Henrichs v. Henrichs, s. 15773

CourtSupreme Court of South Dakota
Citation426 N.W.2d 569
Docket NumberNos. 15773,15796,s. 15773
PartiesGerald O'Dell HENRICHS, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. Marvella May HENRICHS, Defendant and Appellant. . Considered on Briefs
Decision Date21 March 1988

Wilson Kleibacker of Lammers, Lammers & Kleibacker, Madison, for plaintiff and appellee.

Thomas M. Issenhuth of Arneson, Issenhuth and Gienapp, Madison, for defendant and appellant.

SABERS, Justice.

Wife appeals award of alimony and property distribution. Husband appeals claiming excessive alimony award.


Gerald (Jerry) and Marvella (Marvella) Henrichs were married in May of 1954. Three children were born; all were adults at the time of the divorce action. In 1966, Jerry bought the Triple F Feeds business in Ramona, South Dakota. Marvella assisted Jerry in the feed business. In 1978, Jerry became the State Manager for Triple F Feeds. This position required frequent travel and Marvella became responsible for most of the day-to-day operation of the feed store until 1982 when it was sold.

In 1979, Marvella and Jerry were involved in an automobile accident in which Marvella sustained serious personal injuries. She underwent surgery in 1981 to fuse three discs in her neck. In 1982, Marvella and Jerry received net settlement proceeds of $42,404.87.

In May of 1984, Jerry and Marvella purchased the cafe in Ramona for $32,000. They assumed an SBA loan of $25,000 and borrowed $7,000 from the Ramona Development Corporation. They invested another $16,000 in remodeling and improvements. Marvella has been exclusively responsible for running the cafe.

After thirty-two years of marriage, Jerry moved from the marital home and filed for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences and extreme cruelty. Marvella counterclaimed for divorce based on extreme cruelty.

The trial court awarded a divorce to Jerry, upon consent of Marvella, based on irreconcilable differences. The trial court divided the property to award Jerry property valued at $81,731.83 and to award Marvella property valued at $74,916.27. After consideration for marital debts, Jerry's property had a net value of $44,387.83 and Marvella's property had a net value of $45,916.27. Marvella was granted alimony of $500 per month but no attorney fees.


Marvella claims the trial court erred by not granting her a lump sum settlement equal to the proceeds received in settlement of the personal injury action. She also claims the trial court made an inequitable division of the real and personal property of the parties.

Jerry argues that Marvella waived these issues by failing to cite authority for her arguments. 1 SDCL 15-26A-60(6); Kostel Funeral Home, Inc. v. Duke Tufty Co., 393 N.W.2d 449 (S.D.1986). Marvella points out that Kostel holds that failure to cite supporting authority may result in the argument being deemed waived. Imposition of the waiver sanction may be appropriate when attorneys fail to uncover statutes and caselaw which could have been discovered with due diligence. In this case, we do not impose it and reach the merits because the question is sufficiently one of first impression.

A. Personal Injury Award

Marvella claims that the trial court was incorrect in finding the damage award too remote in time and too long merged in the joint assets of the parties to be considered a distributable asset. Marvella argues that four years (1982-1986) is not too remote in time and that the proceeds are traceable. She claims that Exhibit J establishes the disbursement of the proceeds. 2

The cases of Wipf v. Wipf, 273 N.W.2d 124 (S.D.1978) and Fink v. Fink, 296 N.W.2d 916 (S.D.1980) appear to support the proposition that the settlement proceeds of personal injury suits are marital assets subject to distribution. In other jurisdictions, there are cases which hold such funds are marital assets, In re Marriage of McNerney, 417 N.W.2d 205, 206 (Iowa 1987) ("proceeds of a personal injury claim are marital assets, to be divided according to the circumstances of each case"); Phillips v. Phillips, 290 S.C. 455, 351 S.E.2d 178 (S.C.App.1986); McDonald v. McDonald, 19 Ark.App. 75, 716 S.W.2d 788 (1986); Richardson v. Richardson, 139 Wis.2d 778, 407 N.W.2d 231 (1987), and cases which hold the funds belong to the party injured and are not marital assets, Regan v. Regan, 507 So.2d 54 (Miss.1987); Izatt v. Izatt, 627 P.2d 49 (Utah 1981).

Jerry claims that the settlement award was made to the parties jointly and that all of the money has been spent so that there no longer remains an asset to be divided. We believe four years is not too remote under these circumstances and that settlement proceeds are marital property subject to distribution. However, whether the distribution constitutes an abuse of discretion depends on the entire property division.

