I was looking up something on the internet, when I stumbled upon a divorce case from the Dickinson, North Dakota area that made it to the Supreme Court of North Dakota. I was reading the statement of fact summary from this case, and I couldn’t believe it, I could not have made this up, it was so horrible. I want to tell about this case, but I don’t want to use the people’s names. Even without using these people’s names, some older local people will know who these people are.
In 2009, a local man from the Dickinson area, decided to get married for the third time, at the age of approximately 51. The woman he wanted to marry was approximately 48 years old, and this would be her fourth marriage.
The man was from a farming and ranching family. It was not stated outright that he had inherited land. It was stated that from about 1976 through 1996 he had worked on oil drill rigs to make money to help support his farming operation. At the time of his 2009 marriage, he owned approximately 4,000 acres of land.
On the 4,000 acres of land, he raised cattle. He also allowed rock scoria mining to be performed on the land which provided additional money. The determination of assets, liabilities, and income was straightforward, but lengthy. At the time of marriage, the land was valued at over $3 million, but there were almost $1 million in loans against the land, farm equipment, and cattle. One recent year of gross income from farming and ranching operations was approximately $250,000, but all the operating expenses totaled $500,000 that year.
The wife at the time of marriage, was employed at a fairly high level local government job that paid $60,000 per year. Her assets were $100,000 in a government retirement account, and a six year old automobile.
The farmer had adult children from a previous marriage, and the woman had adult children from a previous marriage. The farmer said that he had discussed with the woman, having a prenuptial agreement in their discussions about getting married. When he asked her to sign a prenuptial agreement, she tried to commit suicide by taking an overdose of pills. It was documented fact that he found her nearly dead in a cemetery and he barely got her to St. Josephs Hospital in Dickinson in time to save her life. She was hospitalized for several days.
The farmer felt so bad about it, he didn’t ask her again to sign a prenuptial agreement, and he went ahead and married her. Shortly after getting married, the woman quit her job because she said that is was too stressful. He did not ask her to get a job. He had a cleaning woman that he paid to clean the house, but his wife let her go. His wife chose to take care of the house work. He added his wife to his checking account, and all of their bills, all of her bills, and whatever she wanted or needed was taken out of his checking account.
During their almost four year marriage, there were periods when his wife would frequently get drunk at home, and leave to continue to go drink elsewhere, hitting things with her vehicle, and being found later drunk in her vehicle. She attempted to commit suicide approximately three more times. One of these times, a group of hunters found her passed out laying face down in a puddle in the woods out in the middle of nowhere. Each of these attempted suicides required several days of hospitalization, observation, and psychiatric evaluation. The farmer would sometimes have to follow her footprints at night through the snow across the farm to find out what happened to her, only to find that she had doubled back and was hiding in the house in a closet.
The farmer was called to bars to come get his wife because she was overly intoxicated, too drunk to drive, and kissing other men. When he would come to get her, she would walk away, not go with him, and go someplace else to buy more alcohol.
The last straw was when his wife had been yelling and cursing at him all day and all night, and slamming doors in the house as hard as she could more than a hundred times during the night. They separated.
In all the discovery of fact in this court case, there was not one allegation of anything wrong ever having been done by the farmer. He did not ask his wife to get a job, he did not ask her to help very much doing farm work, he had a house cleaner which his wife let go, he had paid farm workers to do the farm work. The farmer paid for all of their bills and for all of her bills. The farmer had to take her at least four times to the hospital after she tried to commit suicide. He tried to deal with his wife getting drunk at home, leaving home to drink more, and then having to go and try to find her and bring her home. He finally had enough when she went on a tirade against him all day and all night.
Of course, of course, she wanted half of everything he had in the divorce. She came into the marriage with a 2003 Honda, he paid for everything during their marriage, why shouldn’t she be entitled to 2,000 acres of land and his truck after almost four years of marriage?
The lower court and the Supreme Court of North Dakota did not see things the same way as the wife. The courts cited many legal precedents and legal considerations in determining the division of marital assets: what assets each person brought into the marriage, what income each person earned prior to marriage and during the marriage, what each person contributed to the marital assets during marriage, what income earning potential each person had after the marriage.
The courts determined that the wife was entitled to approximately $161,000, minus approximately $28,000 for expenses. The court determined that based on her previous employment, and the recent employment that she had undertaken, she should be able to support herself.