ownership of the above property to Wayne. The parties agree that Janet shall have full ownership of and responsibility for [street address of Mandan residence]. As such, Janet shall have all right, title, interest, and equity, free and clear of any claim on the part of Wayne. Wayne agrees to issue a Quit Claim Deed, passing ownership

[921 N.W.2d 655

of the above property to Janet, within thirty (30) days of the date a Judgment is issued in this matter.


[¶21] PARTNERSHIP . Wayne shall be awarded all interest in Helbling Bros Ranch as partner and Janet hereby waives any claims she has to the Helbling Bros Ranch. Janet shall receive $1,000,000.00 of and for payment of all interest in the Helbling Bros Ranch and any and all other property both real and personal granted to Wayne. The parties agree that payment shall be made by Wayne to Janet as follows:

a. $750,000 within 60 days of entry of judgment. She will then pay off the mortgage on [the Mandan residence].

b. $250,000 when Wayne turns age 65. Wayne may pay this early if he prefers. Janet will have a mortgage on [the Morton County property] which shall be subordinated to the loan Wayne will take out to pay her the initial payment. Additionally, each year until she is paid in full, she shall receive the rents from this parcel of land in an amount equal to the average rent for Morton County land as set out by the FSA North Dakota Land, Rent and Values publication.

c. If Wayne does not get financing for the initial payment, the parties will either reach an agreement on how the $1,000,000 is to be paid and if they cannot do so the parties will ask the court to determine the terms of payment. Each would then be able to present evidence to the court on the issue of how it is to be paid.


[¶33] MODIFICATION OR WAIVER. No modification or waiver by the parties of any of the terms of this agreement shall be valid unless in writing and executed with the same formality as this agreement. No waiver of any breach or default hereunder shall be deemed a waiver of any subsequent breach or default.
¶3] To obtain part of his financing, Wayne Helbling took a mortgage on the farmstead, which had been jointly owned by the parties at the time of the entry of the judgment. Although paragraph 15 of the judgment gave Janet Helbling the right to retain her interest in the farmstead until she was paid in full, Janet Helbling testified that the lender had required her to transfer her interest in the farmstead to Wayne Helbling, so he could sign the mortgage individually. Despite the terms of the divorce judgment, Wayne Helbling paid nothing within 60 days following the entry of the judgment and had only paid Janet Helbling a total of $430,000 by the time of the December 2017 hearing in this case.

[¶4] In April 2017, Janet Helbling moved the district court to enforce the judgment, requesting the court to establish payment terms for Wayne Helbling’s remaining obligations under the judgment. After a December 2017 hearing, the district court, among other things, ordered a ten-year amortization schedule for him to pay the remaining amounts due under the judgment and ordered him to pay interest. An amended judgment was entered in February 2018. Wayne Helbling filed an objection to the amended judgment, which the court denied.


[¶5] When a stipulation is incorporated into a judgment, this Court is generally concerned only with its interpretation

[921 N.W.2d 656

and enforcement. Kukla v. Kukla , 2013 ND 192, ¶ 9, 838 N.W.2d 434. In Schulte v. Kramer , 2012 ND 163, ¶ 30, 820 N.W.2d 318 (quoting Leverson v. Leverson , 2011 ND 158, ¶ 11, 801 N.W.2d 740 ), we explained:

When a settlement agreement is incorporated and merged into a judgment, we interpret and enforce only the final judgment, not the underlying contract between the parties. Serr v. Serr , 2008 ND 56, ¶ 8, 746 N.W.2d 416 ; Silbernagel v. Silbernagel ,

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2 cases
  • State v. Greenshields, 20190105
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • August 29, 2019
    ...stipulated language is ambiguous and the incorporating court’s intent cannot be determined. See Helbling v. Helbling , 2019 ND 27, ¶ 6, 921 N.W.2d 652 ; Kukla v. Kukla , 2013 ND 192, ¶ 9, 838 N.W.2d 434. [¶8] Unlike a dismissal without prejudice, an order dismissing a case with prejudice is......
  • Grina v. Job Serv. N. Dakota, 20180284
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • January 15, 2019
    ...or other evidence is made to the court in which an appeal from a determination of an administrative agency is pending, and it is shown [921 N.W.2d 652to the satisfaction of the court that the additional evidence is relevant and material and that there were reasonable grounds for the failure......

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