B. Real and Personal Property

Marvella claims the property division is inequitable because Jerry received the marital home (valued at $27,500) and business property which included a building capable of generating $350 per month rental income while she received the cafe (which has less value than debt) and a one-half interest in the present value of Jerry's profit-sharing trust 3 which is not currently available to her.

Jerry argues that Marvella cannot complain about the award of the marital home because she told the trial court she wanted either the house and the "horse area" or neither. The horses were Jerry's hobby and the area behind the house, used for pasturing and exercising the horses, was of no interest or use to her. She now argues that Jerry could have found another place for the horses if the trial court had awarded both properties to her. Jerry also asserts that she asked the trial court to award her the Cadillac which she now complains is merely a "depreciable" asset.

The trial court must consider equity and the circumstances of the parties when it divides marital property. SDCL 25-4-44; Cole v. Cole, 384 N.W.2d 312 (S.D.1986); Garnos v. Garnos, 376 N.W.2d 571 (S.D.1985). The principal factors to be considered in determining an equitable property division are: "the length of the marriage; the value of the property; the age and health of the parties; their respective competency to earn a living; the contributions of each party to the accumulation of the property; and the income producing capacity of the parties' assets." Cole, supra at 314 ( citing Clement v. Clement, 292 N.W.2d 799 (S.D.1980)).

In this case:

1) The parties were married for thirty-two years.

2) The trial court valued the property awarded to Jerry at $81,731.83 (net value--$44,387.83) and the property awarded to Marvella at $74,916.27 (net value--$45,916.27).

3) At the time of the divorce, Jerry was fifty-one years old and Marvella was forty-nine years old. The trial court found both parties were "able bodied, in good health." It appears from the testimony that the 1981 surgery removed the substantial disability which Marvella incurred as a result of the 1979 accident.

4) The trial court found both parties were capable of earning a living wage.

5) The trial court did not make a specific finding as to the contributions of each party to the accumulation of property, however, the award of approximately equal net amounts may indicate that the trial court found an equal contribution.

6) In essence, Jerry was awarded his business and the home and Marvella was awarded her business. His profit sharing plan was divided equally. The trial court commented that Jerry's business income had been adversely affected by the poor farm economy and that Marvella could use food purchased for the cafe at home.

The trial court has broad discretion in making a division of the marital property and its judgment will not be set aside absent a clear abuse of discretion. Goehry v. Goehry, 354 N.W.2d 192 (S.D.1984). Upon reviewing Marvella's objections, we find that the trial court did not abuse its discretion. The trial court should have been less concerned with Marvella's ultimatum and might have granted the home to the wife and the "horse area" and entire retirement trust to the husband, but we are not prepared to say its failure to do so was an abuse of discretion.


Marvella argues that the trial court erred in awarding her alimony of only $500 per month. Although she concedes that Jerry's income from his feed business has been reduced in recent years because of the poor agricultural economy, she contends the trial court's award is too low when Jerry's average income over the past five years is considered. She claims the parties have disproportionate earning capacities. Her argument appears to be based on the belief that Jerry's income will increase, but the income from the cafe will remain break-even or decline.

Marvella claims that based upon the disproportionate earning capacities of the parties, the inequitable property division and her physical limitations as a result of the car accident, the trial court should have either set alimony at a higher monthly amount or, in addition to the amount awarded, granted her a certain percentage of Jerry's income after a predetermined income figure.

Jerry also appeals the alimony award and claims it is excessive. He claims he does not have substantial income. He claims that, based upon his tax returns for 1982 through 1985 and his pay stubs for the first six months of 1986, he has a taxable income of $899.30 per month (without deduction for his living and other expenses).

Jerry also claims Marvella is fully capable of earning the $890.50 per month she needs for living expenses. He points to her skills and abilities as a bookkeeper and secretary, carpenter and home remodeler, and cafe operator. Marvella counters that these skills have not been utilized for thirty years. Jerry appears to confuse Marvella's ability to do some remodeling on their home and the cafe with remodeling skills saleable in the competitive job market. He claims that the...

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  • Grode v. Grode, 19013
    • United States
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    ...discretion." Abrams v. Abrams, 516 N.W.2d 348, 352 (S.D.1994); Radigan v. Radigan, 465 N.W.2d 483, 487 (S.D.1991); Henrichs v. Henrichs, 426 N.W.2d 569, 572 (S.D.1988). We have stated several times: It is well settled that the trial court has broad discretion with respect to property divisi......
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    ...v. Henrichs, this Court, relying on Wipf and Fink, pronounced that "settlement proceeds are marital property subject to distribution." 426 N.W.2d 569, 571 (S.D.1988). But, in Kappenmann v. Kappenmann, this Court set aside a pending personal injury claim to the wife. 479 N.W.2d 520, 525 (S.D......
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