Weigel v. Weigel

Decision Date01 December 2015
Docket NumberNo. 20140412.,20140412.
Citation871 N.W.2d 810
Parties Shawn Dale WEIGEL, Plaintiff, Appellant and Cross–Appellee v. LaRinda Rae WEIGEL, Defendant, Appellee and Cross–Appellant.
CourtNorth Dakota Supreme Court

Carrie L. Francis, Minot, N.D., for plaintiff, appellant and cross-appellee.

Robert S. Thomas, Minot, N.D., for defendant, appellee and cross-appellant.

SANDSTROM, Justice.

[¶ 1] Shawn and LaRinda Weigel both appeal from a divorce judgment distributing their marital property, granting them equal residential responsibility of their two minor children, and offsetting their child support obligations and ordering LaRinda Weigel to pay Shawn Weigel $1,280 per month for child support. Shawn Weigel challenges the district court's valuations and distribution of marital property, and LaRinda Weigel challenges the court's child support determination. We affirm the court's property valuations and distribution, and we reverse the child support determination and remand for further proceedings.

I

[¶ 2] Shawn and LaRinda Weigel were married in 1996 and have two minor children together. At the time of trial, he was 43 years old and she was 42. During the marriage, he worked as an account representative for The Computer Store in Minot, and she worked for LDL Clean, Inc., a janitorial cleaning business operating the ServiceMaster franchise in Minot, which she co-owns with David Burgess. She also owns two other businesses with Burgess: LDL Spotless, Inc., and LDL Properties, LLP. LDL Properties is a real estate holding company that owns and leases three four-plexes in Minot, and LDL Spotless owns a shop condo in Minot which serves as an office for the three businesses. The parties' property interests also include a marital home, a lake cabin, and two other rental properties in Minot.

[¶ 3] The parties separated in March 2012 and thereafter equally shared residential responsibility of their children. Shawn Weigel sued LaRinda Weigel for divorce in November 2012. At trial, the parties primarily contested the valuation and distribution of their marital property and the award of residential responsibility of their children. At the end of the trial, the parties discussed child support with the court:

MS. FRANCIS: And I think as a housekeeping issue, Mr. Thomas and I have discussed, we'll probably make new child support calculations, unless you're so inclined to do them?
THE COURT: No. I would definitely prefer those if you would do them. Otherwise, I usually just call [the Minot Child Support Enforcement Unit], but go ahead.
MS. FRANCIS: I would prefer that [they] do this one.
THE COURT: I know. I understand that. But if you do do them, if you can agree on them, fine, you should do one for each side.
MS. FRANCIS: Well, I think the problem that comes into play though, is there is different income-producing property, and depending on how the Court distributes that property, I don't think we could do our child support calculations until after the fact, I guess, is what I'm saying.
MR. THOMAS: Your Honor, I would agree with Ms. Francis. We were talking about maybe coming up with some proposed calculations before we got going on this, and we were both experiencing the same difficulty.
THE COURT: Because of the income-producing property?
MR. THOMAS: In the Court's decision, the Court could just indicate so and so should prepare proposed calculations.
THE COURT: Based on the distribution.
MR. THOMAS: Based on the Court's decision.
THE COURT: Okay.
MR THOMAS: And the Court's custody decision.
THE COURT: That makes sense, Mr. Thomas. I will do that. All right, then, Ms. Francis, was there anything else?
MS. FRANCIS: I have nothing further, Your Honor. Thank you for your time.

[¶ 4] The district court issued a decision distributing the parties' marital property, awarding Shawn Weigel property the court found had a net worth of $510,123 and LaRinda Weigel property the court found had a net worth of $504,897. The court valued LaRinda Weigel's interest in her three businesses at $442,868 and distributed her interest in those businesses to her. The court also awarded the parties equal residential responsibility of their two minor children. The court said child support would be established separately under the child support guidelines after entry of judgment, and assistance of the child support enforcement unit may be sought if the parties do not agree on the calculations. A judgment was entered distributing the parties' marital property and awarding them equal residential responsibility of their children.

