IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF: LARISSA L. SIMPSON, Petitioner and Appellant, and DENNIS D. SIMPSON, Respondent and Appellee.
Submitted on Briefs: July 11, 2018
District Court of the Thirteenth Judicial District, In and
For the County of Yellowstone, Cause No. DR 06-1018 Honorable
Ingrid G. Gustafson, Presiding Judge
Appellant: John M. Kauffman, Kasting, Kauffman & Mersen,
P.C., Bozeman, Montana.
Appellee: Dennis D. Simpson, Self-Represented, Scottsdale,
McGrath Chief Justice.
This is an appeal from a Thirteenth Judicial District Court
order modifying Dennis Simpson's (Dennis) and Larissa
Simpson's (Larissa) Property Settlement Agreement and
subsequent order awarding attorney fees. We affirm.
We restate the issues on appeal as follows:
1. Whether the District Court abused its discretion when
it modified the Agreement, terminating maintenance payments
2. Whether the District Court abused its discretion when
it limited the amount of Larissa's attorney fees to those
incurred during the contempt proceedings.
AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
Dennis and Larissa were married in 1988 and divorced in 2006.
In early November 2006, the District Court entered a Final
Decree of Dissolution of Marriage which incorporated both a
Property Settlement Agreement (Agreement) and a Stipulated
Final Parenting Plan. Between 2006 and 2009, the parties were
engaged in ongoing disputes and litigation, mainly involving
the parenting plan. In 2013, this Court affirmed the District
Court's decision to deny Dennis's motion to modify
child support and Larissa's motion to invalidate a
stipulation concerning delayed child support payments.
Simpson v. Simpson, 2013 MT 22, 368 Mont. 315, 294
Pursuant to the Agreement, Dennis retained the bulk of the
marital assets and assumed responsibility for the marital
debts. Larissa was to receive a $10, 000 maintenance payment
from Dennis each month for life, secured by a life insurance
policy on Dennis's life with Larissa as the sole
beneficiary. The Agreement also required Dennis to pay
Larissa a lump sum of $500, 000 and provide her with a
lifetime gym membership. The Agreement included a
non-modification clause, which stated that "Both parties
agree that this Agreement and any Decree of Dissolution of
their marriage incorporating this Agreement shall not be
modified in any future legal proceeding under the authority
of § 40-4-201(6), MCA." The parties also included a
provision that the prevailing party in any future dispute
will be entitled to attorney fees.
At or near the time of dissolution, the parties prepared
financial statements, which indicated their net worth to be
approximately $13, 000, 000. However, the District Court
noted that these "statements exaggerated the
parties' net worth and, in further complication, much of
the value of these assets was completely lost with the
economic disaster occurring in 2008-09." These assets
included (1) a note receivable for $500, 000; (2) a
certificate of deposit with Mountain West Bank for $385, 000;
(3) Arrow Construction Inc. valued at $600, 000; (4) Rainbow
Subdivision valued at $4, 000, 000; (5) lots in Northstar
Subdivision valued at $750, 000; (6) eighty acres of property
at Triple Creek Meadows valued at $1, 900, 000; (7) two lots
at the Bozeman Hot Springs valued at $1, 200, 000; (8) the
Bozeman Hot Springs valued at $5, 000, 000; (9) personal
belongings valued at $600, 000; and (10) $62, 000 in cash.
Dennis also noted multiple debts in his financial statement,
including loans with Mountain West Bank and Yellowstone Bank
and various tax obligations.
In May 2015, Dennis began to fall behind on the monthly $10,
000 payments to Larissa. On May 7, 2015, Larissa filed a
motion to hold Dennis in contempt for failure to make
payments. Larissa also moved the District Court to find
Dennis in breach of the Agreement for his failure to maintain
life insurance. After a hearing, the District Court issued an
order for an accounting and held the contempt in abeyance
after Dennis advised that he was filing for bankruptcy in
Arizona. Dennis was granted several continuances to file the
new financial information, which he finally did on May 4,
2017. The District Court held another ...