Pesicka v. Pesicka, No. 21303.

CourtSupreme Court of South Dakota
Writing for the CourtSABERS, Justice
Citation2000 SD 137,618 N.W.2d 725
PartiesBetty Ann PESICKA, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. Gerald Gary PESICKA, Defendant and Appellee.
Decision Date01 November 2000
Docket NumberNo. 21303.

618 N.W.2d 725
2000 SD 137

Betty Ann PESICKA, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
Gerald Gary PESICKA, Defendant and Appellee

No. 21303.

Supreme Court of South Dakota.

Considered on Briefs September 18, 2000.

Decided November 1, 2000.


Patrick M. Ginsbach of Farrell, Farrell and Ginsbach, Hot Springs, South Dakota, Attorneys for plaintiff and appellant.

Richard A. Johnson of Strange Farrell & Johnson, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Attorneys for defendant and appellee.

SABERS, Justice

[¶ 1.] The Judgment and Decree of Divorce incorporated a Stipulation and

618 N.W.2d 726
Agreement providing for the division of Gary's teacher retirement benefit. The circuit court held that the provision was a clear and unambiguous statement of the amount Betty was to receive and refused to set aside the provision or award interest pursuant to SDCL 15-6-60(b)(6). Betty appeals. We affirm

FACTS

[¶ 2.] Gary and Betty were divorced on October 1, 1985 after twenty-eight years of marriage. Both parties were represented by counsel in the divorce proceedings. Counsel for Betty drafted the provision on the division of Gary's teacher retirement benefit. It provides that:

When Gary draws his teacher's retirement or becomes 65 years of age, whichever is first, the parties shall divide the present teacher retirement benefit equally, that amount is $12,092.87.

This provision was accepted by Gary and was subsequently incorporated into the Judgment and Decree of Divorce. At the time the agreement was drafted $12,092.87 was the amount of Gary's contributions to the retirement account, as opposed to the total value of benefits to be received upon retirement.

[¶ 3.] Betty asserts that this provision is ambiguous. She argues that a contradiction exists between the language utilized in the agreement ("teacher retirement benefit") and the dollar figure representing the contribution amount. Based on this alleged ambiguity she sought to have a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) issued for the benefits earned during marriage. Gary opposed, maintaining that the provision only entitles her to half of the amount of contributions made during the marriage ($12,092.87) as stated therein.

[¶ 4.] A hearing was held to determine if a QDRO should be issued, or in the alternative, if the Judgment and Decree should be set aside to award Betty a monthly benefit amount or interest on the lump sum amount.1 The circuit court held that "although the terminology used in the paragraph misspeaks in referring to the `phrase present teacher retirement' the paragraph is clear and unambiguous as to the amount to be divided, i.e. $12,092.87." The circuit court denied the motion to enter the QDRO or set aside the original Judgment and Decree.

[¶ 5.] Betty appeals contending: (1) A QDRO should have been entered based on the ambiguity in the language of the provision; and, (2) relief should have been granted pursuant to SDCL 15-6-60(b)(6). Gary made a timely motion for an award of appellate attorney fees in the amount of $1,290.32.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶ 6.] "Contractual stipulations in divorce proceedings are governed by the law of contracts." Houser v. Houser, 535 N.W.2d 882, 884 (S.D.1995). The interpretation of a contract is a question of law and is reviewed de novo. Hayes v. Northern Hills General Hosp., 1999 SD 28, ¶ 62, 590 N.W.2d 243, 254. When the meaning of contractual language is plain and unambiguous, construction is not necessary. If a contract is found to be ambiguous the rules of construction apply. Alverson v. Northwestern Nat. Cas. Co., 1997 SD 9, ¶ 8, 559 N.W.2d 234, 235. "Whether the language of a contract is ambiguous is ... a question of law." Enchanted World Doll Museum v. Buskohl, 398 N.W.2d 149, 151 (S.D.1986); see also Overfield v. American Underwriters Life Ins. Co., 2000 SD 98, ¶ 12, 614 N.W.2d 814, 816.

