CHARLOTTE M. ANDERSEN, Plaintiff and Appellee,
ARTHUR S. ANDERSEN, Defendant and Appellant.
ON NOVEMBER 13, 2018
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE FOURTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
LAWRENCE COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA THE HONORABLE MICHELLE K. COMER
CASSIDY M. STALLEY THOMAS E. BRADY of Lynn, Jackson, Shultz
& Lebrun, P.C. Rapid City, South Dakota Attorneys for
defendant and appellant.
MICHAEL K. SABERS TRAVIS B. JONES of Clayborne, Loos &
Sabers, LLP Rapid City, South Dakota Attorneys for plaintiff
GILBERTSON, CHIEF JUSTICE
Charlotte Andersen sued for divorce from her husband, Arthur
Andersen. At a scheduled bench trial, the parties informed
the circuit court that all issues associated with the
divorce, including property division, had been stipulated to.
The parties read the stipulation into the record and the
court orally bound the parties to the stipulation. Most
notably, the parties agreed that the judgment and decree of
divorce would be entered nunc pro tunc, or that it
be retroactively applied, to March 1, 2018, and apply
retroactively to December 31, 2017. Before the decree could
be entered, Art passed away. The circuit court later
dismissed the divorce action, holding it no longer had
jurisdiction to enter a decree of divorce because Art's
death had dissolved the marriage. Art's estate appeals
the court's order. We affirm.
and Procedural History
Arthur and Charlotte were married on October 16, 2004. After
ten years of marriage, Charlotte filed for divorce on January
27, 2015, alleging irreconcilable differences.
A bench trial was held on November 15, 2017. At that time,
the parties informed the court that they had reached a
stipulation on all issues related to the divorce. The court
asked that the stipulation be read into the record and
requested that the parties "pay very specific attention,
and if you can't hear, ask for clarification, because at
the end [of the reading, ] I'm going to ask both of you
if this is, in fact, your agreement, and I will bind you to
this agreement orally today."
The parties claimed the stipulation agreement covered all
material facts, the grounds for divorce, the division of
property, alimony, and attorney fees. The agreement asked
that a "decree of divorce [be] entered in favor of both
parties against the other on the ground of irreconcilable
differences." Most notably, however, the agreement asked
that the decree of divorce not be entered until March 1,
2018, and be nunc pro tunc to December 31, 2017.
After the reading of the stipulation into the record, the
court canvassed the parties to confirm the agreement:
The Court: Thank you. Ms. Andersen, is this,
in fact, your agreement?
Ms. Andersen: Yes, it is.
The Court: And do you agree to be bound by
Ms. Andersen: Yes, I do.
The Court: And, therefore, do you agree to
waive your right to a trial that was set ...