Stoneman v. Drollinger

Decision Date30 October 2000
Docket NumberNo. 99-179.,99-179.
Citation14 P.3d 12,302 Mont. 107,2000 MT 274
PartiesIn re the Marriage of Mark J. STONEMAN, Petitioner and Respondent, v. Ruth L. DROLLINGER, Respondent and Appellant.
CourtMontana Supreme Court

Ruth L. Stoneman, Olympia, WA, (pro se).

Karl Knuchel, Livingston, MT, For Respondent.

Justice WILLIAM E. HUNT, Sr. delivered the Opinion of the Court.

¶ 1 Ruth L. Drollinger (Drollinger) appeals from the order of the Eighteenth Judicial District Court, Gallatin County which dissolved her marriage to Mark J. Stoneman, (Stoneman), provided a parenting plan for their four children, and divided the marital property between the two parties.

¶ 2 We affirm in part and reverse in part the judgment of the District Court, and remand this case for entry of judgment consistent with this opinion.

Issues

¶ 3 Drollinger alleges a variety of errors by the District Court. They are summarized and discussed in this opinion as follows:

¶ 4 1. Whether the District Court erred in its definition and division of marital property.

¶ 5 2. Whether the District Court erred in not awarding maintenance.

¶ 6 3. Whether the District Court erred in the final child support award and the retroactive reduction in payments.

¶ 7 4. Whether the District Court erred in allowing Stoneman unsupervised visitation of the children in light of the history of domestic violence.

Factual and Procedural History

¶ 8 The parties, Mark J. Stoneman and Ruth L. Drollinger were married on October 1, 1988, in Livingston, Montana. A petition for dissolution was originally filed on July 30, 1990. After a series of separations and reconciliations, the couple finally separated in 1996. They now have four children, and an accumulation of property. During the marriage Stoneman provided most of the financial support to the family, while Drollinger cared for the children and the home.

¶ 9 The relationship between the two parties has been contentious and there is a history of domestic violence. According to the District Court, Stoneman was convicted of domestic abuse in 1990, 1991, 1994, and 1996. He has a long, well-documented history of violent behavior toward Drollinger.

¶ 10 The trial in this matter took place on June 11, 12, and 13, 1997 and on February 23, 24, and 27, 1998. There were other hearings held by the court on various issues before and after the trial. The court issued its findings of facts, conclusions of law, and order dissolving the marriage and dividing the marital estate on October 23, 1998. The court awarded custody of the children to Drollinger, ordered Stoneman to pay $190 per month, per child in support, and divided the marital property between the two parties. The District Court also allowed Stoneman to have unsupervised visitation with the children.

¶ 11 In sum, Drollinger appeals the District Court's division and definition of property, the amount of child support, the lack of a maintenance award, and the visitation plan. Other facts will be provided as necessary.

¶ 12 We should note that the record is replete with evidence not properly submitted to both this Court and the court below. Both sides have abused this process by submitting transcripts without proper certification, information not submitted to the court below in a proper hearing, and evidence that is not properly considered by this Court. We have seen this evidence, but refuse to consider it in making our decisions.

Discussion
Issue # 1

¶ 13 Whether the District Court erred in its definition and division of marital property.

¶ 14 Drollinger alleges that the District Court made a variety of errors in its definition and division of marital property. She argues that the District Court erred in excluding certain inherited property owned by Stoneman from the marital estate. In addition, she challenges the District Court's valuation of personal property and its division as well as the division of the family residence. Finally, she argues that the court erred in its conclusion that certain artwork in the couple's possession belonged to Stoneman's parents.

¶ 15 In its findings of fact, the court concluded that property inherited by the parties was not part of the marital estate. The court excluded from the marital property land in Idaho owned by Drollinger, and an interest in a farm in Illinois owned by Stoneman. Both properties were inherited by the respective parties. The record shows that a portion of the Illinois property was sold, and the proceeds were used to fund a business venture by Stoneman. Upon the sale of the business, the proceeds were used to purchase buffalo and as partial payment for the vehicle used by Stoneman.

¶ 16 It is evident that throughout this case, Stoneman has resisted paying child support. The court ordered that the buffalo be sold and that the proceeds be used for unpaid child support and to pay for certain court-approved costs incurred by the parties. In its findings, the court concluded that the funds used to purchase the buffalo were traceable to the inherited Illinois property and that the proceeds from the buffalo were not a marital asset. Stoneman was given a credit for these proceeds in the final division. Drollinger objects to that credit.

¶ 17 On appeal, this Court reviews a trial court's division of marital property to determine whether the findings upon which the court relied are clearly erroneous and whether the court correctly applied the law. In re Marriage of Danelson (1992), 253 Mont. 310, 317, 833 P.2d 215, 219-20. In reviewing discretionary trial court rulings, including marital estate distributions and the valuations of marital property pursuant to dissolution, we determine whether the district court abused its discretion. In re Marriage of Rada (1994), 263 Mont. 402, 405, 869 P.2d 254, 255.

