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Annette Lloyd Davidson v. Joseph Lloyd Soelberg

January 24, 2013

ANNETTE LLOYD DAVIDSON, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JOSEPH LLOYD SOELBERG, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Lynn G. Norton, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lansing, Judge

2013 Opinion No. 7

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

Joseph Lloyd Soelberg appeals from the entry of summary judgment in favor of Annette Lloyd Davidson on a claim for a breach of a divorce settlement contract that required Soelberg to make monthly spousal support payments to Davidson. Soelberg asserts that summary judgment was erroneous for various reasons, all relating to whether the underlying contract was merged into the parties' divorce decree. We affirm.

I.

BACKGROUND

Soelberg and Davidson sought a divorce after approximately nineteen years of marriage. In anticipation of their divorce, the parties participated in mediation, which yielded a settlement agreement on issues including child support, child custody, visitation rights and schedules, and division of the couple's property. Paragraph L of the settlement agreement, labeled "Spousal Support," states, "[Soelberg] agrees to pay [Davidson] spousal support in the amount of $2,200 per month for a period of ten (10) years." The parties executed the settlement agreement on March 9, 2007. On March 12, a "Stipulation for Entry of Judgment and Decree of Divorce," signed by both parties, was filed in the divorce case. It stipulated that "[t]he court may enter a Judgment and Decree of Divorce in the form attached to this Stipulation." The attached form of judgment stated in part, "The Mediation Agreement dated March 9, 2007 is hereby merged and incorporated into this decree of divorce, except for Paragraph L which is not merged and shall remain a separate contract between the parties." On March 14, 2007, the magistrate court issued the stipulated judgment and decree containing that merger language.

Soelberg made full or partial spousal support payments until December 2010, and thereafter ceased the payments. On April 1, 2011, he filed a motion in the divorce case to terminate his spousal support obligations based on changed financial circumstances. Although a complete record of the magistrate court proceedings on that motion is not before us, it appears that the magistrate court denied Soelberg's motion on the ground that the spousal support obligation was not modifiable by the court because that provision of the settlement agreement, Paragraph L, had not been merged into the divorce decree.*fn1 Soelberg did not appeal the magistrate court's decision.

Meanwhile, Davidson initiated the present separate action against Soelberg in the district court for breach of contract. Davidson alleged that Soelberg had defaulted on the spousal support covenant of the settlement agreement. Soelberg admitted the settlement agreement and his discontinuance of payments, but again alleged that due to a material change in his financial circumstances, he could no longer make the payments. Soelberg asserted generally that he had intended for the spousal support provision to be incorporated into the divorce decree and therefore to be modifiable by the magistrate court. He alleged that when he signed the stipulation for entry of the divorce decree, the attached form of decree provided for merger of the full divorce settlement contract, including the spousal support provision, which would have made the support term subject to modification by the court. Soelberg asserted that a different form of divorce decree had been attached after he executed the stipulation. He also argued that if the spousal support provision was a stand-alone contract, it was unenforceable for lack of consideration. The district court granted summary judgment for Davidson, and Soelberg appeals.

II.

ANALYSIS

A. Standard of Review

We review a trial court's grant of summary judgment under the same standard applied by the trial court. Read v. Harvey, 141 Idaho 497, 499, 112 P.3d 785, 787 (2005). Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c). A reviewing court will construe all disputed facts and make all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Sprinkler Irr. Co. v. John Deere Ins. Co., 139 Idaho 691, 695-96, 85 P.3d 667, 671-72 (2004). If the evidence reveals no ...


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