In re the Marriage of: Sharon E. Lauer, petitioner, Respondent,
Patrick Joseph Lauer, Appellant
Chisago County District Court File No. 13-FA-10-457.
Michael L. Perlman, Katherine M. Ray, Perlman Law Office, Minnetonka, Minnesota (for respondent)
Kay Nord Hunt, Lommen, Abdo, Cole, King & Stageberg, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota; and
Patrice M. Hockings, Hockings Law Office, LLC, Maple Grove, Minnesota (for
Considered and decided by Schellhas, Presiding Judge; Hudson, Judge; and Stauber, Judge.
Appellant husband argues that the judgment in his dissolution was void because it was entered after the district court declared him incompetent or, in the alternative, that the district court erred by entering the judgment based on terms to which the parties did not agree, or committed reversible error by failing to afford him the opportunity to object to the proposed findings. Appellant also challenges the award of attorney fees to respondent wife. Because the district court erred by entering judgment based on a purported agreement that occurred during a period when husband was incompetent, we reverse and remand for further proceedings. We also reverse the grant of attorney fees.
In 2010, respondent Sharon Lauer petitioned for dissolution of her 33-year marriage to respondent Patrick Lauer. Sharon Lauer then worked as a mail clerk for the Minnesota Department of Corrections; Patrick Lauer, who had previously been employed as a truck driver, was unemployed due to a 2009 stroke and collected workers' compensation and Social Security disability benefits.
Following court-ordered mediation, Patrick Lauer moved to compel discovery of financial information relating to Sharon Lauer's possible dissipation of marital assets and for sanctions, arguing that she was asserting a frivolous claim relating to an alleged marital debt owed to her father and secured by the parties' homestead. The parties' two adult daughters submitted affidavits in support of the motion to compel discovery, asserting that Sharon Lauer had made unauthorized transfers from the parties' joint bank accounts and removed personal property from the homestead.
May 2011 settlement hearing
At a settlement hearing on May 26, 2011, the parties' attorneys informed the district court that the parties had agreed on terms to be incorporated in a stipulated judgment. The attorneys recited the asserted agreement: (1) to the source and amounts of the parties' incomes and the parameters of a spousal maintenance waiver, to be verified by their mediator; (2) to a property valuation date; (3) that Patrick Lauer would be granted the homestead, with Sharon Lauer to be paid her equity, less her contribution to a portion of an estimated septic-system bill; (4) to equalize their retirement accounts, with updated statements and balances to be provided; (5) to a stated division of their vehicles; (6) that each party would own his or her own life insurance policy; (7) to divide personal property and submit any related dispute to mediation, and, if necessary, to binding arbitration; and (8) that if Sharon Lauer's father sought a court judgment as to the disputed debt, they would be jointly liable on that debt.
Counsel also stated that, in consideration for withdrawal of Patrick Lauer's motion to compel discovery, the parties had agreed that Sharon Lauer would provide an accounting of the parties' three joint bank accounts from October 1, 2009 through October 1, 2010; that Patrick Lauer would identify any transactions that he believed required additional explanation; and that Sharon Lauer would provide a sworn statement explaining any transaction over $500, or any transaction directly to her over $250. The parties would then submit to ...