618 N.W.2d 727
[¶ 7.] 1. WHETHER A QDRO SHOULD ISSUE FOR HALF THE AMOUNT OF THE RETIREMENT BENEFIT EARNED DURING MARRIAGE

[¶ 8.] We must first determine whether the provision is ambiguous. "A contract is ambiguous when application of rules of interpretation leave a genuine uncertainty as to which of two or more meanings is correct." Alverson, 1997 SD 9, ¶ 8, 559 N.W.2d at 235 (citations omitted).

[¶ 9.] "In determining the proper interpretation of a contract the court must seek to ascertain and give effect to the intentions of the parties." Singpiel v....

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36 practice notes
  • Hill v. Hill, No. 24843.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • March 18, 2009
    ...the liquidity of the assets, and whether either party unreasonably increased the time spent on the case." Id. (quoting Pesicka v. Pesicka, 2000 SD 137, ¶ 20, 618 N.W.2d 725, 728). Taking into consideration the fact that Regan earns significantly more income than Jon and that we are reversin......
  • Bunkers v. Jacobson, No. 21965
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • November 6, 2002
    ...Manning, 1999 SD 128, ¶ 15, 600 N.W.2d 585, 588. Whether the language of a contract is ambiguous is a question of law. Pesicka v. Pesicka, 2000 SD 137, ¶ 6, 618 N.W.2d 725, 726. Ambiguity exists "`when it is capable of more than one meaning when viewed objectively by a reasonably intelligen......
  • Vander Heide v. Boke Ranch, Inc., No. 24273.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • July 11, 2007
    ...viewed objectively by a reasonably intelligent person who has examined the context of the entire integrated agreement. Pesicka v. Pesicka, 2000 SD 137, ¶ 10, 618 N.W.2d 725, 727 (quoting Singpiel v. Morris, 1998 SD 86, ¶ 16, 582 N.W.2d 715, 719 (citations [¶ 38.] In this case, the language ......
  • Atmosphere Hospitality Mgmt., LLC v. Shiba Invs., Inc., 5:13-CV-05040-KES
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of South Dakota
    • January 29, 2016
    ...If the parties' intent is clearly manifested by the language of the contract, it is the court's duty to enforce it. Pesicka v. Pesicka , 618 N.W.2d 725, 727 (S.D.2000). The language of the contract is given its “plain and ordinary meaning” unless the language is ambiguous. Am. State Bank v.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
36 cases
  • Hill v. Hill, No. 24843.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • March 18, 2009
    ...the liquidity of the assets, and whether either party unreasonably increased the time spent on the case." Id. (quoting Pesicka v. Pesicka, 2000 SD 137, ¶ 20, 618 N.W.2d 725, 728). Taking into consideration the fact that Regan earns significantly more income than Jon and that we are reversin......
  • Bunkers v. Jacobson, No. 21965
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
    • November 6, 2002
    ...Manning, 1999 SD 128, ¶ 15, 600 N.W.2d 585, 588. Whether the language of a contract is ambiguous is a question of law. Pesicka v. Pesicka, 2000 SD 137, ¶ 6, 618 N.W.2d 725, 726. Ambiguity exists "`when it is capable of more than one meaning when viewed objectively by a reasonably intelligen......
  • Vander Heide v. Boke Ranch, Inc., No. 24273.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • July 11, 2007
    ...viewed objectively by a reasonably intelligent person who has examined the context of the entire integrated agreement. Pesicka v. Pesicka, 2000 SD 137, ¶ 10, 618 N.W.2d 725, 727 (quoting Singpiel v. Morris, 1998 SD 86, ¶ 16, 582 N.W.2d 715, 719 (citations [¶ 38.] In this case, the language ......
  • Atmosphere Hospitality Mgmt., LLC v. Shiba Invs., Inc., 5:13-CV-05040-KES
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of South Dakota
    • January 29, 2016
    ...If the parties' intent is clearly manifested by the language of the contract, it is the court's duty to enforce it. Pesicka v. Pesicka , 618 N.W.2d 725, 727 (S.D.2000). The language of the contract is given its “plain and ordinary meaning” unless the language is ambiguous. Am. State Bank v.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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