[¶ 5] In November 2014, Shawn Weigel appealed from that judgment. In March 2015, he moved this Court to remand for a determination of the parties' child support obligation, and on March 10, 2015, we temporarily remanded to the district court until April 10, 2015, for a determination of child support and entry of an amended judgment. The district court issued an order allowing the parties until March 27, 2015, to submit argument and documentation for the child support determination. On March 27, 2015, both parties submitted briefs and exhibits addressing child support, and LaRinda Weigel requested an evidentiary hearing on the issue. Shawn Weigel's submission included the parties' personal income tax returns for 2013 and 2014 and four separate worksheets calculating LaRinda Weigel's offsetting child support obligation for four different time periods. LaRinda Weigel's submission included the parties' personal income tax returns for 2014 and a worksheet calculating her offsetting child support obligation at $75 per month. On March 30, 2015, LaRinda Weigel submitted a supplemental brief disputing Shawn Weigel's child support calculations and again requesting an evidentiary hearing. On April 10, 2015, the court denied LaRinda Weigel's request for a hearing and determined Shawn Weigel's child support obligation was $1,131 per month and LaRinda Weigel's child support obligation was $2,411 per month after adopting calculations from one of his worksheets. The court offset the parties' obligations and ordered LaRinda Weigel to pay Shawn Weigel $1,280 per month for child support effective October 1, 2014. LaRinda Weigel appealed from the judgment establishing her child support obligation.

[¶ 6] The district court had jurisdiction under N.D. Const. art. VI, § 8, and N.D.C.C. § 27–05–06. The appeals are timely under N.D.R.App.P. 4(a). This Court has jurisdiction under N.D. Const. art. VI, §§ 2 and 6, and N.D.C.C. § 28–27–01.

II

[¶ 7] Shawn Weigel argues the district court clearly erred in valuing and distributing the parties' marital estate.

A

[¶ 8] We review a district court's valuation and distribution of marital property as a finding of fact under the clearly erroneous standard of N.D.R.Civ.P. 52(a). Adams v. Adams, 2015 ND 112, ¶ 13, 863 N.W.2d 232. "A finding of fact is clearly erroneous if it is induced by an erroneous view of the law, if there is no evidence to support it, or if, after reviewing all the evidence, we are left with a definite and firm conviction a mistake has been made." Id. (quoting McCarthy v. McCarthy, 2014 ND 234, ¶ 8, 856 N.W.2d 762 ). We view the evidence in a light most favorable to the findings, and a district court's factual findings are presumptively correct. Adams, at ¶ 13. A valuation of marital property within the range of the evidence is not clearly erroneous. Dvorak v. Dvorak, 2005 ND 66, ¶ 20, 693 N.W.2d 646. A choice between two permissible views of the evidence is not clearly erroneous if the district court's findings are based on physical or documentary evidence, inferences from other facts, or on credibility determinations. Adams, at ¶ 13. Under the clearly erroneous rule, we do not reweigh the evidence, reevaluate conflicts in the evidence, or reassess the credibility of witnesses, and we will not reverse a district court's findings simply because we may have viewed the evidence differently. Kosobud v. Kosobud, 2012 ND 122, ¶ 6, 817 N.W.2d 384.

[¶ 9] Under N.D.C.C. § 14–05–24(1), a district court is required to make an equitable distribution of all the divorcing parties' marital property and debts. "All property held by either party, whether held jointly or individually, is considered marital property, and the court must determine the total value of the marital property before making an equitable distribution." Hoverson v. Hoverson, 2013 ND 48, ¶ 9, 828 N.W.2d 510. Marital property ordinarily is valued as of the date of trial. Grinaker v. Grinaker, 553 N.W.2d 204, 208–09 (N.D.1996). There is not a set formula for valuing a business, especially a closely-held business. Adams, 2015 ND 112, ¶ 15, 863 N.W.2d 232. After the court values the property, it must then equitably distribute the entire marital estate under the RuffFischer guidelines, which require the court to consider the following factors in the distribution:

The respective ages of the parties, their earning ability, the duration of the marriage and conduct of the parties during the marriage, their station in life, the circumstances and necessities of each, their health and physical condition, their financial circumstances as shown by the property owned at the time, its value at the time, its income-producing capacity, if any, whether accumulated before or after the marriage, and such other matters as may be material.

Hoverson, at ¶ 9 (quoting Ulsaker v. White, 2006 ND 133, ¶ 9, 717 N.W.2d 567 ). See Fischer v. Fischer, 139 N.W.2d 845 (N.D.1966) ; Ruff v. Ruff, 78 N.D. 775, 52 N.W.2d 107 (1952).

[¶ 10] There is no set formula or method for distributing marital property; rather, an equitable property distribution is based on the particular circumstances of each case. Hoverson, 2013 ND 48, ¶ 10, 828 N.W.2d 510. A property distribution need not be equal to be equitable. Id. Generally, a lengthy marriage supports an equal distribution of all marital assets. Id. Financial misconduct and dissipation of assets are grounds for an unequal property distribution. Kosobud, 2012 ND 122, ¶ 6, 817 N.W.2d 384.

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