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Hiller v. Hiller

Supreme Court of South Dakota

July 1, 2015

JENNIFER L. HILLER, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
JAMES D. HILLER, Defendant and Appellant

Considered on Briefs: February 17, 2015.

Page 537

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE THIRD JUDICIAL CIRCUIT MOODY COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA. THE HONORABLE GREGORY J. STOLTENBURG, Judge.

Affirmed in Part and reversed in part.

STACY F. KOOISTRA, SHARLA B. SVENNES of Myers Billion, LLP, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Attorneys for plaintiff and appellee.

KENNETH M. TSCHETTER of Nicholson, Tschetter, Adams & Nicholson, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Attorneys for defendant and appellant.

WILBUR, Justice. ZINTER, SEVERSON, and KERN, Justices, and LONG, Circuit Court Judge, concur. LONG, Circuit Court Judge, sitting for GILBERTSON, Chief Justice, disqualified.

OPINION

Page 538

WILBUR, Justice

[¶1] The circuit court distributed the marital assets of James and Jennifer Hiller by divorce decree. The court ordered that James assume all of the marital debt but $500,000 and ordered James " to make best efforts with the bank and cooperate to remove [Jennifer] from the liabilities as otherwise provided herein." James did not remove Jennifer from the assigned liabilities. As a result, the court ordered that it would compel James to sell personal property if he does not remove Jennifer from his assigned liabilities by March 15, 2015. James appeals. We affirm in part and reverse in part. We reject both parties' requests for attorney's fees.

Background

[¶2] James and Jennifer were married in 1997. Two children were born from this marriage. Throughout their marriage, James and Jennifer operated a family farming business. James and Jennifer rented and farmed land owned by James's parents. James's parents eventually sold James and Jennifer the land and the house located on the property (Home Quarter). James, Jennifer, and their two children lived at the Home Quarter. In 2007, James and Jennifer purchased adjacent farmland (New Quarter). The parties contributed equally to the accumulation of property during their marriage.

[¶3] Jennifer filed for divorce on September 9, 2012. The circuit court entered a divorce decree on June 6, 2013. The parties did not have a premarital agreement. In dividing the marital property, the court made a concerted effort to fashion an equitable division that maintained the viability of the farming operation. The court noted that there was a significant difference in total value between the Home Quarter and the New Quarter. The value of the Home Quarter was $1,580,000, while the value of the New Quarter was $1,365,700. As of January 7, 2013, the amount of liabilities of the parties was valued at $2,453,159.

[¶4] The court awarded James the Home Quarter and most of the farm assets

Page 539

(Farming Operation).[1] The court awarded Jennifer the New Quarter. To equalize the distribution of marital property between James and Jennifer, the court ordered James to assume all of the marital debt but $500,000 and required James to pay Jennifer, over time, a cash equalizing payment of $150,000. In an effort to require the removal of Jennifer from James's assigned liabilities, the court ordered that " [James] shall make best efforts with the bank and cooperate to remove [Jennifer] from the liabilities ...


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