¶ 18 Distribution of a marital estate is controlled by § 40-4-202(1), MCA, which provides in relevant part:

In a proceeding for dissolution of a marriage... the court, without regard to marital misconduct, shall, and in a proceeding for legal separation may, finally equitably apportion between the parties the property and assets belonging to either or both, however and whenever acquired and whether the title thereto is in the name of the husband or wife or both ... In dividing property acquired prior to the marriage; property acquired by gift, bequest, devise or descent; property acquired in exchange for property acquired before the marriage or in exchange for property acquired by gift, bequest, devise, or descent; the increased value of property acquired prior to marriage; and property acquired by a spouse after a decree of legal separation, the court shall consider those contributions of the other spouse to the marriage, including:
(a) the nonmonetary contribution of a homemaker;
(b) the extent to which such contributions have facilitated the maintenance of this property; and
(c) whether or not the property division serves as an alternative to maintenance arrangements.

This section provides for equitable distribution of the property, taking into consideration the contributions of the non-acquiring spouse to its preservation or appreciation. The non-acquiring spouse is entitled to an equitable share of only the appreciated or preserved value of the inherited property which is attributable to his or her efforts. In re Marriage of Smith (1994), 264 Mont. 306, 312, 871 P.2d 884, 888; In re Marriage of Herron (1980), 186 Mont. 396, 405, 608 P.2d 97, 102; In re Marriage of Engen, 1998 MT 153 ¶ 29, 289 Mont. 299, ¶ 29, 961 P.2d 738, ¶ 29. The record shows that Stoneman inherited a share in a piece of property in Illinois from his grandmother. It is clear from the record that neither party worked on the farm, and no marital assets were used in the maintenance or care of the property.

¶ 19 In Smith, we held that "[t]he court cannot distribute to the non-acquiring spouse property acquired prior to the marriage or acquired by gift, bequest, devise, or descent when there is no evidence that the spouse made any contribution to those assets in any form." Smith, 264 Mont. at 312, 871 P.2d at 888.

¶ 20 It is clear from the testimony that in this case, neither spouse contributed to the appreciation or preservation of the property. Neither spouse has worked on the farm in Illinois, nor have they made any sort of sacrifice or contribution that would preserve or increase the value of the farm. The property remained separate throughout the marriage and Drollinger is not entitled to the property simply by virtue of being the homemaker in the family. In order for her to claim an interest, she would have to prove that the value of the property had appreciated during the marriage and that she had somehow contributed to that appreciation in value. See Smith 264 Mont. at 312, 871 P.2d at 888. See also, Herron 186 Mont. at 405, 608 P.2d at 102. That is simply not the case.

¶ 21 Drollinger's second argument relating to the Illinois property is that the court did not consider the future liabilities and earnings of the two parties. She argues that the court didn't consider the future economic needs of her and the children, and that it was, as a result, error not to include the Illinois property. There is absolutely no authority for this argument. We find that the District Court thoroughly considered the economic situations of both of the parties. The court awarded use of the family home to Drollinger in order to maintain stability for the children, the court also awarded child support to be paid by Stoneman to Drollinger. There is no evidence to support Drollinger's argument that the Illinois property or the buffalo purchased from its proceeds should have been included in the marital estate.

¶ 22 Drollinger makes numerous other arguments in an attempt to support her contention that the Illinois property should have been included in the marital estate. We find all of...

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  • Funk v. Funk
    • United States
    • Montana Supreme Court
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    ...time of sale. ¶ 21 Kevin concedes that June made contributions to the marriage by virtue of being a homemaker. He relies on Stoneman v. Drollinger, 2000 MT 274, ¶ 20, 302 Mont. 107, 14 P.3d 12, rev'd in part on other grounds, Marriage of Stoneman, 2003 MT 25, 314 Mont. 139, 64 P.3d 997, how......
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    ...stock and facilitating any appreciation in its value. That is precisely what we said trial courts may not do in Stoneman v. Drollinger, 2000 MT 274, 302 Mont. 107, 14 P.3d 12. We Drollinger is not entitled to the [farm] property simply by virtue of being the homemaker in the family. In orde......
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    ...a district court to take into consideration the contributions of the non-acquiring spouse to its preservation or appreciation. Stoneman v. Drollinger, 2000 MT 274, ¶ 18, 302 Mont. 107, ¶ 18, 14 P.3d 12, ¶ 18. The non-acquiring spouse is entitled to an equitable share of only the appreciated......
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    ..."As long as the valuation is reasonable in light of the evidence submitted, we will not disturb the finding on appeal." Stoneman v. Drollinger, 2000 MT 274, ¶ 32, 302 Mont. 107, ¶ 32, 14 P.3d 12, ¶ 32. Our review of the record reveals that the District Court properly considered the statutor......
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1 books & journal articles
  • § 6.06 Mutations of Separate Property
    • United States
    • Full Court Press Divorce, Separation and the Distribution of Property Title CHAPTER 6 Types of Property That Frequently Are Designated Separate Property by Statute
    • Invalid date
    ...7 P.3d 1092 (2000). Mississippi: Brooks v. Brooks, 757 So.2d 301 (Miss. App. 1999) (insurance proceeds). Montana: Stoneman v. Drollinger, 302 Mont. 107, 14 P.3d 12 (2000). Oregon: In re Marriage of Hering, 84 Ore. App. 360, 733 P.2d 956 (1987). Utah: Mortensen v. Mortensen, 760 P.2d 304 (Ut......

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