Stockton v. Stockton, No. 1-1181A322

Docket NºNo. 1-1181A322
Citation435 N.E.2d 586
Case DateMay 27, 1982
CourtCourt of Appeals of Indiana

Page 586

435 N.E.2d 586
Robert B. STOCKTON, Respondent-Appellant,
Marilyn A. STOCKTON, Petitioner-Appellee.
No. 1-1181A322.
Court of Appeals of Indiana, First District.
May 27, 1982.

F. Jefferson Crump, III, Jewell, Crump & Angermeier, Columbus, for respondent-appellant.

Maurice A. David, Sharpnack, Bigley, David & Rumple, Columbus, for petitioner-appellee.

RATLIFF, Presiding Judge.


Robert B. Stockton (Robert) appeals the provisions of a decree of dissolution of marriage relating to the division of marital property and the award of attorneys' fees to his wife's attorneys. We affirm.


Robert and Marilyn A. Stockton (Marilyn) experienced marital problems after twenty-six years of marriage and having reared three sons. Marilyn consulted her attorney in June of 1980. A separation agreement was prepared by her attorney and signed by her and Robert about June 30th. Robert was not represented by counsel at this time. Generally, this agreement provided that Robert should have the family residence together with the furnishings except that wife would remove reasonable amounts of furniture for her own use during the separation. The agreement made further provisions for Marilyn's maintenance, the use of a motor vehicle and the payment of taxes. In the event of dissolution of the marriage, the agreement provided

Page 587

for the selection of appraisers to determine fair market value of the residence and tangible personal property and prescribed a formula for determining the amount to be paid Marilyn by Robert. Such amount, at Robert's option, could be paid in cash or by a promissory note bearing interest at ten percent (10%) per annum, payable in equal monthly instalments amortized over a period of twenty (20) years and secured by a second mortgage on the residence.

Marilyn filed her dissolution action on September 3, 1980. On September 10th, a provisional order was entered granting Marilyn maintenance of $200.00 per month, the amount specified in the separation agreement, and $350.00 attorneys' fees. The dissolution action was tried on April 2, 1981, as a contested matter, Robert now being represented by counsel. At the trial, Robert proposed a settlement, based upon the agreement, which would have given Marilyn household goods of $3,800.00 and payments of $24,283.88, payable over a twenty-year period. Marilyn expressed dissatisfaction with the interest rate of ten percent (10%) as lower than current rates, and wanted payment in cash rather than in instalments payable over a twenty year period. The testimony further revealed some problems occurring when Marilyn sought to obtain certain items of furniture and household goods. There was no evidence indicating any fraud, misrepresentation, coercion, or lack of disclosure relating to the execution of the agreement.

On April 2, 1981, the court entered a decree dissolving the marriage but reserving judgment on the property division. Later, on June 5, 1981, the court entered its "Supplement to the Decree of Dissolution of Marriage" making an item by item division of the articles of personal property, with a specific value assigned to each item, awarding the real estate to Robert, and directing Robert to pay to Marilyn $26,504.76 either within 30 days or by a note in that amount payable on or before nine (9) months from the date of the supplemental decree with interest at fifteen percent (15%). The supplemental decree further ordered Robert to pay an additional $1,567.00 for Marilyn's attorneys' fees.


1. Did the trial court abuse its discretion by failing to approve and incorporate the separation agreement into the dissolution decree?

2. Did the trial court abuse its discretion by awarding attorneys' fees in excess of the amount provided in the agreed provisional order?


Issue One

The underlying question with respect to this issue is to what extent, if at all, the court is bound by the parties' property settlement agreement.

Property settlement agreements in dissolution of marriage cases are encouraged. Anderson v. Anderson, (1979) Ind.App., 399 N.E.2d 391; Flora v. Flora, (1975) 166 Ind.App. 620, 337 N.E.2d 846, reh. denied 166 Ind.App. 631, 337 N.E.2d 852, trans. denied (1976). Our statute pertaining to such agreements, Ind.Code 31-1-11.5-10, provides:

"(a) To promote the amicable settlements of disputes that have arisen or may arise between the parties to a marriage attendant upon the dissolution of their marriage, the parties may agree in writing to provisions for the maintenance of either of them, the disposition of any property owned by either or both of them and the custody and support of their children.

(b) In an action for dissolution of the marriage the terms of the agreement if approved by the court shall be incorporated and merged into the decree and the parties ordered to perform them, or the court may make provisions for disposition of property, child support, maintenance, and custody as provided in this chapter.

(c) The disposition of property settled by such an agreement and incorporated and merged into the decree shall not be subject to subsequent modification by the

Page 588

court except as the agreement itself may prescribe or the parties may subsequently consent."

Robert contends the trial court, absent a finding of unfairness, unreasonableness, fraud, or coercion, was bound to accept the agreement and incorporate its terms in the decree. On the other hand, Marilyn asserts the trial court was free to accept, reject, or modify the agreement as it saw fit relying upon Ind.Code 31-1-11.5-10(b) which provides either that the terms of the agreement if approved by the court shall be merged in the decree or that the court itself may make provisions for the disposition of property.

Our supreme court and this court have said that the trial court has the discretion to accept, modify, or reject, either in whole or in part, a property settlement agreement. Meehan v. Meehan, (1981) Ind., 425 N.E.2d 157; Anderson v. Anderson, supra; Flora v. Flora, supra. However, the question of whether or not there are any limitations upon the exercise of discretion in accepting, rejecting, or modifying such agreements has not been squarely faced before. However, such...

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10 cases
  • Marriage of Ford, In re, 3-184A25
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 7 Noviembre 1984 correct in stating that the court's discretion in this regard is not unlimited, see Stockton v. Stockton Page 363 (1982), Ind.App., 435 N.E.2d 586, it is nonetheless her burden to show an abuse of discretion. She has not shown an abuse of discretion. The only way the court's order diverg......
  • Voigt v. Voigt, 79S02-9505-CV-501
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • 5 Agosto 1996
    ...A trial judge should not reject a settlement agreement just because she believes she could draft a better one. Stockton v. Stockton, 435 N.E.2d 586 (Ind.Ct.App.1982) (involving property division). Restraint is especially justified where a settlement agreement contains provisions for mainten......
  • Myers v. Myers, 79S04-9009-CV-611
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • 18 Septiembre 1990
    ...omitted). Property settlement agreements in dissolution of marriage cases are encouraged. Stockton v. Stockton (1982), Ind.App., 435 N.E.2d 586, 587. It is well settled that a property settlement provision in a dissolution decree is final and is not subject to modification by the court rega......
  • In re Shaver, CV-R-83-135-ECR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Nevada
    • 30 Septiembre 1983
    ...357, 360 N.E.2d 268, 272 (1977). The intent of the Indiana Legislature was to encourage settlement agreements. Stockton v. Stockton, 435 N.E.2d 586, 589 (Ind.1982). By requiring the agreement to be in writing, the court has some assurance that the parties have considered the fairness of its......
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