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Andersen v. Andersen

Supreme Court of South Dakota

January 23, 2019

CHARLOTTE M. ANDERSEN, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
ARTHUR S. ANDERSEN, Defendant and Appellant.

          ARGUED ON NOVEMBER 13, 2018

          APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE FOURTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT LAWRENCE COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA THE HONORABLE MICHELLE K. COMER Judge

          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 and appellee.

          GILBERTSON, CHIEF JUSTICE

         [¶1.] 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.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2.] 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.

         [¶3.] 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."

         [¶4.] 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.

         [¶5.] 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 this agreement?
Ms. Andersen: Yes, I do.
The Court: And, therefore, do you agree to waive your right to a trial that was set ...

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