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In re Marriage of Anderson

Supreme Court of Montana

August 20, 2013

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF: VIOLA K. ANDERSON, Petitioner and Appellant, and GARY L. ANDERSON, Respondent and Appellee.

Submitted on Briefs: July 24, 2013

APPEAL FROM District Court of the Eighth Judicial District, In and For the County of Cascade, Cause No. DDR 10-772 Honorable Dirk M. Sandefur, Presiding Judge

For Appellant: Daniel L. Falcon, Falcon, Lester & Schaff, P.C.

For Appellee: Patrick R. Watt, Jardine, Stephenson, Blewett & Weaver, P.C.

OPINION

Brian Morris, Justice

¶1 Viola Anderson (Viola) and Gary Anderson (Gary) entered into a mediated property settlement agreement as part of their dissolution of marriage. The District Court (McKittrick, J.) approved the property settlement agreement and decree of dissolution. Viola sought relief from judgment, on the grounds that the property settlement agreement was unconscionable and failed to include a disclosure of assets, as required by § 40-4-254, MCA. The District Court for the Eighth Judicial District, Cascade County (Sandefur, J.), denied Viola's claim for relief from judgment. Viola appeals. We affirm.

¶2 We address the following issues on appeal:

¶3 Whether the District Court (Sandefur, J.) abused its discretion when it denied Viola's Rule 59(e) and 60(b) motions based on the District Court's (McKittrick, J.) failure to consider whether the property settlement agreement was unconscionable?

¶4 Whether the District Court abused its discretion when it determined that the property settlement agreement was valid without a disclosure of assets?

PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

¶5 Viola and Gary sought the dissolution of their 35-year marriage. Viola and Gary agreed to mediation to divide the marital property. Viola and Gary owned a trailer court in Lewistown and a rental property in Ulm. Viola and Gary also owned property along the scenic Smith River in Montana. The Smith River, popular for floating and fishing, rises in the Castle Mountains in Meagher County and flows northwest between the Big Belt and Little Belt Mountains, to its confluence with the Missouri River. Only one public put-in and one public take-out exists in this 59-mile stretch of river, and access is limited by a permit lottery system.

¶6 Viola and Gary's Smith River property included a ranch operation, a guest ranch, and an outfitting business named the Heaven on Earth Ranch. Groups with a float permit can stop overnight at the Heaven on Earth Ranch during their float, or groups can visit the guest ranch to experience the scenic river without receiving a permit or participating in a multi-day float.

¶7 The parties did not complete an assessment on the value of the ranch or guest ranch business before the mediation. The parties stipulated that the final disclosure requirements either had been met or had been waived. Viola had served as the bookkeeper for the ranch and guest ranch business for a number of years.

ΒΆ8 Both Viola and Gary were represented by counsel at the mediation. Pursuant to the property settlement agreement, Viola received a lump sum payment of $300, 000, three jointly owned CDs worth $300, 000, 100 chute-counted cows or $100, 000, the rental property in Ulm worth $184, 000, with a yearly rental income of $6, 600, a monthly payment from Gary of $2, 000 for the rest of her life, and up to $2, ...


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